Understanding Semantic Search to Improve Your SEO


“We’re getting into semantics again.”

Best practices for SEO are constantly evolving. To ensure that your content reaches as many users as possible, it is vital to stay on top of the current trends determining how search engines operate. Currently, semantic search is an essential ingredient in that equation.


Semantic search basics

Simply put, semantic search refers to a search engine’s ability to have a deeper understanding of a user’s queries by analyzing and connecting the meaning and relationship between the words and their context. As we’ve all experienced when misunderstood in a conversation, the way we use words matters. Yet although the opening quote by H. R. Halderman finishes, “If we use words, is a very grave danger they will be misinterpreted.”, semantic search isn’t about getting you into trouble with your spouse or partner; it is about enabling search engines to find the best possible pages to display—even if the user’s query wasn’t totally straightforward.

This ability to tap into connections and implicit meanings is a pretty impressive feat for a search engine, and as explained by SEO Hacker, it didn’t happen overnight:

“Through the use of Knowledge graphs, introduced back in 2012, Google has an extensive database of public information and the entities contained inside them such as the people involved, their birthdays, parents, etc. Now, through the knowledge graphs that Google has, they use what’s contained inside it to better understand queries.”

To summarize, Google uses the following to understand a user’s query better:

  • Search Intent
  • Context
  • Relationship and connection between the words

All of these things, coupled with your search history and behavior, affect how Google understands your queries and which results they display.

Here you can find a complete deep dive into the algorithm updates that affect semantic search.


Four tips to use semantic search to your advantage

If you’ve got the basics of semantic search and are ready to put them to work for you, though, here are some tips to help.


Think of your content from a voice search perspective 

Semantic search has come a long way, thanks to the increasing prevalence of voice search. Mobile voice commands are now commonplace, and optimizing for voice search requires a different approach from traditional SEO. With voice search, it is critical to get to the point immediately and privilege a conversational tone in your content. To do this, create content that addresses a common question off the top, and when you delve into more details further on, be sure you’re doing so in words that people actually use on a daily basis.


Think in terms of topics rather than keywords 

Instead of generating content centered primarily around keywords, you should be thinking about broader topics in your niche area that you can provide more insight about.  You want your content to be comprehensive and serve as a functional resource for the user.


Target user intent 

Take a look at the queries that lead people to your website, and outline the broader motivations and topics that inform their intent. For example, try making a list of keywords and breaking them down by user intent areas. Then you can start creating content that directly addresses users’ purpose, instead of creating content around individual keywords or broad topics.


Don’t underestimate the value of technical SEO 

Despite significant advancements, the algorithm still isn’t smart enough to derive meaning or understanding completely on its own. As we’ve detailed here, effective technical SEO is all about ensuring that your website is equipped with all the technical requirements that modern search engines use to determine rankings. It’s a matter of Google and other search engines being able to find, crawl, render and index the pages on your website so that your content can appear in search results.

As semantic search illustrates, SEO has come a long way and is set to continue evolving in new and interesting ways. As it stands, though, you still need to optimize your site and help Google understand your content. Get in touch to speak with one of our experts and discuss how you can leverage semantic search to improve your site’s SEO and boost your organic rankings.

Simply book a free appointment to continue the conversation, and ask us questions about your business.