Add synonyms for similar phrases

  • Updated

Sometimes, site visitors enter a search term that does not exist in your content, even though your site has content of interest to them. To fix this problem, create a synonym list. If a site visitor searches for any term in the list, the search returns results for it and the synonym. For example:

  • Phrases (words not in your content but which site visitors submit while searching): bill, payment, pay, fee
  • Synonym (occurs in your site content): tuition

If a site visitor enters bill into a search field that uses synonyms, the Synonyms feature adds OR tuition to the query. So, content containing tuition is returned even though it was not submitted as a search term.

The Synonym feature typically produces more hits. So, while site visitors do no more work, Optimizely Search & Navigation greatly increases their chances of finding the right information.


  • You have a Special offers page. It displays in search results when searching for offer, but site visitors often enter deal when searching. Create a synonym list with phrase: deal; synonym: offer.
  • Phrases – iPhone, Nexus, Galaxy (three 1-word phrases)
    Synonym – smart phone (2-word synonym)
  • Phrases –  email, telephone, people, twitter (four 1-word phrases)
    Synonym – contact (1-word synonym)

Unidirectional and bidirectional synonyms

When creating a synonym list, you decide if it is unidirectional or bidirectional.

  • Unidirectional – Optimizely Search & Navigation adds the synonym to the query if a site visitor submits a phrase on the list. But, if a visitor submits the synonym, phrases on the list are not added to the query.
  • Bidirectional – If a visitor submits the synonym or any term on the phrases list, the synonym and the term are added to the query.

On the Synonyms screen, an icon indicates a list's direction.

Image: Unidirectional and bidirectional synonyms


  • If recycling is a unidirectional synonym for dump, you get hits for recycling when searching for dump, but you do not get hits for dump when searching for recycling.
  • If recycling is a bidirectional synonym for dump, you get hits for dump when searching for recycling, and hits for recycling when searching for dump.

Keywords and synonyms

The advantage of search keywords is that they are used by Optimizely Search & Navigation and external search engines (for example, Bing) to retrieve content on your site. However, you must add SEO keywords to each content item.

Synonyms apply to all site content or content in the selected language but are only used if someone uses your site's Optimizely Search & Navigation search functionality.

Add synonyms

Synonyms are usually language-specific, but you can apply them to all languages. Synonym matching is not case-sensitive.
  1. From edit view, select Search & Navigation > Manage. The Statistics screen displays.
  2. If search terms you want to use for synonyms display in the Search Phrase list, click them, then select Create synonyms. You can modify the search terms on the Optimization screen.

    Otherwise, select the Optimization screen > Synonyms.

    Image: Adding synonyms

  3. In the Phrases field, enter one or more synonym phrases that do not occur in your site content but which site visitors might submit while searching. Each phrase can have up to three words. You can enter an unlimited number of phrases.

    The search term must exactly match a phrase since stemming is not supported. For example, vegetable does not exactly match vegetables. As a workaround, enter two phrases: vegetable and vegetables.

  4. In the Synonym field, enter a term (up to three words) that exists in your website content. Optimizely Search & Navigation adds the synonym to the query when a site visitor enters any phrase in the list.
  5. If you want the synonym list to be bidirectional, check the Bidirectional box. See also: Unidirectional and bidirectional synonyms.