Is Google Connecting The Wrong Keywords?

03 Jun 2010, Posted by admin in Featured,Google, 11 Comments

Is Google Connecting The Wrong Keywords?

Google, for a while now, has been connecting which terms are often used together – so a term like “car” could also be connected to “car”, “van”, “motorbike” and “BMW”. This has kind of been accepted for ages, and it’s easy to see when you do a search with a tilde in front of it (so ~car bolds the words BMW, Auto and Vehicle…for example).

It’s kind of hard to prove that they actually do that in search results when the tilde isn’t there though – you can get a bit of a better idea that they’re doing it when it produces incorrect search results though.

At the moment, if you search Google for Nintendo Entertainment System Data you get ranking in first and second place.

Nintendo Entertainment System Data SERP

The reason is because Google has associated the query “Nintendo Entertainment System data” with the term “NES”, which it has then matched up with the American National Election Studies site, because of it also thinks that that is related to the term “NES”. It’s kind of true, both terms are related to “NES” – they’re just not related to each other which is why the search result doesn’t work.

You can see the same effect with the search Game Boy Advance Association which brings up other sites that are related to the acronym “GBA”, including the Girls Basketball Association and the Gay Business Association.

Game Boy Advance Association SERP

There’s a great example of the same thing when you search for British Home Stores society, bringing back completely unrelated results like the British Horse Society, the British Hypertension Society and the Belgian Hematological Society.

British Home Stores Society SERP

Of course, all of these terms are unlikely to be searched very often, I’m not suggesting that Google’s search results are broken because of it – it’s just interesting to see how Google connects different keywords from time to time. Basically, what’s happening (it would seem) is that Google is connecting together two terms that aren’t really related, usually acronyms, because they’re all connected to one main term. That sounds a bit complex when it isn’t really – so I’ll explain what I mean with a crudely drawn image. The term “Nintendo Entertainment System” is correctly connected to “NES”. “National Election Studies” is correctly connected also to the keyword “NES”, but it looks like Google has connected the terms “Nintendo Entertainment System” to “National Election Studies” incorrectly because of that.

While it’s obviously not worked on the results mentioned in this post, it’s probably produced better results overall – and it’s interesting to see that Bing and Yahoo don’t return results like this when you search for these terms. Maybe they’re not connecting terms together like Google is?

Flickr image from DizDau.

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June 3, 2010 9:26 am


I’ve thought Google has been getting a bit too clever for a while and its really starting to ruin the search results. I don’t think it will be that long before people start to realise and migrate to other options

June 3, 2010 1:56 pm

Simon Dance

@colin – I disagree.

Features like this will be tested and tested again, taking into account impressions, CTRs, bounces and a whole range of other metrics before refining what’s displayed. Acronym are one factor, under the waterline, but there is a whole lot of opportunity out there to tap into new keyword types, markets and modifiers….

June 4, 2010 4:18 pm


It definitely looks like this feature needs a little refinement, I would have thought they shouldn’t have too much trouble doing this though. I’m sure Google have site genre classification and topic classification which should really lead to the obvious conclusion that these acronyms share nothing more than the same initials.

It does seem like a surprisingly elementary mistake though, one that will no doubt be remedied fairly quickly now that you’ve pointed it out I would think.

June 5, 2010 2:37 pm

Giacomo Pelagatti

Hi, Dave! A colleague of mine recently pointed me to this post, after I reported the same issue a couple of weeks ago: when searching for “Trusted Platform Module”, returned the Trasporti Pubblici Monzesi (“Monza Public Transport”) website. At that time, I had posted a SERP screen-shot here:

I believe what’s going on here is query expansion through acronyms, as you correctly pointed out: in fact, the Trasporti Pubblici Monzesi website is ranked #1 on for “tpm”. At first I thought the mismatched and irrelevant result was primarily due to language-based personalization (having performed an English language query on, but it’s interesting to note now that you encountered the same phenomenon with several queries in the same language on

I also agree that this glitch sheds some light on the mechanics of correlation within Google. In fact, I think that a large role in inducing Google to relate the semantically unrelated (e.g., the two definitions of the “NES” acronym) is played by co-occurrences of such definitions on authority sources, mostly online dictionaries and encyclopedias: see


PS: Congratulations on your blog: great stuff, I’ll be gladly following you.

June 6, 2010 7:52 pm

Uttoran Sen

interesting analysis, this is hard even for google to put this thing right, the only option to make it absolutely correct is to search by tags and categories. that way, google will be able to relate the terms better.

say for example, someone searches for – “Girls Basketball Association” under sports category will surely get more targeted results. Just a thought.

June 7, 2010 3:56 am


There is no alternate of Google in near future as all big search companies share from the same dinner table. I wish if somebody can do some research about the VC’s or investing companies behing top search companies and uncover the mystry why there is no alternate to Google? If MS can create sophisticated and AI enabled application, then what rocket science involved in making a search engine? Why 1 company with so many blunders keep going up while others (Y, MSN) free falling? Virtually there is no keyword tool anymore, Yahoo stopped its keywords search tool, msn efforts are not appreciatable. What is really going? Why they want everyone on internet to see it Google way?

Google is doing nothing but hit and trial. Trying to shape internet search the way they want, rather what it should be.

June 7, 2010 4:21 pm

Kristine Schachinger`

This might explain why, lately, I have seen such a dizzying array of mismatched results on longer tail searches and why they have very irrelevant overall. Thanks for this insight. Very interesting!

July 18, 2010 2:14 pm

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August 14, 2010 4:45 pm

Web Design Norwich

This is really interesting, thank you for sharing this.

September 3, 2010 9:41 pm

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November 28, 2010 11:31 am


Hey there! Today I re-checked the SERPs I mentioned in my post, and it appears that Google has finally fixed them. The “NES data” query in your post also produces correct results now; I still see mismatched results in the other queries you mentioned, but I believe that co-occurences of terms and links in this post might be playing a role there (my two pence).

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