Search engines are getting smarter.
So much so, that the artificial intelligence (AI) built into Google and other search giants isn’t only picking up your keywords but also understanding nuance.
The objective of search engines has historically been to serve the most relevant information to users, and with advanced search engine intelligence, search results are becoming more tailored to the user making the query.
So, how does your business maintain a competitive edge and remain in Google’s good graces – and the top of search engine results pages (SERPs)?
Simple. Stop writing for SEO.
Semantic SEO: Where Search Engine Optimization Is Going
Search engines have evolved to not only recognize when you are intentionally writing for search engine optimization rather than writing for the end-user.
Because Google and other search engines are now ranking websites in order of how relevant and valuable they are to the user, web crawlers are now relying on contextual clues rather than keywords or phrases.
How smart, exactly, are search engines? Take, for example, the term “stream.” Based on context, Google will understand whether or not your website is discussing multimedia or a body of water.
Because of this profound understanding of nuance, website content that has been written specifically to appeal to search engines is seeing a sharp decline in rankings, while content that is value-focused and designed to provide the most pertinent information to the user is seeing rankings climb.
Writing for Semantic SEO: A Beginner’s Guide
Search engine algorithm updates mean that marketers and copywriters need to shift from writing content centered around keywords to writing for semantic SEO, which means writing in-depth, value-packed content. Many companies opt to hire a copywriting agency or take a copywriting course to delve deeper into how to effectively write for search engines, but there are ways to get started by following a few basic steps.
So, where to begin?
Let’s break it down:
First: Let’s look at what qualifies as in-depth and how search engines measure value
While there isn’t a set number of words that is considered “in-depth” content, semantic SEO pieces are typically longer than an average blog post and provide comprehensive information on a specific topic. It is not unusual for a piece of content written applying semantic SEO techniques to reach several hundred words or even several thousand words.
In-depth, semantic SEO content involves answering every question your audience could possibly have, before they even ask it, providing them the highest possible value from clicking on your website.
Next: How do you create high-value content?
There is a multitude of SEO tools available online to help you decide what topics to cover when writing semantic SEO content, but one of the easiest (and arguably the most effective) ways to discover what your audience is looking for is right on the front page of Google search results.
Yep, Google actually tells you what people are searching for, and even breaks it down into multiple subtopics.
You can do this in two easy steps:
1. Go to Google and enter a query relating to your keyword or phrase. In the example below, you’ll see that I used “What is semantic SEO?” as my query.
2. Scroll down to where it says “People also ask.”
That’s it! The results listed under “People also ask” are similar searches related to the topic.
To apply this information, answer each one of the questions within your own content. You can use these phrases as H2s within your content for even better optimization.
If you’re still struggling with what phrases to type into Google to find these additional topics, consider frequently asked questions about your product, service or business. The chances are high that if previous customers have asked specific questions, your future customers will have similar questions.
Other Tips for Writing Semantic Content
Write With Authenticity
As mentioned above, semantic content doesn’t revolve around your keywords and phrases as much as it does the quality of your writing and the topics you cover. Instead of placing the focus on keyword saturation, write authentically. When doing so, you will organically use terms surrounding your topic that will signal context to search engines.
Get In Your Audience’s Head
With semantic content, you want to leave no question unanswered, giving your audience the absolute most comprehensive information. Look at your content from a consumer’s point of view. Anticipate what questions they may have next. Elaborate on each topic and subtopic. Pay close attention to how the information flows and where there might be any content gaps.
If you mention something, go into extreme detail within your explanations. Make it so that the reader doesn’t have to click away to conduct another search; if that happens, you’ve lost your lead.
More or less, you want to create a mini “encyclopedia” on your topic. When done correctly, search engines decide that your content is high-value and authoritative, and thus reward you by ranking your content higher.
More Tips for Writing High-Ranking Content
Let’s say that you’ve written the most in-depth, comprehensive, strategic content possible.
If you haven’t structured it in a search-friendly way, you will still be outranked by other sites.
Semantic SEO (and modern SEO in general) are based on user experience (UX).
There are several basic guidelines we as a content marketing agency follow when structuring content in a way that makes search engines happy:
- Pay attention to formatting: Consider the reasons you would click away from a website: huge walls of text or pages that are difficult to read or hard to navigate. Apply the same user experience you want from the content you consume to your own website’s content. Organize your content into headings, subheadings and digestible sections of bulleted or numbered lists, and pay attention to how the information flows.
- Optimize your content for mobile: With half of all internet searches performed via mobile devices, search engines are prioritizing mobile-friendly content. Mobile optimized content involves short, concise paragraphs (2-3 sentences maximum), easily scannable formatting and even the technical and design elements of your website. You can check the mobile-friendliness of your website with Gooogle’s mobile optimization checking tool.
SEO Is Constantly Evolving
With the advancement of technology, search engines are continually updating their algorithms to provide a more efficient, smarter and more convenient experience. Without a doubt, semantic SEO is where the future of search engine optimization is heading.
If you want your business to remain competitive, it is important to adapt.