Several weeks ago the question of a new Google case sensitive search started appearing in a couple of message boards. I’ve noticed this phenomenon myself especially over the last two weeks when working on a particular customer’s website.
This issue impacted communication with the customer. At first, I thought it was a matter of the client and myself looking at results from two different data centers. Then I realized that the client was using capital letters in some words but not in others while searching and this impacted the results in Google.
For years, Google and the other search engines have stated that their searches are not case sensitive. But, now that seems not to be the case for some keyword phrases. You’ll have to note, however, that not all keyword phrases are impacted by the use or non-use of capital letters.
I’ve experimented somewhat with this and the results are mixed. Those who have weighed in on the message boards have also reported mixed results as well. There is a thread on the Digital Point forum that talks about this issue and the use of “Cool Time” versus “cool time” while searching Google.
Some people report seeing different results while others don’t. I can verify that I do see different results from these two searches. For me, when doing this search, the first two spots in the SERPs are the same, while the third spot on down are a bit different.
There are also threads over at Search Engine Watch and Webmaster World that are reporting the phenomenon but not the impact of the same issue. Now, the first question that pops to mind is “why?” What is the motivation for having a Google case sensitive search?
Right now, I can only speculate. Perhaps this is one attempt to thwart blog comment or message board spam? Or, perhaps this is an attempt to differentiate between a company’s official name or a product name and a generic word.
The impact of this Google case sensitive search could be large for some sites. Perhaps their company name is part of their primary homepage key phrase and they rank well when using capital letters for their company name. But, suppose most searchers type in lower case and the same website doesn’t rank as well in lower case.
This also brings to mind another question. Will link-builders now have to use anchor text with both upper and lower case letters in order to achieve optimal results in the Google SERPs? Do capital letters now affect the title and meta tag areas?
For many business owners case sensitive search will be a non-issue. But, for those that are affected knowing the answers to these questions may have a very large impact on their bottom lines.
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Tom Stevens writes about and practices search engine optimization, Internet marketing and SEO services for many clients who prefer going old school.