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How Google Ranks Pages With Abbreviations

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How Google Ranks Pages With Abbreviations

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Google’s John Mueller answered a question about how Google’s algorithm handles abbreviations. John answered the question in depth, explaining how these are essentially synonyms and that Google doesn’t do anything particularly special with abbreviations.

How Does Google Handle Abbreviations?

The person asking a question wanted to know how Google handled abbreviations such as “eg” which means ergo.

They related that they have a lot of these kinds of abbreviations on their site.

Google’s John Mueller answered:

“And the short answer is we don’t do anything special with those kinds of things.

We essentially treat them as tokens on a page.

And a token is essentially kind of like a word or a phrase on a page.

And we would probably recognize that there are known synonyms for some of these and understand that a little bit.

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But we wouldn’t really do anything specific there in that we’d like have a glossary of what this abbreviation means and handle that in a specific way.

So that’s something where, especially when it comes to synonyms, our systems learn these over time.

And for the most part, we handle them when people search and not when we do the indexing.”

John Mueller next recommends watching a video of Google Search Engineer Paul Haahr speaking at a search conference that was published by Google Search central in which he talks about how search works, in which Paul discusses the use of synonyms for query expansion.

Mueller says:

“And in that video, he goes through some of the synonym challenges that we’ve run across in the past.

And I found that super interesting to look at and probably also gives you some ideas on how we might handle some of these kind of expansions when it comes to abbreviations.”

Mueller said that the video was from December 2019 or 2020 and published on Google Search Central’s YouTube channel.

And there is indeed a video from 2019 that was published in 2020 in which Paul Haahr talks about synonyms and query expansion.

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Paul discusses the topic of query expansion and synonyms at the 1:30 minute mark:

Google Video of Paul Haahr Discussing Synonyms and Query Expansion

“So first I’m going to talk about something in one of our language understanding systems, which is the synonym system.”

The screen behind Paul shows the following text:

    • "User vocabulary ≠ Document vocabulary
    • System tries to bridge the gap by automatically adding alternative words
    • Similar to using OR, but usually less important than original terms
    • One of Google Search's most important components"

Paul Haahr explains the purpose of using synonyms:

“So what is our synonym system?

It’s something that is there to bridge the gap between the user vocabulary and query vocabulary – or user vocabulary and document vocabulary.

That is, when we see a query, it often is written in a different language than the documents used.

And we’re trying to match those things.

The way this actually works is, it looks a lot like we add a bunch of terms with OR.

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Who here in the audience has used the OR operator?

And the way our synonyms system works is effectively, we take a user query and we add a lot of OR terms to it.

And this is actually one of Google’s most important ranking components… that it’s sort of.. it’s something that we launched roughly 15-plus years ago, has improved a lot over the years.”

More Videos of Paul Haahr Discussing Synonyms and Query Expansion

There is another video of Paul Haahr speaking at SMX West in 2016 where he also speaks about query expansion and this also sheds some light on the topic.

Paul discusses Query Expansion at the 6:35 minute mark in the presentation:

Watch Google Engineer Paul Haahr Discuss Synonyms

This is not the video John Mueller was referencing but it also has interesting information.

Paul Haahr explains:

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“We do a query understanding part where we try to figure out what the query means, we do retrieval and scoring… and then we do some …adjustments.

So Query Understanding, first question is, do we know any named entities in the query?

The San Jose Convention Center, we know what that is. Matt Cutts, we know what that is.

And so we label those.

And then, are there useful synonyms?

Does General Motors in this context… does GM mean General Motors?

Does GM mean mean genetically modified?

And my point there is just that context matters.

We look at the whole query for context.”

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Google and Abbreviations

What Mueller seems to be saying in his response is that Google sees abbreviations as synonyms. So when thinking about how Google might understand a page of content, an abbreviation may be condensed to a core meaning which could be seen as a synonym.

Citation

How Google Handles Abbreviations

Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 48:43 minute mark

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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