Google suggests alternative search terms – tools to try

Latent semantic indexing has been discussed at length over the past few years and with synonyms being seen clearly in search results it is evident that search will continue to move away from the ‘cave man query’ to a more sophisticated understanding of the search intent behind the query. There is gold in these hills.

A great deal can be learned from the suggestions given by Google in response to a query. These suggestions provide real clues to indexation, classification and Google’s understanding of content, semantic relationships and search behaviour.

The following discussion shows the four major clues Google provides to understanding possible search intentions…

For this example, I have chosen ‘gelato’ – yum!

This screenshot shows how Google is addressing the intent of the search, by providing knowledge base articles in the right hand side column and another box beneath which suggests alternative search queries, entitled ‘See results about’:

Google results for gelato query


Google is trying harder than ever to understand the nature of the query whenever you search, and cynically, to keep you on Google until they have helped you tailor the query to perfection.

Here are four ways Google suggests alternative searches, saving typing and steering the visitor towards the results they seek:

1. Google suggest (drop down list)
2. Google’s ‘Search instead for’ prompt in response to malformed queries
3. Related search terms (shown beneath the regular search results, when available)
4. Results for similar searches
5. Alternative searches ‘See results about’ box


Google suggest gives clues to the most often searched queries, or content available on the web.

Google suggest


Suggested Tools:

Spelling mistakes can result in a Google prompt at the head of search results: ‘Did you mean ?’ or ‘Search instead for’

Google search instead suggestions

Related terms reflect those keywords Google most often sees – closely related terms in form and sequence and help us gain a deeper understanding of intent and information being sought.

Searches related to gelato


Suggested Tools:


Correct spellings give rise to ‘alternative’ search suggestions. The alternatives from Google demonstrate a deeper understanding of the meaning of the search term.

See results about ice cream


If the query is difficult to decipher, such as ‘how to fly gelato in space’, then Google selectively removes terms and provides search result suggestions for similar searches directly:

Similar search results

So, ‘flying a gelato’ is a reasonable query, but try to fly one in space and that’s just too crazy. These results are often fascinating, the search term suggestions made here are often wildly different from the original query too. e.g. my original query did not include the term ‘travel’, yet Google sees a strong association with the original query ‘how to fly gelato in space’ and the subsequent suggestion: ‘flying space a travel’.

Interesting leap for search kind.

One thought on “Google suggests alternative search terms – tools to try

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *