Search Engine Optimization - 4 Jun 2022
How Semantic Search Has Transformed Modern SEO (And How You Can Use it to Rank Higher)
The days of relying solely on keywords to help your content rank are gone. While this might make your SEO team’s job more difficult, semantic SEO has dramatically improved user experience, which is precisely what Google wanted.
What is Semantic SEO?
Before jumping into semantic SEO, let’s talk a little about how semantic search came to be. In the past, SEO focused on optimizing search results around a single keyword. While this made it relatively simple for content creators to get their pages ranked, it, however, made it difficult for search engines like Google to grasp the intent behind a user’s query.
Then Google changed all that.
In 2013, Google released Hummingbird, the first of several updates designed to improve its search algorithm’s understanding of human language and intent.
Instead of simply matching search queries word-for-word with results, Google can crawl a piece of content to recognize not only the topic but also understand its broader context. It uses semantic search to better understand the meaning and the relationship between words as a search phrase to help deliver more arcuate results to a user’s query. If you have noticed your Google searches yield better quality results, you can thank semantic search.
How has Semantic Search Changed SEO?
The ability for search engines to think and interpret text more like people has fundamentally altered SEO for who the content is written for and how it is written.
The days of simply plugging your keyphrase into your title, text, and tags and watching the traffic roll in are over. Optimizing content around a single keyword will no longer yield the rank-boosting results you’re after and you have to target topics to capture Google’s attention.
Therefore, this is where semantic SEO becomes crucial to your operation.
How to Optimize Your Content for Semantic SEO
1. Focus less on keywords and more on topics
Generally, people searching for information on a topic aren’t simply looking for the definition. They are looking to understand the subject matter and they don’t just want the what, but also the how and the why. Therefore, while keywords are and will always be an essential aspect of SEO, it’s important to look beyond single keywords and consider the broader topic you’re sharing with readers.
Google now understands that “drywall installer,” “drywall installation services,” and “drywall contractor” all mean the same thing, and it will return identical (or very close ) results for each of these search phrases. Instead of creating multiple pages each targeting separate keywords, the focus should be emphasized on creating content that covers an entire cluster of related keywords.
2. Increase the depth and breadth of your content
While content length isn’t an official Google ranking factor, it does feature heavily in a successful semantic SEO strategy.
To improve your SERP ranking, focus on creating content needs to provide in-depth rather than surface coverage of the topic it is exploring. This will make your content more valuable to readers and help build up your topical authority – both of which are Google ranking factors.
Once you have identified the main topic, an easy way to score points on content depth is to include a few related sub-topics.
There are seral ways to identify relevant sub-topics. You can see what your top-ranking competitors are doing, check out questions people have asked related to the topic on social media and Reddit, or simply take ideas from Google’s convenient “People also ask” box.
3. Create topic clusters
Creating clusters of content around one central topic is another way to give your website a ranking boost using clusters.
Remember keyword clusters from the first section of this article? Here, we focused on semantically related keywords within a topic where a content cluster takes this concept one step further. Each content cluster will begin with a central theme and your pillar content and then grow to include several thematically connected yet diverse pillar pages. Each will explore a subtopic related to your pillar content.
Your pillar content will often include your highest-value and most competitive keywords, while your pillar pages will typically explore lower-value, less competitive but semantically related keywords.
This semantic SEO strategy is a valuable long-term strategy that could help you eventually gain ranking within highly competitive search phrases by first driving traffic and building your website authority through less competitive keywords.
4. Write content for the way readers are searching
Think about how you phrase a search depending on the information you’re looking for. If you’re shopping around to compare bicycles, you will use different terms than if you were looking to buy a specific bike, therefore making your intent different. Google can recognize user intent, so it makes sense to frame your content to capture this intent.
Typically, user searches fall into one of three categories: informational (learning something), navigational (finding something), or transactional (purchasing something). If you can correctly identify your target user’s intent and tailor your content to meet that immediate need, you stand a significant chance of ranking for that topic than if you simply write content for writing’s sake.
5. Employ structured data to make the context of your abundantly clear
While Google has become much more effective at understanding intent and context, it still can’t process information the way a human brain does. However, you can help web crawlers by organizing data in a way that they understand by using structured data.
Schema markup is a form of structured data frequently used in semantic SEO to help make web content easier for Google to interpret. By assigning context to the information on your page, search engines can better understand what your page is about. Combined with informationally relevant and topically rich content, Schema markup can help all types of content such as articles, blogs, videos, images, and infographics to rank higher.
SEO is and has always been an evolving process and semantic SEO is simply the next step in the evolution.
But change doesn’t have to be scary and the industry shift to semantic SEO practices doesn’t have to impact your ranking negatively, it’s quite the opposite. When done right, semantic SEO isn’t only beneficial to users but it can also be highly advantageous for businesses.
If you’re ready to step into the brighter future of modern SEO, Nirvana can help pave the way.