Umlauts, Accents, and Google

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When optimizing sites in languages that contain characters not found in the English language, it is important to know that Google will return different results depending on whether the characters (called diacritical marks or diacritics) were used. For example, a search for “Rucksäcke” (the German word for backpacks) on returns different results than one for “Rucksacke” (which is technically a typo) or “Rucksaecke”, the common form used in German speaking countries when the umlaut is not available.

Similarly, when using, the results for a search for “café” are different from those for “café” (without the accent). Granted, the top ten results are similar but the ranking of them is not the same. It would appear that the factors most responsible for this anomaly are the inclusion (or not) of the diacritical marks in the title and URL.

What is the significance of this to global marketers? That really depends on the location of your customer and the type of keyword they are using.

German speaking customers in Germany use keyboards with umlauts so their search terms will always include them. To stand a better chance of reaching them, you’ll want to optimize your title tags with the keywords in diacritic form such as “Rucksäcke”. If you can also include the diacritic form of the keyword in the URL, then you stand a better chance of gaining higher ranking. This is tricky but can be achieved through a URL rewrite.

However, German businesses marketing to people in the United Kingdom and/or United States should realize that their target customers will not likely use diacritical marks. An example of where this could be important is with the use of the German word Straße meaning street in English. Vacationers in the UK or US would replace the use of the eszett (ß) with a double s. Therefore, tourism-related businesses targeting people where the use of diacritical marks in not the norm should optimize for word forms that replace these marks, for example strasse instead of Straße.

Alec Campbell
Alec works with companies to increase their global brand awareness and sales through higher visibility in international search engine results. He has been glued to... Read Full Bio
Alec Campbell
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  • It's important to highlight that this behavior differs from country to country. In Brazil, for instance, most people make searches without using accents.

    Targeting for your markets is fine, but take a look at Google Insights for Search first and compare properly-written words with their non-accented typos on searches from the countries you're trying to target.

    More often than not, you'll get surprising results. 🙂

  • When targeting a specific country with a specific language, it is better to use the local language with all the language intricacies with it. Writing the page as a local writer will write it will definitely helps in placing high on local search.

  • I would be helpful to optimize the pages for local search, apart from mentioning the country/city name in the page/internal link which moves your site up in SERP (esp on local search)…

    Thanks !

  • Rahul @ MazaKaro

    thank you about that , i had been noticing this long time ago and i found out that was all about local searches and choosing the right “google” (for example) to get better results ,