Change is the only metathesis in the world, and is inevitable. This is true for all aspects of life, and certainly for Google’s site ranking algorithm. One of the more interesting changes came with the introduction of semantic SEO. The term isn’t new. In fact, it was thought out in 2004.
What is Semantic Search?
Semantic search refers to a phrase or question related query that produces meaningful results, even if the results don’t contain the exact keywords or phrases. The environment at Google is changing as it looks to complement keywords with semantic search. Semantic search works by establishing the meaning and relationships between the words used in the search query. Potentially, the new algorithm could also establish contextual relationships and produce more meaningful results. Essentially, this means that there has been the development of the artificial intelligence that powers Google’s search engine.
How does Semantic SEO work?
Earlier, the Google results that one got were based completely on the keywords and other text used in the Google search box. However, with sophisticated developments in artificial intelligence Google now looks to establish relationships between those words, finding as much meaning and context as possible. Google is moving away from keywords, at least to a certain extent and trying to focus on what the user wants. This translates to better and exponentially more meaningful search results. Still confused? Here’s an illustration:
When you search “search engine optimization” on Google, there are various links on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). There are links like “What is SEO?”, “Beginner’s guide to SEO”, “What is SEO and how it works?”, etc. You get the drift. What Google did here was looking at the intent behind the search, and then produce results that best suit the intent of the searcher.
To summarize, semantic search does the following:
- Prediction of search queries.
- Extraction of entities as results.
- Personalize the search results.
- Refines the search query by establishing context.
How does this affect your SEO strategy?
Gone are the days when keyword data was the most important thing in planning your SEO strategy. We are moving away from keywords and focusing more on what they mean. However, keywords aren’t completely dead yet. Focusing on exact keywords while keeping other things in mind is what you need to do now. Here are a few essential factors you need to keep in mind to make semantic SEO work for you.
Optimize for user intent:
Now that semantic search is able to establish contextual relationships, it means that one should be able to guess the pattern of user intent. The best way to optimize content based on user intent is to ask one question at all stages: “Does this answer the user’s query fully?” If the answer to that is no, go back to revising your content. Nothing beats great content and user satisfaction.
Also, keep in mind that your website is for your end users. Accordingly, your content should be prepared keeping the audience in mind, and not just Google’s bots. However, one cannot afford to ignore the bots. Make sure that your content is readable, and doesn’t make the bots “think”.
The Knowledge Graph – enough said!
Semantic search on Google will be powered by Google’s knowledge graph. The knowledge graph is a collection of staggering amounts of data, and aims to make the search engine experience as user friendly as possible. The knowledge graph mainly concentrates on the context of the words searched, and the intention behind the search, which leads to more accurate results.
This basically means that websites now have to compete not only with each other for better rankings, but with Google itself. Your semantic SEO strategy must be based on one premise – aiming to understand and predict intent. This is because keywords can be manipulated, but the intent behind the search remains the same. Think about how you can answer questions in a better manner.
Basically, you now have an extra headache – in addition to keywords, you will now have to focus on what the person actually means when they are searching for a keyword.
Do not neglect standard SEO techniques:
The biggest mistake a lot of bloggers make when making a semantic SEO strategy is that they don’t pay as much attention to other important stuff. Here are the most important things you should keep in mind:
- Page loading speed: An employee at Google recently stated that the average time of website abandonment is three seconds. This means that the chances of the user sticking around increase when your load time is less than three seconds. Google has officially announced that page loading speed is a ranking factor. Don’t wait – work on your loading speed and get it below three seconds now for chances at ranking better.
- Website architecture: The design of your website is monumental in deciding how your page ranks.
- Sitemap optimization: Sitemap optimization is necessary to ensure that deep links get ranked on search engines too.
Taking care of semantic markup:
Structured data is of paramount importance when it comes to ranking of your website. Structured data basically means that the data is universally understandable. Schema.org is a markup vocabulary developed by companies such as Microsoft, Google, etc. with the intent of creating a structured data markup that every search engine can decipher.
Structured data gives your content context, which is most important for an effective semantic SEO strategy. Schema markup is in the form of a code that is used to define different elements in the content, such as images, dates, reviews, ratings, etc.
Fix all on-site issues that hamper the user experience:
User experience is an important thing to be kept in mind when planning a good SEO strategy. Fix all basic issues with your website to increase stickiness, and therefore ensure that your site gets ranked better. Here are a few basic issues that can be off-putting:
- Make sure that you use the “rel=canonical” tag for all duplicate version of your website to ensure there isn’t any trouble.
- Make sure you fix all content related errors on your website. In other words, fix all incorrect response status codes such as Error 404-page not found.
- Ensure that your website is running smooth. The importance of a fast loading website for better ranking cannot be over-emphasized.
Improve content visibility and have well structured internal links:
The most important thing to focus on here is your ability to use descriptive anchor texts in both, a creative and efficient manner. Internalize links to page contents that pursue previously read topics. However, as a rule of thumb, avoid building too many outbound links on your website, as you end up giving away authority with an increase in the outbound links.
Understand the concept of AMP:
It is time we accept the fact that desktop PCs and laptops are dying in comparison to their pocket fitting counterparts. The rise of mobile phones and specifically smartphones has been tremendous in the last decade or so. Google searches on mobile surpassed the number of Google searches through desktops and laptops. It only makes sense that you make your website mobile friendly for a better ranking.
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP is an open source initiative started by Google with the sole aim of making one code work across various platforms such as desktops, tablets, smartphones, etc. Basically, Google wants mobile sites to load as fast as possible and AMP is the way to do that.
If you’re running AMP on your website, there are chances you get the top spot in the SERP, which could mean increased flow of traffic.
The bottom line:
Semantic search is an interesting development in the world of blogging. It is better that you align all your SEO strategies with semantic search to produce better results, and a fast, content rich website. Rank better by adopting semantic SEO strategies.
Photo Credit: Semantic SEO Solutions, Blurbpoint, Prestashop, Smart insights