I know for sure that Google will translate "é" into "e" during tokenization, but it remembers the original spelling. This allows a search for Montreal to result in a response including Montréal, for example.
This is an issue for me as one of my clients is the Heritage Department for the Government of Canada, and if you think YOU are picky about the spelling of words, try optimizing for THEM some day..
Unfortunately, in general there is a 10:1 ratio of U.S. spelling VS Non-U.S. spelling when using the .com versions of major search engines.
Which means that my client is forced to spell it "Montréal" even though almost all searches are for "Montreal".
There are 2 things to consider - first, in the case of "é" vs "e", Google automatically looks for the "e" version, too. However, if you spell it with an "é", it will respond with a preference for the "é" spelling - so the SERPs will be different between the 2.
There are 3 responses to this - first, spell it the way you want, do nothing and hope the search engine "saves" you. Not my preferred choice, but it's an option.
Second, overt acknowledgement. You can say something like:
"Our lenses come in a variety of colors (colours for our UK customers) and sizes"
However, you could only do this once on any given page, practically. And it would get very repetitive on some sites.
Another option is to actually have duplicate content in different areas with different spellings, one for each country. Unfortunately, once you pass a certain point of duplication you stop having only one page of the two show up and they just do bad things to your site instead, so this is not recommended.
Another overt method is to actually create unique content with alternate spellings, but this can be difficult, and you constantly run the risk of just generating content spam, so you have to be careful.
Finally, you can alternate. Use one spelling on one page and another on another. This is not popular with purists (nor with my client, for that matter).
The third option is covert. Usually this is done with anchor text.
You can consistently spell it "color" on the page but consistently use navigation image buttons with ALT text that spells it "colour", thus associating both spellings with the page.
Another way is to have an alternate spelling "site map" that associates the alternate spelling with all the pages (I do this sometimes for misspellings).
You can also do a linking campaign using a preferred text link including the alternate text.
Don't forget that about 65% of the search engine landscape is NOT Google, so you can use the keyword metatag, too. It won't help much, but it will help a little.
Finally, you can (and this is sneaky) create a GIF of the word "colour" and use the ALT of "color" and link it somewhere useful, like a color chart. This would read to a human as "colour" but to the search engine as "color"
None of these are perfect answers, unfortunately.
Edited by mcanerin, 12 April 2005 - 10:39 AM.