Keyphrases: why synonyms are your friends

Greetings and welcome back! Today’s SEO copywriting how-to video concerns something that has been getting a bit of buzz in the industry lately, and that is why synonyms are your friends.

If you feel like you’ve been limited to using exact match keyphrases when optimizing content, Heather is here with a message that will set you free! Tune in to find out why synonyms are your friends, and what this means to you.

A huge SEO copywriting mistake is…

A lot of folks feel like the way to work with keyphrases is to shove them in the copy as many times as possible – this has never been true! – and to exact match them as many times as possible. So if your keyphrase is “cashmere sweaters,” then following this misconception, you would repeat “cashmere sweaters” over and over on the page.

What happens is that you pull away from writing naturally. Couple that with being stuck on the idea of adding exact match keyphrases whenever possible, you lose the natural feel for the writing so the copy sounds stilted and the keyphrases are glaringly obvious – and the result is not too great.

  • Not “writing naturally.”
  • People focused so much on adding exact match keyphrases that they forgot what “writing naturally” meant…
  •  …so the copy sounded “stilted” and the keyphrases stood out like a sore thumb.

We’ve all seen copy like this – or perhaps we’ve written copy like this, thinking “this is what Google wants.”

What Matt Cutts says

Karen Thackston, a talented SEO copywriter, did an interview with Google’s head of Web spam, Matt Cutts. This is what he said about exact match keyphrases:

“Keyphrases don’t have to be in their original form. We do a lot of synonyms work so that we can find good pages that don’t happen to use the same words as the user typed.”

Source: MarketingWords Copywriting Blog


So this opens up a lot of possibilities. And while this is something that I’ve always talked about doing, it serves as a great reminder for people who feel like they have to hammer the same keyphrases over and over again in their copy.

A quick reminder…

As a quick reminder, if you’re not quite sure what a synonym is, it’s a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another.

syn-o-nym [sin-uh-nim]


  1. a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language, as happy, joyful, elated. A dictionary of synonyms and antonyms (or opposites), such as is called a thesaurus.
  2. a word or expression accepted as another name for something, as Arcadia for pastoral simplicity or Wall Street for U.S. financial markets; metonym.
  3. Biology – one or two or more scientific names applied to a single taxon.

So think of all the ways that you could describe your product or describe your service, and – yes! – you can definitely include those words as well as your researched keyphrases.

So what does this mean to you?

  • Review your keyphrase strategy. Are you telling your writers to exact match the keyphrases every single time?
  • Synonyms are your friends. You’ll find that the content is MUCH easier to write!
  • Yes, exact match the keyphrase – but know that you have room to move.

The first thing you want to do is think about what your overarching keyphrase strategy is – and what you’re telling your writers, what you are expecting from folks that you work with, or maybe what you do yourself: if you are exact-matching the keyphrases every single time and that is interfering with the writing flow, rejoice! You have room to move.

And include those synonyms, because you will find that the content is much easier to write!

In her blog post, Karen had a tip that I could not agree more with, and that is: Yes! Make sure that exact match keyphrase is on the page – that’s definitely something you want to do – but know that you have room to move.

I provided the link to Karen’s blog post at MarketingWords Copywriting above. And here are…

Other links to check out

Here are two other recent industry articles addressing the exact match keyphrase question:

Getting to where search is going, not where it has been:

-Michael Martin

Is Google’s synonym matching increasing? How searchers and brands can be both helped & hurt by evolving understanding of intent:

-Vanessa Fox

If you are an SEO copywriter or editor, or work with SEO copywriters, I recommend that you check these out because you’ll realize how much more room you have to move when creating content!

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s SEO copywriting video! As always, if you have any questions, Heather would love to hear from you: email, or tweet her @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to Ray MacLean


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4 replies
  1. Nick Stamoulis says:

    It’s very important to keep things natural after the last few Google algorithm updates. This is especially true when it comes to anchor text linking of keywords. Create a long anchor text list with corresponding pages and choose a few out of the list randomly to target when creating content.


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