Google Smacks Down UK SEO Companies

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year!

Unfortunately our first post of the year might not be a happy one for some, as Google have pulled the rug out from under some of the best known SEO companies in the UK with a sneaky but significant change to the results page for the keyword “search engine optimisation”. You see, “optimisation” is one of those words the Americans spell a little differently, prefering an arguably more phonetically correct “z” over an “s”. And, apparently, Google think the UK should adopt this too, as they’re now default all searches for “search engine optimisation” to the results page for “search engine optimization.

This, understandably, delivers almost entirely different listings. In fact, at the time of writing, the two result pages have include only 2 of the same sites in their top 10 listings, in signficantly different positions.

Now, the UK result page for “search engine optimisation” has long been home to some of the best known SEO companies in Britain. In fact, you could argue that many have become recognised and respected precisely because of their presence on the first page for what has become a frightfully competitive keyword (bear in mind that most sites competing for “search engine optimisation” are, of course, being watched over and worked on by very experienced and capable search engine optimisers). A high position for this term is a branding tool, a selling point and an attention grabber, as well as what you might call a “vanity term”. Google’s own keyword tool is reporting “search engine optimisation” as recieving over 30,000 exact match searches per month locally, and so although some might try to seem nonchalant, this change will almost certainly feel like a kick to the crotch for those companies who’ve suddenly found themselves relegated to 2nd page or worse.

Meanwhile, Google’s own Search Engine Optimisation pages, along with a slew of companies who, with hindsight, wisely optimised for “optimization” as well as or instead of “optimisation” will be recieving a heap of new traffic while everyone else plays catch up, or until Google revert this change.

So far we’ve yet to find any other examples of Google Americanising our searches – “colour” doesn’t change to “color”, “aluminium” doesn’t change to “aluminum”, infact the single word “optimisation” only suggests you try “optimization”, rather than defaulting to that page. This seems like a very specific change and combined with the shoddy UK SERPs we’ve been seeing over the past few months  it seems that Google *really* doesn’t like us in the UK very much right now!

UPDATE 15/01/10 – Looks like this change has been rolled back for the time being – will be interesting to see how long this lasts!

  • Written by on 13th January 2010 at 13:42
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  • Andy Nattan

    You could've done a bit more research. It's not a snub for SEO companies, they're correcting multi-word search phrases.

  • Matt Davies

    Hi Andy

    I go without reading your blog for one day and look what happens, eh?

    TBH, I never *really* thought this was a deliberate snub to SEOs, and it's not surprise to find out it's something bigger. The fact is though, even if it's inadvertant, this change by Google COULD have massive repurcusions for some of the effected companies.

    • Andy Nattan

      Undoubtedly. It's not just SEO though – if they're rolling out this change, any key phrase that Americans spell wrong is going to be affected.

      If it's a deliberate tweak, I don't have the slightest idea why they'd make it.

  • David Edmundson-Bird

    There is of course the deeper obsession with spelling and how right or wrong our American cousins are. American English (as opposed to the language that also includes newer insert words from Hispanic and African-American communities) and spelling is based on the language of our joint 17th and 18th century forefathers. “Optimization” is indeed the correct “ancient” spelling of the word. As is “Optimize” (check the OED which insists that -ize is the suffix). Optimisation and Optimise are alternative spellings but not regarded as the main spelling. It is only later into the 19th Century that we see the S creeping into the UK version of English across a variety of s/z words.

    Its Latin root Optimus (best) make it a truly proper geekfest word. I blame lazy (perhaps snobbish) 1970s and 1980s English teaching for the UK obsession with S as beginning of the English suffix.

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