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7 Ways To Use Semantic SEO For Higher Rankings

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7 Ways To Use Semantic SEO For Higher Rankings


Over the years, search engines like Google have utilized semantic analysis to more deeply understand human language and provide users with more relevant search results.

For this reason, a single-keyword approach to SEO is no longer sufficient.

Instead, semantic SEO considers the deep learning and natural language processing algorithms that Google relies on.

Site owners who utilize semantic SEO strategies are more likely to build topical authority in their industry.

They can also more easily outperform competitors for important keywords in their niche.

What Is Semantic SEO?

Semantic SEO is the process of building more meaning and topical depth into web content.

By doing so, you help Google crawlers better understand your content.

You also help them see it as high-quality and thus promote it more often in the SERPs.

Semantic SEO And Google

In the early days of SEO, Google’s ranking algorithm was far less advanced.

Crawlers simply looked for specific keywords on a page to understand meaning and relevance.

But we all know that there is a lot more that goes into understanding human language than simply the words we use.

Context, facial expressions, tone, and the paragraphs before and after our words, all impact their meaning.

This is why Google has strived to take a more human-like and semantic approach to understand and rank web content.

Some of the biggest turning points in this effort include:

  • Knowledge Graph: A large, sophisticated knowledge base used by Google that helps crawlers understand the relationships between particular entities and concepts.
  • kolibri: A 2013 algorithm update that helps Google better understand the meaning and context behind queries, decreasing the emphasis on singular keywords.
  • RankBrain: A 2015 machine learning algorithm that helps Google better interpret search intent and thus provide users with more relevant search results.

With these advancements, Google can look at a piece of content and understand not only the topic it covers, but the related subtopics, terms, and entities and how all of those various concepts interrelate.

How Semantic SEO Improves The Search Experience

Why so much emphasis on semantic SEO?

Well, Google is always trying to make search better for users.

The reality is, searchers aren’t necessarily just looking for one specific answer when using Google; they are often trying to understand a given topic with more depth.

For example, say a user types in the keyword phrase “what are backlinks“?

Most likely, they will have additional questions that arise after finding their answer, such as:

  • How do I get backlinks?
  • Where can I get backlinks?
  • How many backlinks do I need?
  • Can I buy backlinks?
  • What’s the difference between white hat and black hat länkar?
  • And others!

In terms of the search experience, it’s far better for the user to find a single piece of content that answers all of those related questions rather than separate pieces of content for each individual question.

Overall, semantic SEO improves the experience of search for users.

It allows them to get more in-depth information without having to repeatedly return back to the search bar.

Benefits Of Semantic SEO

Although semantic SEO strategies require more time and effort on the part of content teams, the benefits are significant.

  • More keyword rankings in organic search.
  • Improved content quality signals in the eyes of Google crawlers.
  • Stronger brand authority and expertise in the eyes of searchers.
  • Helping Google see your brand as its own entity with expertise in core topics.
  • Passage Ranking or People Also Ask features.
  • More opportunities for internal linking.
  • Keeping users on your website for longer instead of returning to search.

By creating semantically- and topically-rich content, site owners can see significant improvements in their overall SEO performance.

7 Semantic SEO Strategies For Higher Rankings

Semantic SEO encompasses multiple strategies that you may have already heard about or incorporated into your SEO campaigns.

Combined together, they are all centered on improving topical depth and better conveying the meaning of web content.

1. Optimize For Keyword Clusters

Because Google isn’t reliant on just one keyword per page, your content team should be optimizing your web pages for multiple keywords in the same semantic cluster.

Keyword clusters are groups of similar keywords that share semantic relevance.

By optimizing for these keyword groupings, you can improve the total number of keywords your content ranks for and build more meaning into your content.

Here is an example of what keyword clustering looks like in content strategy:

Screenshot from Google Spreadsheets, February 2022

The reality is, Google already ranks our landing pages for multiple keywords anyway.

Keyword clustering is all about leveraging Google’s strong semantic capabilities to improve the total number of keywords our content ranks for.

That means more opportunities for organic clicks.

2. Improve Topical Depth And Length Of Content

The most simple semantic SEO strategy is to increase the length of your web content by offering a more comprehensive exploration of your topic.

Although content length is not an official ranking factor, longer content is more likely to display stronger semantic signals.

Also, several studies have shown the strong correlation between longer content and higher-ranking positions.

bar chart comparing content length and ranking positionImage from sweor.com, February 2022
But simply relying on keyword stuffing or repetition to improve content length is not going to prove effective.

Instead, the best way to increase the length of your web content is to be more specific, nuanced, and in-depth with the information you’re providing users about the primary topic.

3. Include Synonyms, Related Terms, Or LSI Keywords

With Google’s improved algorithms and NLP models, there is no need for users to stuff their content full of their keyword target in order to rank.

Thanks to semantic analysis, Google is smart enough to understand synonyms and related terms.

In the SEO community, these are also referred to as latent semantic indexing (LSI) terms.

Adding these terms to the content, as well as page titles, meta descriptions, h1-h6s, and image alt text can improve topical depth and semantic signals, while also making the content more readable and nuanced for searchers.

4. Answer People Also Ask Questions

Another way to improve the semantic depth of your content is to answer the common questions that users are asking in relation to your primary keyword.

example of people also ask questions in google searchScreenshot from Google, February 2022

According to a recent study of 2.5 million search queries, Google’s “People also ask” feature now shows up for 48.4% of all search queries, and often above position 1.

By answering those questions in your web page content, not only do you improve your semantic signals, you also give your page the opportunity to rank at the top of the SERPs.

Web pages can show up for PAA questions even if their blue link result appears on page 2!

5. Add Structured Data

Although not often thought of as a semantic SEO strategy, strukturerad data is all about directly conveying the meaning of content to Google crawlers.

Structured data makes clear the function, object, or description of the content.

For example, when you use the products schema on a product page, you immediately convey to Google a variety of important details.

That includes information like type, dimensions, color, size, etc.

Paired with other semantically relevant or topically rich content on your web page, the purpose and meaning of your web content is unambiguously clear to search engines.

6. Use Content Optimizer Tools

Content optimizer tools do the hard work of identifying all of the semantically-related terms for you.

They essentially provide the “cheat codes,” to improve topical depth.

content optimizer tool that can help site owners improve semantic seo signalsScreenshot from SearchAtlas, February 2022

An SEO content writer could certainly investigate the content ranking on the first page to identify the important terms.

But content optimization software does the same work in a matter of seconds.

By adding those terms, topics, or questions onto the page, you improve topical depth and thus practice semantic SEO.

7. Build Out Topic Clusters On Your Website

Unlike keyword clusters, topic clusters are focused on more than just a single piece of content.

Ämneskluster are groups of content pieces that are centered around a central topic.

For example, the keyword cluster pictured in strategy #1 is a part of a larger topic cluster focused on länkbygge.

The various articles (each targeting their own keyword cluster) all link back to a primary “pillar page,” that is focused on the larger topic of länkbygge.

example of a topic cluster content strategy outline in spreadsheetsScreenshot from Google Spreadsheets, February 2022

The goal of these topic clusters is threefold:

  • First, improve semantic SEO signals and meaning.
  • Second, improve the total number of keyword rankings.
  • And third, establish this website as an authority in “länkbygge.”

The number of topic clusters on your website will depend on the products or services your brand offers.

Final Thoughts On Semantic SEO

Again, semantic SEO encompasses a variety of strategies and concepts, but it all centers on meaning, language, and search intent.

SEO experts can leverage semantic SEO strategies to highlight the semantic signals that Google algorithms are trained to identify.

By doing so, Google will not only associate your website with a few keywords but several larger topics – and the thousands of keywords and search queries that are related to them.

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Utvald bild: pogonici/Shutterstock





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Vad det betyder för SEO

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What It Means For SEO

Google not only changes how it presents information to users and updates algorithms, but the way users search is also changing.

SEO best practices are changing every year, so it’s best to keep up with what it means to properly optimize a website today.

Signals Of Authenticity And Usefulness

Google has released five Product Review Updates since April 2021.

The associated guidelines that Google published for writing product reviews recommend specific on-page factors that must exist in order for the page to be ranked for product review-related search queries.

This is an extraordinary change in how sites are ranked. Google has redefined what it means for a webpage to be relevant for a search query.

The definition of relevance simply meant that a webpage has to be about what the user was searching for, in this case, product reviews.

Product reviews were commonly thought of as expressing an opinion about a product, comparing the features of the product to the cost, and expressing a judgment if something is worth purchasing or not.

But now, it’s not enough for a webpage to review a product. It must also be authentic and useful. That’s a big change in how sites are ranked.

Here are two product review Google ranking factors introduced in December 2021:

“…we are introducing two new best practices for product reviews, to take effect in a future update.

  • Provide evidence such as visuals, audio, or other länkar of your own experience with the product, to support your expertise and reinforce the authenticity of your review.
  • Consider including länkar to multiple sellers to give the reader the option to purchase from their merchant of choice, if it makes sense for your site.”

Google calls them “best practices” but also says they will “take effect,” which implies that it’s something in the algorithm that is looking for these two qualities.

The first signal is about the authenticity of the product review.

The second signal is specific to sites that don’t sell the reviewed products, and it’s about being useful to site visitors by giving them multiple stores to purchase a product.

Authenticity and usefulness as signals of relevance is a huge shift for SEO.

Search Is Increasingly About Context

Context is the setting in which something is said or done, which provides meaning to those actions or settings.

The context of a search can influence the search results.

What’s happening is that Google is redefining what it means to be relevant by understanding the user context.

When a user searches for [pizza], Google does not show recipes for pizza; it shows local pizza restaurants.

Google defines the meaning of the keyword phrase “pizza” according to the context of the user, which includes the geographic location of that user.

Another context that influences search results is current events, which can change the meaning of a search phrase. This is a part of what is known as the Freshness algorithm.

The Freshness algorithm takes into account time-based factors that can change the meaning of a search phrase, and this influences what websites are shown.

So, those are the contexts of geography and time influencing what it means to be relevant for a search query.

Search Is Increasingly About Topics

As noted in the discussion of the 2013 Hummingbird update, Google is increasingly moving away from keywords and more toward understanding the multiple meanings inherent in search queries.

Google is also redefining relevance through the concept of topics.

When someone searches with the keyword [mustang], the likeliest meaning is the automobile, right?

Screenshot from search for [mustang], Google, October 2022

In the above screenshot, Google lists multiple topics related to the Ford Mustang automobile.

  • Overview.
  • Images.
  • For sale.
  • Price.
  • Performance.
  • Engine.
  • Charging.
  • News.
  • Reviews.
  • Specs.
  • Configurations.

Clicking on any of the above-listed topics results in a different search result.

Some of the top-ranked sites appear on different topics because they are relevant to multiple topics. Something to think about, right?

Screenshot of Ford Mustang Mach-EScreenshot from search for [mustang], Google, October 2022

Back in 2018, Google’s Danny Sullivan tweeted about a way to change the search results by topic, which are the topic buttons we just reviewed above.

Danny twittrade:

“A new dynamic way to quickly change results is coming, such as how you can toggle to quickly change about a dog breeds.

This is powered by the Topic Layer, a way of leveraging how the Knowledge Graph knows about people, places and things into topics.”

Topic LayerScreenshot from Danny Sullivan’s Twitter, October 2022

Google published a blog post about these changes and discussed them in the section titled, Dynamic Organization of Search Results.

In the article, Google explained that it is organizing some searches by topics och subtopics.

“Every search journey is different, and especially if you’re not familiar with the topic, it’s not always clear what your next search should be to help you learn more.

So we’re introducing a new way of dynamically organizing search results that helps you more easily determine what information to explore next.”

Screenshot of Dynamically Organized Search ResultsScreenshot from blog.google, October 2022

People Also Ask (PAA) is a way for Google to help users navigate to the information they’re looking for, particularly when the user searches with a vague keyword phrase, like CBD.

The queries listed in the PAA are topics.

People like to think of them as keyword phrases, but they are more than keywords. They are topics for webpage of content.

Screenshot of People Also AskScreenshot from Google search, October 2022

Clicking the first topic, “Does CBD do anything?” reveals an article on the topic of whether CBD products work.

Clicking the first topic, Screenshot from Google search, October 2022

Some people and tools like to use every single People Also Ask suggestion box as keywords for use in a single comprehensive article.

But what is missed in that approach is that every individual suggestion is a single topic for one article.

Because Google likes to rank precise content, one would have better luck creating content for each topic rather than a giant page of content on multiple topics since a giant page is not particularly precise.

Google’s focus on topics continues.

On September 28, 2022, Google introduced more ways to craft search queries by topic.

Takeaway: Google’s Focus On Topics

Keywords are important because the proper use of the correct keyword phrases will help the content connect with users who use those keywords when searching for answers or information.

Advanced users tend to use more jargon, and less advanced users who have less knowledge will use more general terms.

Given that understanding, it’s important to keep in mind that Google understands the world in terms of topics and not keyword phrases.

When Google looks at a page, it’s understanding the page at the level of, “What’s this page about? What is the topic?”

Content can appear unnatural when the content author focuses on keywords, in my opinion.

This happens is because a keyword-focused article tends to meander as the author tries to stuff the article with the targeted keyword phrases, sometimes repeating.

Keyword-focused content feels unnatural because the author is struggling to create sentences that include the keywords.

A better way to create content, in my opinion, is to focus on topics (as well as usefulness!).

Relevance And Topic Category

For some types of search queries, Google may be ranking sites that belong to a category of sites.

There is a 2015 patent named Re-ranking resources based on categorical quality that describes a way to rank webpages based on whether the category of the content matches the category implied by the search query.

I believe this patent may be related to the August 2018 Google update known as the Medic Update.

It was called the Medic Update because it noticeably affected the category of Hälsa websites.

This patent represents a revolutionary change in how Google determines what is relevant for certain queries and discusses how it will re-rank the search results according to whether a website belongs to a topic category.

Google’s patent first describes two kinds of searches: informational and navigational.

An informational search is one that can be answered by multiple kinds of sites. Google uses examples of queries about football and space travel as the kinds of searches that are informational.

It then notes that navigational queries are when users search using the name of a site, like YouTube.

Then it gets to the point of the patent, which is a type of search query that is relevant to a category of information.

The patent says:

“Sometimes, however, users may have a particular interest in a category of information for which there are a number of well-served resources.”

That’s why the patent is called, “Re-ranking resources based on categorical quality” and in the abstract (the description of the patent) it states, it’s about “re-ranking resources for categorical queries.”

The word “categorical” is used in the sense of something belonging to a category.

A simple description of this patent is that it will rank a search query and then apply a filter to the search results that are based on categories that a search query belongs to. That’s what is meant by the word “re-rank.”

Re-ranking is a process of ranking websites for a search query and then selecting the top results by re-ranking the results based on additional criteria.

The following passage from the patent uses the words “quality condition” and “resources.”

In the context of this patent, the “quality condition” means the quality of being a part of a category.

A “resource” is just a webpage.

It first describes two ranking scenarios. A regular ranking of websites (“search ranking”) and another ranking called a “quality ranking” that ranks pages that belong to a “category.”

Remember, resources mean a webpage, and the quality condition is the quality of belonging to a category.

Here’s the important passage from the patent:

“By re-ranking search results for a proper subset of resources that satisfy a quality condition, the search system provides a set of search results that lists resources that belong to a category according to a quality ranking that differs from a search ranking of a received query.”

Next, it explains the benefit of re-ranking search results based on the “quality with respect to the category.”

“Because the search results are provided according to a ranking that is based, in part, on quality with respect to the category, the search results are more likely to satisfy a user’s informational need when the users issues a query that is categorical for the category.”

Lastly, I call attention to the section titled, Detailed Description, where the patent goes into more detail.

First, it notes that when users don’t know much about a category, they will tend to not use the jargon that is typical for that category and instead use “broader” or more general phrases.

“…when a user knows very little about the category, the queries are more likely to be broader queries.

This is because a user may not have developed an understanding of the category, and may not be aware of the websites and resources that best serve the category.”

Next, the patent says that it will take that general query that is related to a category and match it to sites that fit into that category.

As an example, if someone searches on the topic of pain in the stomach, Google might match that query to the category of medical websites and re-rank the top-ranked search results to only show websites that belong to the medical category of websites.

The patent explains:

“The systems and methods described below re-rank resources for a broad categorical query by their corresponding quality in the category to which the categorical query corresponds.

The set of re-ranked search results are more likely to show the websites and resources that best serve the category.”

To Be Relevant Means To Fit Into A Category

The point of that patent from 2015 is that Google likely changed what it means to be relevant.

For example, for medical queries, Google ranks websites with traditional ranking factors like länkar och innehåll.

But then Google re-ranks those search results by filtering out all the sites that don’t fit into the right category for that search query.

This change was a radical departure for Google in 2018 because it meant that alternative-health sites that used to rank for medical queries stopped ranking for those queries.

Those sites were not a part of the medical category, they were a part of the alternative-health category.

Google said that the 2018 update was not targeting health sites; it was simply more noticeable in that vertical.

That means that this change applies to a wide range of other categories as well.

This means that the meaning of relevance for some queries has changed. It’s not enough to have certain keywords in the content for certain verticals, the content must also fit into the right category, described by the patent as the “quality with respect to the category.”

Precise Search Results And Keywords

Google’s search ranking algorithms have progressively become more precise.

Precision in search results is something that took off in a big way after Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013.

What made search more precise after the Hummingbird update was that Google wasn’t using all the keywords in a search query to match what is on a webpage.

Instead, what was happening is that Google was ignoring some words, particularly in natural language type searches, and focusing on what that query actually means and then using that understanding to match the search query to a webpage.

Precision is something important to think about when considering how to SEO a webpage.

Google engineer (at the time) Matt Cutts förklarade:

“Hummingbird is a rewrite of the core search algorithm.

Just to do a better job of matching the users queries with documents, especially for natural language queries, you know the queries get longer, they have more words in them and sometimes those words matter and sometimes they don’t.”

Cutts is quoted again in the above article expanding on the idea of precision:

“…the idea behind Hummingbird is, if you’re doing a query, it might be a natural language query, and you might include some word that you don’t necessarily need…

…Some of those words don’t matter as much.

And previously, Google used to match just the words in the query.

Now, we’re starting to say which ones are actually more helpful and which ones are more important.”

This was the beginning of Google evolving to understand topics and what users really want.

Most importantly, Google’s focus on precision remains and can be seen in their increasingly sophisticated ranking technologies like Google Lens, where Google can rank webpages based on users searching with images from their cell phones.

For example, one can take a snapshot of a bug that’s on the ground and search with that.

Precision In User Intent

A change in search engines dating to approximately 2012/2013 is Google’s increasing use of user intent in search results.

Google didn’t announce the introduction of user intent into the search results.

And the reporting of a June 2011 Q&A between Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan where Cutts discusses user intent went over the heads of the people reporting it.

I Q&A berättar Cutts om hur Larry Page kom till honom och frågade varför sökresultaten för [varma mango] inte var så bra.

Cutts undrade vad användarens avsikt var med den sökningen och upptäckte några fakta om hur varm mango mognar i en låda.

Jag var där under frågestunden och jag blev imponerad av Googles ambition att integrera användarnas avsikt i sökresultaten.

Men ingen av rapporterna under 2011 förstod hur sökningen [varma mango] passade in i det Cutts pratade om, även om han nämnde frasen "användarens avsikt.

Så det rapporterades bara som en underhållande anekdot om varma mango.

Över 10 år senare pratar alla om användarens avsikt.

Men det finns en ny förståelse av avsikt som går utöver den nuvarande förståelsen av det.

Det är förståelsen att användarens avsikt är mer än bara information, transaktioner, etc.

Dessa kategorier är faktiskt mycket allmänna, och det finns faktiskt ett mer nyanserat sätt att förstå användarens avsikt genom att förstå verben som används i sökfrågor.

Dixon Jones webbplats för innehållsoptimeringsverktyg Inlänkar delar deras revolutionerande sätt att förstå användarens avsikter:

"Verb förändrar sökordsforskning i grunden.

Min bästa praxisrekommendation är att överge begreppet "användaravsikt" som beskrivs som "informativ/navigerande/transaktionell/kommersiell eller lokal avsikt".

Boxing användarens avsikt i endast fyra vaga beskrivningar är inte helt korrekt.

En användares avsikt när de söker är mycket mer nyanserad än att försöka göra en av fyra saker, den är mer specifik.

Användarens avsikt beskrivs mycket bättre genom att analysera verb.

De flesta sökordsforskningsdata fokuserar på ord eller fraser, utan att förstå användarens avsikt, vilket kan leda till grundläggande fel.

Till exempel kan en webbplats om hästar göra sökordsforskning som hittar sökvolymer kring fraser som "Mustang" eller till och med "Hästkraft" som är helt olika ämnen och begrepp, som kanske är relevanta för en webbplatss ämne eller inte.

Här är nyckelpunkten: Ord som genereras genom sökordsforskning är inte specifikt relevanta för det någon söker efter utan ett verb i sökfrågan för att ge sökkontexten.

Verben "rida" och "mustang" tillsammans antyder en helt annan betydelse och publik än verben "driva" och "mustang".

Dessutom är en fras som "köp en Mustang" förmodligen inte relevant för en hästwebbplats eftersom den mest populära avsikten är relaterad till en bil.

Utan annan information om användaren kan du inte veta säkert annat än att göra en gissning baserad på den mest populära avsikten.

Men det är fortfarande bara en gissning.

Google kan mycket väl veta mer om användaren, baserat på deras sökhistorik, men allt du kan göra som en SEO är att vara trogen din webbplats ämne och syfte.

Om du börjar skriva innehåll kring en sökordsfras helt enkelt för att sökvolymerna är höga, är det möjligt för webbplatsen att tappa kontext, snarare än att förbättra sammanhanget.

Att analysera verb i sökordsforskning är en av idéerna som vi har undersökt på InLinks.net.

Att använda NLP-algoritmer kan hjälpa till att rensa bort irrelevanta sökordsförslag när entiteterna och verben i användarfrågorna kontrolleras för närhet till ämnen i ditt eget innehåll."

Sökfrågor har utvecklats

Det är viktigt att notera att Google fortsätter att utveckla vad det innebär att söka. Till en början innebar sökning att skriva in ord på en stationär eller bärbar dator.

Sedan handlade det om att tala dessa frågor i en mobiltelefon.

Nu ändras det till att inkludera sökning med bilder via Google Lens-appen.

Jag ville till exempel ha mer information om en flaska vin i butiken. Jag tog ett foto av det och skickade in det till Google Lens, som gav sökresultat om det vinet.

Det som är anmärkningsvärt med nya sökfrågor är att det är Google som driver utvecklingen genom att skapa nya sätt för användare att söka, som Google Lens.

Den 28 september 2022 meddelade Google nio nya sätt för användare att göra shoppingsökningar.

Den delade:

"Idag vid vårt årliga Search On-evenemang tillkännagav vi nio nya sätt att förändra ditt sätt att shoppa med Google, vilket ger dig en mer uppslukande, informerad och personlig shoppingupplevelse.

Den här upplevelsen drivs av Shopping Graph, vår AI-förbättrade modell som nu förstår mer än 35 miljarder produktlistor – upp från 24 miljarder förra året.”

Och så finns det multi-search, ett nytt sätt att söka:

Varje förändring av hur användare kan söka och hur Google presenterar information är en möjlighet för företag att ta del av de nya sätten att söka och bli upptäckt.

Det gamla sättet med 10 blå linjer ligger länge bakom oss, drivs av förändringar i tekniken.

Det är en ny era för sökning. Är du uppdaterad?

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Utvald bild: Masson/Shutterstock



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