Google Bolding On Synonyms For Web Searches

Aug 8, 2011 • 8:35 am | comments (11) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

A WebmasterWorld thread reports Google bolding or highlighting words in the search results that are not actual words you searched for. Rather, Google will bold synonyms of the keywords you searched for.

Searching for [leather couches] will return Google bolding words like "sofa" as well. Here is a picture:

Google Bold Synonyms

Honestly, I really didn't think this was new Google behavior but the folks in the WebmasterWorld forum saying it is and sharing other search terms which trigger this.

In fact, searching for [couches] won't result in Google bolding "sofa" but searching for [leather couches] does. Why?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Andy Mollison

08/08/2011 12:42 pm

Would imagine that the addition of the descriptive word to the search (leather) is enough information for Google to be 100% sure that your search is related to 'Sofas'. Whereas without that descriptive word, it can't be totally 100% sure it's related, I guess! Nice find!

Brian M

08/08/2011 12:56 pm

According to this post from Google ( it looks like they have been trying this for a long time (notice 'photos' instead of 'pictures'). Maybe this isn't new at all. Maybe it is. Either way, I'd like to know from an AdWords perspective if I should keep this in mind when selecting keywords.

Brian M

08/08/2011 12:58 pm

And.....Matt Cutts' post on the subject:

Black Seo Guy

08/08/2011 01:18 pm you think this has been around for a while because this is my first time seeing something like this. "Black Seo Guy "Signing Off"


08/08/2011 01:37 pm

Because [couches] on it's on is also a "verb" whereas [leather couches] is only likely to be about a couch to lie on (unlikely to be the verb usage).


08/08/2011 05:09 pm

This isn't new at all. I remember seeing synonyms being bolded at least 3-4 months ago - but only synonyms that are very obvious.


08/09/2011 01:33 am

It's been doing this for ages.


08/09/2011 11:30 am

You've long been able to see this behaviour by searching for ~keyword and confirms the need to use synonyms in your copy to increase relevancy. LSI anyone?

Jim Rudnick

08/12/2011 01:36 pm

@Barry...up here in "couches" does return many bolded diff I'd say from what many others are seeing in 

joshua kinney

05/24/2012 12:58 pm

Hey Barry, I'm seeing some interesting results. The synonyms are being bolded but in some cases not the actual term that was searched! Typed "AC Repair" and got lots of "air conditioning repair" results bolded, but many of the results containing "ac repair" were not. wowee.

Tom Conte

08/24/2012 09:12 pm

Agreed, Barry. I don't believe this is new either. If you search Google with ~couch, they will bold phrases that are synonymous with "couch".

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