How To Crack Semantic Search And Get More Business Leads
Artificial Intelligence is bringing a new world order to the technology we use.
Our future enslaving overlords (yes, that IS inevitable) have already become a force in certain things like, for instance, search engine algorithms.
In fact, AI research and development in SEO heads the pack. And this is where you must look closely at your SEO and content marketing and the power of Semantic Search.
So what exactly is Semantic Search?
Wikipedia’s definition is below:
Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results.
That’s beautifully put. It’s been described as having a Personal Assistant help you find what you’re looking for, by understanding the intent and context behind the questions (or queries) you’re asking.
The PA then hands back more precise answers.
Adapting your content to Semantic Search is a great way to capture more refined business leads.
Having remarkable content that meets (and exceeds) user’s expectations is something that Google and other search engines take notice of.
Google uses a host of sources to provide these answers – search history (both yours and the wider community), the click through rate on certain results, location, time, demographics, many crucial factors play their part.
The list is long because it helps the search engine show nuanced results.
Try it for yourself. Type a general topic into Google – something broad like ‘road trip’.
The results coming back are diverse, covering the most unforgettable road trips across America to the frat boy comedy film called ‘Road Trip’. Even a sub-topic of Road Trip’s star/comedian Tom Green appears.
However, type in ‘road trips Australia’ and the results are refined, bringing up travel sites like a travel blog and Drive Australia.
This is semantic search performing its magic.
Google has over 200 algorithms at work to provide the best search results but with AI its semantic search sensibilities are flexing their muscles more than ever before.
Does that mean keywords, link-building, and optimisation are not as relevant anymore? Hell no. But they are being affected by semantic search.
You must publish content that has awesome value to another human being (your target customer) or it won’t turn up in front of them.
Here are four simple ways to help semantic search attract more of your wanted audience. Let’s check them out:
Pretty darn good (to great) content:
You might think this is a no-brainer.
Countless influencers and authorities motor on about quality content but the reasons are obvious – the momentum it generates pushes everything else forward.
Your blog posts and articles that go out and give value to people in your niche also cater themselves towards semantic search.
According to Neil Patel, Google is assessing what results are relevant to a user’s search query using meaning, intent and context.
If your content hits these markers it has more opportunity to rank higher in those results.
Semantic keyword research is your starting point before you write your content. There’s no point in finding broad, highly competitive keywords positioned at the centre of a popular topic.
The heavyweights in your industry would have already sucked up all of the authority there.
You must take a step to the left and think about the keywords and phrases surrounding that topic.
Neil breaks the list down into core, supporting and stemming keywords.
Each of these subsections of keywords relates to the overall topic but circles wider at each turn.
Take a topic like ‘tax returns Sydney’.
The results are refined and the first four results are three tax accountant websites in the Sydney CBD as well as the Australian Tax Office.
Being highly competitive keywords, only the most authoritative websites are ranking on the first page.
To get there starting from scratch would take a lot of great content, link building and big traffic.
Semantic search gives you a different road to take.
Create a list of primary, secondary and periphery keywords, which include synonyms and long-tail keyword phrases outside the centre.
Take a look at Neil Patel’s post on the steps needed to produce these keyword lists (it’s a terrific how-to post).
Now you’re got your collection of keywords and phrases, you can outline and write your content. Then review and include the most ideal keywords or phrases where you can.
I’d also recommend good long-form content when you can write it. No, I’m not talking about bland and boring waffle that barely scrapes the surface of a topic.
I’m saying that whatever topic or area you write about must dive deep into that space and fish out as much great information as possible.
You need to end up with a post or article that covers all the relevant issues and solutions so that your targeted audience can take away huge chunks of actionable stuff.
The stuff to make their business life better and more successful.
Long-form content also gives opportunities for those long-tail keyword phrases to hook Google’s algorithms.
Long-tail KW phrases can bring more business leads months after the post was published.
Maybe even becoming classic evergreen content in your industry (attracting higher traffic years after).
How long should it be? Each industry can be different, but taking the example of content marketing or copywriting, a post that’s under 1,000 words, even on a moderately competitive topic, is considered thin.
Take any of the big names in content marketing and you’re almost guaranteed their posts are not short, especially in highly trafficked areas.
Growth Marketer, Sujan Patel, has built his reputation on helping companies crack the digital marketing code.
Like Neil Patel (Sujan’s Cousin), the articles he publishes focus on a topic where he’s able to give expert advice and tips on.
And they are not short.
Taking a random post on his blog – How to Validate Demand for Content Before Creating it – and doing a word count clocks the content in at just under 1,500 words.
Is it 1,500 words of waffling bullshit? No, it’s precise and value-stocked content full of insight into content creation.
What to do first–
My suggestion is to check out your competitors’ content.
Firstly, how good is it? Does it help the customer? How much detail and actionable value is contained within the piece? And how long is the content?
If your competition is putting out decent 500 word posts on a particular topic then create a better, more in-depth 1,000 word post on the same topic that serves up better value.
Google is more likely to favour fresh content superseding older articles if it gives out relevant information to your target customer.
Research, outline, write, review and publish. Make one firecracker of a post.
How your customer experiences your content goes a long way to telling Google how much worth it brings.
You can have the most beneficial blog posts on any given topic out there but if it’s difficult to read, and people don’t stick around, then you are not going to rank well.
Intent, meaning and context are key to semantic search, but all fly out the window if your UX is below par.
What to do with User Experience –
When I talk about structure, I’m really saying ease of content scanning.
Your posts must break up their content so your users’ eyes find it easy to scan the information.
Web content is not a physical book. It’s information a person has to take in while being bombarded by tonnes of other data throughout the day.
Don’t make your content structure a maze.
Make it a simple walk with some detours that return to the path without a stumble.
Also, putting in headlines to highlight issues inside your post again helps the reader navigate your article.
Visual content additions, like images or videos, inside the written content, are also good at keeping things interesting. Visual information is always quicker for the human eye to absorb and interpret.
It segments the text into even easier digestible chunks.
An example is Jane Copeland’s blog ‘Coping with Jane’. She uses a host of different visual content additions within each blog post she publishes.
Any of the visual items are there to add something more to the articles, and not just an excuse for window dressing.
Although a technical SEO point, the ability for your content to be mobile responsive and continue to provide that User Experience is an important element of semantic search.
For any small business trying to capture local business leads, this is especially crucial as good local SEO and semantic search can help land your content on someone’s phone when they’re in the area.
Since 80% of internet users own a smartphone and 48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine, it seems a no-brainer that your blog posts and articles be mobile responsive.
There’s a lot of posts out there on making your website mobile responsive, everything from basic WordPress plugins to getting a decent web designer to update your site.
Google, Bing and other search engines favour information having relationships with other online entities.
If the information is connected through threads, they can then deliver more precise results.
Structured Markup gives meaning and context to your content, assisting search engines to understand what your content is about.
Teodora Petkova, a Semantic Web guru and awesome writer, talks about the information being woven together across the internet, where text opens doors to the wider world.
It’s such a great way of describing its power to inform and answer.
Schema Markup doesn’t need major coding skills to apply, but does require some understanding of how to do it.
There are some plugins that do basic schema markup for your website.
Kissmetrics have an easy step-by-step guide to including this schema markup for your content. It discusses Google’s Structure Markup Data Helper and goes through each stage in detail.
Machine learning is now such a part of search engine algorithms, and is constantly evolving.
Even Moz’s Founder Rand Fishkin said,
“That means that if you were to ask a Google engineer in a world where deep learning controls the ranking algorithm, if you were to ask the people who designed the ranking system, “Hey, does it matter if I get more links,” they might be like, “Well, maybe.” But they don’t know, because they don’t know what’s in this algorithm. Only the machine knows, and the machine can’t even really explain it.”
Semantic search fits into the heart of this ever-growing picture.
Making your content adaptable to it opens up opportunities to connect with people you are after.
Semantic Search is about something more for the user. And trying to give something more from your own content.