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The Shally Way: “Better Searching with Diacritics and Accents”

Posted on November 2, 2006
Filed Under Recruitment Industry, Sourcing Technologies, Training | Comments Off on The Shally Way: “Better Searching with Diacritics and Accents”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Shally Steckerl, Manager of Research, Microsoft
& Founder, Job Machine, Inc.

Is it México or Mexico? Are results really that different if you search for Espanol or Español?


And no.

OK I confused you. Maybe a little bit on purpose, to make a point. Let me explain… when your query includes a word with accented characters search engines will find you some web pages that contain versions of that word both with and without the accent. For instance, try México, and get pages with both “Mexico” and “México.” This is because search engines are trying to become more “context smart and user friendly” – a simple way of saying they are trying to guess what you mean.

Consider that if you search for words without using the accented characters, and its a word that is usually spelled with with them, search engine will still try to guess and return both versions of the word with the same result – pages containing either “Mexico” and “México.” Which is fine when you are looking for general info but not when you are seeking leads.

So what’s the difference between the two?

Well if you saved your settings so that your preference is to search in Spanish then your results will lean more towards the accented characters. The same thing happens if you search from the country specific version of the search engine. That is to say the domain ends in .mx (for Mexico) or .sp (for Spain) or .co (for Colombia) and so on. Conversely, if your preferences predicate English results, then you will get fewer pages spelling it with the accent.

In short this means that the search results for the same query can vary depending on the language interface you chose.

Hold on, it gets worse… they can also vary depending on where you are because sometimes search engines will try to decipher your location based on your IP address.

But, Shally, how does this help me as a recruiter?

You have to learn to control it so you can get accurate results. Which begs the next question, how do you control it?

Use the + symbol before the word.

If its important that you find Mexico and not México (as in Resumes of candidates in México) then search for +México which returns only pages containing “México” (but not pages with “Mexico”).

What other words have accents?

Happy CyberSleuthing!

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