Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

How Google Treats Synonyms Now Affects Your Rankings

It’s important to understand the use of synonyms

Over the past several months, Google has made many changes to how it treats “synonyms”, and that has affected how we recommend on-page optimization to our clients. Google’s greatly improved recognition of synonyms and near synonyms is reducing or eliminating the need to use exact keyword phrases in your web pages.

How can you tell what words Google treats as synonyms? Simply do a Google search for one version and note what words are bold in Google’s results. The bold words are synonyms.

Finding synonyms in Google search results.

“Car repair” and “auto repair” are synonyms.

No longer must you use the phrase “divorce lawyer” a certain number of times on the page and then use the phrase “divorce attorney” a certain number of times. Google now recognizes them as the same, so if you pick one and use it consistently, people searching for either version of that phrase will find you.

Moreover, you don’t need to use the verbatim phrase multiple times on your page at all. If the natural flow of your copy includes the word “divorce” on the page (how could it not?)  as well as the word “lawyer” or “attorney” or even “law firm” or “attorney at law” or “law offices”, Google will recognize all of them as being roughly equivalent for rankings purposes when someone searches for a divorce lawyer or a divorce attorney, or any other versions of these equivalencies. That applies across virtually all keyword phrases for any business.

Out of date keyword placement can hurt you

The better Google gets at understanding how searchers use language to find what they want, the more it moves away from dependence on keyword phrases. In fact, the Penguin algorithm change last spring reduces rankings on websites that may be “over-optimized” by repeating verbatim keyword phrases artificially.

The good news

This is great news for the readability of your web pages, and that translates into visitors reading more of your copy and, in turn, a better conversion rate turning visitors into paying customers or clients.

WebProNews has a good article that goes into this subject in greater depth.

If you have concerns about over-use of keyword phrases on your web pages, Rank Magic can help.

1 Comment
  1. Hello Bill,

    This is a serious site for anyone wanting to learn more. Thanks for that, I do!
    I agree that not having to repeat similar words for the sake of seo helps the readability.

    I think overall Google is working hard to get it right.

    ~Dakota

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