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Introduction

A problem with writing HTML pages for agglutinative languages, is that search engines generally work poorly when trying to parse them. Often-times, searches with correctly written concatenated words will be suggested rewritten to the incorrect form.

Example of Google replacing correctly concatenated word form with incorrect word form

In the above example, Google suggests that splitting the word ‘solcellepanelforskning’ (‘research on solar panels’ would be the correctly spelt word, which of course it isn’t. Now, for those writing web pages, this matters. You need to write your headings in a way that yields the most hits to your page. There are generally only three options here that I am aware of:

  1. Train search engines.
  2. Incorrectly space the words, but use letter-spacing to make it look right.
  3. Incorrectly space the words, but with either ​ (zero width space) or  (zero width no-break space).

Problems

1: Train search engines

It may not be a meme, but training Google to prefer giraffes is documented. Ads is one thing, but the number of hits a page gets will get the more attention from Google or other search engines. This is in other words, doable, but it requires labour and lots of it.

2: CSS-trick letter-spacing

The trick is simple enough to execute (combination of span class and a similar class performing the desired spacing), but this has two issues: You get messy HTML for one, but what is even worse, is that oral readers will incorrectly insert a pause between words, where there should be none. An example of this in English, would be the difference between ‘every day’ and ‘everyday’.

3: Zero width spaces

These have the advantage of removing the need for a special class defined in CSS, yielding a somewhat (though admittedly not much) less messy HTML code. However, considering that this are not standard, this could perhaps cause problems with rendering on some devices. Further, you still get the issue (I would assume) with oral readers, as stated in 2 supra.

Question

How do search engines treat none-  spaces? And for bonus points, which of options two and three would be the better choice, if one desires compatibility across renderers, both visual and oral ones?

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  • You totally lost me with the point about training Google to prefer giraffes. I couldn't find anything about that by searching Google. What are you talking about? Feb 18, 2021 at 17:37
  • Regarding solcellepanelforskning vs solcellepanel forskning, I think it's just unfortunate in this instance that the single word can be split into "two valid words" and this returns a vastly larger number of results: only 2 (incl this page!) for the one word vs 39,800 respectively (UK locale)! So is suggesting/favouring the later. Note that it is searching for "two separate words", not a single phrase separated by a space. If I search for the exact phrase "solcellepanel forskning" (ie. the two words separated by a space) then there are actually NO results that contain that exact phrase.
    – MrWhite
    Feb 18, 2021 at 22:21
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    ...so, injecting any kind of space in the middle of that "word" would be wrong IMO. Both from an SEO perspective and usability perspective. Interesting problem though!
    – MrWhite
    Feb 18, 2021 at 22:24
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    Indeed, and to add insult to injury, it is a concatenated word made from four words: sol (sun), celle (cell), panel (panel), forskning (research). If one doesn’t use the nominalised form of it, but rather the noun indicating a person doing the research (forskning → forsker), then ‘solcellepanel forsker’ means ‘[a] solar panel is doing research’, whereas ‘solcellepanelforsker’ means ‘solar panel researcher’, i.e. someone doing research on solar panels.
    – Canned Man
    Feb 18, 2021 at 22:55
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    You would have to test the live URL in Google Search Console to see how it gets parsed and rendered. Which is probably going to look like it does in Chrome. I doubt it would make much difference because this is a language problem on intake.
    – keepkalm
    Feb 23, 2021 at 19:05

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