Part 1 – Introduction
Earlier this year, there were a spate of posts regarding Google’s Search Suggestions and how utterly, utterly terrible they are for UK users. I’m talking about both the AJAX suggestion feature when entering a search term (AKA Google Suggest) and the “did you mean” suggestions once you have searched. Some of the people who blogged on the subject were (in no particular order, they’re all awesome):
- Dave Naylor
- Angie at Site-Reference.com
- Pete Handly
- Malcolm Coles
- Kieron Hughes
- Andrew Nattan
- Patrick Altoft
- Shaun Anderson
- Nichola Stott at Seo-Chicks.com – includes a very thorough explanation of why using “ize” isn’t really an Americanisation of using “ise”.
And many more I’m sure. Most of these posts focus on the term search engine optimisation and the issues that surrounded it earlier in the year, but they all scratch the surface of what is an almighty problem with how Google handles search suggestions in the UK.
Why am I so bothered?
My main issue is with Americanisation. I agree totally with Nichola’s points on this in her post above, but to me historical context isn’t that important. Nor am I really concerned that both “ise” and “ize” variants of words are technically correct in the UK. In the same way I don’t care that a polo shirt was originally called a tennis shirt, all that concerns me is current usage. I think Wikipedia actually sum it up quite well in their WP:COMMONNAME policy:
Common usage in reliable sources is preferred to technically correct but rarer forms, whether the official name, the scientific name, the birth name, the original name or the trademarked name.
So, if most people in the UK still write and search for the “English” version of words (or at least they did until Google Suggest came to the UK in March 2009), and Google is pushing the “American” version because of poor implementation of suggested searches, that really, really pisses me off.
Americanisation is far from the only issue.
Google is changing the way we search and this really bugs me. It’s not just Americanisation though; Google Suggest in particular is influencing the way people search for almost every term (as I’ll explain later) and I don’t feel Google should be doing this.
I want to explain why, without relying on what Google tell us.
I’ve seen lots of posts detailing how Google search suggestions are bad; what I want to do with this post is explain why they are so bad.
People often try to work out why on earth Google does things by using data from Google’s tools such as the Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool or Insights For Search. Most SEOs will tell you to take data from the Adwords tool in particular with a pinch of salt. Believe me, a pinch isn’t anywhere near enough. I’ve summarised my view in this handy diagram:
Hence I’ll be trying to use data from keyword reports I do trust (such as Hitwise) where possible.
How I’ve structured this article
- Part 1 – What you’re reading now, a short introduction
- Part 2 – How Google Suggest works; this is crucial to understanding why it’s so bad
- Part 3 – How Google Suggest affects SEOs and indeed everyone who searches using Google
- Part 4 – The “Did you mean” search corrections; a brief look at how these work
Just to give you fair warning, this is probably the longest blog post EVER (and certainly the longest I ever intend to write) so don’t blame me if reading it ruins your daily schedule I should also say that I wanted to call this post “Why Google Can’t Suggest Sh*t” but thought better of it. Ho hum.
One final thing…
Obviously, I don’t work for Google. Therefore you can safely assume I’m not on the Google Suggest engineering team in Israel. My analysis is based on what I see at a front-end level. This isn’t rocket science and I’m not trying to crack “the algorithm”; everything I claim in these posts you can verify yourself, simply by visiting Google.
That’s enough of an introduction I think; when you’re ready to start learning about the horror show that is Google Suggest, click below to go to part 2