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Google getting smarter on synonyms

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Thursday January 21, 2010 )

Getting machines to understand the nuances of the English language is a big challenge, particularly when it comes to search engines – but it’s one that Google is rapidly overcoming with features such as it’s synonym system.

To illustrate the issure, Google cites the example of the terms “photos” and “pictures” – often meaning the same thing, but up until recently search engines focused on the actual input of the user rather than intention, which can usually be ascertained through accompanying search terms.

According to Google, synonyms affect 70 percent of user searches across the more than 100 languages the company supports.

This refining of Google’s synonym system is great news for searchers, content developers and even for search engine optimization professionals in my opinion.

For searchers, it means more obscure queries might return more relevant results.

For those of us into SEO and content development, we may not have to use the same darned term so much in order to get higher search engine rankings which can get very tedious – we can start using synonyms more often. This provides for more natural and interesting content and additional search engine optimization opportunities.

Here’s an example: Go to Google and search on the term: gm food.

In the past, pages with the term gm food would be displayed, but perhaps not those that didn’t use the term “gm” but “genetically modified” instead – what gm stands for. Now you’ll see the term “genetically modified” in bold in the search results, indicating that Google has made a connection.

The system isn’t foolproof, I tried a few common word synonym combinations that didn’t work; so before you go and start making major changes to your content, run a few tests on synonyms for your target keywords and check the results. Certainly bear it in mind when creating new content though as no doubt Google’s synonym system will only get better.

Pick up some other search engine optimization tips.


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