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

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.

Could you use our SEO services? Contact us today.

7 responses to “Google Search Instead For and Other Search Functions”

  1. Mike Hunter says:

    Hi Susan, I don’t think this only affects spelling mistakes. Our domain name is written in the following form: (i.e. as a single word). When the domain was new, it came up as a spelling mistake in the Google results. Its very annoying if people are deliberately searching for you and can’t find you! The way we addressed this over time was to include some optimisation for “better languages” as two separate words. It worked, and we now rank top on the phrase, (even more proof of the importance of the domain name in search results), the BBC site previously ranked top for the phrase, and it isn’t very easy to unseat such a powerful site. Anyhow, my point is this, when choosing a new domain name it may be worth considering that Google might treat it as a misspelling so that it doesn’t show in the results. Of course you may not want to optimise on your business name, in which case it isn’t a problem, but I would suggest that most businesses would want to rank on their own name as well as other chosen keywords.

    Kindest regards


  2. Adrian McElligott says:

    Our problem is similar, but goes further than “Search instead for” and actually takes the liberty of changing your search term for you – along with the following message:

    Showing results for jaitley
    Search instead for jatly

    Unfortunately for us, Jaitley turns out to be an Indian Actress and the next 10 search results are all about her and her social life – including steamy photos – which of course would be fine, except that our prospective new users are largely, teachers, parents, and community organisations – such as local charities.

    … but it gets worse, in addition to our web site ( we also have an android and iPhone app of the same name – Jatly. However, when our prospective new users search for it, they receive our app at the top (thank goodness) followed by three seductive images of – you guessed it.

    Finally, my question…
    Would creating a Wikipedia page for Jatly help? I just thought this might legitimize the spelling. Has anyone tried that, and or does anyone know if Google would take any notice of Wikipedia anyway?

    • Susan Hallam Susan Hallam says:

      Hi Adrian

      Unfortunately, the suggestions and corrections being provided by Google are based on search volumes historical data. In other words, there are lots more people searching for the actress than your business…

      I don’t believe it has to do with how legitimate the spelling, so I don’t think a Wikipedia entry is going to make any difference.

      There are services that would run repetitive tasks for you, for example repeatedly searching for your company name on Google. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk market place ( provides you with a workforce who would search for your company name, and would influence Google suggest.

      However, this is likely to be a never ending task as you will always be competing with the star!

  3. Adrian McElligott says:

    Thank you Susan – yes, I think that you’re right. (We may have to take acting classes 😉 )
    One quick follow up question, if I may… Do you think that pagerank would factor in – we have a PR of 4 on the home page.

  4. Adrian says:

    Hi Susan,
    I ran with your idea of “repeatedly searching for your company name on Google” – it does seem to have worked, as we now appear as the top search result when searching on our name – Jatly, and while google does offer “Jaitley” as a “Search instead for” that does not bother us, as at least now people can find us without having to navigate through “Search instead for”.

    It did take a couple of months, and about 50,000 searches from different users – I would hate to think of the cost if we had not had a large user base to help us, but it did work.

    Thanks again for your help.

  5. Variousthings3251 says:

    Sorry if this is my 3rd comment,I just can’t edit my comments 🙁
    I just tried the “spelling mistke” and it FORCED the “spelling mistake” down my throat with the “Showing results for” . In the past this message wasn’t persistent on that certain search term,it was popping up the “Did you mean” message. How stupid!

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