Google Searching for Words with Accents – Accented words in Search Engines

Foreign Accents on the Web

Foreign Accents on the WebI am teaching one of my clients to write her own web pages. When we first discussed the idea I thought about suggesting she use a WYSIWYG editor, but in the end, because SEO and marketing her site were important to her, we decided she would hand code the site in XHTML from scratch.

We put together a very simple page layout and she is now just getting all text in just as she wants it. My client owns a ski chalet in Samoens, in France and her family run catered chalet ski holidays in the winter with expert snowboarding coaching if required. In the summer the chalet is available on a self-catered basis.

Chalet Group on Holiday with Chalet L'Oreade

She has just called to ask about using french accented words. The reason for this is that she one day wants to rank well for the phrase ‘ski chalet samoens‘. But in France, Samoens is spelled like this : Samoëns

So what should she do? She will use the word samoens in the title tag and the meta tags when she gets around to setting those up (her next task), but what of the body content?

The word samoens will appear frequently on the site, as it should, but will Google see it when people type samoens into the search engine if she uses the accented version?

This was taken from the Official Google Webmaster’s Blog

If a searcher’s interface language is English, our algorithms assume that the queries are in English and that the searcher prefers English language documents returned.

My advice was to stick with the unaccented version of the word. Although Google will read accented words, and match equivalent words, it will favour words spelled the way the search engine interface expects – so if you are searching from a uk google, then it will prefer unaccented versions of the words.

The reason for this is that the searcher’s interface language is taken into account during this search process and documents in the chosen interface language will be considered to be more relevant. BUT . . .

. . . Google isn’t the only search engine. I did a test on Yahoo to see if searching for ‘ski chalet samoens’ and ‘ski chalet samoëns’ returned similar results. They really didn’t. In fact one of my client’s main competitors loses massive position on that term when spelled without the accent.

The bottom line is that should use what you think your target market will type.

Also – note – if you search a page from your browser (using control-F) containing instances of an accented word, but specifying its non-acccented version, it won’t find it.


  1. That is actually amazing, I’d never thought to check accented words in the major search engines before, I just assumed they’d return the same results. Nice find.