Semantic Search and its Impact on SEO

Keyword-based search engine optimization, as traditionally practised, is dead as we witness the rise of long-tail keywords and semantic web technologies. These are now intrinsic to almost every operation performed by the major search engines including Google and Bing. As a result, if you are a search engine marketer and you are serious about maximizing the visibility of your website in the SERPs, you need to have a sound knowledge of how the semantic web works and the incorporated technologies.


But do not take this to mean that keywords are no longer relevant to SEO in 2015. After all, the search engines do require some text to make sense of what it is your company actually does. But what they take great pains to understand (and subsequently store) are other information including places and concepts that ultimately gives the pages on a website their meaning.

In short, semantic search is this creepy functionality within Google and adopted by a few other search engines whereby the engines derive meaning from the words on your website rather than focusing on the words themselves. This was introduced as part of the Hummingbird update released in the summer of 2013.

The Value of Semantic Search

Search begins when words are typed into a search box. This makes ranking for the right keywords one of the most important activities in search marketing. But most people don’t search with one keyword. For example, someone is very unlikely to type “laptop” in Google’s search bar. They would type additional words to give additional clues. For example, they could be looking to:

  1. Buy a new laptop
  2. Buy a used laptop
  3. Have a laptop repaired
  4. Upgrade a laptop
  5. Buy laptop accessories
  6. Or do research for a paper due at school about the evolution of laptops

In turn, the search engines explore the semantics of those additional words and understand the meaning behind them to guess what the user might really be looking for. This has an application in SEO because by incorporating semantic technologies in your SEO campaigns, you can help Google deliver your website pages as the best results possible to user queries. This means you have to determine the right keywords based upon user intent and then create content based on those terms.

Semantic keyword research has many advantages:

  1. Semantic keywords inform high-converting blog posts.
  2. It can improve your click-through rate when the elements of your conversion funnel are aligned semantically, including your landing pages and emails.
  3. It can improve your quality score, which in turn leads to better rankings.

Some Tools You Can Use for Semantic Keyword Research

1. Google’s Advanced Search

Google’s advanced search results is a quick and effective way to generate semantic keywords. Using the example above, say you’re an online laptop store and you are currently having a 30% off promotion. To find keywords that visitors actually type into the search engines, type “laptop discount codes” in Google’s search bar. Scroll to the bottom, and ignore everything in between; at the bottom is a harvest of keywords.

2. Using Bookmarking Tags

Another valuable tool to find out how searchers think about keywords is to consider how users of social bookmarking sites like Delicious use tags. This helps you see how people are viewing the content, giving you an insight into their thought process. Other sites you can use for this purpose include Diigo, Pinterest and Licorize.

3. Using Social Monitoring Tools

Social monitoring tools are designed to track conversations critical to your business and ergo locate leads, buyers and influencers but the same tools can also be used for semantic keyword research to generate lists of semantic keywords around a particular sentiment.

4. Use Free Keyword Research Tools

There are free keyword research tools that you can use to discover insights into what kind of search terms people use online.

5. Consider Trends

And finally, a great keyword research strategy, if you want to stay at the top of search engines, is to find semantic keywords around trending topics. You can do this by checking:

– Google Trends. This is fairly obvious.

– Ice Rocket, a search engine dedicated to blogs.

– Trendrr TV, to keep a tab on what’s hot on TV.

– And TweetVolume, to identify popular keywords and trends on Twitter.

The Three-tiered Approach to Researching Keywords

To account for the fact that keyword optimization is no longer focused on rigid keyword insertion but rather on natural keyword incorporation, recommends the following approach to keyword research.

  1. Identify your core keywords. This includes your focus keyword and a number of synonymous variations.
  1. Identify thematic keywords. This includes conceptually related keywords. For example, if your focus keyword is “Laptops For Sale In Texas”, a thematic term could be “Laptops For Sale In Austin Texas.”
  1. Identify stem keywords. This includes keywords that anticipate information people might demand of a search engine, for example, “find cheap laptops for sale in Texas.”

Managing the data of short-tail and long-tail keywords can be challenging at scale. Read this free guide on following a good SEO strategy and help your rankings and organic traffic boost.

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