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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.

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15 thoughts on “Synonyms are SEOs best friend

  1. Thanks for writing about how to deal with keywords properly by varying the words used and using different words with the same meaning. We can make an educated guess at how much google recognises as meaning the same by looking at their keyword planner tools and the suggestions it makes. But when it comes to whole sentences in English we can use completely different words and phrases but the meaning is the same. Does google understand this level of complex language?

    1. Google is learning at a rapid rate so we must assume it will at some point understand complex language. For those English speakers among us we have almost endless ways and words to say the same thing and understand the meaning to be the same. It will be interesting to see how the Google algorithm develops over time to cope with linguistic complexity. For now, at least, complex language can only be a good thing for our readers and prevent those of use who produce content from becoming bored!

  2. Thanks a lot for the details discussed – very useful for those of us trying to do SEO on our own small websites. I know that I should vary the words I use in my own bog posts and this has given me ideas on how best to do this.

    1. Thanks Nevue, I find that once you get into the habit of varying words and looking up synonyms then your writing becomes more interesting both for the writer and the reader.

  3. Terrific post but I was wanting to know if you could write a little more on this subject? Clearly getting the most SEO benefit from text content doesn’t just involve using synonyms of the main keywords. Should we even have regular keywords no or should we be considering whole phrases.

    The other thing I don’t understand is how exactly Google uses latent semantic indexing (LSI) when assessing a piece of content. Are there any standard techniques to follow to ensure LSI elements of text content will be picked up and is there anywhere I can find what the LSI connections are for certain words and phrases?

    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.
    Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comment Conor

      LSI is an area that a lot of people want to know more about – I am writing an in-depth article about that topic soon and also making a quick video that will give a quick overview so watch this space…

  4. Keyword search software can often be confusing.
    The ultimate way to get thjs done is as simple as optimizing.
    You’re writing (or must be writing) ALL THE TIME.

  5. Great post. I always enjoy reading this blog and learn something new.

    Very useful information on getting the most from content, specifically the last part 🙂
    Thank you!

  6. Good clarification of the issues surrounding latent semantic indexing (LSI) and the use of synonyms.
    It was truly informative and extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  7. The best way to get their trust is always to share value.
    Strategic positioning of content articles are also important.

  8. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.

    It’s always useful to read through articles from other authors and practice something
    from their web sites.

  9. Outstanding post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Appreciate it!

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