I originally wrote about SEO and synonyms back in 2015 and, although, SEO is generally a fast-paced field, some factors will always remain relevant. This post was updated towards the end of 2017 but little has changed. Ed
We all know the importance of keywords – the right keywords that is. Those that will bring increased numbers of visitors to your site who are looking for whatever it is you have to offer. So it’s often no use just targeting the keywords that are easy to rank for – they just won’t increase your number of visitors substantially unless you are in an extremely niche market with little or no competition and lots of potential customers (lucky you if that’s the case). These easy-to-rank-for keywords are good for nothing much except your pride.
But neither do you want to target keyword terms that are too general and might bring plenty of new visitors but they are not likely to be visitors interested in the product or service that you offer. This is why keyword research and analysis is so important at the start of an SEO campaign and also at critical points in the growth of your online business as products and trends change over time.
But once you have established a core set of keywords and have incorporated them into your SEO strategy, and are achieving good rankings how can you maximise the optimisation of your site to improve your rankings even more?
This is where synonyms come into play – as an SEO consultant writing SEO-friendly content, titles and descriptions etc. I find that I use a thesaurus on a regular basis – much more than I ever did at school at any rate.
Google’s search engine has, in recent years, become much more adept at understanding different words that have the same meaning (synonyms) although, given the power and technology available in today’s computers, this is still one of the hardest things for a computer to do with great accuracy. Identifying two common words that mean the same thing is now relatively easy for a search engine but to understand two different sentences that mean the same thing is another matter, particularly given the variety of words that we have in the English language.
Search results typically show common synonyms for any words in your search term in bold so you can easily see how Google has used them in coming up with the search engine ranking positions for a particular keyword. As an example try out the search “contemporary settee” and you will see the word “sofa” in bold in the descriptions of a number of the top ranking sites. I do wonder why Google doesn’t recognise “modern” as the same as “contemporary” – of course, they are not strictly the same (particularly if you are talking about art) but they do tend to be used inter-changeably by most people.
The reason why synonyms are so important in search engine optimisation is that Google uses them to assess how relevant a phrase on your page is to the search term and to decide where to rank a particular page. And it doesn’t just assess individual pages for relevancy but also the whole website. This is known as latent semantic indexing (LSI) – more about how that works another time.
So the use of synonyms on a single page and across a whole website (as well as the targeted keywords, of course) can help a site to rank better than a competitor by indicating to Google that the page and site are highly relevant to the search term. And that’s why synonyms are an SEOs best friend.