Semantic Optimization: How to Future-Proof Your Search Rankings

semantic optimization

It’s pretty apparent how Google has done a better job at understanding and interpreting human language. Search engines, in general, are constantly evolving their search algorithms, and semantic search is a significant milestone that turned the SEO industry upside down. 

Nowadays, one can no longer rely on a single high-volume keyword to make it on the first page of search results. Simply put, gaining a competitive ranking on SERPs has become more complex. So how can semantic optimization help in not just boosting your rankings but future proof it? Read on to find out. 

What is Semantic SEO?

Semantic SEO is the process of incorporating additional meaning to the text you use in your content.

It involves optimization that caters to the true intent of your users rather than merely providing answers to their simple inquiries. Also, it requires that you answer the first question and then proceed with the second, third, fourth, and the rest of the questions right away. 

Performing this technique effectively adds depth to your content and increases its value. The primary goal of Google and major search engines is to direct searchers to pages where they’ll find the precise answer to their area of need.

Practicing semantic optimization translates directly to: 

  • Additional opportunities to acquire a wide range of keyword rankings.
  • A legitimate chance to maintain rankings for an extended period. 

It’s also important to note that a particular keyword ranking may not be sustainable long-term, but traffic can be. Since Google’s algorithm can pinpoint what searchers are looking for when matching results to queries, all you need to do is take note of the information Google freely provides.

You can utilize the data you collect to create and provide high-quality and relevant content.   

Where did Semantic SEO Come From? 

Before, from 2012 to 2021, SEO was based and relied primarily on a single keyword-focused algorithm. Then, significant and catalytic milestones were achieved, including Knowledge Graph, Hummingbird, RankBrain, and BERT, to name a few. 

Knowledge Graph generated a mindmap that Google uses to discover how specific words may be linked. Hummingbird allowed Google to see the meaning of a search query in its entirety rather than just a list of keywords. It was also able to interpret the main topic of a webpage, which is why keyword stuffing, a black-hat SEO strategy, has become ineffective until it fell out of favor entirely.

With a focus on better understanding users’ search intent, the context of these search terminologies is also evaluated against existing search histories, taking into account their significance within local and global criteria to gain further context.

For instance, if you enter corona into Google’s search bar right now, chances are, Google predicts that you are more interested in the COVID-19 situation in your city than in the beer. The first results you’ll see will be related to it. Semantic SEO is a significant advancement in the field of Google contextualization.

How to Create Content Using Semantic SEO? 

Semantic SEO involves determining the reason behind why a particular user is searching for specific content and strategically incorporating that meaning into your content piece.

Using the hints Google provides in the SERPs, you can figure out and utilize these elements as building blocks to come up with relevant and informative content.

In essence, you need to anticipate the other questions that may arise once users have their initial query answered. Ask yourself, “what other questions will develop from this knowledge?’ Also, how will I be able to answer the new queries in one post?

Since the search algorithm also predicts the following questions, thinking like a search engine will enable you to understand what you need to do exactly. 

The underlying meaning of inquiries will help position your site to navigate the volatility of organic search trends better. You may refer to Google’s “related to search” and “people also ask” sections. Both are potential goldmines for this.

Tips for Semantic SEO Optimization

While fundamental SEO strategies, such as picking a target keyphrase and placing it in your blog title, body text, and header, are still effective, specific algorithm updates made SEO more complex and much more interesting. Discovering the underlying meaning of why searchers look for particular content is more important than ever. Here is where optimizing for semantic SEO comes in. 

The following are some of the tips you can use to shore up your semantic SEO optimization efforts: 

Target a Broader Topic, Rather than a Specific Keyphrase

Google is now a full-blown semantic search engine, which means it connects its users to answers. Not just the letters and words you typed into that little box, but to pages that contain the meaning you’re searching for.

To adapt to this megatrend, you must target a broader topic rather than a specific phrase. In your writing, use related phrases to cover subtopics that are semantically linked to the main topic of your post.

The following are some of the ways to find those semantically-linked phrases deep into Google’s vault. 

  • Simply key in your primary target keyphrase into Google. It will then start suggesting search terms. More will appear as you slowly enter each letter. Type in another letter as if you’re entering a new word. You may also start your phrase with a question word. You’ll soon discover a variety of words related to your topic.
  • You can discover even more related phrases by using competitive analysis tools. Search for your primary target keyphrase once more. Take a look at the top-ranking page for your search term. That page most likely ranks for a good number of related phrases. Put the top-ranked site into a rank checking tool, such as SEMrush or Ahrefs to get a list of all the search terms for which that page ranks. 

They should get you a great list of phrases and subtopics semantically related to the article you’re about to write.

  • Finally, you can use KeywordTool.io. It’s a quick and easy way to find related keyphrases. It recommends phrases that Google will suggest as if you entered the next letter of the alphabet 26 times. Scan through and add some of these to your list.

You may also scroll to the bottom of the search results and check out the phrases related to your meaning in the “search related to [your target keyphrase]” section.

Once you start your write-up, simply include these phrases and concepts into the content. Make sure to incorporate them into the writing as naturally as possible. Once you use a phrase, cross it off your list.

Google provides answers to queries. It’s one of the primary reasons why people use it in the first place. A fantastic way to adapt your content to the future of search is to uncover relevant questions to your topic and provide answers to them in your content.

Although it appears to be a simple strategy, many content marketers overlook it. That’s why you need to keep your eyes open, as these questions are everywhere. While searching for the related phrases in step one, for instance, you should’ve noticed this: 

Once you’ve identified the most pertinent questions, make sure to address them in your write-up. These questions make excellent subheads, and users may find their corresponding answers in the paragraphs below. 

Nowadays, millions of searches are made without input devices, particularly a keyboard. People are now performing these searches on their phones, smart speakers, and the like. As a result, the voice-based queries tend to be questions, longer, and use natural language phrases.  

It’s critical to ensure your content is optimized to adapt to this trend by using complete sentences that contain the entire meaning of both questions and answers. 

For example, when you’re on your desktop, you might type “make pudding cake” or “pudding cake recipe.” With voice search, you might ask, “How do I make pudding cake at home?” 

It’s best that you write sentences containing the complete meaning and will stand on their own. This way, you’ll come up with an answer that isn’t lacking in semantic meanings. The idea is to write as if you’re posting an entry on a dictionary. 

This specific technique of writing for semantic SEO is also helpful for traditional SEO. It can also lend you a hand in winning the coveted “featured snippet” displayed at the top of most Google search result pages. Having your content appear here effectively positions it at ranking 0, above all the others.

Pages that provide complete answers and include those full sentences are more likely to be highlighted on featured snippets. 

Important: Featured snippets are always obtained from pages found on the first page of SERPs.  So don’t expect your page to get selected if your content doesn’t rank well.

These featured snippets are what powers Google voice search. Therefore, it’s a significant aspect of semantic relevance. Once you make it to page one, Google will rely primarily on how well your content matches the question. 

Tuning up your on-page content, including the title tag to match specific questions better, is an important step in adapting your writing for voice search and featured snippets. 

Key Takeaway

While the concept behind semantic search and semantic optimization may be complex, you don’t need to be a computer scientist to adapt your content nor have a thorough understanding of “latent semantic indexing” or the like. You “only” need to become better versed with the process of making better content. 

If you manage to put together a page that provides the best answer to a particular question, you’ll find that search engines will do everything they can to help you. It also helps to provide a solution that offers the most comprehensive set of instructions.

On the other hand, if the content you published is clearly lacking, you’re just attempting to trick a robot. The truth is, you’re making a futile attempt at utilizing links and keywords to achieve something you don’t deserve.

There’s always a legit opportunity to cover a topic thoroughly to rank well as an expert article addressing a specific niche or topic of interest. By coming up with a semantically sound piece, your content will likely be featured in Position 0 as an informational snippet.

Now that Google has caught up with most hacks like keyword stuffing, you should focus on writing more relevant and informative content instead. 

About the Author

Sherwin has been in the customer service industry since 2011 before landing his first job as a content writer three years ago. In 2016, he decided to pursue Psychology as a second degree. In between social experiments and case studies, he continued to fuel his passion for writing by serving as the chief editor of their university publication for three years.

At present, he’s a full-time writer for Reach Digital, writing mainly about SEO and online marketing topics, and has been a part of the company’s pool of writers since October 2020.

When he’s not traversing the alleyways of digital marketing, you’ll most likely find him backpacking as he tries to find inspiration for his next book.