Why you should use synonyms and related keywords

SEOs like keywords. These are the words people search for. The words that make your posts and pages rank. You put a lot of effort into finding that perfect keyword to optimize your article for. So, why shouldn’t you use that exact keyword over and over again? Why should you use synonyms and related keywords? Will doing that help improve your rankings? Well: Yes! As a matter of fact: using synonyms and related keywords the right way will most definitely help you rank. In this post, I’ll explain why. 

Variation is key!

The most important reason why you should use synonyms and related keywords is because it will make your text so much nicer to read. If you write a text about ‘candy’ and you use the word ‘candy’ in every other sentence, your text will get boring. Your readers will stop reading and click away. You’ll lose your audience. That’s why you should aim for variation. Words like ‘sweets’ and ‘delicacy’ could serve as synonyms for ‘candy’. Related keywords would be ‘chocolate’ and ‘sugar,’ which aren’t real synonyms for ‘candy’, but still relevant. 

For a text to be attractive to a reader, it should be very varied. You can vary with a lot of things. For instance, you can try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. That makes a text much more attractive. You can also try to alternate the sequence of words. But the most important tool is to vary with the exact words you use. Especially if you’re trying to rank for a long tail keyphrase such as ‘candy store New York’. Using that exact key phrase in a lot of sentences will make it awful to read. Using synonyms and related keywords, on the other hand, makes a text much more attractive.

But wait: what about keyword density?

Of course, it is important to use your focus keyword regularly, but you should not overdo it. In the old days, SEOs tended to stuff their texts with a lot of keywords. That way, Google would understand what the text was about and rank it accordingly. But Google is not that stupid anymore. It can read and understand texts. 

If you search for ‘candy store New York’ you’ll get results from Google with content from ‘candy stores’ as well as ‘candy shops’. Google understands that ‘store’ and ‘shop’ are synonyms, and treats them as such. 

Snippets from the search result page for the search ‘candy store New York’

It is important to use your focus keyword a few times throughout your post. The focus keyword is the word or phrase your audience is searching for. That exact match remains important. These are the words your audience uses, the words your audience expects to find. But, instead of using your focus keyword over and over again, you should use variation with synonyms and related keywords.

How often should you use synonyms?

The usage of synonyms versus the use of the focus keywords is no exact science. The most important criterion is the reader. So, read and re-read your text. Is it nice and easy to read? Or are you getting annoyed by the constant use of a certain term? Let other people read your text. Ask them for feedback. 

If you need more guidance, Yoast SEO will help you to use synonyms and related keywords as well. In Yoast SEO Premium, you can add synonyms of your focus keyword. The plugin can check if you’ve used those synonyms in, for instance, your meta description, introduction, subheadings or image alt text. Moreover, our keyphrase distribution check (added in Yoast SEO 7.8) will reward you for alternately using your keyphrase and its synonyms throughout your text.

One step further: use those synonyms to your advantage

Google understands texts and takes related concepts and synonyms into account. In the old days, Google wasn’t that smart. But nowadays, it wants to serve its users the best result. It is able to recognize related entities. In the end, Google just wants to serve readable texts.

So make sure you deliver! Think of synonyms for your keyword or keyphrase and use them to your advantage. Take a moment and try to come up with a few alternatives for your keyword. Think of things that are strongly related to your keyword. Enter these words in our SEO analysis and make sure to use those in your text. You’ll increase your chances to rank, and more importantly: your content will be more pleasant to read if you use synonyms and related keywords!


Keywords remain essential. These are the words your audience is searching for. People searching for ‘candy’ will probably not click on a result with ‘delicacy’ in the text. If you search for ‘candy’ you’ll expect to see that exact word in the search results. Therefore, exact match keywords remain the most important keywords.

That being said, synonyms and related concepts are very important as well. You just need those to write a readable text. You can’t repeat yourself over and over, especially if you’re optimizing your text for a long tail keyword. Furthermore, using synonyms and related keywords may create ranking opportunities you’d otherwise have missed. In Yoast SEO premium, we offer all the features you need to take into account word forms, synonyms and related keywords. 

7 Responses to Why you should use synonyms and related keywords

  1. Natalie Clarke
    Natalie Clarke  • 11 months ago

    I have this site but I’m Losing My Domain Authority very badly . Please suggest what action I can take ?

  2. smart sniper
    smart sniper  • 11 months ago

    How does this apply when writing long keywords!

  3. happiness affiah
    happiness affiah  • 11 months ago

    thank you for this article, but I think yoast plugin should also recommend keywords that will suit our article, or yoast should just help us and put keywords in the keyword field of the plugin automatically.

  4. Deborah
    Deborah  • 12 months ago

    Hmm, another article explaining why the basic version of Yoast is really not very useful.
    So synonyms are important, desirable and relevant…. But basic Yoast encourages one to use just one key phrase.
    I am suspecting that using basic Yoast may be harmful to my SEO.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 12 months ago

      Hi Deborah, Of course, Yoast SEO Premium has some great extras, but we think the free version of Yoast SEO already has a lot of basic features that WordPress sites need. It would be impossible to name them all here, but, for instance, it has some awesome hidden features that take care of a lot of technical stuff for you: https://yoast.com/yoast-seo-hidden-features/ And with the SEO and readability analysis, we help you improve your posts. In these analyses, we never urge you to only use one keyphrase! We just check whether you use your focus keyphrase often enough, so search engines will understand what your page is about. But you should definitely feel free to use synonyms and related keywords in your text. Hope these words will comfort you, so you can use Yoast SEO without worry!

  5. HowTo9ja
    HowTo9ja  • 12 months ago

    How does this apply when writing long keywords

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 12 months ago

      Hey! With long keyphrases, you can use synonyms for the various words you use in that keyphrase. If you use long keyphrases, always make sure you use them naturally in your copy. They don’t have to be in the same order all the time!