Google has a reputation for having a pretty good idea of what people are really looking for when they conduct a search. This reputation is richly deserved (those of us who suffered through the experience of early search engines in the mid-to-late ’90s will never forget that first taste of the magic of Google). However, when it comes to the search marketing side of things, this reputation has led to the perception by some that Google will just figure stuff out. One good example of this is the concept of keyword variations (or synonyms).
I’ve had a number of conversations lately where marketers are convinced that they don’t need to consider keyword variations in their content, as Google will just sort all of that out for them. Again, Google is very good at sorting stuff out, but it’s not hard to see that your results vary when you use synonyms or keyword variations in your searching. We’d all probably agree that cell phones and mobile phones are really the same thing. However, do those two searches on Google and you get a very different set of results. In fact, a search for “cell phone” triggers the Google Maps channel, while a search for “mobile phone” in the same browser at the same time does not. To be fair, I don’t think this is Google making some kind of mistake. Rather, I think it’s their algorithmic recognition that these searches, though very similar, are different and often even belie variations in intent.
To me, it’s clear that considering synonyms and keyword variations when creating content is a critical element of any SEO strategy. That’s why I found it so satisfying when I saw that Matt Cutts had essentially said that same thing in one of his Webmaster videos.
To me, that’s a pretty clear endorsement of the importance of considering keyword variations when looking at SEO. The idea here is to have content that speaks to all of the ways that people are searching for what you have to offer. Or, as Matt puts it, “…if you are able to use synonyms or the words that users would actually type in a natural way, then you reduce or remove that uncertainty and Google doesn’t have to somehow guess or estimate that’s what your page is really about.”
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