How does Google make the association between a query and a site strongly related to that query, but which doesn't contain that query anywhere (as far as I can see)?

For example, if I search in my country domain for "PHD", the second result (after Doctor of Philosophy) is PizzaHutDelivery.¹ However If I search both on the page itself and on page source, the word "phd" is nowhere to be found.

To be clear: Google is right to associate "phd" with the restaurant delivery service. The question is how did it make that association.

¹) I entered the search in an incognito window, so that it wouldn't be influenced by my profile and my previous searches.

  • Are you searching for PHD as in a degree? Or do you have something else in mind? I agree that PizzHutDelivery should not come up for PDH, however, Google is a machine and tries to apply branding automatically such as IBM for International Business Machines. This is how PHD returns PizzaHutDelivery - poor or not.
    – closetnoc
    Jul 25, 2016 at 17:06
  • 1
    Heck, just a link to that page using that acronym will do the trick.
    – John Conde
    Jul 25, 2016 at 17:13
  • @JohnConde Sad but true. Bing is starting to make more sense to me, and I am beginning to hate Google for that! Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Jul 25, 2016 at 17:36
  • @closetnoc I was actually searching for the pizza. But then it stumbled upon me that there is no PHD on the page. At some point ago (a few years) it was called PHD, but now only the full name appears everywhere.
    – bolov
    Jul 25, 2016 at 23:20
  • That's kind of what you want. If enough people refer to a brand by an unofficial acronym, then I'd expect search engines to pick up on that. That's along the lines of what Hummingbird is meant to do. Jul 25, 2016 at 23:20

3 Answers 3


Google is assuming (correctly) that people don't always know exactly what they're searching for but that they'll recognise it as soon as they see it. They keep a sort of list of associated terms for each keyword, that had been gathered historically from all sort of places - not necessarily your current landing page. They're mostly synonyms, but not just that - i.e. f you search for an Android app you may also find it's Windows counterpart or viceversa.


Google will associate words with web pages via any means they can but usually via the anchors of inbound links pointing to that page and the words, synonyms used on those pages that link to it or that exist on the page in question.

John Conde is right in his comment on your question, as it will be an authoritative domain, just one backlink with the anchor PHD could be enough for Google to rank it high for that search query.


Google has many methods to differentiate, what things mean: is phd an abbreviation of doctor of philosophy or of pizzahutdelivery. But, in some cases, all these methods fail. Causes, why they fail, are different too: but mostly all these causes are located on the searcher's side. They could be like: setting cookies off, searching search history off, searching from not own computer, searching being on visit in other country, searching for too broad term and so on. In very few cases Google is indeed unable to differentiate things. I. E. there is Essen (german city) and essen (to eat in german) - some search queries related to these both terms could be hardly differentiated, if additional keywords in the search query are missed. The main cause, why the whole Google's intelligence fails, has different faces, but it isalways a kind of insufficient information, given by searching person in the search query.

Don't worry about this - Google is pretty smart in understanding and becomes smarter every day. If you realize, your query isn't understood, try to specify your request with additional keywords

  • 1
    You misunderstood me. I have absolutely no issue with results not related to what you mean. Of course it can't read your mind in order to disambiguate your query. My curiosity is how does it know a query e.g. PHD might refer to pizzahutdelivery, even when PHD is not mentioned on that site.
    – bolov
    Jul 26, 2016 at 10:06
  • Google knows it from analyzing of different other contexts, where i.e. phd was used as abbreviation for pizzahutdelivery.
    – Evgeniy
    Jul 26, 2016 at 10:27

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