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Why is Google highlighting acronyms in SERPs for some sites but not others?

1:30 pm on Aug 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have noticed a strange quirk (error?) in the way Google highlights acronyms in the search results pages.

Google is fairly clever in the way it handles acronyms. ie. If you type "PPC" into Google, as well as "PPC" it will also highlight "Pay Per Click" whenever that shows up in the search listings. Vice versa the same is true.

BUT, why is this not always the case. Try searching on "pay per click" and looking at the results in the first few pages. "Pay per click" is always highlighted, but PPC is only sometimes highlighted. Why is this?

Can something be changed within the site or meta tags to ensure that the acronym will be highlghted in your snippet?

6:21 pm on Aug 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

We don't normally publish specific web searches (Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com]), but this case will be an exception for the sake of the topic.

For any such highlighting (bolding) to occur, Google must have established a semantic equivalence between the acronym and its expansion. That certainly is not the case with all acronyms, but it is for "PPC".

The main exceptions I see to expected bolding occur in two places:

1. The short, inline sitelinks are not bolding "PPC" in the anchor text.

2. For the related searches at the bottom of the page, I see the REST of the anchor text in bold, and not the search terms.

6:22 pm on Aug 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

There are certainly anomalies in the highlighting function, and this may well be another of them - I doubt there's much a site could do to influence the highlighting, and other than minor impact on CTR from results, I doubt there's any real impact, although it's difficult to say with any certainty whether this relates to the actual matching of acronyms or not.
3:46 am on Aug 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

There's an <acronym> tag in HTML to reinforce these.


IMO, this tag coupled with domain authority can result in the type of result OP is talking about.


5:59 am on Aug 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Hello abilitydesigns, and welcome to the forums.

Have you had an experience with Google that leads you to this idea?

9:01 am on Aug 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the welcome Tedster!

I use VBSEO plugin on my niche industry specific forums which automatically adds an acronym expansion on terms specified by me in cPanel. I see some of those threads rank in top 10; but I'm not 100% sure that the acronym tags are affecting the rankings.


9:03 am on Aug 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hmm, interesting, I didn't know about the <acronym> tag. There's also an abbreviation <abbr> tag which appears to serve the same purpose.


I wonder if using one of these within the body text of the page will help to get the acronym highlighted?

9:12 am on Aug 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

You should certainly be using appropriate and meaningful tags if you use acronyms or abbreviations. It may even help the interpretation of your page by Google. But IMO it has nothing to do with the SERP highlighting function - I've seen no evidence that is the case, anyhow.
9:46 am on Aug 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It appears <abbr> is the one to use. See here:


I might test it out to see if it has any effect.


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