It used to be that when you wanted to target a keyword, you would need to really focus on that keyword.
This could make writing a little challenging. You may have wanted to use another word that meant the same as the target keyword in a piece, but the pressure was on to use the keyword – over and over again (to a degree) as Google couldn’t really distinguish between the two. This could make an article boring and annoying – even to the writer.
All that is changing as Google is getting a little smarter. Its “understanding” of synonyms is continually improving; far beyond what it was back in 2010 when I first mentioned it.
For example (and a very simple one at that), if you run a search on the word “find”; you’ll notice in the results these other words are also highlighted:
It’s not confined to single words either – Google’s ability to recognise associated multiple keyword queries is getting better as well, which also leads on to the topic of LSI.
Google is also getting better at handling “semantics”. I first wrote about Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) in 2009. It sounds like a scary term but it’s pretty easy to understand. It’s more about overall themes – not just on-page, but also using other signals, such as the general theme of sites linking to you. Combined with synonym recognition, this is why sometimes you’ll run a search on a particular term and the no.1 ranked page may not mention the word or word combination at all.
While this presents challenges, it also offers all sorts of opportunities to broaden SEO approaches and even more importantly, writing more for humans than for search engines. For us older hands in the world of SEO, it can take a bit of getting used to, but it’s certainly empowering.
I was looking at some old documents a while back and appreciating the quality of writing. When I looked at who the author was, I had a shock to find it was me. It dawned on me I wrote far better material pre-Internet – and particularly prior to my purely online career. I look forward to regaining that level of writing skill again, made more possible now thanks to a (generally) smarter Google.