Google: Using Synonyms on a Page for SEO

The old joke goes “An SEO walked into a bar, pub, public house, Irish pub, tavern, beer garden…” and some site owners have been creative about interweaving synonyms into content on a page – some with more success than others.  And when it is not done very well, the content can be off putting for those who actually visit the page and read it.

In the latest Google Webmaster Office Hours, John Mueller spoke about the role of synonyms in Google search.  But he also talked about how site owners should – and should not – be utilizing synonyms.

I think with regards to what to put on the pages, that’s something you almost need to think about your target audience.  How do they search, what do they want to find on the pages, what makes them comfortable when they go to that page.  Do they want this particular writing of the way, or do they search for a different type of writing.

Because ultimately from the SEO side, we do try to figure out which ones belong together and sometimes that works, but if we see that a user is searching explicitly for one version and we know your page has that version, then that’s already a good thing.  And if they go to your page and see oh this is what I was looking for, but it’s also a good sign that indirectly we could pick up on over time.

He was then asked specifically if it would be best practices to have both (or more) synonyms on the page.

If you see that people that you’re targeting are using both of them, then that might be an option.

He was then given an example where people use two different words for the same product.

Yeah, that would be fine.  I think that could make sense.

He does caution over the keyword spamming route some sites employ where they try and add all 50 possible variations of a keyword onto a single page.

I think you have to be careful that you don’t go off into the kind of typical SEO keyword stuffing thing where it’s like oh I will put plural and singular and like all of the different variations of the words on a page, because that doesn’t really help.  But like just being direct and saying this is what I offer, I think that’s okay.