Google May Treat Antonyms As Synonyms in Some Cases

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Google’s Gary Illyes explains a case the place a phrase which means the other could also be handled as a low weight synonym when returning search outcomes.

The instance he discusses is a seek for “buy cars” in which the phrase “sell” can be thought-about a synonym.

“Buy” and “sell” are antonyms — so why would Google return pages about promoting vehicles when a person is searching for details about shopping for one?

To reply that query let’s dive into the dialog between Illyes and Google’s John Mueller, which takes place in episode 19 of the Search Off the Record podcast.

The episode focuses on info retrieval and the way Google parses queries to return search outcomes. Their dialogue delves into synonyms and the way a time period like “purchase auto” is a low weight sign for the time period “buy car.”


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Mueller then asks the next query:

“One of the things I noticed, you were talking about “buy cars” and “buy automobiles” and all of this stuff, would we additionally take into account “sell” a synonym to “buy”?

In the sense, like if I’m looking out “to buy a car,” would we are saying, effectively, we’re searching for pages that say “sell car“?”

Sometimes Mueller even has to ask questions on search. Here’s the response from Illyes.

Antonyms As Low Weight Synonyms

Illyes responds with a definitive sure. Google will, in reality, search for pages that point out “sell car” when a person is trying to find “buy car.”


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He clarifies that “sell” is a decrease weight sign than “buy,” nevertheless it’s nonetheless thought-about related to the person’s question.

“Yes. You are touching on a topic that’s very interesting from information retrieval perspective… But yes, we would consider that a low weight synonym. So “buy” and “sell” from info retrieval perspective is form of synonyms, which might additionally trigger confusions in fact. Hence, why the weighting was launched.”

Mueller follows up by asking if that is one thing web site house owners ought to think about when writing content material.

Using the identical instance — if a web site proprietor is making a web page about promoting vehicles ought to they attempt to point out the time period “buy car”?

Illyes advises towards that technique, saying to maintain the content material targeted on the target market and what you need them to do after studying the copy.

“I don’t think so, because if you are just creating a site for the user and you are loading the page with content that is relevant for what the user can do on that page, like purchase a car, for example, then you wouldn’t want to overload that page with the term “sell” as a result of your major goal is to make the person purchase via your web site a automobile, proper?

And then there’s a subsection of customers who would need to additionally promote their automobile. But they don’t seem to be your target market. Your goal is to make the person purchase a automobile.

… And so far as I bear in mind from my advertising and marketing courses from uni is that you must– effectively, truly, not advertising and marketing however writing courses– is to inform the individual studying the content material what you need from them…”


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This is an efficient instance of the distinction between writing for customers versus writing for search engines like google.

Google might return pages that point out “sell cars” when a person is searching for “buy cars,” however that doesn’t imply it is best to write a web page optimizing for each phrases.

Think like a marketer and maintain the web page targeted on the motion you need customers to take after studying the content material.

For extra technical particulars about Google’s info retrieval course of, take heed to the complete podcast episode.

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