Search engine results differ for accented and non-accented characters. Multinational companies often face a dilemma when optimising their website for target audiences in different countries. Most search engines consider both the accented and non-accented versions of the same word when providing search results. However, the order of the results displayed gets affected by the user’s location and settings.
The Official Google Webmaster Central blog recently featured a helpful post about how rank on the search results pages gets adjusted by the algorithm according to visitor settings.
Language Factors Affecting Search Results
When a visitor searches for words such as ‘Référence’ or ‘Télévision’ that can be written both with and without the accents, Google considers websites with both versions of the word, that is ‘Télévision’ and ‘Television’. The results delivered will then be ordered according to the visitors settings. The main factors that influence this ranking are:
- Browser / system language settings
Google tries to make its search results as relevant as possible to the searchers requirements. Therefore, if the visitor’s browser language is Spanish, the search result pages that are also in Spanish will be considered more relevant and ranked higher.
- IP location
Geographical location of the visitor similarly indicates their language preference. Visitors from Italy would therefore see more results in Italian than visitors in Germany for the same search phrase, so long as its means the same.
- Search parameters
If a visitor selects the option to display search results only in a particular language, that will display web pages only in the selected language, irrespective of the accentuation, so long as the word means the same with or without the accent.
Visitors with personalised search enabled will be shown results more relevant to their personalised history. For example, a French searcher in England will still be shown more results in French if he / she is signed in and using Google personalized search.
Optimising For Non-English Languages
When targeting non-english language speakers, the ideal strategy is to develop a fully functional version of the company site in that language. French, German, Italian and Spanishspeakers, for example, are most comfortable reading sites in their native language, and will prefer to deal with companies that have provided information in the language they understand.
However, many businesses do not have the time nor the resources to create multiple versions of their site to target each non-english-speaking customer segment they sell to. There is no straightforward and easy solution in this case. Inclusion of keywords with accents in ordinaryEnglish content will not help significantly.
A relatively non-expensive solution could be to identify a few important keywords and create pages targeting these keywords. The pages should be written fully in the target language. It is also important to support these specially optimised pages with some general information and function pages from the rest of the site. This is important because even if a French, German orItalian speaker did reach your site via a high ranking listing on Google, they wouldn’t be able to use your site if you didn’t provide the supporting pages.