July 14, 2017

Semantic SEO: 4 Things You Need to Know to Boost User Experience

What is Semantic SEO?

We often joke here in the studio by throwing out the phrase, “Google knows all.” While we often say it as a joke, as algorithms become more advanced, Google truly understands more than ever before.

Semantic Search vs. Semantic SEO

Before we dive into semantic SEO, it’s important first to understand the different phrases used with this topic. Often, digital markers use semantic SEO and semantic search interchangeably, which is a misconception.

Semantic Search

Semantic search is simply when the search engine answers a question or phrase without populating results that match that exact question or phrase. This term often refers to how search engines crawl, index, and rank results that provide searchers with meaningful and informative information.

For example, if I search “Pirates,” the first page of Google is full of articles with completely different meanings. On the first page alone, I have the information about the Pittsburgh Pirates, articles about the Pirates and how they killed the Cubs over the weekend (sorry Chicago!), information about the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, as well as fun facts about pirates themselves. Google pulls together many different pages with completely different meanings and titles because it’s what Google thinks I am looking for based on my generic search for pirates. This is known as the semantic search results.

Semantic SEO

Semantic SEO refers to the strategy and techniques to rank for questions or phrases without using that exact phrase over and over.

It’s important to note that SEO isn’t what it used to be. It’s not just about using your exact match keyword multiple times and having a great H1, title tag, and meta description. Semantic SEO strategies go deeper. Optimizing your website for semantic search also includes improving the user experience to maximize the way your users interact with your site.

4 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Semantic Search

1. Define Your Searcher’s Intent

With every article you publish, you should first think of what the user is looking to gather with the information you are providing.

There are often three types of search intent to optimize content for:

  1. Navigational Search: These searchers are navigating through your site to get to a particular page with crucial information. This is why linking and your sitemap is crucial for navigating your site. For example, maybe you came to the PHOS website to find the clients we have worked with. Instantly, you would go to our work page.
  2. Informational Search: These searchers are searching for specific questions and scoping out key information. This is why many industry leaders have blogs or articles–to fuel searchers with knowledge and information.
  3. Transactional Search: These searchers are looking to complete a transaction. Keep in mind a transaction isn’t always a purchase. This can also be a newsletter signup, a download, or even getting a user to come into your store. For many, this is a contact or get directions page.

So, why is this important? By knowing WHY the searcher is visiting your site or landing page, you can then optimize the content around their intent.

For example, suppose your searcher’s intent is to research what a digital marketing agency does. In that case, you might revolve your content to give your user information about services and why it’s important. On the other hand, if your searcher intends to hire a digital marketing agency, you may have information on how to contact you. These may be two completely different pages with two different purposes for two different search intents. This can help search engines determine when to show your result based on the intent of the page.

2. Bust out the Thesaurus

Semantic search is all about populating results that don’t exactly match your most prominent keywords. For example, if you type in “cooling installation,” you may see a result titled “Air Conditioning Installation.” A best practice to optimize your current content is to use synonyms people may be searching. This will also help you to avoid keyword stuffing by using different, yet similar phrases throughout.

Another way to optimize your content for semantic search is by using companion words. For example, a companion word for SEO could be digital marketing. They aren’t exactly the same thing; however, they fall into the same bucket.

Using synonyms and companion words throughout your article can help search engines understand what other information is useful to someone searching that particular topic.

3. Use Semantic Vocabulary and Structured Data

Semantic vocabulary refers to the way your content and website communicate with Google. One of the most popular ways is through Schema. Schema markup is one form of semantic vocabulary that helps search engines define what is on the page so it can then communicate that information to users.

This structured data can populate in the search results for users to see. These snippets are shown to significantly increase your click-through rate and help your landing page outperform others.

Another good use of semantic vocabulary is through your HTML containers. According to our web developer, Alex Graham, “Instead of using meaningless HTML containers, such as tables or divs, we use new HTML tags such as main, article, and aside. Search engines read these new tags, which can be nested in one another, to tell a deeper story about the content within.”

4. Be Clear and Concise

When our team went to Leadercast in May, Don Miller discussed the importance of clarity and simplicity in communication. His most memorable quote from that day was, “If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

Semantic SEO strategies are clear, concise, and have answers around one topic, not necessarily around one keyword. When writing your next piece of content, ensure you are using your thesaurus to stay clear, concise, and organized. Avoid ranting on multiple topics to get different points across. Instead, be concise. Link to where you want your users to go and be cautious of too many CTA’s.

What Would Your Users Say?

Remember when you were a child, and you would always hear the saying, “What would your mother say?” Fast forward to now when you are now managing a website, and let’s change that saying to, “What would your users say?”

First and foremost, you always want to optimize your content and website for your users. This means having clear content, organized navigations with clear parent and child pages, and unique (yet helpful) information. By taking the 4 tips above, you too can boost your user’s experience and semantic search rankings.

Alexis Fillmer

With a strategic mind and a love for culture and leadership, Alexis spends each day working to get the most out of every idea and person on our team. As an Inbound Marketing Manager, she oversees our incredibly talented group of marketers by empowering them to inspire, lead, and grow our clients.

Outside of PHOS, you can find Alexis taking her dog to the dog park, at the nearest farmer’s market, cruising in her Volkswagen beetle, or trying a new recipe for her and her husband.