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Google Suggest: autocomplete search suggestions

by Yasir Asif

This tool offers you a real-time list of 10 words or phrases related to your search query as you type it; it is then up to you to select from the list the word and conduct the search on Google.

The Beginning of Google Suggest

At its launch and for several years, Google Suggest displayed the number of results obtained for the suggested query to the right of each suggestion. This was removed, which clarified things, as some users thought it indicated the monthly search volume (as shown by other tools like AdWords Keyword Planner). 

When Google Suggest was released in late 2004, very few similar tools existed. At the time, it was considered a hybrid tool between the related word or phrase generators like AOL.fr (Exalead) or Altavista (related searches) and the keyword generators offered by Overture and Espotting (based on user query statistics).

Today, all Google users are widely accustomed to this autocomplete system. As you type characters, Google displays a list of automatic suggestions. These are generally searches that start with the characters or words you’ve already typed.

Ranking of Semi-Automatic Suggestions

The ranking of phrases is neither alphabetical nor based on the number of words, but simply related to the frequency of queries on Google. In other words, Google first suggests the queries most often made by all users.

These suggestions are also chosen based on your search history. This is only taken into account if you are logged into your Google account and the “Web & App Activity” option is enabled.

The search engine also tries to show the diversity of searches made by its users. In this context, the predictions provided by the algorithm sometimes highlight popular news. These represent the recent popular interests of the mass of Internet users, sometimes for your region. In this case, suggestions may vary throughout the same day and are not related to your search history.

Finally, suggestions can be influenced by your geographical location if the query has a local connotation. In this case, even in private browsing, suggestions depend on your location (unless Google cannot correctly identify and geolocate you).

Excluded Suggestions

A parental filter is included to avoid suggesting “adult” words. In reality, there are 4 types of suggestions that Google refrains from displaying:

  • Explicit sexual content predictions: Google removes vulgar or sexually explicit predictions. Pornographic terms or those closely related to pornography are removed from predictions. Predictions containing medical or scientific terms related to human anatomy are allowed, including when the wording refers to sex education. Therefore, you will not be surprised to see that Google self-censors queries using “sexy,” but it is much more surprising to see that “child” is a word that blocks all suggestions (likely related to pedophilia). Those selling products or services for children are deprived of a useful tool for working on their SEO.
  • Predictions inciting hatred against groups and individuals: Google removes predictions that demean or insult individuals or groups because of their ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/identity.
  • Predictions of a violent nature: Google removes predictions containing very detailed descriptions of violent acts or inciting violence in general.
  • Predictions mentioning dangerous activity: Predictions advocating dangerous or criminal activities posing a real risk are banned.

Why No Suggestions?

When a search term generates no prediction, it is possible that the algorithm has detected one of the following conditions:

  • The search term is not popular.
  • The search term is too recent. You may need to wait a few days or weeks to see predictions based on this term.
  • A potentially derogatory or sensitive term has been associated with a name, triggering an automatic rule.
  • The search term does not comply with Google’s rules listed above.

To anticipate any legal problems, Google specifies in its help pages:

Search predictions are generated automatically through an algorithm.

This algorithm is:

  • based on several objective factors, such as the search frequency of a term by other users
  • designed to reflect the diversity of information available on the Web. Predictions corresponding to various popular topics may be displayed.


The fact that Google immediately suggests a search based on the start of the user’s input can have significant repercussions on the online reputation. Indeed, depending on the terms associated with these suggestions with a brand or a person, the impact can be positive or negative. Some companies openly offer services to manipulate the suggestions provided by Google…
A Google Suggest Service Agency can help you to bring your brand / domain name next to your best keyword or remove the bad suggestions.

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