Search engine optimization is a constantly evolving field, especially now that Google’s increasingly sophisticated algorithm can consider the intent and context behind a search phrase.
Optimizing for Google in 2019 requires a deep knowledge of semantic search, including what it is and how it works.
This article will give you five techniques to help you create a more intuitive, user-friendly website which Google will want to rank highly. But before that, some context is needed.
What is Semantic Search?
Simply put, a semantic search allows users to communicate with a search engine as if though they were asking questions to a friend.
Imagine, for example, that you were looking for a pizza shop in your town. A traditional query focused on keywords would look something like “pizza shop [name of your town].”
However, a semantic search would be phrased more naturally, as if you were asking somebody in the street, and could look something like “where can I eat pizza?”
A semantic search is one that is done considering meaning.
Unlike lexical searches, where the engine looks for literal matches of the search terms, semantic search allows search engines to decipher the context and meaning behind a search phrase, even if it’s done using natural language.
This change might not seem like much, at first sight, but it represents an enormous improvement in user experience.
How Do You Optimize for Semantic Search?
Content creators who wish to optimize for semantic search should focus on increasing user experience.
Although content and keywords still have some weight, UX is quickly becoming the most important factor that search engines take into consideration when ranking pages.
When optimizing for semantic search, the most important things to consider are to:
1. Create Searchable Entities.
Semantic entities help search engines understand the characteristics and relationships between people, places, and things.
Without them, it would be impossible for search engines to understand natural language.
Google uses Knowledge Graph, a huge database of information about entities’ relationships and characteristics, to understand the way people see the world.
You can ensure your pages get indexed and ranked highly by using structured data to create entities.
Go to schema.org and add the markup most suitable for each entity in your site (places, local businesses, events, video, etc.).
Use Structured Data Markup Helper if you need extra help and test everything’s ok using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Finally, use Knowledge Graph Search API to check whether your entities are already a part of the ontology.
2. Think More about Topics than about Keywords.
Keywords aren’t irrelevant yet. However, semantic search has made topics much more important today.
Semantic search engines use complex Natural Language Processing (NPL) algorithms to understand the user’s intent behind a query and retrieve content which is both highly targeted and useful.
In this way, users benefit by getting direct answers to their questions, often being matched to a single result rather than having to scroll down the page to find the right link.
When optimizing for semantic search, it’s often better to create one long, comprehensive guide on a single topic rather than multiple, shorter entries with the same variation of the broad search term.
Just make sure your page is fully optimized, so it’s both user and search-engine-crawler-friendly.
3. Match Your Content with Your Users’ Search Intent.
Once you have a clear idea of the topics you want to target, and you’ve conducted some good old keyword research, develop your content around your users’ intent. There are three types of user intent:
- Informational: when users are looking to get answers to their questions, but they’re far from buying.
- Navigational: when users have processed enough information and use “go” keywords to search for specific websites or links.
- Transactional: when users are trying to make a purchase.
Anytime you’re shaping your content strategy, consider which type of intent you’re trying to target with your blog pages.
Otherwise, you risk losing rank or even have some of your pages take away valuable traffic from others.
4. Use Topic Clusters to Create Contextually Rich Content
A topic cluster is an SEO strategy which focuses on topics rather than keywords.
By creating a strong pillar page which can cover a topic comprehensively and then building 15-20 mini-topics around it, you’re creating context-rich content and ensuring your page gets a good ranking.
When writing your pillar page, you should strive to make it the definite how-to guide on the topic.
Every word and phrase should add useful information, and all mini-topics should be linked to the pillar page and kept short but sweet.
This guarantees your pillar page has a strong amount of inner links, which is something Google considers very seriously when ranking a page.
5. Focus on Solving an Immediate Need.
The rising use of voice search means that SEOs need to change the tone in their content to one which resembles the way people speak.
This means including words and phrases that people may ask to an assistant or unto a mobile device with a voice search function.
Voice search and semantic search go hand-in-hand because mobile devices allow people to make online searches using natural language.
Optimizing for voice search requires you to solve an immediate need since users will often be multitasking (driving, working, or talking to somebody else) and too busy to think twice about their queries or to read a long article.
So make sure you keep your answers short and to the point while also using structured data to help Google understand the context.
Conclusion of Semantic Search Strategy
Although semantic search is a relatively new development in the world of SEO, it’s importance will only increase in the future.
As search engines move towards intent-based searches, website owners and SEOs will have to adjust their strategies accordingly to create both in-depth content and meaningful context for their targeted queries.
The SEO revolution has only just begun. The good news is that now you know where to start!