If a tag is synonymised to a master tag:

Example> The master tag is music, a synonymised tag is jazz.

If people are searching jazz on the internet, does the jazz tag still catch search engines?

  • I cannot believe I have asked a question, it has not been flagged as a dup, no comments, no answers.. hmm. I need to take a picture hahahahahaha – Yvette Colomb Nov 13 '13 at 14:06
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    Great question IMO - if this doesn't happen, it could potentially greatly negatively affect searchability. – Dukeling Nov 13 '13 at 15:09
  • @Dukeling it makes choosing tag synonyms a more serious matter if they don't. I have tried to test searching for synonyms, but it's too hard to test. – Yvette Colomb Nov 13 '13 at 15:12
  • In looking for this question, it doesn't look like it does (algorithm-design is a synonym of algorithm). – Dukeling Nov 13 '13 at 15:16
  • @Dukeling it is showing up with the tag algorithm when you remove the "" google.com.au/… – Yvette Colomb Nov 13 '13 at 15:20
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    Yeah, not exactly the best example (it was just the closest one). I think -'s between words in Google are treated roughly (exactly?) the same as spaces and "design" has plenty of synonyms and it does appear on every page on Stack Overflow. With quotes is supposed to work. – Dukeling Nov 13 '13 at 15:27
  • @Dukeling I was wondering about the hyphen also. – Yvette Colomb Nov 13 '13 at 15:29
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    Searching in quotes for hyphens for tags on a Stack Exchange site looks fine. – Dukeling Nov 13 '13 at 15:38
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    I can't quite .. figure out how to figure this out through testing it. Tossed it over to the devs to see if one of them happens to know. Interesting question nonetheless, I don't know if being a synonym precludes a tag from being chosen as the best one to tack onto the title. – Tim Post Nov 22 '13 at 9:50
  • @Dukeling and I did our testing here.. and we could not find the answer lol – Yvette Colomb Nov 22 '13 at 9:54


I was able to prove as such with a basic proof of concept; by searching Google, but limiting my searches to hits specific to the exchange site I knew used the phrase as a synonym; the collision-testing synyonm, at the Game Development Stack Exchange, which links to the master tag of collision-detection.

More specifically, I searched for "collision-testing", while omitting "collision testing"; that is, I removed hits that were returning false positives because the question, itself, contained the phrase "collision testing".

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  • thanks for that. So if you search without the omission, it will find "collision testing"? – Yvette Colomb Jul 11 '17 at 3:42
  • @YvetteColomb, yeah. I got hits back for "collision testing", but none for "collision-testing". As it was, questions using the "collision-testing" tag (now collision-detection" mostly included "collision testing" in the body text. I am not sure how common this would be to other synonyms, but as a result, the questions do still come up when you use that search; just not based off the actual tag. – Gnemlock Jul 11 '17 at 4:35

The TL;DR answer, with regards to tags, is generally NO

The actual answer is a bit more complex...

So I picked javascript and ecmascript (synonym of JS). Both are highly generic and both have a SO page rank in the top 10 results (first page, highly coveted). If you go to the ecmascript tag you get a 302 redirect (not a 301!) to the JS tag. Both have the same net effect: search engines will de-index the page because it's returning a 301/302 redirect, and not a 200 status indicating content. This is actually desired behavior because it would be really annoying to have search results link to a redirect page instead of the end page.

What's odd is that SO/SE isn't using a 301, which is a permanent redirect. Maybe that's for the off-chance that someone will remove the synonym, but in practice it makes for poor indexing. I mean, accepted SEO practice is to use a 301 redirect

Some of Google's employees have indicated that there are cases where 301s and 302s may be treated similarly, but our evidence suggests that the safest way to ensure search engines and browsers of all kinds give full credit is to use a 301 when permanently redirecting URLs. The Internet runs on a protocol called HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) which dictates how URLs work. It has two major versions, 1.0 and 1.1. In the first version, 302 referred to the status code "Moved Temporarily." This was changed in version 1.1 to mean "Found."

A 302 means that the page might come back so keep coming here. Unless there's some internal metric showing a lot of synonym removals, I would suggest these be 301s, especially since there's no indexing of 302s anyways. Would help some with SEO (the concept is called crawl budget)

Why bother, you ask? And what does this have to do with the question? The reason is this:

Indexing synonym tags is a waste of time

Going back to my ECMA example, the JS tag is #10 on Google for JS. But this question is #9 for ecmascript. The tag never shows, but SO still shows up as relevant because it has a good page on the subject. In other words, the synonym tag is nowhere to be found, but relevant questions are still indexed and ranked. I'd rather see someone find an SO/SE page that answers a question, than to show them a potentially confusing tag page that just lists questions. I'm willing to bet most people come directly to a question anyways, as opposed to a tag.

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