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Google Search Instead For and Other Search Functions

Google is packed with functions to make your search life easier every day. Here we explore search instead for and other clever search functions...

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Google search instead for

Google is designed to find what you’re searching for, even if you’re not saying it right and discover a whole host of information you weren’t even searching for.

So how do functions like “search instead for” actually work and how do they benefit users? This post will also look at Autocomplete, rich snippets and explain how you can use these functions for your own SEO work too.

Exploring the Google search instead for function

The Google search instead for function simply means Google has interpreted what you meant and offered the results despite your spelling mistake or typo. You then have the option to rerun your search with the incorrect spelling if you wish.

In this example, I have misspelled the word business and Google has taken the decision to present the results with the correct spelling.

Google search instead for

Google behaves two ways in this example. If you put in a misspelled phrase like the one above, then it runs the search with the exact phrase, and offers you a “Did You Mean” with the correct spelling.

However, If you put in a spelling that is more readily identifiable, like busines, then Google assumes the correct spelling, and offers search instead for

Contrary to popular belief Google search instead for is not actually Google doing spell checking. Instead, Google is constantly keeping track of what people searched for and what pages they are looking at. So, when we misspell a word in a search query, Google recognises a lot of other people searching for the same thing but spelled correctly and recommends new results.

Let Google Autocomplete your search life

Google Autocomplete is an automatic service that shows you search suggestions as you’re searching. Like most Google services it is designed to speed up your session by attempting to predict what you’re searching for.

Google search instead for

The beauty of Autocomplete is it’s not random. Any search suggestions that you’re presented with come as a result of:

*The terms you’re typing and relevant searches in the past

*What other people are searching for

*Trending topics. These change throughout the day and aren’t related to your previous searches

Search predictions used In Autocomplete are generated by an algorithm based on the above factors and are designed to highlight a range of information online.

How “People also ask” works

Another function designed to improve search speed and highlight the best results is the “People also ask” or Google’s Rich Answer box. This feature is an expandable box that shows a list of related questions or “rich snippets” that are based on your search query.

For example, after searching for how to make pancakes, the following results appear in the people also ask box:

Google search instead for

Each question expands and Google highlights a particular website that best answers that question, similar to the “related searches” feature at the bottom of any search results page.

The Keyword effect

Both the Autocomplete and “People also ask” features are more than just tools to streamline your search sessions, they can also be utilised for your keyword and ranking work too!

Use Autocomplete for your brand building activity. Autocomplete suggestions are based on real searches from other users, so you can view what keywords or phrases are the most popular. You can then include the most used keywords in your own site and improve your rankings for each page.

You can also optimise your content to be included in the “People may ask” box. However, it’s all about standing out with your content, if you want to be featured.  For example, if your site features answers to very common questions, these are likely to be covered by many other websites in your industry. You are therefore unlikely to be featured, so be sure to include answers to more unique queries on your website.

Search Engine Journal covers a thorough walk-through on optimising your content for the rich answer box.


Google search is constantly evolving to make your search life easier. Find what you want even before you’ve typed it and discover a lot more information related to your searches too. These functions are a lot more than just search tools. When used correctly you can discover what your customers care about and tailor your SEO strategy accordingly.

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