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Are All Synonyms Are Created Equal?

Posted: 2013/11/26 by Kevin Hardey

With the recent discussions about Hummingbird, well, humming along nicely, many of the discussions have been revolving around the concept of using more synonyms rather than simply ‘carefully’ and ‘cleverly’ getting the maximum focus on a specific keyword or phrase.

Not to be left behind (though I'd been doing this for a while anyway - so perhaps that should be not to be left ahead?) we decide to to do something about this ourselves. But what?

well, first, we head off to the nearest thesaurus and start looking up the synonyms we may need for our key-phrases and link anchor text rather than risking ‘stuffing’ our copy and links and getting caught by a furry animal of some description.

Great, we’re in business. But are we?

I’ve been looking into this and, assuming my methodology (which I’ll cover sometime else) is solid, I’ve been finding that many of the synonyms for a word in one phrase is NOT a synonym for the same word in another phrase!

For instance, a client of mine’s business is based around Cheap Furniture although they prefer not to use the word "cheap" obviously.

So I want synonyms. What synonyms are likely for cheap?
Budget, Bargain, Discount, Affordable, Inexpensive, Cost Effective…

There are lots. Take your pick.

But as I was doing some research I found that there was a potential issue. It didn’t look like all these terms were synonyms for cheap in all phrases.

For instance:
For "cheap bookcases" the word "discount" is a synonym for "cheap" but for "cheap Ironing Boards" it is not.

Also, some synonyms appear to be one-way only. In other words: just because "discount" is a synonym for "cheap" in one phrase doesn’t mean that "cheap" will be a synonym for "discount" in the same phrase.

So, my conclusion:
That’s right, it looks like NOT all synonyms are created equal – so, if you have decided that you are going to broaden your key-phrases using synonyms then you need to look carefully at the synonym(s) you intend to use and see if they really are a good choice or not.

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