Google continues to move further away from keyword dependence by understanding words and user intent better. Part of this is through how Google is able to interpret synonyms, and this is something the search engine's team continues to work on.
This week, Google released a big list of 65 changes it made throughout August and September. Two of them were listed under the project "Synonyms" label.
Regarding one of them, Google said, "This change made improvements to rely on fewer 'low-confidence' synonyms when the user's original query has good results."
Of the second one, Google said, "This change improved the use of synonyms for search terms to more often return results that are relevant to the user's intention."
When Google last released a big list of changes, comprised of June's and July's changes, there were four other synonym-specific changes listed. More on those here.
We recently had an interesting discussion with former Googler Vanessa Fox about Google's treatment of synonyms. She told us, “Google was already much better than a lot of people realized at synonyms when I worked there. But things have definitely improved considerably."
“Since Google is always looking to better understand what the searcher is looking for and what pages on the web most satisfy that search, you can imagine that they spend a lot of time in this area — not just synonyms but overall query intent and page meaning,” she added.
You can read our whole conversation here.