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SEO: Google testing case sensitive searches?

When is an apple not an Apple Inc., or an orange not an Orange telecom? When does a word like Fossil have you looking for a watch, or leave you digging through old search results? Better ask Google…

When is an apple not an Apple Inc., or an orange not an Orange telecom? When does a word like Fossil have you looking for a watch, or leave you digging through old search results? Better ask Google…

As a designer, style & substance are a balancing act, where failure is close to hand than success. Add SEO into the equation and the balance is even more nuanced.

I had to vote down a recent SEOmoz article discussing how titles can make or break content, where Rebecca puts forward an argument for capitalized titles, which I personally detest:

“I don’t agree with the capitalization argument.

I use a lot of brand names in titles, some of which are real words, which would totally dissolve into the rest of words of the title, failing to pique the interests of anyone.

Also, as a designer, capitalized titles look messy and needlessly heavy on the eye. Saying that capitalization draws attention doesn’t make sense and seems disrespectful of people’s reading habits. I look at a title based on the words, not the formatting.

There’s an old adage in the design industry; never place style before substance…”

Because I’m a designer first, I’m very much aware of what people are likely to take to, or instantly loathe.

Capitalization of titles is terrible, for example: “Apple Welcomes Fossil Board Member”, sounds like a tongue-in-cheek poke at some old guy, when: “Apple welcomes Fossil board member” tells you that it’s most likely that Apple have a new board member from Fossil, the watch company.

So in terms of readability, it’s just a mess of capitalized words that totally destroys the keyword relevance, meaning you’d have to read the article to know for sure what the hell is being said.

Most people with a sizable collection of RSS feeds won’t even bother, so the article just gets ignored.

For those like me who write about companies and businesses with brand names, that’s not exactly conducive to killer headline writing, by any stretch of the imagination.

In addition to this very ‘blog, another example would be The Register, who subscribe to the very same school of thought, who by the way, are celebrating their 10th year this year.

Case sensitivity in search keywords

The guys over at Natural Search Blog have uncovered something of a contradiction in search via case sensitivity in Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages):

“For instance, search for something like ‘fossil watches’ and compare with ‘Fossil Watches’, and you’ll see that a few of the listings in the SERPs trade ranking positions…”

They also provide an illustrated guide, highlighting the differences. And as they note later on, this apparently repeatable anomaly of Google’s search engine seams to vary from country to country.

If this is something Google is working on not-so secretly behind the scenes, I think it’s a good idea. It would help lift out brand-names from just general stuff, with fossil and Fossil being a prime example.

Which segues very neatly with my previous argument against the capitalization of word parts in titles. If we accept Google are giving serious thought to case sensitive searches, the implications for brand names like Apple and Fossil, Sun and Orange to name but a few, as well as the SEO industry in general could be profound.

Google could easily offer both options, where the default would be case insensitive we have right now, but on those occasions when people look for things with brand names and write out those names in lead case, they’re given more emphasis within the search query.

There may be implications for their Sitelinks, too. As I highlighted in my examination of Google Sitelinks, generic names such as Apple and Orange already cause problems, so in my mind at least, case sensitivity would alleviate such inconsistencies.

For those in the Search Engine Optimization industry, web pages already enriched with lead case brand names may well get an extra boast.

The question is, are people savvy enough to know when to use lead case when performing searches for brand names and companies, or are these people in the overwhelming minority?

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

3 replies on “SEO: Google testing case sensitive searches?”

Hi Ralph!

Usability isn’t just about buttons, colours, links and the underlying code, usability applies to everyone, whether they’re partially sighted, or physically disabled.

Good web design is all about good design communication — people shouldn’t have to guess what something does.

I know this ‘blog isn’t perfect, but it’s getting better.

Thanks again for the comment!

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