Semantic SEO

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Semantic search is about adding structure and meaning to the content. It links the data together so that computers can better understand what we’re saying. Looking at this image from a Google image search, we see that the term Jaguar is put in as a query.

Semantic search aims to help the search engine understand the context of a search. For example, the search engine will try to decide whether to show a vehicle or a South American jungle cat. It may also show both and change the results based on what you click and engage with.


  • Topic-based SEO
  • Content intent optimization
  • LSI keyword targeting
  • Latent semantic indexing strategy

What is Semantic SEO?

Search Engine Journal defines semantic search engine optimization as “the process of building more meaning into the words you use in your content.” The content on our websites is typically mainly for humans. A lot of the content is human-readable only. So, it makes it difficult for a search engine or a crawler to process that information and understand the context. For a very long time, there has been a large gap between what computers can understand and what people can understand. But, over the last few years, several advancements have occurred. As Google has continued to build and expand its knowledge graph, they’re starting to understand things much deeper.

Why Semantic SEO?

Search engines rely on context to interpret search queries accurately and deliver appropriate results. Contexts are formed using various words, phrases, and connections found in knowledge sources like encyclopedias and extensive text databases.

Semantic SEO is a marketing strategy that enhances website visibility by using relevant metadata and content that directly addresses user search queries. This approach involves organizing content into thematic clusters rather than relying solely on keywords.

How Does Semantic Search Impact SEO?

Semantic search has an important impact on SEO, as it involves focusing on user intent, topical relevance, and overall user experience rather than just keyword selection. You can improve your SERP rankings by creating comprehensive content that addresses the searcher’s needs.

Benefits Of Semantic SEO

Semantic SEO takes more time and effort, but the rewards are worth it.

  • Improved keyword rankings in organic search.
  • Improved content quality signals leading to appearances for relevant search queries.
  • Stronger brand authority.
  • Helps search engines see your brand as its own entity with expertise in core topics.
  • More opportunities to earn Passage Ranking or People Also Ask features.
  • More opportunities for internal linking with topic clusters.
  • Keeping users on your website for longer instead of returning to search.

Creating content that is both semantically and topically rich can significantly enhance a website’s SEO performance.

Understanding the Entity

The benefits of the semantic web are helping those crawlers understand the logical links between the queries and what we really understand or expect from that. What it’s looking at is something called an entity and the connection between entities.

An entity is a thing that exists inside of itself. It’s something inside the database that Google can say, okay, a Jaguar is a car, or a Jaguar is a jungle cat. Understanding that entity in the context of the relevant keywords around it will help Google better understand exactly what the user is trying to see and search for. Providing accurate search results is important because a car dealership doesn’t want to earn high search volume or topical authority in the animal rankings.

In the search algorithm today, the crawlers are looking at these terms, breaking them down and understanding them, and then classifying the specific terms as an entity, using the knowledge it has about that to make a connection. Semantic search is not new. It’s been around since about 2013, with the release of Hummingbird, which was Google’s first attempt to return more meaningful answers and begin to understand search intent in the context of a query.

Semantic SEO is about creating relational connections in context. Hummingbird is the base engine behind the search algorithm. However, recent algorithm updates have pushed this context and understanding a little bit further.

Tools for User Intent

The first one was RankBrain, which we all know is a machine learning algorithm. Again, it’s all about understanding context. In 2019, Google released BERT, a natural language processing tool that was the most advanced of its kind. It’s still the most advanced out there right now. It helps understand the word in context. It’s understanding both what’s coming before and after those entities to create a deep understanding.

Then, these tools go out to the linked open web, look at linked open data, and understand what these entities mean. What do these words mean? What is the context of them? It’s pulling in all of this information that has been stored for tens and tens of years and now applying it back to that search query to understand better what the user is looking for. This new approach has radically changed how search engines show results, specifically in the rich features, like the featured snippet, the people also asked box, the knowledge panel, and things of that nature. Those can be influenced very much by a better understanding of the entities on your page from search engines using semantic SEO.

Optimize for People and Machines

Today’s SEOs have to optimize for people and machines. You can’t ignore one or the other. You have to optimize pieces of content around more than a single keyword. The search terms that your target audience is using and create relevant content that engages them and meets their needs. This is why I still focus a lot on empathy, understanding, and the psychological side of our users because we have to understand why they’re searching, what they’re searching for, and what they’re expecting out of the searches.

But then, we must also apply that knowledge to the search engines, understand what they’re looking for, optimize around entities, and create connections with the knowledge graph and linked open data to create that deeper meaning within our content that the machines can understand. We really have to take a look at both of these profiles and personas when we’re approaching SEO today.

Best practices are still in play. Internal link structure and backlinks still play a role. It’s still something that will add value to your site and will show that your site has authority and trustworthiness, and it is still an important factor when it comes to search. Keywords and search intent are essential. We look at the funnel, understanding how people move through the funnel. We have to play a role. We have to do our keyword our topic research, and understand the trends. We need to understand what people seek and how they search for those solutions. We have to have unique, high-quality content. We can’t just create long-form content because it’s long-form and think it will rank. It has to be unique. It has to be of high quality. It has to meet and address the users’ needs and intent.

Gaining Visibility

But if you want to earn visibility today, you have to first understand how machines interpret entities. This means understanding, at least at a base level, how natural language processing works, how the search engines are looking at your entities within your piece of content, what they understand about the relationships between entities, and how they interpret the main focus of your content.

You also need to leverage structured data. We’ve talked about it quite a bit on this channel, and we can structure our content and pages and add those other layers of information so that the machines can better understand the content and context of what we’re trying to say.

Lastly, you need to be able to connect your content with linked open data. Linked open data are massive database resources that Google uses and pulls from within the knowledge graph to better understand things and entities and create connections between entities, helping them understand the context of what you’re saying in your content.

Optimizing Pages for Semantic SEO and Topics

Semantic SEO helps make your content readable by search engines. But, don’t forget you must ensure your content matches user intent and answers their queries around your core topics. You also need to make sure you have the linking structure and the content is organized to contribute to your site’s authority. Using a topic-based search strategy in tandem with semantic SEO will ensure that both machines and humans discover your content. I encourage you to dive deeper into how to optimize pages for semantic SEO here. You may also be interested in learning more about topic-based SEO here.

You’ll need to take time to explore long-tail keywords as well as semantically related terms to ensure the highest content quality. The more keywords your content ranks for, the more possible user queries you have the opportunity to earn.

How Can You Leverage Semantic SEO?

If you want to begin leveraging semantic SEO strategies, check out my course on markup for rich results. This course will help you implement structured data and elements on your site and give you a deeper understanding of how schema markup and the semantic web work so you can apply these things to your website today.

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