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Of Google, Unicorns and Uniforms

By | February 5, 2010

There has been some attention lately to Google’s use of synonyms and related searches. Google posted about it on their official blog.  One change is they are bolding not just plurals in the results, but also terms that mean the same thing.

In short, it is wise to recognize that there are many ways to express the same concept. Google is attempting to be less literal and yet continue to deliver relevant results.  While one searcher may use “sofa” and another uses “couch”, both might be interested in a shopping results from the same furniture store.

This may be good on a couple of levels. First, it could get closer to the searcher’s intent without regard to the size of their vocabulary.

Secondly, it frees up SEO copywriters to write like humans. That remark is, of course, hyperbole. Good writers long ago (in Internet years) abandoned the concept that if using a target phrase once is good, using it ten times on the same page  must be better. However, anything that helps us resist that temptation is an excellent innovation.

While thinking about this, I did a few searches to see how far Google is going to make associations. While you can uncover hints from seeing the terms that are bolded on a SERP, I wanted to cast the net a little wider and looked at “related searches”. There is a caveat here. Related searches are by nature broader conceptually than synonyms. but I’m still amused by what was returned when I searched for “uniform”.

Google relates to uniform and unicorn

I can understand the terms that modify (school, military, sports). I’m impressed that they recognize brands (Dickies, Cintas).  But considering  “unicorn” and “unicycle” as related is a stretch. And I’m disappointed that “unibrow” didn’t make the cut.

Interestingly, when searching for the plural “uniforms”, you see no unicycles. And I’m certain you’ll never see unicorns!

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About Matt Keough

With a background in both traditional and digital marketing, Matt has been involved in digital marketing with a focus on manufacturing and industrial companies since 1999. He has been with Fathom since 2005, serving as a program manager, account executive and senior account executive. Matt is accountable for the overall success of his client’s digital marketing programs and works closely with the specialists, account executives and management to set strategies that will produce the results that matter for the clients of Fathom’s manufacturing team. Matt has worked with clients such as Akron Brass, Materion, Diebold, STACI Corporation and Nook Industries to help them grow their presence online, as well as increase leads and inquiries from their websites. Before joining Fathom, he acted as an in-house marketing manager at a manufacturing services firm. He designed and coded websites, performed search engine optimization, managed pay-per-click campaigns, created direct mail campaigns, designed and produced brochures, managed trade shows, and was a manager responsible for client satisfaction measurement in an ISO 9001-2000 certified company.

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