synonymizer bucketIf you’re here, then you’re probably already aware that when it comes to search engine rankings, content is king. And if you’re invested in improving the rankings of your business website, and are looking for new and innovative ways to provide unique, high-value content for your website or blog, then you may have already heard about synonymizers. In fact, you may be one of the many people who have already used synonymizers or “article spinners” to expand your website’s content. There’s just one big problem: With today’s advanced search engine algorithms—not to mention discerning human readers—synonymizers don’t work.

For those who have yet to run across a synonymizer, they’re pretty much what they sound like. Often billed as “article spinners” or “essay rewriters,” they’re online tools that work sort of like a translator, only instead of translating from French to English, say, they’re translating from English to, well, different English. All you do is paste a body of text into the synonymizer, and it produces “rewritten unique text” that you can plug into your blog or article site. At least that’s the claim. The idea is to be able to create search engine friendly content that appears as unique work. But the problem is, it’s not really unique text so much as it is the original text with a lot of the words replaced with close synonyms. The result tends to be a hash of the original text that any human reader—and these days most search engines—can see through immediately. If you’ve ever seen The Fly (1986), think Jeff Goldblum’s character, but after his ill-fated trip through the teleporter. Not pretty.

Here’s an example of the familiar nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill” after it’s been fed through a synonymizer:

Falter and Jill went relative to the advance
To touch on a pail of water.
Decrease stony-hearted in and poor authority outstanding,
And Jill came tumbling after.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out just what the heck that means, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And if you rely on synonymizers to produce unique content for your website, your readers will be left in the same boat.

A representative of, a free online service for detecting plagiarism, has said of synonymizers that, “Good copy is ruined by applying these sorts of tools, since the author’s particular choice of words is crucial for conveying the meaning, connotation and style, and for maintaining professionalism, readability, and flow.” After all, there’s a lot more to good writing than just stringing a set of words together. If instead of “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Shakespeare had said “whatever we call them, roses sure smell good,” we probably wouldn’t still be quoting him more than four hundred years later.

That’s one of the problems with synonymizers, but it may not be the biggest one. After all, in the race to success, search engine results may trump a fancy prose style. Unfortunately, in this day and age, content generated with synonymizers is unlikely to generate the kinds of search engine rankings that you’re looking for, either. When Google rolled out their Panda update in February of 2011, one of the big goals was to stop sites with poor quality content from finding their way into Google’s top search results. The algorithm change targeted “content farms” and prioritized quality, original content in generating top search rankings.

This has changed how SEO experts and site owners prioritize original content, and has led in part to the “content is king” philosophy that dominates current SEO thinking. Many websites that were previously ranking well were hit hard by the Panda rollout, and subsequent updates have only tightened Google’s focus on high quality content. In response to websites who found their rankings damaged by Panda, Google Fellow Amit Singhal posted 23 questions to ask yourself if your site had been hit by the update, but they work just as well as questions to consider when trying to add new content to your website. Among them were questions like, “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?” and “Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?” What just about every question on the list boils down to is that high quality content written by actual humans with a unique voice and a sense of authority on the subject is always going to return better search engine rankings.

In fact, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines specifically include the use of synonymizers in their list of techniques to avoid. What’s more, the head of the webspam team at Google has warned that websites with poor quality content or too much duplicated content may not be able to save their search rankings in the wake of the Panda update simply be rewriting the content so that it’s more original, and data collected in the wake of the rollout has shown that most of the sites that lost rankings after Panda haven’t regained them in the years since.

The golden rule of Google’s new algorithm seems to be that: Any content on your website should be of sufficiently high quality as to bring value to the web. In the highly-competitive world of SEO and page rankings, it can be tempting to look for shortcuts and “tricks” to help give your website an edge, but the fact remains that the best way to get page rankings and keep them is to produce high quality, original content that brings value to your website and your customers. Even if quickly or automatically producing content via tools like synonymizers provides a short-term boost, that advantage doesn’t last, and often can’t be recaptured once Google’s techs adjust their algorithm to catch it.

If you want a high quality website that delivers value to your readers and scores high on search rankings, your best bet is to invest in generating well-researched, well-written, original content produced by actual human beings doing actual writing. Not only will your search engine rankings improve, but your readers will thank you for it, too.

by Orrin S.