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French accents - what do search engines think?

Should I leave all accents off the 'e's and 'c's?

     
3:58 pm on Oct 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys,

<first post>

I was wondering if it anyone has any knowledge as to whether it matters to french search engines whether I type the words with the proper accents (eg. liberté, égalité, fraternité), or just leave them off.

I'm curious whether Google ignores accents, since most non-francophonic keyboards don't have them on, and you can't expect people to know their ASCII codes by heart (nor to find the Character Map ;-).

</first post>

-- Frank.

4:16 pm on Oct 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi voice220,

First welcome to WebmasterWorld! Enjoy the place.

I always use accents. It can make a big difference for both visitors and search engines.

Not using accents in laguages using them in plain visible text is not acceptacle for users and search engine do make a difference.

Most French speaking users (about 60 %) dont use them in queries to search engines but expect to see them in text. I hard code all content after the <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1"> like this :

Fran&ccedil;ais libert&eacute;, &eacute;galit&eacute;, fraternit&eacute;

I put the charset meta just below the title. Only page titles read :
Français liberté, égalité, fraternité

Search engines will understand both iso-8859-1 and UTF coding for special caracters.

Note : its a old habbit I didn't update since over 2 years.
I you want to better respond visitors not using accents, not using accent in incoming ALT tags, on page ALT tags and page title usually does the trick... ;)

[edited by: Macguru at 4:27 pm (utc) on Oct. 16, 2003]

4:24 pm on Oct 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I wonder what it does when you type in a phrase with an English accent. :)

Sorry about the bad joke. I had to do it.

4:53 pm on Oct 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Macguru, I agree with you entirely about hardcoding accents and their value for users.

But do you think it is making a difference with search engines these days? I've noticed Google disregarding circumflexes and acute and grave accents, while in German the long vowel version seems to be treated the same as if an accent was used.

4:54 pm on Oct 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>But do you think it is making a difference with search engines these days?

OK, lets dig a bit deeper. Another aspect I forgot to mention : Omiting accents will in some cases penalise you.

Google applies some filters to better serve local audience. Most local trafic gets redirected to Google.ca

For instance : Type restaurant montréal [google.ca] = 833,000 results

When you try without the accent you get : restaurant montreal [google.ca] = 1,690,000 results

A twice more competitive environnement...

If you try this on Google.com, you get completely diferent results (almost the oposite where pages using accents are mixed with those using them.

without accents = 966,000
with accents = 1,280,000

So it is better to chose a strategy according to your targetted audience....

>>I wonder what it does when you type in a phrase with an English accent.

The Chef will know he can serve you garbage without you noticing it. ;)

5:15 pm on Oct 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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That's interesting with Google.ca.

On .com, I've just tried two relevant searches that I keep an eye on for this (one with ô in French and one with ö in German) and the number and order of the results are exactly the same as "o" in French and "oe" in German.

9:51 am on Oct 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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actually spain, portugal, andorra, and MOST european countries have accents

not just the french ...

12:11 pm on Oct 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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And Google does display varying results. A search for "hebergement" on Google.fr (pages from France) returned 1680000 results, while a search for "hébergement" returned 1180000 results. The first page results seem to mostly overlap.
5:54 pm on Oct 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Have I been misleaded?
[webmasterworld.com...]
Question in msg#37, answer in msg#38
5:56 pm on Oct 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Try it yourself,

Do you see exactly the same results?