April 10, 2011

The quirks of metric versus imperial measurements in search engines

By Barry

The quirks of metric versus imperial measurements in search engines


I was working on a client’s website recently when I ran across a problem that raised an interesting issue. In a nutshell, how do search engines deal with imperial measures on websites? A related question is how do people write their imperial measure queries in search engines? For example, if I was looking for a three quarter inch pipe, I could write it as 3/4 inch pipe, 3/4 ” pipe, three quarter inch pipe or ¾ inch pipe and so on. A quick check shows that these queries are not equivalent and do not yield the same search results. So how do you optimize a website using imperial measures? Why have the search engines not recognized that these terms are equivalent?

Imperial measures problems in the search engines
When I sat down to work on my client’s website, the problem with measurements leaped out at me. Since the website is geared towards a US audience, imperial measurements are essential. Compare a search in Google for ’3/4 inch pipe’ to ’3/4″ pipe’ and you will see that while a few results remain the same, many are different and rank differently. The number of results were roughly equal: 16,900,000 results versus 16,500,000 results

The hope is that someone will search for plastic pipe rather than the dimensions and so pages are best set up focused on categories such as this. I decided to use the alt tag in photos of the products to include the dimensions and that worked quite well. It seems people are rather more specific in searching images for such products.

Related Post

For Google and other search engines, this must be a common problem. The web is riddled with conversions and calculators so identifying equivalent terms of measurement seems trivial. Sooner or later this will be addressed by the search engines.