Double Meanings and Search Terms

From the SimpleBits inbox just a few days ago:

I enjoy your Skoal Classic product, but 4 times within a 2 month period I recieved mint Skoal in a can marked Skoal Classic, at 7 dollars a can, living in Canada, this can add up rather quickly. I am a loyal consumer but not knowing what is inside a can of Skoal Classic does make me look for an alternative. Wondering what your organization will do.

At first glance, I’m a little confused. So I run a search for “skoal” and sure enough, result #7 makes everything cystal clear.

Skoal means “cheers” (or equivalent) in Swedish, and was part of the title of a notebook post I had written about a recent trip — but it’s also a popular brand of chewing tobacco. The double meaning was compounded by the fact that a comment on the SimpleBits entry had actually mentioned the words “chewing tobacco”. Perhaps an odd coincidence.

Seeing how people search for, and assume credibility from, those results is what’s interesting to me. It’s apparent that some may not look closely at the results, but rather, if a site appears near the top — they must know what they’re talking about. And they will solve my problems.

I’m afraid I can’t help those that are receiving mint Skoal in a can marked Skoal Classic. But I sure wish that I could.


  1. Erik says:

    You could suggest that they save the $7 Canadian (and the healthcare system thousands more) by no longer using chew . . .

  2. Matt Wilcox says:

    Oh no! Now you’ve written it up they’re going to get even -higher- matches for their search! ;)

  3. Rob Mientjes says:

    I have the same sheer idiocy with the search query harrypoter (sic!). Google sometimes doesn’t seem to know that speling can be wrong too.

  4. Nick Finck says:

    Skoal, I know a lot of people who use your products but find the price increases as a huge issue. Will you be cutting your prices any time soon?
    ….ok, in all seriousness, Dan, aren’t you just perpetuating the problem by posting about the post?

  5. Joel says:

    Darn Canadian prices. When they’re in a financial pinch, they always seem to go for the vices.
    Cigarettes are $11.00 a pack here, blast and darn. ;D
    But that’s a great little story about search engines.

  6. Dan, aren’t you just perpetuating the problem by posting about the post?
    Heh heh. I suppose I am — and I’m curious if it does perpetuate it at all. Call it an experiment of sorts ;-)

  7. Anonymous says:

    People are idiots. You wouldn’t complain to the bus driver about your flat bottle of Pepsi because there was an ad for Pepsi on the side of the bus. At some point observance and even (am I hoping for too much here?) critical thought must come into play. But of course, the universities are too preoccupied teaching self-hatred and political correctness to teach students how to think critically.

  8. Well, it’s actually written “skål” in Swedish (as in Norwegian, my mothers tongue). Not that it matters much…

  9. Don says:

    For a time earlier this year I was getting a lot of this type of thing about AOL Instant Messenger’s AIM Today feature. I’d mentioned the inanity of most of the content in the AIM Today window on my PC at work, and a few entries later I talked about something on the radio (the two posts weren’t related).
    Later people who were searching for help or info about AIM Today’s Radio function found my site in the first three or four results. I’d get questions by email and in comments asking how to request a particular artist or asking why the Radio function didn’t work for them, blah blah blah.
    No wonder urban legends and password-phishing scams works so well. People accept things at face value so easily, we could all make a killing on it.

  10. Small Paul says:

    People are idiots. You wouldn’t complain to the bus driver about your flat bottle of Pepsi because there was an ad for Pepsi on the side of the bus.
    Aw, c’mon. Having grown up with computers, I try to force myself to remember that people just a few years older than me are completely perplexed by things that they had no time or inclination to learn about.
    Computers are not obvious. Google’s single search box says “here, ask me and I will tell”. People who are’t familiar with the internet can’t be expected to know that Simplebits isn’t, in fact, a bus driven by the CEO of PepsiCo.
    If you see what I mean.

  11. Small Paul says:

    Oh, and kicks ass.

  12. vanderwal says:

    At least you know the product you get linked to, I get AOL Planner compliants continually and I am not the number Google search return for that combination. All of this from a mis-understanding of a reading of one post and a person posting their compliant in the comments. I did not know the comment conversation was going on for months. (I am similarly tied to Treo 600 and bluetooth, which is a converstion I participate in and get 250 Google referrers each day).
    Dan, I think you are now tied to the Skoal catastophe for ever, at least in Google’s mind. Now it is time to come clean about hijacking Skoal trucks and switching the contents of the cans (now that would be a story).

  13. Mike P. says:

    Monetize! Monetize!!

  14. Wayne Godfrey says:

    Go for the top search spot.
    I love sinister plots…

  15. Skaal! (Danish for ‘Skoal’ og ‘Cheers’)

  16. Josh King says:

    I find it interesting that a search for “Skoal” doesn’t even return the actual site in the top 10. If you search for “Skoal tobacco”, the actual site is ranked number 10. If you look at the markup you’ll find nested tables, inline styles and scripts, and our good friend the font tag. Not only that, but they hardly make an effort to put the products in the spotlight. Also, the proliferation of the duty free online tobacco stores seems to drown everything out (except SimpleBits).

  17. jeff says:

    hmmm…you don’t get those kind of mix-ups at Ask.
    I’m just sayin’……

  18. nick says:

    I often find that a majority of my visitors gome from bizzare Google queries. I took the next step and dug through some of my old posts to see just what kind of wierd search terms would yield me @ #1. I had a good list going for a while, however it was lost in an unfortunate HDD self destruct, but a few that have stuck with me are “transvestite horse farts” and “day-glo pink gangster autopsy”… However, I realized that none of those probably work anymore since Blogger now has permalinking and individual page archiving instead of monthly archving. But, then again, do I really want to be answering questions on those things?

  19. mgseeley says:

    Google searches so often result in such a shotgun blast of links, its usefulness is limited. they shouldn’t be happy with quantity (39,900 pages to help you find Skoal!) over quality – at least not as the default.
    For example, it doesn’t make much sense when searching for someone by their full name to return results that match EITHER the first OR last name.
    I realize you can get around this with an advanced search, but its fairly obvious the lowest common demonminator is not being served well.

  20. Brian G says:

    At least five times a day, people e-mailing a well known Canadian Sports Website, will click on the big huge picture of a website and ask a TV question, rather than the big huge picture of the TV to ask their TV question.
    Why? Dunno, but I find it endlessly amusing.

  21. Dave S. says:

    Nice timing, I just got one this afternoon myself:
    “I am using i-universe to publish. They haven’t been on time meeting one schedule. I get the impression that they could care less about meeting schedules.
    How can i get them to stay on track as far as meeting deadlines for release? I think i picked the wrong publisher.
    Please help”
    I can’t think of anything I’ve written that would lead anyone to believe I have the first clue about i-Universe, since today was the first time I’d ever heard of it. Oh well.

  22. yafujifide says:

    You should have named this entry “Skoal” just to clear things up.

  23. Dan: I think your post perfectly identifies the experience level of most users, not to mention a lack of common sense. People can’t tell the difference because they don’t know what to look for.
    I could go on and on, using my wife’s search for pregnancy information as an example. Maybe that merits a blog post.
    I guess the question would be why they chose to email your site, or any other site? What search engine and search terms they used?

  24. Val says:

    Erm, Skoal is *dipping* tobacco, not chewing tobacco. Going to school in a small farm town, and then to a big farm college, will acquaint one with the differences even if one doesn’t partake after the first couple of dizziness-inducing tries ;-)

  25. This is a problem that plagues a lot of people – it happened to me a while back (though slightly different circumstances, and certainly nothing to with Skoal). If you’re interested, my story (and wishful thinking solution) is at: These aren’t the pages you are looking for
    I think what happens with searches is that the high ranking pages in Google and other search engines have a certain amount of credibility. Don’t they all claim to deliver the most relevant results? We are conditioned to believe that search results are relevant, even when they aren’t. Experienced users can distinguish but novice users can’t – and that leads to some of the emails coming through and leaves us stuck wondering what happened…

  26. Mike Johnson says:

    I’ve had a couple visitors come to my web design site from google looking for “china fetus soup picture”. God knows there is nothing like that there :)

  27. Andy Davies says:

    Try searching for Cederholm. This Dan guy “owns” Google’s first page of results.
    Damn, I wish my dad had an exotic surname, or mum had given me an even more exotic forename.

  28. Nick Potter says:

    Hate to tell you Dan but you’re now up from #7 to #4 on a search for ‘skoal’

  29. Mad Cow says:

    That’s really funny.
    I should submit my site to Google, but I don’t really know how. I’d personally like to see what sorta random searches in Google would get someone to my site.
    That’d make a fun experiment.

  30. Neil Ford says:

    Had a guy searching for “international monkey” on google turn up in my server log. Intrest nudged from hibernation, I visit google and search for “international monkey”.
    Turns out I was number 150 or something. Number 150?
    I can only imagine the passion that burns in that tragic, shell of a man for well travelled primates.

  31. Daryl says:

    I should submit my site to Google, but I don’t really know how. I’d personally like to see what sorta random searches in Google would get someone to my site.
    Google seemed to find my site and even some hidden aspects of my site while I was in the testing phase… Kinda stunk that I was getting traffic before I even hoped to

  32. Todd says:

    Dan, he would have had to use the ‘contact’ button on simplebits, no? I mean… does anything *here* look like it’s skoal related? Wouldn’t the actual skoal website be branded / marketing material with SKOAL plastered all over the place?
    Let’s be real, I think you’re covering up the emailer’s real stupidity as this goes beyond the ‘simple mistake of searching’ as you have plenty of information on this site as to what simplebits is all about.
    People lack common sense sometimes.

  33. Thanks to a post about Oprah’s favorite things over a year ago, I am the 26th Google result for “oprah’s favorite things” and “oprah” (and variations on it) are the top six search strings people use to get to my site. And, that post is piled with comments from people who think they are talking to Oprah, or want to get tickets.
    What have I done to deserve this?!

  34. Chris Hunt says:

    But you missed the most important question – “Does a can of Skoal fit in a BP?”.
    I dunno what causes this. Is it stupidity, short attention spans or just plain slow internet connections. I guess there are some people that’ll Google a term, click a link, dive straight for the “Contact” in the side-menu, send their message and then get on with their life – without ever really looking at the site they’re on. Wouldn’t want to rule out stupidity as well though!
    It’s not happened to me yet, but I have a friend who shares a name with a popular children’s author. He regularly gets fan-mail intended for the author, despite plastering his personal site with notices pointing out who he isn’t, linking to the author’s site, and the fact that the author gets all of the top 10 hits on his name at Google. Kids today, eh?

  35. nickster says:

    You’re up to #3 now. Heh maybe you’ll trump the real company.

  36. Andyk says:

    The most searched word that results in my website is the phrase “retard”, still… my friend is worse off, he get’s loads of hits for “cheeky c*nt”

  37. Raff says:

    I am suprised Val is the only one who mentioned the fact that skoal is “dipping” tobbacco. I guess the number of toothless farmers is dropping in the world …. (warning: author is toothless farmer)

  38. David House says:

    Bowman said this a while back. I followed up with thoughts of my own.

  39. Jorge Luna says:

    This is happening on my site too… during the olympics a TV network company made a series of short-films about different sports.. I posted about it and now im getting posts *congratulating* me for the “great job you did on the films” hehe .. i guess is kind of involuntary spam
    By the way Dan, got your book a week ago… it is a great one!

  40. Jack says:

    In my site logs, I just found that someone googled “troweling fetish” and my site came up #2, hehe.

  41. Ludvig says:

    To clear things up a bit:
    It isn’t acually spellt skoal in Swedish. We spell it Skål (wich you perhaps already knew?).
    And to make things a bit more confusing:
    Skål does’nt just mean cheers. It can also mean bowl.
    Examples of skål in use:
    1. Jag skålade med mitt glas.
    2. Skålen var gjord av glas.
    (and here glas means both the object glass and the material glass)
    Wich means:
    1. I cheeres with my glass.
    2. The bowl was made of glass.

  42. imagine says:

    Just in case anybody doesn’t know this snarky note yet: Just look at the comments of the three linked articles…
    There have been already made many blog postings about Google being somewhat overpowered, but the worst case I found was definately this page about how one can become rich and famous.
    When I see this masses of people writing their dreams and even addresses under a completely silly blog entry, then I really get afraid.

  43. Joe says:

    The lack of attention that some people posess never ceases to amaze me. I live in rural Virginia, and for some time I got call after call from people whose speach patterns resembled something out of Deliverence trying to reach a person who had the same phone number with two digits reversed. What got me was the people who would leave voicemail for him, despite the fact that my voicemail clearly identifies who I am and is delivered in a Yankee accent. More recently someone’s mother left a long rambling message in my mailbox. Clueless..

  44. Oskamunda says:

    I just think that this is totally hilarious. I hit this site looking for a collection of well-known double meanings because it was search result #1. Ahhhhhh. Irony. Tastes salty, don’t it asshat?!! Oh, yes. Yes it does.