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Semantic Search is Here, and it Will Change Your SEO Strategy

May 24, 2018

Do you feel like your SEO strategy team is constantly trying to keep your content and organic search strategy up to Google’s standards? It’s almost like trying to impress a date – we need the right lines (keywords), or Google won’t ask us out again. Like a good dinner date, Google’s algorithms are looking for conversational language, not one-word answers and dead-end questions.

My first dates with my wife were successful because I asked natural, conversational questions that required more than yes or no answers. Algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming more and more commonplace on Facebook, messenger apps, and customer service chatbots. As AI becomes more sophisticated, it's more difficult to identify when you’re speaking to a human versus AI. In fact, Google is making it mandatory that sites tell visitors if they’re communicating with AI or humans.

What is semantic search?

"Semantic" means the essence of something. When we talk about semantic search, we’re talking about the logic and study of words. Through semantic search, we aim to understand the contextual meaning and the intent behind the words to improve search accuracy. The result is a responsive and intuitive database that’s much more personal than traditional keyword search. The benefit of Google’s algorithm switch is that searchers get less spam while getting the best answer with a human-like, conversational reply.

Why is semantic search so important?

The amount of data available online doubles every two years; semantic search helps organize data for search engines (versus dumping the data into a pit and randomly scooping out information).

How is content qualified?

Again, semantic search helps search engines identify and even disqualify lower quality, spammy content. Remember when you used link- and keyword-stuffing to rank in search engines rather than with content that offered real value to searchers?

Semantic search helps us understand what our searches mean. For example: I couldn’t remember the actor in the popular music video, This is America, so I asked, “Who is the actor in the This is America video?” The results showed me the actor is Donald Glover and, because the This is America video is trending, Google showed us two videos and two articles at the top of the search. We also learned that ‘Childish Gambino’ is Glover’s rap name/persona. The conversational query I entered yielded more specific and helpful results to help us gain a better understanding of what the next searcher and I may want.

It’s amazing that Google can connect my question to what I’m looking for and answer it better than how I asked/searched for it. The search engines are intuitive and learning to connect the “data dots.”

voice search

Semantic search SEO implications

Semantic search is crucial as voice searching devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri become more ingrained in our culture. While it may seem impossible to know all the keywords, topics, and phrases (conversationally) for what people will ask a virtual assistant, there are strategies to enhance search.

Semantic search SEO strategies:

Focus and answer the question

The search engines look for the best answer to a conversational question, so focus on providing the expert solution in a conversational format (this is using the right keywords, only more casually).

Use structured, answer-based sentences

If your SEO writing isn’t clear and answer-based in conversational language, you won’t be a good fit for a semantic search question. The content and solutions you provide should leave no doubt you’re answering the question, and preferably concisely.

No, the computers haven’t taken over – but you must write for humans and the Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple bots crawling your site to answer searchers’ queries. We see snippets (abbreviated information about a page) first, so make them easily scannable by human eyes as well as keyword rich for the bots.

Don’t ignore linking

While you don’t want your content to become link dumps or link stuffed, you do want to link to related information on your site that to help visitors further. (And make sure relevant pages are in an updated sitemap.)

Learning SEO from the Experts

Conclusion

Semantic search is leading to a more organic, conversational user experience through personalized results, answering visitors’ questions, and implementing specific, structured data. Webmasters must integrate related content and synonyms for target topics. Search engines are already incorporating semantic signals in their results, so if you’re not ready, now is the time to get started. Leading Results experts can analyze your SEO strategy and make sure you’re prepared for semantic search.

Topics: SEO

Matt Starnes
Written by Matt Starnes

Matt Starnes combines his loves of client satisfaction, research, writing, sales, and marketing in his duties as Account Executive here at Leading Results. Matt has over a decade of experience in sales and marketing and a wealth of client services and management experience. Matt has nine years of broad sales experience including inside-sales, outside sales, and retail environments. He has managed both sales teams and staff in call center environments and has over five years of marketing and promotions experience. Matt began his career in radio as a writer, producer, DJ, host, and promotions; all skills he still uses to some capacity today. When he isn’t managing accounts, writing, researching, or editing, Matt can be found hosting podcasts, reading, volunteering, spending time with his wife and family, playing board games, and walking/exercising.

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