Google is increasingly refining its algorithms based on semantics, in an attempt to further eliminate the manipulation of keywords. While there is no doubt that keywords will remain the primary search topic identifiers, the last 12 months have seen dramatic changes in how the search engines assess website content.
What Is Semantics?
Language semantics is the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. At its simplest, it is the process of understanding the actual meaning of words by looking at the context in which they appear. For example, the context will usually be able to tell you whether, when using the word ‘mustang’ you are talking about a motor vehicle or a horse.
Good content writers will naturally use semantics when they are creating content in the ‘voice’ of their audience – and this might include slang, technical terminology or medical language.
What is Semantic Search?
Rather than identifying and parsing keywords in dictionary-fashion, semantic search uses artificial intelligence to determine the searcher’s ‘intent’. In the past, when you typed in a query, Google would deliver matches based on the literal meaning of the words entered. In effect it was taking its best guess at understanding what you are looking for.
Semantic search more closely examines the relationship between your keywords and the surrounding text to determine the intended meaning of the keywords (as in the ‘mustang’ example above).
Google’s Move To Semantic Search
Google has been moving down the semantic search path for a few years, not only with the aim of improving the search experience for its users, but to remain competitive with the changing search capabilities of competitors like Facebook and mobile devices. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, suggested that it was the search capability of the Apple iPhone’s voice-activated Siri that has fast-tracked Google’s semantic search activities.
As far back as 2003, Google acquired Applied Semantics, based on CIRCA technology which organizes, understands and extracts knowledge from websites in a way that ‘mimics human thought and enables more effective information retrieval.
In 2008 the search engines were already beginning to emphasize the importance of focusing on natural language when writing online content. But it is only now, after the (often devastating) Google Panda and Penguin updates, that online marketers, and most importantly, SEO companies, are placing renewed importance on quality written content.
Writing For Semantic Search
After years of dwelling on the dark side: paying peanuts for content (any content would do as long as the keywords appeared), spinning it to create even worse material, and using blog networks to distribute it all – online marketers and SEO professionals have been forced to rethink their content strategies. Manipulating keywords so that they ‘fit’ in unrelated context has been easy to do in the past, but that, too, is a practice that, with semantic search, will be worthless.
The thing is, writing content for semantic search is not a new thing; nor does it require any complex systems, strategies, tools, techniques or plugins to make it happen. It is created after researching a topic, understanding the concepts involved, and writing for human readers (not the search engines). In so doing, semantics just happen.
By taking the emphasis away from keyword density (though placement is still important), and focusing instead on delivering real, unique content that is relevant to the topic and the intended audience, your content will bring a virtual smile to the search engines’ dials.
My team and I have always delivered this type of content. The swing to semantic search will have no impact on the premium content that we create for our clients, though it has already been reflected on the increased demand for our content, most notably by returning past clients.
What do you think about the move towards semantic search?