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.”
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.)