How Does Google Search Use Synonyms?

Google search attorney John Mueller explains how the search engine uses synonyms and whether there is a human component to it.

Mueller discusses this topic when addressing a question sent to the Google Search Central SEO Business Hours Hangout that was recorded on January 14th.

The question asks how automated the synonym comprehension process is, and whether humans are involved in helping Google understand related words.

Furthermore, the person who submitted the question notes that general keywords sometimes bring up knowledge boards for big brands.

They provide an example of “truck hauling” to display search results for Budget truck rental.

Mueller addresses each of these concerns in his answer, which you can read below.

Related: Google may treat antonyms as synonyms in some cases

Google’s understanding of synonyms is completely automated

Mueller asserts that Google’s synonym understanding system is fully automated.

There are no humans writing code by hand to teach Google’s algorithms which words mean the same thing as other words.

“As far as I know, the entire synonym system is fully automated. It’s not something where someone manually runs a spreadsheet of synonyms and says, ‘Well, that’s the same as this,’ because that’s never going to work.

We see something along the lines of 10-15% of our queries are brand new each day. So it wouldn’t be possible for anyone to keep up with this all the time.”

Mueller points to a video from a conference in 2019 where Google engineer Paul Haahr explains in more detail how the thesaurus system works.

the video It contains real-world examples Google came across where it got synonyms wrong and how its engineers learned from those mistakes.

“There’s a video from one of our events, I think two or three years ago now, where Paul Hahr, one of the engineers working on the system, kind of brought up some of the situations that we’ve had in terms of synonyms, where we’re trying to figure out synonyms here and some cases where We got things completely wrong.

And I thought it was really fun to look at him there. And if you’re interested in synonyms, and how Google learns that, I’d definitely check it out.”

This leads Mueller to address the situation where generic keywords bring up search results for brand names. He says this is likely something Google’s algorithms learned automatically.

Mueller reiterates that an automated system doesn’t get everything right, but researchers are always welcome to send in their feedback.

“In terms of that general switching between ‘truck moving’ and Budget Truck Rental, we likely learn that automatically as well. And some of those we get are really good, where things kind of work, or it kind of makes sense. And some of them we get it wrong.

If you see cases where we got the synonyms wrong, definitely send us feedback in the search results so we can try to figure out what we can do to improve this.”

Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below:

Featured image: Brasil Creativo / Shutterstock

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