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Gender & Search Engine Optimization

Publication:

Fundamental considerations

Search engines use our official grammar rules.

In addition, our linguistics is understood more and better - but not yet completely.

Are there differences in grammar or language usage?

Before we shed light on the search engines, we want to give a brief overview of the requirements or differentiations in grammar and common usage. These show relatively clearly that gender-neutral spellings pose quite big challenges for search engines as of September 2021.

Is it "male" if the article is "the"?

The actual gender does not always match the article. Take river names, for example:

  • The Danube
  • The Havel
  • The Spree
  • The Isar
  • The Saale
  • The Rhine
  • The Main
Grammar

The article does not always determine the gender.

Suffix in linguistic morphology & suffixes

Affix = dependent word element

Many dependent word components or suffixes influence what gender we mentally prefer or understand in context.

Examples:

  • he (male - example painter, baker, etc.)
  • -in (female - examples teacher, miller, etc.)
  • sh or -sche (often regionally related, such as German, German)
Most common German endings / suffixes:
  • -arm
  • -bold
  • -chen
  • -en
  • -e
  • -(er/ el)
  • -ei
  • el
  • -er
  • -haft
  • heit
  • time
  • not
  • ian/ jan
  • -i
  • -in
  • ism
  • -empty
  • -lein
  • ler
  • ling
  • -loose
  • ner
  • nis
  • -rich
  • rich
  • -s
  • sal
  • schaft
  • sel
  • -t
  • tel
  • tum
  • ung
  • -full

Example of how the ending affects our perception:

Who is the most famous actor? The answer in the most common cases will be a male actor.

What does the official grammar say? THE ENJOYMENT FORM

  • The grammatical Gender is the classification of Nouns (main, thing, object or name word)
  • In the German language, the genus used corresponds to partly the Sexus (the woman - the man) - but not always
Personal namesGenus masculineGenus FeminineGenus neuter
Sexus indeterminatethe doctorthe hostagethe date
the guestthe shapethe child
the stormthe beautythe girl
the carpetthe friendshipthe animal

Are there any other special features in the German language?

Nouns in the plural are always "feminine"
  • the lawyer - the lawyers
  • the customer - the customers
  • the guest - the guests
The grammatical gender can change

Depending on the situation, the gender can change. Here is an example that illustrates this:

Child: Teacher, I need to go to the bathroom.

Teacher: That is called "the toilet". Child disappears and comes back.

Teacher: Where have you been for so long?

Child: I went to the bathroom.

Teacher: That is "the toilet".

These grammatical basics and the official language usage alone make the German language relatively complex. Search engines are full-text machines, which eject results according to certain rules.

What is gendering?

  • Gendern or gendering comes from the English language and means "social Gender". What is meant is "the use of so-called gender-responsive Language"
  • The special feature of inclusive Language is that in addition to female and male persons, also non-binary People are included
  • This inclusive language is currently being discussed, but it is not new - as early as 1980, the "Policies to Avoidance sexist Language use" published by the German Linguistic Society (University of Regensburg, University of Passau). In 1979, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Gendering

"You're not born a woman, you become one."

Simone de Beauvoir - 1949; French. Philosopher and writer

What is generic masculine?

From generic Masculine is used when the masculine form is used to refer to persons or professions:

  • The Lawyer advises clients (but also female and male lawyers)
  • Each, the participates in this course can learn something. (each and everyone)
  • Many Lions live in savannahs. (both male lions and female lionesses).

What are the requirements and what is the importance of the above points?

  • Many confuse the 1980 recommendations with emotional sentiments
  • The general discussion is often deviating from the own topic
  • If one bases oneself purely on the grammatical rules, then many designations cannot be decoded binarily
  • It must be differentiated from SEO point of view very strongly between the general discussion and the technically reasonable

What are the possible gender-appropriate spellings?

Colon:Teacher:in
Mention of both sexes:
Teachers
Slash in singular with feminine ending:Teacher
Slash + hyphen, usually plural:Teachers
Bracket notation:Teacher(s)
Gender Gap and Internal I:Teachers _ teachers
with gender asterisk:Teachers
Generic feminine:Teachers
Present participle bypasses the assignment:Teaching

What do the different spellings mean for search engines?

  • For search engine optimization, the spelling is of particular importance, since search engines such as Google still  Full-text search engines are!
  • It can therefore be quite problematic if the spelling is changed on a web page. Google may interpret changed spellings differently than the author thinks.

Currently, the incorrect use of gender-neutral spelling can lead to a loss of visibility or ranking, as search engines cannot identify and interpret all different spellings!

Informing in a gender-appropriate way with the help of reformulations

In order to use personal designations neither feminine nor masculine, reformulations are conceivable and often useful:

  • Acting as a physician - being a physician
  • Author/Editor - Published by
  • Smokers have a shorter life expectancy - those who smoke have a shorter life expectancy
  • Pupils - Citizens
  • The firefighters - The caregivers
  • Dental practice - Dental practice

Effects in the search queries / keywords

Depending on how Google interprets the spelling on your website, your possible result can change extremely:

Search Keywordmonthly search volume
Specialist6836
Specialist2308
Specialist0

GENDERING - YES OR NO?

  • Basically applies: If the company's "corporate communication" provides for gendering, SEO should be subordinate. Stay true to yourself!
  • Whether or not gender is used depends on a variety of factors: Search intention - search environment - search results - is searched or offered - are there special keywords within the target group?
  • Visualization - Instead of "200 teachers met to talk", better "200 teachers met to talk".
  • If gendering, use alternative spellings (not just one and until one spelling becomes official): Internal I, Gender Gap, Gender Star, and others.
  • The Neutralization:
    In lieu of: Students - Students
    Instead of: Teachers - Teachers
    Instead of "ask your doctor or pharmacist," prefer "get medical or pharmaceutical advice."

One must consider in each individual case whether a change of the text takes into account the intention of the searcher!

Examples of Google searches

Search results with colon

specialist:in

  • Supported by Google only for a few terms

  • Not always possible according to grammar:

    College:in - Civil servant:in - Doctor:in

  • Google writes: "Did you mean...."

Search results with mention of both variants

specialist specialist

  • Partially supported by Google
  • Influences the regional display on Google my Business

Search results Search with slash

specialist

  • Only the part before the slash is considered in the search

  • Google assumes that the searcher has made an input error

Search results with gender star

specialist

  • Currently converted by Google to the feminine form
  • Male form of the search term is not taken into account (here you should check for which form the respective search volume is available)
  • Only female results are displayed in the local SEO section (important for Google my Business)

Search results search with indented I

specialist

  • Is partially understood by Google

  • Male and female results are returned depending on the search term
  • Only female results are displayed in the local SEO section (important for Google my Business)

Note that any change may also affect change in your visibility

Visibility

Especially in the Your-Money-Your-Life area (e.g. medicine, finance, etc.), changes must be made with care, as ranking losses may occur. If you revise your text cleverly, you can also gain visibility!

Direct comparison of different spellings

Specialist Plastic Surgery

Specialists plastic surgery

Direct comparison singular and plural

Specialist Plastic Surgery

Specialists plastic surgery

Conclusion and outlook

  • Google and Co. still have Difficulties with interpretation of the search queries.
  • Currently, most searches are for the male variant, which search engines take into account accordingly (graphic designer vs. female graphic designer).
  • It must also be taken into account that Google & Co. depending on the search term also different search intentions considered (very intensive in the field of fashion, different results are played out for women than for men)
  • Gender-appropriate language is more than the distinction between male and female
  • Language included may not "only" be characterized by the fact that a (m/f/d) is added
  • When switching to gender-sensitive language, rankings may be lost
  • Depending on the search term and search intention, all variants are currently used
  • Google itself does not yet know exactly what impact the changes will have
  • Google's algorithms are learning and will get better and better at interpreting and understanding the simultaneous use of the different forms - so keep an eye on your visibility!
  • Gendering in SEO is a challenge! But it is feasible and certainly worthwhile - often a statement can be made more precise with the change
Statistics