How Does Google Handle an Apostrophe?

By Todd Bowerman

Millions of people use Google to find local businesses.
i Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Google is the most popular search engine on the Web, boasting over 4.7 billion searches a day in 2011. With so many clients and customers turning to Google to find local and Internet businesses, it is critical that you understand the basics of search engine optimization. This includes the quirky ways in which Google can interpret punctuation, both in your company’s name and in the content on your pages. The right Google ranking can make or break a fledgling organization.

The User End

If a potential client is searching for a business, they may or may not include the punctuation. “Pet’s Mart” becomes “Pets Mart,” “Binny’s” becomes “Binnys,” and so on. Luckily for business owners, Google does not see much difference between searches with apostrophes and searches without. If your business name has an apostrophe in it and the user leaves it out in a search, you should not see any negative impact -- results should be the same either way. Google does deliver different results for contractions using apostrophes, such as "we're" and "they're."

In the Domain

Actual, functional Web addresses are limited to numbers, characters and the dash symbol. You cannot place an apostrophe in your domain name, just like you can’t put a plus sign or parenthesis. If your company name has an apostrophe in it, you will have to skip the apostrophe when it comes time to register the domain. Google will know that searches with apostrophes are still searches for your business and will not be tripped up by this detail.

In Keywords

Keywords are slightly trickier. While business names are pretty straightforward with or without the apostrophe, on-page keyword content is indexed differently. Keywords without apostrophes are ranked more heavily than those with, although there is rarely a difference in meaning. If at all possible, it is best to use the core version of your keyword rather than one that’s modified by apostrophes or other punctuation.

In the Site Title

Your website title, which is displayed at the top of the Web browser window and shows up as the text for your Google link, is one of the most important elements of the site’s design. Keywords in the site title are ranked more heavily than those on any other part of the page except for the actual domain, so you must get them right. It is advisable to put the apostrophe into the title, as it will not have a negative impact on ranking and will look more professional to visitors browsing results. Poor punctuation and grammar are often more damaging to business websites than any Google algorithm.