In today’s world filled with technology that responds to our wants and whims within nanoseconds, people demand a lot from search engines. Whether they want the phone number to the bakery down the street or they want to learn how many miles there are between the Earth and the Moon, search engines like Google are go-to hubs. However, the way people search for things is changing, and that’s why you need to focus on semantic search.
What in the World is Semantic Search?
To put it as simply as possible, semantic search is a process by which search engines (namely Google) try to understand the contextual meaning of a word or short string of words entered into a search bar. In short, it is hoped that semantic search will improve the accuracy of searches by utilizing information such as previous searches, location, and device as “hints”. This makes searching for information a better experience for everyone, and when you learn how to utilize it for your business, you can improve your overall results.
To better understand semantic search and how it works, let’s consider an example. If you type the very broad word “Cobra” into the Google search bar, your results may vary. For instance, if you have been shopping for a new car or ordering car parts online, you may see pictures of Mustang Cobras, local Cobra dealerships, and more on the page. Conversely, if you have not shopped for automobiles or parts, you might see images of the serpent cobras on your screen if you regularly search for animal-related news, or you may even be directed to articles about Cobra health insurance. This is semantic search in action. Google attempts to take your personal search history and apply it contextually to your new searches.
What Searchers Say vs. What They Mean
Overall, the goal is to make Google intuitive in a sense; to allow it to essentially make an educated guess about what a searcher wants when he or she types in some random word like “Cobra”. Your goal, then, as a business owner, is to use semantic search to your advantage. To do this, you need to make sure that you utilize your keywords in such a way that Google can determine their contextual meaning. Using the aforementioned example, if you are a Mustang Cobra dealer, then you will need to include key phrases throughout your content that separate your Cobra from any other kind of cobra. For example, you would use “Mustang Cobra”, “Cobra Shelby”, “Cobra 427”, and others.
Factors Considered by Google
When someone types a very broad term into the Google search field, the site utilizes many different types of information to attempt to determine the context of that word. All of the following are taken into account:
- The person’s previous search history (the more recent, the more relevant);
- The person’s location since results may be more appropriate or relevant in some locations than in others;
- Total global search history, because if people around the world are searching for related keywords with increased frequency at the same time, then it likely links to the same search or event;
- The spelling and variants of words used in the query; and
- Linked domains, distance between co-occurring terms, and more.
Why Understanding Semantic Search Is Important for Successful SEO Campaigns
Simply put, you need to understand semantic search in order to make sure that Google applies the right context to the terms in your content. Remember that search engines like Google are becoming ever more intuitive, and they can effectively “learn” how to present content to people who search for it. If you want to be on the front page of the search results, then your content needs to not only be relevant in terms of keywords, but it must also be relevant in terms of context. You need to teach Google that your article about Cobras is about Mustangs; it is about the automobiles manufactured by Ford, and not snakes or health insurance.
Implementing Context into Your Content
The good news is that semantic search often does not require a lot of tweaking on your part. All you have to do is write your content in such a way that the context is plain and clear. Think of co-occurring words that you would normally see alongside your main keyword and include them in your text as close to the main keyword as possible. This way, when someone types in Cobra 427, they are much more likely to see your website than a reptile salesman at 427 Locust Street.
The good news is that semantic search is not hard to understand. All you really need to do is understand other websites and industries that might share some of your most common keywords, then optimize your content with co-occurring words that help to make its context very clear.