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Understanding Semantic SEO

Understanding Semantic SEO

A guide to Semantic SEO and why it might just be the most important part of your search marketing strategy

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When it comes to search marketing we all know just how important it is to adhere to ethical strategies and that failure to work with search engines and comply with their rules can result in huge drops – both in terms of performance and visibility. Sticking to what the industry deems as ‘white hat’ SEO and to the best practices they recommend is vital if you are to succeed

Another factor that plays an important role in the success of any search marketing strategy is to evolve with the industry. Google, for example, is constantly changing the way it operates and the way in which it boosts or penalises websites. It is regularly making updates to its algorithm and for this reason it is imperative that businesses keep up to date with not only enhancements in technology but with trends within the industry.

With this in mind we have put together this eBook to look at one of the most important topics in search marketing and one of the factors that could increase performance in a rapidly evolving marketplace – semantic SEO.

What is semantic SEO?

Semantic SEO relates to the method of returning search queries that are highly relevant to the user regardless of whether or not the actual search terms are obvious. In essence it returns the best answers to queries when the user might not know the exact term they are looking for.

The practice of semantic SEO means that the search algorithm is smart enough to interpret a searcher’s intent (and potentially also the context of their search) to deliver an answer. It is an important concept especially if you’re creating a long-term strategy because, as we see every day, artificial intelligence and machine learning in search is evolving beyond just keywords.

Websites that have semantic mark-up and which are fully optimised have a far better chance of ranking higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). But what is semantic mark-up? In essence it is the structured data or code which helps search engines to understand information on a web page. Some examples where semantic mark-up may be important include:

  •  contact details
  •  product information
  •  videos
  •  blog posts
  •  reviews
  • events
  • special offers

Your pages not only need to be SEO friendly, but be able to rank based on their content and now more than ever they need to incorporate latent semantic indexing (LSI) so that they can be found and given as results by the search engines.

As well as handy tips and actionable insights, this ebook will cover the following topics:

  • What is semantic SEO?
  • What is latent semantic indexing (LSI)?
  • Is keyword research dead, or do SEOs have to get smarter?
  • Optimising your content
  • Understanding your audience and products
  • Optimising for social media
  • Understanding schema markup

And much more…

So is keyword research dead, or do SEOs have to get smarter?

Since the launch of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update in late 2013, the change in the way content is produced and keyword research is conducted is noticeable and this is largely down to two factors.

  • Improvements in technology mean that there is a rise in mobile and voice search and that we are now using more autofill or recommended search queries.
  • We are becoming more adept at searching how we feel the search engine wants us too. We are removing all of the stop words and our queries have adapted from things like: ‘Photos of Buckingham Palace’, to simply ‘Buckingham Palace’.

We use the latter option not out of laziness but because we know that the search engines have evolved and that Google will show us pictures automatically at the top of search results and that there is also and ‘Images’ tab where the query will be fulfilled.

When Amit Singhal, Google’s search chief, spoke about the update he said that Hummingbird represents the first time since 2001 a Google algorithm has been so dramatically rewritten.

He stated that: “With more complex queries, the algorithm can better understand concepts vs. words as well as relationships between concepts.

“What is different about Hummingbird is that it places more emphasis on intent than on keyword matches.”

Users now write their search queries in a less conversational manner and as such skip many words out of their search. This presents two different requirements of those working in SEO. Firstly they have to decide if they are going to plan and write the content for a site with the main keywords in mind or if they are going to plan and write for a long-tail approach. Getting the balance right is critical and it is for this reason that the more content you can create the better chance you have of ranking for your key terms.

How will a page on your site’s keywords be interpreted when Google crawls it?

By taking a holistic approach and breaking your keywords into three tiers, a well-rounded list that accounts for variations in user intent can be presented to the search engines.

  • Level 1 – Core Keywords: This list is comprised of keywords closely related to your initial target keywords. They should be variations of your targets close enough in meaning so Google can consider your site if any one of the core keywords are searched.
  • Level 2 – Thematic Keywords: Whereas the keywords in List 1 are somewhat synonymous with one another, thematic keywords are further removed from your initial targets, yet are conceptually related. If your target keyword for a page is ‘London property’, a list of thematic terms like ‘London flats’ can help you potentially rank for the query, ‘low rent London flats’.
  • Level 3 – Stem Keywords: Your third level should include keywords that answer users’ questions. These keywords anticipate the information users need after they have found your page, and should be integrated into the content to naturally provide answers. Once a user has found your page by searching ‘low rent flat London’, it is likely they are seeking information on ‘finding flats which are low to rent in London’ or ‘renting affordable flats in London’. Your Level 3 Keywords may be some variation of ‘rent London flats’ or ‘London flat finder’.

When it comes to the idea that keyword strategy is dead or that it is a lesser focus there are many that have had their say on the matter. The latest report from Search Engine Journal, says: “RankBrain forever changed the way businesses optimise their website’s content for search engines.

“Ideally, they will need to learn how to read their targeted audience’s minds. But in real life, they will also need to optimise their website for latent semantic indexing.  LSI keywords and contextual clues are vital instead of standalone keywords.

“The more their search results are clicked through, the more chances search engines will count it as the most relevant for searchers. In this case, understanding their structured data is the surefire path to driving more potential readers.”

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