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How Google Is Improving Search Using Synonyms

Search Engine Optimization March 19th, 2010

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How Google Is Improving Search Using SynonymsA Google Blog post by Google’s Software Engineer Steven Baker titled ‘Helping Computers Understand Language’ announces the new way of handling synonyms by Google for the search words queried. The post details with solid examples on how the search shows up similar words in SERPs on a user query. The post says that

“Our synonyms system is the result of more than five years of research within our web search ranking team. We constantly monitor the quality of the system, but recently we made a special effort to analyze synonyms impact and quality. Most of the time, you probably don't notice when your search involves synonyms, because it happens behind the scenes. However, our measurements show that synonyms affect 70 percent of user searches across the more than 100 languages Google supports. We took a set of these queries and analyzed how precise the synonyms were, and were happy with the results: For every 50 queries where synonyms significantly improved the search results, we had only one truly bad synonym”.

In the example,  ‘pictures developed with coffee’ the SERP shows the results having the words ‘photos’ and ‘graphics’. Here, the word ‘picture’ is synonymous or shares almost the same meaning with words ‘photos’ or graphics’ or ‘Art’ , so the results are highlighted appropriately.

Google Synonyms

Similarly, if we search for ‘car show’ the SERP will return results highlighting the word ‘auto’. No doubt this new enhancement will make search better for what people look for. There will probably also be instances this may return unwanted searches whereby a user searches and gets the wrong result. Google explains the case of a bad synonym this with the query for ‘dell system speaker driver precision 360’, where Google thinks "pc" is a synonym for precision and returns results accordingly.

Google also recently made a change  to the the way synonyms are displayed. In the search result snippets, the user search terms are in bold.

Obviously this new change helps users to identify related terms. If the searcher misses or forgets a particular search term, this would be a good way for reaching the same results. In terms of search engine optimization this increases the importance of using synonyms of main keywords to optimize sites in the future.

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