The Ultimate Guide to Shopify Search Synonyms

Synonyms enhance Shopify’s ecommerce search by ensuring more accurate results, catering to diverse user queries, and improves user experiences.

Introduction

If users are struggling to find products on your Shopify website because they don’t know what keywords to search, it may be time to introduce synonyms to your search and discovery solution. Synonyms allow users to use multiple keywords to find the same set of products. For example, if you sell premium clothing for women and shoppers are searching for “elegant” dresses, you could create synonyms that return the same results for “graceful,” “refined,” or “sophisticated” dresses as well.

Synonyms add contextual relevance to your product catalog and allow you to build user experiences that satisfy shoppers from various cultures and locations globally. By accounting for language variations and cultural nuances in your search tooling, you cater to the largest possible market and can enhance conversion rates and revenue from your search bar. A full synonym library also prevents showing a “No Results Found” page to your customers.

Summary of Key Concepts

This article will discuss the following Shopify search synonym concepts and provide recommendations for each:

Concept

Description

One-Way Synonyms

One-way synonyms link terms or keywords together unidirectionally. For example, the term “rose” could include “pink” items, but searching for “pink” wouldn’t return “rose” items.

Two-Way Synonyms

Two-way synonyms link several terms or keywords together bidirectionally. For example, “bath towel” and “beach towel” searches could return the same results.

Tracking Synonym Data

Product catalogs and user behavior can evolve, so it’s important to track how different keywords and terms are used over time.

Autocomplete and Synonyms

Consider suggesting synonyms directly to users by providing them as suggested terms in a search box using autocomplete.

Ignore or Do-Not-Associate Searches

Some keywords, such as offensive language, shouldn’t return any search results on your website to avoid unintentional associations.

One-Way Synonyms

Returning to the premium women’s clothing store example from the introduction, let’s assume the Shopify merchant has set up a one-way synonym for “dresses” that is mapped to “gowns.”

Now, when a user searches for "dresses," they should also see results for "gowns" because gowns are a specific kind of dress. However, if they search for "gowns," they won’t see all dress types because they have used a one-way synonym, and “dresses” can include many styles like casual dresses, sundresses, or cocktail dresses, not just gowns.

It may feel complex at first, but with this one-way synonym, searching for dresses should include gowns, but searching for gowns should not show all other types of available dresses. One-way synonyms allow merchandisers to ensure customers don’t miss out on any products that they may be interested in without mixing too many terms together that clutter search results.

Two-Way Synonyms

Maintaining our example of the premium women’s clothing store, let’s assume the Shopify merchant set up a two-way synonym for “blouses” that is mapped to “shirts.”

Now, when a user searches for “blouses” or “shirts,” the results should be the same. While shirts usually encompass a broad range of tops that include button-ups or t-shirts, and blouses are more formal or dressy, this premium store may not sell any casual items and decide that this two-way synonym is appropriate for their product catalog.

This example included only two terms, but two-way synonyms can encompass as many terms as necessary. The retailer may also include “top,” “tunic,” or even “blouse-shirt” as additional keywords in the same rule to ensure that shoppers always receive the full offering of women’s tops when performing a search.

Tracking Synonym Data

Understanding which synonyms to create, and whether to create them as one-way or two-way synonyms can be a daunting task for a large Shopify product catalog. Our general advice is this: wait until you have substantial user data to create synonyms.

While we all have opinions on wording and terminology, sometimes our knowledge of our own product lineup is too deep. Users often surprise us with their existing knowledge (or lack thereof!) and leveraging real user data ensures you don’t overfit a model or make bad terminology assumptions. Tracking all of your search terms, along with the click-through and conversion rates for each term, is the first step to create a robust synonym strategy.

Tracking search terms also allows you to find out which products customers may be looking for that don’t exist on your website at all, and this knowledge can be handed off to other teams to create new offerings that your brand may already be aligned with.

Once you have adequate synonym data, focus on search terms that lead to high-value orders first. This is usually linked to products with high prices or baskets with high average order values. This ensures that your most valuable customers are able to find your products with their own keywords and complete their purchases seamlessly, while offering you the greatest benefits with the least amount of effort.

Autocomplete and Synonyms

If your Shopify search tool includes autocomplete, you should consider how to best use synonyms. Autocomplete is like having a friend finish a sentence before you’ve said everything. Similarly, your search bar should be attempting to guess what the user is looking for and suggest full phrases, product titles, or keywords based on what other users commonly search for.

Including synonyms in autocomplete results is an excellent way to educate your users on various terminology for similar items. While it may lead your users to perform an entirely different search than originally intended, it can still lead them to highly relevant results and increase buying intent.

Ignore or Do-Not-Associate Keywords

Some terms just shouldn’t be typed into your search bar, but as a merchant, you can’t necessarily control that. A premium women’s clothing brand may never want the search terms “poor quality” or “cheap” to deliver any search results - or worse, return their premium items.

Sophisticated Shopify product discovery search solutions should allow you to create filters and controls for keywords that group terms together. Generally, there are two types of controls that do this:

  • Ignore Controls: Fully prevents search engines from using certain search query terms during searches. This could include offensive keywords, competitive brands, or banned products.

  • Do-Not-Associate Controls: Prevents search query terms from being queried together during searches with other terms that the merchant specifies, similar to the example above.

Not all searches can be controlled, and sometimes users will push the boundaries of your platform regardless of the guardrails you put in place. Our general advice is this: cater to your brand, vendor, or suppliers first, then worry about troublesome users.

Conclusion

Setting up synonyms for all of your product types and collection pages can take a significant amount of time. If this is overwhelming, begin by tracking synonym data to understand the most common search keywords and target the highest impact terms first.

The best Shopify search solutions automatically learn from your users’ searches to create their own intent-based results that function similarly to synonyms. If you’re using Google Cloud Discovery AI on Shopify with Retail Cloud Connect, you can create as many one-way or two-way synonyms as you want in the Google Cloud Console, along with Ignore and Do-Not-Associate terms. However, Google’s search personalization algorithms will automatically learn from your users’ searches and return relevant results regardless of whether or not you’ve created synonyms, dramatically increasing the effect of synonyms without needing to create them yourself.

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