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Your Keywords Are Not What You Think They Are

  How Google transforms search queries and what it means for SEO


In Franz Kafka's novella "The Metamorphosis", a man wakes up one morning to find out he has turned into a giant insect. If keywords were existentialists, they could be experiencing something similar as, having been typed into Google's search bar, they go through numerous transformations to become new, modified versions of themselves — the queries that Google thinks are a better representation of the searcher's intent.

To illustrate what I'm saying, let me ask you for a tiny favor. Go on and type in "oscar" in Google. No, seriously, do it. I'll hang in here while you're at it.

Chances are all of the top results you got are about the 89th Academy Awards that took place a few days ago. Some of the results likely do not mention the word "oscar" (the only word you typed in, remember?) at all. Somehow, Google knows you're looking for the specific Oscars award rather than general information about the ceremony, Oscar the name, or Oscar anything else — and transforms your query behind the scenes into something that barely resembles the original.

In this post, I'll look at how this process may work, and what it implies for SEOs.