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The power of dynamic synonyms in search – Part 2
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Welcome to Part 2 of our new synonym series (here’s Part 1 in case you missed it).

Now where were we? Oh right, talking about how different people refer to cars, as well as how accurately identifying synonyms can help an AI-powered search engine excel.

To review, a synonym is a word that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word, and in the context of search, they’re words that could be swapped for each other. There are also synonyms that work in one direction only, like “car” and “sedan”; all records for “sedan” would need to match a query for “car” but not the other way around. 

A dynamic synonym, applied in search functionality, goes a step further: it’s a term that’s automatically adapted to reflect search context and user interactions. That means search results that could change based on real-time data.

In ecommerce, shoppers have many choices for search terms, and some of their words and phrases could easily turn out to be synonyms. For example, if you’re checking out options for your next set of wheels on a car-buying website, do you start to enter “jalopy” (probably not), “hardtop”, “motorcar”, “station wagon”, “hatchback”, “pickup truck”, “roadster”, “sedan”, “compact”, “subcompact”, “convertible”, or maybe none of that and just a Japanese, German, or American model name?

There’s a good chance the search engine is going to run across some synonyms while dealing with that one.

Regardless of the complexity, AI-driven synonym understanding helps ensure that all goes smoothly in a search. Search algorithms equipped with synonym understanding can expertly assess the ways people describe the same item. They can also detect regional differences and colloquialisms (“Did you just search for a coupe, and I see that you’re in the UK? Let’s see, that’s a passenger car…”).

 

How do dynamic synonyms work?

Dynamic synonyms are automatically generated by algorithms, which feature: 

  • Automated detection: As the first step, large volumes of textual data are scrutinized. Words and phrases that exhibit potential as auto synonyms are pinpointed. 
  • Continual updating: In dynamic language systems, the tools continuously learn from new data and adapt to changes. 
  • Easy scaling: With minimal human input, the scaling process is a cinch. 

 

Dynamic synonym functionality:  

  • Is sensitive to context. It understands that people searching for a mouse on an electronics website might need a computer accessory, whereas those on a toy website might want a stuffed critter, and on a pet-supply site, a squeaky chewable one. 
  • Considers user interactions. Dynamic synonyms change in response to how shoppers interact on a site, learning from their language preferences and nuances of how they express themselves. If someone uses simple words, for example, the system takes that into account. 
  • Adjusts with real-time data. Rather than having to assign a human to manually adjust a static set of synonyms, the system seamlessly modifies recommendations.
  • Evolves with language. As language shifts through introduction of slang, natural language trends, refinement of technical terms, or proliferation of popular phrases, dynamic synonyms adapt.

 

Why would you need dynamic synonyms? 

Automatic synonym integration in search functionality bridges gaps that can negatively impact search results, translating to: 

  • Increased relevance: Synonym consideration allows search engines to better understand and match up varying terms used by searchers. Algorithms that employ dynamic synonyms can efficiently capture search terms across the spectrum.
  • Successful interpretation of complex queries. In search queries encompassing multiple concepts or topics, dynamic synonym awareness can instantly bridge semantic gaps.
  • Higher accessibility: Operating on a full, inclusive spectrum of words means improved real-time access, regardless of word choice.
  • Adaptability to language variability: Shoppers on the hunt may use slang and colloquialisms, which traditional search may not pick up. A continually up-to-date AI-powered search tool fills this gap by recognizing dialect and regional jargon.
  • Expertise in niche topics and industries. In specialized fields people may use unique terminology and jargon, which a dynamic system can quickly identify.
  • Minimal missed opportunities. Without dynamically accounting for synonyms, there’s a risk of consumers missing out on getting the information they want. 

 

Why manual synonym handling is iffy 

With manual synonym designation, content managers and system administrators can designate which words and phrases should be considered interchangeable. But having a human involved doesn’t always achieve the desired results. Here’s why: 

  • Subjectivity: People may have different ideas about which words are synonymous, and reliance on their personal judgment opens the door to errors and biases.  
  • Maintenance overhead: As language evolves, new synonyms may emerge and existing ones may become obsolete. Manually keeping track of current terms requires continual monitoring, which is resource intensive and costly. Ongoing automatic adjustment keeps a database search system accurate.
  • Limited scalability: Scaling up is difficult when you’re manually and painstakingly creating and updating synonyms. The solution? digitizing and automating. 

Traditional search engines are challenged by ambiguous and context-dependent terms. Consider the scenario of “apple”. Without context, the search engine doesn’t know whether they’re referring to the fruit, a technology product, or something else entirely.  

In contrast, dynamic synonyms excel at clarifying search queries by analyzing contextual clues, user intent, and real-time data. In an AI-powered search algorithm, whether people are searching for apple pie recipes or the latest iPhone, they’re more likely to receive relevant results. This capability enhances the relevance of search results and creates a seamless search experience.

 

Enabling dynamic synonyms is easy

You can use AI-driven tools to automatically suggest and refine synonyms based on real-time data. Here’s the simple process with Algolia:

  1. Set up an account with Algolia
  2. Access your dashboard and select your application
  3. On the left, click the search icon 
  4. Open the AI Synonyms page and click Activate for this index 
  5. Review the auto synonyms using the Suggested synonyms tab and see new suggestions  

 

Put dynamic synonyms to work for your site

Looking for the best search solution, one with the ability to add dynamic synonyms? With Algolia’s AI-powered algorithms, your shoppers’ every search query can hit the bullseye. When you’re ready for great results, just let us know and we’ll get you into gear.

About the authorJon Silvers

Jon Silvers

Director, Digital Marketing

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