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Marketing 101 / Search Critic: Watch Out For Accented Terms !!!

I'm starting to consider replacing my (annoying) IBM X20 notebook.  This machine which I absolutely loved when it came out has start started to really piss me off with an annoying high pitched screen whine which disappears when I type but is present at all other times.  Sigh.  I'm looking at some Dell models as well as some Toshiba's and there in is the point of this essay.  The Toshiba that I'm looking at is a Portege model.  Or as Toshiba's own website [Go] calls it a "Portégé".  Note the accents.  This isn't a word that I type normally so I copied and pasted it into the PC Connection website's search field and looked for it.  And what I got surprised me – NO RESULTS that mattered.  So then I typed it in without the accented e's and got it.  Here are the links:

[PC Connection Search 1: With the é] – totally wrong

[PC Connection Search 2: Without the é] – totally right

So my next thought was "What does Google Do?".  Here are the results:

[Google Search 1: With the é] – Ok

[Google Search 2: Without the é] – ok but different

What's really interesting here is that Google's results differ based on the é or e.  However, Google, unlike PC Connection, is doing the right thing since Google is relevant world wide and an accented e actually matters for anyone that's not American. 

So there are at least a few things to talk about here:

  1. The PC Connection search engine needs to be told that é and e are one and the same.  Or a search query pre-processor needs to correct these characters before the search (see "blatant advertisement" below).

  2. Marketing folk need to start understanding search engines beyond just Yahoo and Google.  If you choose different typography conventions for your product names then there is an impact and it can be substantial. 

  3. Always, always bear in mind that when you deviate from A-Z, a-z, 0-9 for characters in your product name then you are taking a risk in terms of people being able to find it.  These characters are safe.  Accents are not – particularly if you are in the U.S. 

  4. If you are going to use accented characters then strongly consider using a search engine with a European author.  Europeans do a wonderful job understanding language issues and Americans, in general, do not.  I've run multiple search engine products (and one search engine company) and I can state this with a lot of authority.  If the American company really focuses on it then it can be done, of course, but we tend not to since our core market is oblivious to these issues.

  5. Do real world user testing with your product name related to the Internet.  Want to get funky with a name ?  Then run the name by people and ask them to actually find it.  See what they do.  Watch an American wonder how to type in Portégé and not understand why Portégé doesn't work on PC Connection.  Think about it.

[Blatant Advertisement]

Need help with your searching?  My company, the FuzzyGroup, can implement search engine (or query) pre-processors and post-processors that dramatically improve your search engine results.  For example we could have filtered out the accented e before the search engine got it or ensured that it was indexed properly.  Additionally we could make sure that the correct item shows up at the top of the hit list regardless of what the search engine does.  Feel free to contact me for more details.  [More Details]

 [End of Blatant Advertisement.  Thank you for reading.]

Marketing 101 Tip : Read #2 through 5.  Understand them.  Think about them when your boss wants a funky name.   Try and explain to him that things that look cool can mean real problems when it comes to finding information.  When that fails?  Run in circles, scream and shout.  (It doesn't solve it but it often makes you feel better).


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