More Localized Google Suggest and Improved Spell Correction for Names

Today, Google announced three enhancements to help you input your searches more quickly and easily. As Commander Leonard “Bones” McCoy would say, “I know engineers, they LOVE to change things.”

A map illustrating the w:Nine Nations of North...

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Pandu Nayak, a member of Google’s technical staff provided details about more localized Google Suggest, improved spell correction for names, and auto-correction for 31 languages on the Official Google Blog.

Nayak wrote, “Last year we launched localized Google Suggest by country, offering relevant popular search queries tailored for different regions. However, just as people in the U.K. often look for different things than people in U.S., we’ve found that people in Seattle tend to look for different things than people in Dallas. So last week, we rolled out a version of Google Suggest that is tailored to specific metro areas in the U.S.”

Wow. I know the George Bernard Shaw quote about “two peoples separated by a common language,” but he was talking about the Americans and the English. But, now Google is parsing phrases used in the Nine Nations of North America.

I wonder if Google will serve up different suggestions in different metro areas if you start searching for cola, pop, soda, or tonic?

Next, Google tackled misspellings.

Although Google has offered corrected spellings for mistyped searches for years with the “Did you mean” link, it recently made some big strides in correcting misspelled names.

Nayak said, “People often search for people’s names — and not just celebrities and old friends. They look for doctors, horse trainers, hang-gliding instructors… the searches are just as diverse as the personalities in your hometown. We’ve noticed that people sometimes struggle to correctly spell names, and it’s not surprising. Names can be complicated and often there are multiple common spellings.”

Nayak explained that Google’s new technology is based on the concept that people often know something else about the person besides the approximate spelling of his or her name. He said, “People often include other terms such as ‘composer’ or ‘lawyer sparta wisconsin’ in their search query, which provides valuable context to help us narrow the range of possibilities for the spelling correction. We use these additional descriptive words to offer you better suggestions.”

For now this enhancement is available in Google’s English spelling system in the U.S. It will be rolled out in other parts of the world and other languages in the coming months.

But wait! There’s more!

Google has also made another improvement to the spelling system called “auto-correction.” If you search for [aiprt], instead of showing you a link on your results page that says “Did you mean: airport,” Google will take you straight to the results for the corrected search.

Said Nayak, “We auto-correct when we’re highly confident in our correction in order to get you the information you’re looking for that much faster. In the past week we’ve expanded auto-correction to 31 languages across over 180 domains, with more to come.”

What does all this mean to search engine optimizers?

It means you should check what Google Suggest suggests before optimizing for synonyms. If you are in Georgia, then optimize for cola. If you are in California, Texas, or Michigan, then optimize for pop. If you are in Idaho, then optimize for soda. If you are in New York, then optimize for tonic.

How do I know all this?

Well, I was born in California; grew up in Texas, New York, and Michigan; and now live in Massachusetts. So, let’s just say I learned to speak several languages as I moved around the country.

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