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.
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Out of date keyword placement can hurt you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.