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Strange Synonym Bolding In SERPs... some sites have it, some don't

 7:26 am on Aug 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Maybe this has been discussed before and I missed it, but...

goolge will bold what it considers synonyms of the search term(s)in the titles and snippets in the serps.

For example, If I search for "dresses", often the word "gowns" is in bold text. (note: This is an example - I haven't actually tried the search wtih dreses and gowns as keywords).

But not for EVERY result.

For some sites, the synonym is bold, but for other sites, the synonym isn't bold - even when it seems clear that the synonym has the same meaning when used on all sites.

I've seen an example where 8 of the 10 sites on the first page did NOT have the synonym in bold text, while two did.

And it seemed consistent; if the title of a site had the synonym bolded, then the snippet would have the synonym bolded, too. And vice versa.

Did I just miss this all along? Or is this something new?



 4:49 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the input everyone.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record...

Are others seeing the inconsistency? Where only some of the listings in the SERPs have the synonym bolded, while others don't (even though they are being used in the same way - often with identical words around them as the sites where the synonym is bolded)?

Are others seeing the inconsistency where in the snippet for an individual site, the first and third occurrence of the synonym is bolded, while the second might not be?


 5:05 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sorry, Planet13, by the time I posted, I forgot what the exact question was....:S No, I haven't noticed it that I was aware of, because I didn't go in to each listing to make comparisons when I saw the odd listing with atypical synonyms, and I can't seem to replicate the searches. But, just brainstorming...if you can't find a common thread, maybe the common thread is user behavior. Like, other users were historically satisfied with synonyms on some sites, but not on others...?


 5:23 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am seeing the inconsistency of bolding too.

One thing I noticed is on my site I rank well for 'key phrase', but not at all for 'synonym phrase'. This is despite 'key phrase' being highlighted in snippets for searches for 'synonym phrase', even in the top results. I tried searching for 'synonym phrase' with the site: modifier and the only pages it returned were in my blog where 'synonym' (not 'synonym phrase') is a category and in the navigation. In those results 'key phrase' was highlighted.

This leads me to believe that the method used to highlight results has little or no relationship with the way SERPs are calculated.


 6:27 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's taking search history into account as well. If I search for "leather couches" and then search for "sofas" I get the word "leather" bolded. G assumes I'm still looking for a leather sofa.

Seems like that could get annoying though, because what if the reason I went back to the more generic term is that I decided I didn't want leather after all? Do I now have to search for "cloth-upholstered sofas?"

Apparently, I just have to get far enough from the original term - I tried "used sofas in cityname" and got local results, then went back to "sofas" and the leather was gone.

Edit to add: I've seen this in my niche for some time now. Not sure when it started, but it was quite a while ago, probably more than a year. Synonyms in my niche are easy: "pictures, images, photos, pics." It makes sense to try this on image searches before rolling it out to other niches, since they had to identify these synonyms in order to determine when to show image search anyway.


 6:38 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

For the past month or so I've been seeing 'training' bolded for search terms that include 'course' or 'courses', and visa versa. I am in the UK.


 6:43 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

For the past month or so I've been seeing 'training' bolded for search terms that include 'course' or 'courses', and visa versa.

Earlier in the topic I said...

I've performed some searches where "only" the synonyms were in the top few spots and then came titles with the word I searched.

The word course is one of them. I'm looking at a result now and it does not contain the word course in the title or snippet but ranks number one for keyword courses. The word courses is used twice in the destination document. The word training is used 20+ times in various elements including Title, META, Anchor Text, URI Paths, Image Names, Alt Attributes, etc.


 7:23 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

One thing you'll find in regard to these variations is Google and Bing steal from one another. In other words these variations will appear vice versa in both at times. Bing seems to have gone in a new direction though in the past two weeks.


 7:52 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thank You, Lapizuli, mrmobility and freejung for your input.

Your observations lead to more questions than answers, huh?

@ pageoneresults:

Sorry I forgot about your earlier post. I was still trying to replicate the search you cited as an example with different personalization settings to see if that had an effect. Thanks again.

francie brady

 8:26 pm on Aug 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've always typed in a keyword prededed directly by a tilde: press and hold "shift" then press the ~ (tilde) button (top left of number row on my mac) - the serps will then show what synonyms will bold :-)
Andy :-)

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