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Does Google Really Ignore Upper And Lower Case?

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#1 bwelford


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Posted 30 September 2008 - 06:51 PM

I have just got a somewhat surprising search result from Google that was consistent on several repeats. A new series of marketing article has started on the Cre8tive Flow blog entitled MRN - Marketing Right Now. In order to try to own the acronym, MRN, on the web I also wrote a BPWrap blog article about MRN.

I have been doing Google.com searches occasionally for that blog post searching for mrn. Currently the blog post is at #6 in that search. Out of curiosity I did a Google search for MRN. The blog post came in at #4. This is quite counter to my understanding of how Google treats upper and lowercase characters. Do other people get different results for the BPWrap blog post searching for MRN and mrn?

#2 AbleReach


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Posted 30 September 2008 - 07:05 PM

In Google right now I see [mrn] at #11 and [MRN] at #10.

Both "mrn" and "MRN" come up at #10.

#3 FP_Guy


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Posted 30 September 2008 - 07:08 PM

Hello Bwelford,

I did a search in Google for 'mrn' and 'MRN' and it didn't show any results so I did a search again putting them in quotes and then it got listed.

It was #9 for "mrn" and #10 for "MRN" on my end. Of course different data centers, having Google Desktop installed, or maybe you have Google Toolbar installed and I don't, etc. can make a difference in the ranking.

There are becoming more and more reasons for the searches to come up different for different people that I'm leaning more towards learning SEM and website marketing thinking that SEO will slowly dissolve into SEM.

By the way a week or so ago I noticed my ranking for 'seo consultation' dropped to the 2nd page of results and is now back at number one.

;-) "Me thinks that Google is doing some testing on another algorithm"

#4 iamlost


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Posted 30 September 2008 - 08:48 PM

Barry, you might find this Chris Silver Smith article, Travel Searches, Local & More Searches Turning Case-Sensitive in Google SERPs, posted this past April in naturalsearchblog of interest:

Some of us at Netconcepts have been noticing that keyword rankings in Google search engine results pages (”SERPs”) have been turning case-sensitive for some queries lately.
...you’ll see that a few of the listings in the SERPs trade ranking positions...

#5 bwelford


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Posted 30 September 2008 - 09:01 PM

That's fascinating, iamlost. Thanks for surfacing that, which I had missed.

What I don't follow is what is the logic behind the difference. Currently the difference still persists and makes no sense.

#6 yannis


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Posted 01 October 2008 - 06:05 AM

My guess is that Google hunts for acronyms and abbreviations and hence in this case capitalization is important and gets treated as such.


#7 DrPete


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Posted 01 October 2008 - 08:29 AM

A couple of SEOs were discussing that on Twitter the other day. Saw the same thing with "ABC" vs. "abc" and a couple of others, but we couldn't quite wrap our heads around the rhyme or reason. Google does parse acronyms, but in most of the cases, it parsed both the upper- and lower-case versions as the acronym, so that didn't seem to matter.




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Posted 01 October 2008 - 09:08 AM

:mr_rant: If I was the boss at Google I would want the algo to give credit for proper capitalization, spelling and grammar. These are characteristics of a quality document prepared by a person who cares about their content. I think that most searchers will want that and I think that documents with those characteristics are generally of higher quality.

One thing that really irritates me is to go to a high quality website and see adsense ads with gross errors in capitalization, spelling and grammar. Jackass advertising can stink up a high quality site.

Also, if I was the boss at Google the score needed to attain the "Adwords Professional" distinction would be 95% and include a spelling, grammar and capitalization element. Should a person with 20% faulty knowledge be called a "Professional" and allowed to run thousands of dollars of client bidding each month? Do ads with bad grammar and capitalization perform at the same level as ads that are done properly?

Raising the minimum score needed to pass the exam will improve the quality of the ads and the performance given to the client. Google wins on both counts. Advertisers win. Searchers win.

Also, if 95% is the required score, a lot of people who squeak through with the current lower expectation will work harder to pass the more rigorous test.

Edited by EGOL, 01 October 2008 - 09:09 AM.

#9 bwelford


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Posted 01 October 2008 - 10:11 AM

Good one, Egol. :)

By now, searches for mrn, MRN and variants such as Mrn all deliver the same #5 position as I write. At one point those three variants were all delivering a different ranking. However this little episode would seem to confirm Yannis's view that each variant is regarded as a separate entity when it's an acronym. Interestingly the UK case earlier this year was about phrases where the initial letter of particular words might be capitalized or not. That suggests a much bigger computational problem.

So Egol perhaps Google is agreeing with you and wants to make sure that it rewards the 'correct' form of the acronym.

#10 yannis


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Posted 01 October 2008 - 11:38 AM

The ultimate and conclusive test :) if Google is using uppercase is this:


jobs at apple

This should bring you results about ... naturally jobs at Apple.

Jobs at Apple

Should ONLY bring you results for Steve Jobs at Apple.

Besides my suggestion on abbreviations previously, it is also likely that Google may be using their n-gram database for this. If words appear mostly in capitals, it can bias the results a bit as well as provide information that the words are a 'named entity'.


PS Anyone got Google's n-gram database?

#11 bwelford


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Posted 01 October 2008 - 12:51 PM

The two searches, jobs at apple and Jobs at Apple, bring up exactly the same first 4 results in the same order. So it may be acronyms are different.

#12 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 02 October 2008 - 06:18 AM

Yea, been going on for a while. http://www.seroundta...ves/017187.html

I think Matt Cutts thinks it is not the algorithm, based on his comment there.

#13 bwelford


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Posted 02 October 2008 - 09:02 AM

I think it's clearly a real phenomenon, that is reproducible. It's somewhat scary that we can not get any official Google explanation that makes sense. It would imply that no one is really sure why the Google algorithm is doing this.

#14 morgret


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Posted 03 October 2008 - 12:47 PM

With the query APRS tracker vs aprs tracker, argentdata.com is in position six and position seven in Google, respectively.

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