Google: “Mum knows best”

by | Sep 26, 2014 | Translators' Column

In the early days of search engines, websites used to list misspelt words within their meta tags. They thus improved their chances of key words being found when users misspelt the search term, e.g. “trnalsators” or “transaltors” instead of “translators”. This is no longer necessary because Google has become much too clever for their own good and that of its users. Google now bullies you to search for whatever they think you should be looking for.

So, if you input a search term in a way that Google thinks is “wrong”, the search engine will redirect you automatically. Google simply assumes they are right and you are¬†wrong. How dare there be unusual spellings that are actually correct?

Taking the search term “Iolante” as an example

Here is our example: “Iolante”.

Iolante is the original Greek spelling of a female first name. The British spelling is “Iolanthe” with an “h”. In Germany the most popular spelling of the name is “Iolanta”. So, Google redirects German users to “Iolanta”, while British users must¬†search through long lists of “Iolanthes”. If you are actually looking for “Iolante” Google sends you on a wild goose chase of epic proportions. You will have to trail through pages and pages of irrelevant options on “Iolanthe”: Iolanta or Iolanthe in the theatre, in combination with Gilbert and Sullivan, the Tchaikovsky opera, names of babies, a yacht, pronunciation instructions for Iolanthe, how to translate Iolanta etc.

Admittedly, Google alerts you of what they are doing at the top of the search screen where Google state:

Showing results for Iolanthe
Search instead for Iolante

I would be surprised, if a lot of people didn’t overlook these two lines at the top, as they’ll be busy scanning the results. Being faced with “Iolanthe” after “Iolanthe” in their search results, it may slowly dawn on them that they’ve been led up the garden path.

What should Google do?

In my opinion, it would be much more logical to allow people to search for what they input. Only give them the option of looking for what Google knows the majority of people search for in their country, when users ask for it. I find it patronising that Google assumes users are more likely to misspell than to spell words correctly. Especially when they try to find names.

Incidentally, Yahoo works differently. They are only too happy to let you search for what you want to search for without imposing their world view on you!

Tip: If you want to avoid the problem, put in your search term in the search field, then press return. That way Google will allow you to search for what you asked for!

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