SEO News
Search

Search Engines And Capitalization

author-default
by , Comments

People spend a lot of time worrying about capitalization, especially in relation to meta tags. This is because some search engines are case-sensitive, which means a search for "Entertainment" will bring up different results than a search for "entertainment."

No one wants to miss traffic, so some people have taken to listing every variation of a word in their meta tags. For example, returning to the Entertainment example above, they might list

entertainment, Entertainment, ENTERTAINMENT

The problem with this is that these repetitions may trip a search engine's spam detector, especially when dealing with phrases. For example, imagine just some of the variations for "golf courses"

golf courses, Golf courses, Golf Courses, golf Courses,
GOLF COURSES, GOLF courses, golf COURSES

It gets even worse if you decide you need to include both singular and plural forms, but that's another issue.

So what should you do? The simple answer is to relax and stick with lower case. That's because practically everyone searches in lower case. Besides that, most search engines are not completely case sensitive.

Real Life Capitalization

The example below is drawn from a real web site, which was ranked exactly the same when searching for the name of a company, regardless of the case used. It shows the number of click-throughs, taken over four days in January 1998. The company name has been changed to a generic "Name" for confidentiality reasons, but the example illustrates exactly the variations used:

Word

Total

%

name

1,011

82%

Name

128

10%

NAME

86

7%

"name"

8

0.6%

NAme

3

0.2%

nAME

2

0.2%

Total

1,238

100%

Still worried that you need to do every variation? At worst, you're missing 18 percent of the traffic. That's also assuming that simply including the terms in your meta tags would have made a difference. Quite possibly, it might not have helped. In fact, all that repetition more likely put you at risk of not doing well for any variations at all.

Some notes about the chart. The "name" example is someone who searched for the name as a phrase. You can't do anything about that, meta tag-wise, so this is really a search for all-lower case. My favorite is the last search, nAME -- obviously someone with his or her caps lock key stuck.

Also, keep in mind that grammatically, names should be capitalized. However, people ignore this rule when doing searches in the example below. Thus, they are even more likely not to capitalize when searching for terms that normally aren't capitalized.

You can see this in the next chart. Same company again, this time appearing for a particular phrase. In this case, the term "golf courses" is substituted for the real term. Again, the variations are the same:

Word Total %
golf courses 233 84%
GOLF COURSES 15 5%
Golf Courses 13 5%
Golf courses 8 3%
"golf courses" 6 2%
golf Courses 1 0.4%
Total 276

Here, you can see a slightly higher percentage are searching in lower-case. The upper-case percentage has also risen, but this is a smaller sample, so it's more easily skewed.

From the same site, I also looked at five other examples of name-related searches. Lowercase searching dominated all these examples, ranging from 85 percent to 90 percent of the total terms used.

Most major search engines are not case sensitive today.

Note: the date shown on this article reflects updates provided by Claudia Bruemmer, Internet Marketing Writer and former ClickZ Managing Editor. This article was originally published by Danny Sullivan in August of 2001.


The Original Search Marketing Event is Back!
SES AtlantaSES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start - to help you master being found on search engines. Early Bird rates available through Sept 12. Register today!

Recommend this story

comments powered by Disqus