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How Google Uses Synonyms and What It Means for Your Website

By | January 26, 2010

Have you ever entered search terms into Google and wondered how it came up with some of the results?  How does Google know that two different words have the same meaning?  In a recent Google blog post the search engine giant clues us in on how their search engine handles synonyms.

The goal of any search engine is to return the best results for the query you’ve entered, which is why synonyms play such an important role.  Google’s synonym system was developed over more than five years of research within their team.  Combining information from historical search data and web documents has helped Google’s computer system have a better understanding of what words mean in different contexts.  For example, Google can recognize that that word pupil can mean student or it can mean an opening at the center of the iris of the eye, and adjusts search results accordingly.  Google also says that their computer recognizes plurals and singulars of words just as any human being would.

How can you tell Google has identified synonyms when bringing up your search results?  Early on, Google has been bold facing your search terms in the results and now synonyms are in bold face too.  For example, see what happens when you search for “film quotes.” Google recognizes “movie” as a synonym for “film”:

 film quotes2

Slight differences are what make synonyms so tricky for search engines to recognize, but Google is getting smarter about it every day.  Here at Fathom, we use our knowledge and expertise to ensure that synonyms for keywords are taken into account.  Our proprietary tool, the Keyword Refinery, helps us analyze keywords for relevance, website viability, competitive considerations and potential traffic.  Included in our analysis are permutations of keywords, which include synonyms that are appropriate for your industry or service.  Although the search engines are picking up synonyms on their own, it’s important to recognize that not all synonyms are captured in search results.  Since you can’t rely on search engines to always recognize synonyms or slang terms, try weaving those throughout your website content to help your rankings.



About Caroline Bogart

Caroline Bogart is a Senior Copywriter / Online PR Strategist at Fathom, and has been working as a copywriter with the company since 2009. She is a graduate of Miami University and John Carroll University, with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in communications management. Previously, Caroline was a marketing communications specialist at an industrial engineering and manufacturing company. Her marketing and copywriting background in the manufacturing industry enables her to craft conversion-friendly technical and non-technical content for her clients. When not helping manufacturing companies like Akron Brass Company, Diebold and others achieve success; Caroline gets her creative juices flowing by baking and crafting.


  • Colleen

    It is amazing to think how far search engine have come over the last five years. They now understand what synonyms are,

  • Alan

    You just confirmed what I was guessing.
    So would using 2 synonyms in your page title affect your ranking?

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