Google Synonym Matching And SEO

The various spellings of words and their numerous synonyms has always been an important factor in the SEO’s keyphrase strategy. And as anyone trying to optimise their content around numerous keywords will know, it can be a difficult task, with the added risk that Google might see it as manipulative.

But as Google endeavours, with every algorithm update, to get a better idea of what users are really looking for when they type in a query, we see a very definite merger of these various terms into single term search queries. And the SEO benefits and threats are quite obvious.

Better Understanding of Search Intent

This functionality can only become more sophisticated with time. This is because a searcher’s intent, when using a specific keyword or long-tail query, only really becomes evident when you examine historic user behaviour data and query-strings behind the keyword. What actions do people perform when they use that term?

There’s a variety of data sources they use for this including more subtle variables such as hover data, which examines what users do with their cursor when they arrive on a site. This allows them to return a mix of results statistically proven to be popular for that term, even if it doesn’t strictly match it.

Automatic Spelling Correction

This isn’t the newest update from Google. They’ve been suggesting spelling corrections for a number of years now. Only now they apply the correction automatically more frequently, assuming the correction and showing results for that instead of the traditional “Did you mean?” message.

As this correction is based on search behaviour, it can be a threat for websites optimised around very low volume keywords or uncommonly spelt terms. As it’s less likely a user will notice the auto-correction.

Including Popular Synonyms

Now, in certain instances, Google won’t just return results that strictly match the keyphrase used but also results for terms that are strongly related to it. This is achieved by examining query strings that are strongly linked to each other.

This could be problem for branded terms as many searchers may use a combination of branded terms to either look for comparisons or want to view multiple options at once. If these are linked strongly enough in queries, it may result these terms being confused as being related. Websites may “steal” business from you, even when a user inputs your branded keyword.

The SEO Implications

If you are currently optimised around multiple spellings of the same word, you may be wasting an opportunity to optimise more strongly on the more popular term while having the other related terms connected to your site automatically by Google.

If another website is dominating the results for your branded keyword, you can post about it on their discussion forum, although there are of course no guarantees.