The world of digital marketing is no longer only about inserting the correct keywords in the correct places. In an era where literally everyone is using the same marketing systems, it is important to understand the purpose of those marketing tools and how to use them best. This is why a lot of the newer philosophies in digital marketing rely on semantic search.
What is Semantic Search?
Semantic search or Semantic SEO is a system used by search engines to understand language; that is, language as close to the one that humans naturally speak. This is done using context, search intent, and the relationships formed between words.
This usually provides contextual results that bypass the use of non-contextual keywords to search for relevant results. So, if you type “where are most tigers found?”, a search engine would probably provide the relevant answer. However, if you type “how many tigers exist and where are most of them found?” The semantic search will provide results specific to the context of tigers, location and numbers.
Why is Semantic Search Important?
Digital marketing has evolved and with the rise of new forms of digital marketing, the expectations around improved user experience have skyrocketed. This has led to the need for what is known as ‘intent marketing’. A search must deliver results based on the user’s intent rather than a blanket of results that are unrelated to the topic. This need has become more pronounced with the rise of voice command searches.
It is estimated that over 30% of people with a smart device use voice commands. This means a search on an engine must deliver intent-based results on the fly to be accurate and useful to the consumer. Due to this, search engines have begun catering to semantic searches rather than blanket searches. This is why any SEO company or digital marketing firm must have a deep understanding of semantic SEO.
With semantic searches, the focus is more on topics rather than on keywords. A combination of both, however, delivers the best results. As a result, a consumer who enters the search term ‘paint’ will no longer accidentally stumble onto t-shirts with paint motifs.
Understanding semantic SEO means manipulating the user’s intent to make a search engine display your product or service at the top of a contextual and engaging query. It also helps businesses directly work with engaged consumers rather than pushing searches to anyone and everyone in the hope of a high conversion rate.
Semantic search is a far more direct and relevant form of marketing that connects consumers and businesses while fostering engagement. It also benefits businesses by tightening their marketing net to only relevant products or consumers, thus increasing their ROI.
Factors Related to Semantic Search
Several factors influence and guide semantic searches. Two of the most important factors are:
The search intent
The search intent refers to why someone enters a query in the search box. The intent could be to find, buy, or learn something. Search engines are trying to optimize intent to provide more relevant results to the user.
The semantic meaning of the query
Semantics is concerned with the meaning of words and the relationship between them. Search engines look into the semantics, or meaning, behind the query to provide results relevant to the user’s context rather than just focusing on the literal keywords.
As search engines continue to optimize their algorithm, other factors that guide semantic searches are:
Featured snippets and rich results
Google introduced the Knowledge Graph in 2012 to prioritize context and entities over keywords. It collects a massive amount of information from the public domain and uses semantic searches to decipher meaning. Knowledge Graph can now answer most questions with rich results and display the same more prominently.
An update by Google in 2013, Hummingbird enables the search engine to match Web pages with queries based on the meaning of the page rather than relying on matching keywords. This means that only Web pages that actually provide answers to the query will show up as results.
This is a machine learning version of Hummingbird and was designed to solve Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI keywords. It performs the same function as Hummingbird, along with learning and analyzing search results. RankBrain has made it possible for the search engine to present Web pages that match the query even if it does not contain the exact words.
How does Semantic Search Impact SEO?
Semantic search has been impacted largely due to the popularity of voice search. Data shows that 33% of users now use mobile voice commands. When optimizing for voice search, it is important to note that it is different from traditional SEO. You need to ensure that content is always precise and answers the queries to the point.
One way to address this issue is to have clear and concise answers to common queries at the top of the page. Essentially, if you are using structured data to help users understand the content and context. For instance, searching the terms clay modelling for children, or types of knitting wool will refine the query by providing specific results to the user. This puts the best matching results at the top, so the user does not have to struggle to hunt down what they are looking for.
Examine the queries that lead visitors to your website and focus on the most common ones. Here, you are creating content that is based on intent rather than keywords. A user might want to compare prices or know the benefits of one product over another. Content that addresses the intent of these queries will be ranked higher by search engines.
From keywords to topics
Examine the niche you occupy and identify broad topics within that space. Create comprehensive content, which users will find more useful.
While search engines are constantly trying to better themselves, the algorithm is not there yet. So do not throw out all the lessons you have applied to your site. You will still need to use keywords to help the algorithm ‘learn’ about accurate and relevant search results. Use backlinks to related content to boost your rankings.
Search engine algorithms prioritize user enjoyment over everything else. Your website must be user friendly while also providing a smooth and fast experience. It should also be optimized for mobile usage.
Semantic search is quickly becoming a reality, and any good SEO company must make sure that their content is optimized for the same. A range of easy-to-apply actions and structural changes can help you stay on top of semantic SEO.
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