Internet
How to
Newspapers
Twitter
SEO advice
Categories: How to, Internet. Tags: , , ,

Google autocomplete now fixes spelling problems

January 18, 2010 3 Comments

More evidence that Google has changed how it handles spelling errors. It is now fixing spelling in autocomplete (the list of suggestions it offers as you start to type in the web-based search form). (I think this is new, anyway ...)

Unlike yesterday's example, where Google was just deciding for itself which version of alternative, correct spellings you meant, I approve of this - partly because it's helpful, and partly because the user retains control (so they can search for wrong spellings if they want to).

Here are some examples - plus some where it ought to be fixing them but isn't. Note in each that the list of suggestions include the correct spellings (apart from millennium), even though I have spelled the word wrong.

Correcting common mis-spellings

Weird vs wierd

You type wierd, Google shows suggestions for weird

You type wierd, Google shows suggestions for weird

Acomodate vs accommodate

You type acomodate, Google shows suggestions for accommodate

You type acomodate, Google shows suggestions for accommodate

Acceptable vs acceptible

You type acceptible, Google shows suggestions for acceptable

You type acceptible, Google shows suggestions for acceptable

Greatful vs grateful

You type greatful, Google shows suggestions for grateful

You type greatful, Google shows suggestions for grateful

Bellwether vs bellweather

You type bellweather, Google shows suggestions for bellwether

You type bellweather, Google shows suggestions for bellwether

Please get these right however

Could of vs could have

This is not correct English - it should be could have.

There is no such construction as "could of". Please correct to could have.

There is no such construction as "could of". Please correct to could have.

Millennium - huh?

And millennium has two ls and two ns, however many results you've found for the wrong spelling ...

Right, I think it just can't spell millennium.

Right, I think it just can't spell millennium.

Conclusion

Looking at these, and the various other spelling examples that have emerged lately, it seems that Google must be using user behaviour in some way to deal with spelling errors.

For instance, where it observes people search for X immediately after Y (and X is a spelling variant of Y), it might decide to return X results when people search for Y. This probably explains the stationary / stationery issue from yesterday and the weird / wierd etc examples above.

Alternatively, it might be using its "did you mean" spelling correction data and, where people clicked this a lot, it's now just assuming they meant it all along.

I'm not sure it explains Google returning results for optimization when you search for optimisation, but there you go.

What do you think?

You might also like
  1. Google’s spelling problems are worse than we thought
  2. Google adds remove option to Google Autocomplete
  3. Don’t believe Google Autocomplete when it comes to scams
  4. Google: We spell it colouring here
  5. Steven Gerrard: Google autocomplete finishes off The Sun’s work

Share this post

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter

3 Comments »

  • Agreed - much better user experience. Actually useful in most cases. It seems fine with US/UK spellings (e.g. favourite/favorite, colour/color, humor/humour) but why not acknowledge optimisation? Odd... If it's based on search volume then we should also be pushed 'humor' over 'humour'. But we aren't. I'm guessing CTR based.

    • It handles stationary / stationery well too - giving a mix of terms relating to both spellings if you type in stationary (as opposed to just returning stationery results if you do search on stationary).

      The stationery/stationary thing makes me wonder if it's CTR plus next search data. Presumably in the old days, people would search for stationary, see things that didn't move and then search again for stationery when they realised it was a mis-spelling (possibly prompted by a "did you mean").

  • I agree this is a clear usability improvement on the query input side; though it would be nice if there was different handling of my request according to the selection method. E.g. if I start to type "wether" (male goat/sheep) and select "wether" from the auto-complete options - we could maybe infer I'm less likely to be interested in BBC Weather in position 1, as I have made a comparative selection - kind of pre-qualified my intent? Maybe this is on the cards and maybe all of these recent shennanigans are part of a CTR data collection exercise?

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.