As search engine algorithms evolve, keyword-stuffed articles have become a thing of the past. With the arrival of semantic search, it’s now even more important for marketers to refine their content strategies for today’s sophisticated search engines.
What is Semantic Search?
In terms of search engines, semantics relates to the study of words and their logic. It allows Google and other search engines to identify the intent behind searches to deliver more relevant results, even if search queries don’t contain the exact keywords.
It’s all about context. If a user searches for “Nocturnal Animals,” do they want to know about the film, or creatures that are active at night?
To predict user intent, search engines now factor in the relationship between words in the query, spelling variations, previous searches, the user’s location, and trending topics. The programming also gathers data about click-throughs and bounce rates to improve future query results.
This is why Google developed RankBrain, the artificial intelligence component of its Hummingbird algorithm. This machine learning technology enables the search engine to evaluate search behavior and teach itself how to deliver better results.
Voice-search enabled digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are also changing the search engine landscape. ComScore estimates that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searched.
The Challenge for Content Marketers
Content marketers need to adapt to these changes and learn how to optimize content for Google RankBrian and voice search. Understanding the intent behind users’ search queries is now the key to creating content that gets found online.
Instead of focusing solely on keywords, you need to better understand the real meaning behind the questions users ask. It’s about delivering relevant and natural content that your target audience is looking for.
How to Optimize Content for Semantic Search
If you’re not producing quality content around the topics relevant to your audience, you have no real chance of being viewed as a valuable answer to search queries, and your search rankings will decrease.
So what exactly should you be optimizing for semantic search?
1. Optimize Content for Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
LSI is a system that Google uses to identify keywords that surround the main keywords you use. It makes it easier to understand the context of your content and rank it accordingly, because Google already knows which LSI keywords the highest ranking content uses.
This means that you should perform LSI keyword research to support your main keywords. To do this you can use LSIGraph to find related keywords, or make not of Google’s Related Searches suggestions.
2. Contextual Content
It’s always been Google’s goal to deliver the highest quality content to searchers, so creating high-quality content will automatically help your semantic search rankings.
Try to create well-written content that offers real value to your audience. Deliver more long-form content with competitive long-tail keywords, strong LSI meta tags and descriptions, and use semantic HTML markup to reinforce the context of each web page. Find out more here.
3. Branded Content
Semantic SEO is improved if your brand has a strong online presence. To boost your visibility:
- Make sure all your web pages are mobile friendly.
- Optimize your content for local search queries.
- Include business details or author names in all your content.
- Build relationships with industry influencers.
- Promote your content using social share buttons.
- Create or update your profile on Google My Business.
- Deliver search engine-friendly press releases.
4. Optimize for Google’s Knowledge Graph
Often referred to as “featured snippets” or “rich answers,” the Knowledge Graph uses semantic search to deliver more relevant results. To improve your chances of appearing on a Knowledge Graph:
- List your company on Wikipedia. See how to create your own Wikipedia page here.
- Create business profiles on Google Plus, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
- Add structured data – or schema markup – to your site. It makes it easier for search engines to crawl, organize, and display your content.
5. Optimize for Google’s Featured Snippets
The Featured Snippet (previously known as Answer Box) is powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph and shows up in SERPs so that users get useful information without having to click on a link. To increase your chances of being a feature snippet:
- Create in-depth content that specifically answers questions your target audience are asking.
- Display the question in your content, and provide answers in step-by-step bullet form.
- Add all the relevant HTML markup.
- Answer common questions on your social media channels.
- Add a question and answer section to your website.
Building a strong internal link structure will help to optimize your content for RankBrain. Use descriptive keywords in anchor texts to add context to the topics you’re covering. Find out more about internal linking best practices here.
7. Optimize for Voice Search
Produce content that answers customers’ FAQs before they have to ask. Display your name, address, phone number, email, and opening hours on every web page. Also answer questions about your products and services, and explain your unique selling proposition to potential visitors.
Optimizing your content for semantic search involves various content marketing and SEO strategies. To improve your semantic search results, you need to look at all your online activity, from your website content, keywords, and links, to your social media channels, business listings, and even paid ads. Ask yourself: “What does my audience want to know?” and “How can I make my online content more useful?”
Search engines will only get better at understanding natural language and the meaning behind search queries, so you should start optimizing for semantic search today. If you don’t, your search engine rankings may fall sooner than you think.