Search Engine Optimization 101 – What is Semantic Search

What is Semantic Search?

An Introduction to Semantic Search

At one time, Google search results for any particular query were quite varied, with results for just about every item that was linked to your keyword. For instance, if you input a search query like “Jaguar” without any context, you would be offered results based on the luxury car brand, the wild animal, and anything else that bears that name.

Search Engine Optimization concept on blackboard.

In the modern semantic world, however, the same search query “Jaguar” would give you results purely based on the car brand, if your search history comprised car brands, information about buying a car, and other car related content. Any mentions of the animal in the SERP – Search Engine Results Page – would be nearly zero.

This is what semantic search is about in its simplest form: using details of the searcher’s history to provide the most relevant search results for a particular keyword. Google’s algorithms also consider other users’ search queries from around the same location/time and the most successful results following search query refinements.

It sounds like a simple concept, but it actually requires the algorithms to take into consideration the likely context of the search, rather than simply listing the most optimized content for a specific keyword.

St.Helens, England - January 15th 2012: iPad2 in females hands displaying google search engine page. Google is one of the biggest search engines in the world. iPad2 was launched in March 2011.

Definition of semantic search

Based on the dictionary meaning of the word “semantic”, which is the “essence of something”, “semantic search” is designed to boost the accuracy of a search by trying to grasp the intentions of the user through concept matching and synonyms.

Semantic search seeks to provide the most interactive search results possible by taking structured and unstructured data and transforming it into an intuitive and responsive database. This process improves the understanding of searcher intent, providing more personalized results.

The evolution of search engine results and their relevance

Since the early days of Google, the search engine has been trying to link search results with natural conversations by creating machine learning algorithms that deliver results based on what is in the user’s mind. Semantic search involves the use of these algorithms to determine what ranks first in the SERP for each search query.

There are many reasons why Google would aim for a more connected world: less spam, more data, greater understanding of user intent, and conversational search (the use of natural language). Ultimately, Google is able to deliver the best possible search experience.

Benefits of Semantic Search

Semantic search is beneficial to the Google search engine in various ways, including:

  • The ability to identify and disqualify lower-quality content: The use of advanced search systems such as latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA), latent semantic indexing (LSI), and term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) weighting schemes help to identify spam content – keyword stuffing and article spinning – and filter it from search results.
  • The ability to better understand the information that users are looking for: For instance, in a search for “the dancer in the chandelier video”, Google seeks to understand the entities and assess the data behind the search habits of millions of people with the same search query. This improves the ability of the search engine to identify the information you want and display it preferably at the top of the SERP.

The fact that Google can apply algorithms that connect keywords to a specific entity and respond with an accurate answer makes the search engine beneficial to its users.

Big Data related concepts in word tag cloud isolated on black background

Implications on SEO

SEO experts need to integrate semantic search signals in their content to achieve optimal rankings for a specific entity. You need to think about the likely topics and keywords that a user would think about when looking for a brand/product/service you are offering. You need to:

  1. Provide valuable content

With Google looking into providing conversational types of results that revolve around the user’s latest interests, the search engine is likely to return results of websites that it deems offer the most value. You need to match your content with the right keywords that identify you as an industry expert.

  1. Develop content that addresses customer concerns

Creating targeted content that addresses common concerns in your industry, utilizes mixed media (graphics, images, and videos), and is useful to your audience will allow you to build semantic authority with regard to Google’s algorithms. Try using question/answer type of content.

  1. Create user-friendly content

Your content language should appear natural, sensible, and answer-based. Make your content easy to understand, using lists, numbers, etc.

  1. Make your content attractive to bots

Use structured data markup to annotate your web content, as a way to improve clarity and emphasize your authority in the industry. This information will make users more likely to click on your link in SERP if they believe that you have the information they need, and Google algorithms notice this.

  1. Use internal links

Use links to direct users to other pages on your website where they can get more information, and reference key pages in your site’s HTML and XML sitemap.

Final note

Semantic search adds value to search engines by answering user questions, reducing spam, and providing more personalized results in a conversational manner. As a webmaster, your content needs to provide more value to users for it to picked up by search engines. This can be achieved by implementing structured data and integrating related content for your target topics to establish yourself as an industry leader.

If you are paying for SEO, ask yourself “Do I know what I’m paying for?” and if you can’t answer that, give us a call at 818-990-9843 or request your free consultation.

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