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How to Leverage Semantic SEO for Better Search Rankings

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of semantics is “the study of meanings in a language.” Semantics goes deeper than literal definitions of words — it dives into what is actually meant by using them, like when people say one thing, but context tells you they mean another.

This definition can also inform semantics with search engine optimization (SEO). In this article, we’ll walk through:

Let’s dive in!

What is semantic SEO?

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What is semantic SEO?

Semantic SEO takes the meaning of a search into consideration, contemplating the context behind the search and the relationship between the words. With semantic SEO, Google favors topic-centered content rather than keyword-centered content.

To be semantic SEO-friendly, you’ve got to create content for the user, rather than the search engine. 

Semantic SEO and the Google algorithm: What’s the impact?

Google places a lot of emphasis on matching accurate and helpful search results to people’s search queries — a function of its algorithm that dates back to the 2013 introduction of Hummingbird. The goal of most Google algorithm updates is to bridge the gap between human language and computer language.

The combination of people placing more specific searches and Google adapting to those new searches makes semantic SEO so important. Take this possible search “flow” as an example: 

  1. The user types a fully formed question into Google.
  2. Google wants to match the user’s query with relevant and authoritative information. 
  3. Your site uses semantic SEO strategies and thoroughly covers the topic related to the user’s search in their context and language.
  4. Google connects your website and the user’s search, using context and user intent.
  5. Google provides your website near the top of the SERPs as a possible answer to the user’s query. 

TL;DR: Looking at the context behind searches lets Google provide users with the most relevant content. Instead of blindly matching keywords, the search engine checks context and user intent to deliver more specified results.

Semantic SEO: A how-to guide

Now that you know what makes semantic SEO important, it’s time to dive into how you can make it part of your strategy! Here are three best practices to follow:

1. Use keyword clusters

Since semantic SEO involves the context behind a user’s increasingly specific query, it makes sense that one-word keywords won’t cut it. Instead, you can use keyword clusters that revolve around a particular topic. Doing this will also help you avoid keyword stuffing

For example, take the search phrase, “How should I clean paint out of a carpet?” 

If you have a post explaining how to solve this exact problem, but the only keywords you push are “carpet” and “clean carpet,” Google might not make the connection between your page and the user’s search. Consider these keyword clusters instead:

  • Getting paint out of carpet
  • Removing paint stains 
  • Cleaning products for paint stains 
  • How to remove paint stains on carpet

Keyword clusters emphasize the context behind a search. Using them is a solid semantic SEO strategy. You can also look into topic clusters for a more overarching look at your content strategy. 

2. Plan for People Also Asked (PAA) suggestions 

Google introduced the People Also Asked feature in 2015. It serves numerous functions, including guiding users in research, answering their additional questions, and giving them further background information on a topic they need information about. 

People Also Ask section about how to remove paint from carpets

When you craft new content for your website, check out the existing PAAs that pop up when you search your topic. Then, answer them in your post! PAAs are generated from various sources, including previous searches, so by incorporating them into your posts, you answer questions people might type directly into the search bar. 

3. Be comprehensive

A key component to semantic SEO is creating comprehensive content. It will become a lot easier to cover the topic at hand and provide answers to PAA questions when you lengthen your content! Don’t be afraid to make your posts longer in favor of providing a complete picture of the topic. 

Paint removal article on Home Depot's website

If you can, answer your main question near the top of your post before getting more into specifics and nuances. This will encourage users to stay on your site for further research even after finding the answer they need. 

The benefits of semantic SEO

Several factors make developing a semantic SEO strategy effective for businesses. If you’re still not convinced of why you should implement one of the above strategies, check out these benefits: 

  • Higher website engagement: If a user’s question gets answered quickly on your site, the chances are good they’ll stick around on your page to learn more. This leads to more engagement on your website, which boosts SEO and your performance in search results.
  • Shows you as a trustworthy source: Google measures content quality on the E-E-A-T scale — experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Tailoring content for the user helps improve E-E-A-T, which ultimately boosts performance in search results.
  • Helps your content rank higher: Your page will likely rank higher in SERPs when you provide in-depth research on topics and answer user questions, rather than plugging in keywords willy-nilly.
  • Better quality content: Creating more in-depth content about a topic will likely increase its quality — you’ll be able to provide your audience with everything they’re looking for in one spot.

WebFX can help you craft your SEO strategy to inspire more website traffic

SEO is not an easy topic to try and understand by yourself — sometimes, a team of qualified experts is the thing you need to take your business to the next level.

A custom SEO plan from WebFX is your one-stop shop for improving traffic and increasing revenue. Check out our results, or contact us today to receive more information about how our SEO services can help you drive more revenue for your business!

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