Could it be that your website includes the misspelling somewhere? If not, someone linking to your site may have (accidentally) misspelled that keyphrase in the anchor text. Try a search for "city wigets" or "city wedgits" (including the quotes) and see what comes up.
It says "No results" for "city wigets" then it shows the results for city wigets (no quotes) and my website at #5!...It actually dropped 2 places since yesterday.
Search for "city wigets" again, without the quotes, and click on the "Cached" link for your site. At the top of the page, does it say "These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: city wigets"?
Yes, it does. But that still doesn't make sense. I tried, like, 6 misspellings and they all bring up my page within the first 5 hits.
Were you once #1? I used to be #1 and then got penalized. When the misspelling still got me #1 I took that as a sign I was under a penalty. More deoptimization got me back to the top.
Certainly Google's penalty algo can't predict even misspelling and penalize you for it, too. :/
I was never at #1. This is a newly registered domain that I have.
This is an interesting observation. I can't say anything for sure, but ranking a new url really well for misspellings would be one heck of an innovative way to test how it performs without disturbing the main results for established sites.
The "mis-spelling" effect is something I see often, but I've yet to look at in sufficient detail.
As far as I can ascertain, for a site to do well for a misspelling (as a result of query expansion [webmasterworld.com], as opposed to using the misspelling or being linked to with it) is unrelated to the usual mechanisms that get a site to perform well. In fact, I frequently see sites that appear to lack any authority or trust perform well for misspelled keywords.
I believe this is related to (the same as?) a similar effect I see on a fair number of UK sites, which perform better on foreign-language Googles for global searches.
I have a puzzle with lots of pieces at the moment though ;)
Maybe it removes some kind of filter or triggers some kind of other change to relevance.
What I don't quite get is why simple query expansion would change relevance - surely the best match for the correctly-spelled word is still the best match? For this reason, I'm not convinced it's a deliberate effect.
I have a problem with one of my sites in a very similar way to you. My main keyword & domain name was originally "City Widgets" & CityWidgets.co.uk.
I used only article marketing for the SEO providing about 80 links.
The site ranks well for "Widgets City" and lots of variations of that phrase, but at one time it was on the first page for "Widgets" & "Widget".
It only stayed there for about a month but then its ranking dropped to around position 250.
Almost all of the anchor text in the links originally contained the the word "Widgets" and other words one side or the other or both, and I think this is the reason why it was penalised. Since then I've changed most of the links to provide a high level of keyword variation and "Widgets" only appears in about 20% of the links now. I requested reconsideration from Google and the site now ranks high for the word "Widget" but not "Widgets".
If most of your links contain your keyword, that could be the reason. I think what Google looks for is a natural variation of anchor texts.
[edited by: Jubbsy at 9:20 pm (utc) on Jan. 8, 2009]
I, too, am ranking for misspellings, but the misspelling is actually in the meta description tag, where as the correct spelling is in the on page text.