Understanding semantic SEO and its benefits

Google’s search engines are continuously adapting, so it’s no wonder SEO practices are trying to keep up with the change. Firstly just as a scanning tool, Google now has a deeper, developed understanding of user intent.

Google has transformed to be able to understand human behaviour and then determines the SERPs based on this factor too. More relevant results can be delivered based on the search query, so a user has a much more positive experience in finding what they’re looking for.

One of the ways in which SEO has developed to fit Google’s adaptations is through ‘Semantic SEO’. But what exactly is this? Look no further as we’re here to take you through Semantic SEO and its benefits.

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What is Semantic SEO?

Semantic SEO is an SEO practice that gives more meaning to web content- adding depth helps Google and search engines understand your content much more deeply, in turn determining whether it fits the needs of the user behind the search.

The word ‘semantics’ is a branch of linguistics that deals with the meanings behind the language. So really, semantic SEO looks at optimising content to be more meaningful and topic-focused. The intent and context behind a user’s search query become central.

What is involved in Semantic SEO?

There are lots of ways that content can be optimised in line with semantic SEO. Covering topics in detail can be achieved by creating more blogs and pages that target sub-topics- this also means you can then internally link semantically to these pages throughout your site.

Organising your information to show how widely you’ve covered a specific topic allows all your user’s needs to be fulfilled when navigating your site.

A process involved in semantic SEO is topic clustering. These are the sub-topic pages that support your pillar page. With cluster pages, you’re able to establish authority around the specific topic.

Another way of implementing semantic SEO is by creating detailed, comprehensive content. If your content goes above and beyond to discuss anything a user may be wondering, then Google will reward you for this.

Keyword research may have slightly different priorities when it comes to semantic SEO. You’re optimising content for meaning, which means topics are the priority here.

While you should begin with usual keyword research, using tools like Ahrefs or Google Keyword Planner, analysing the search intent behind them helps you plan which specific sub-topics to target.

The journey of Google and Semantic SEO

Google’s approaches towards ranking sites in the SERPs have developed a lot over the years, and understanding these changes can help us pinpoint what Google wants from us now. With the introduction of natural language processing (NLP) systems, Google attempts to grasp what users really want in their search by humanising its approach.

Let’s take a look at the steps Google has taken to create an increasingly semantic response to ranking content:

The Knowledge Graph (2012)

Basically a massive database of information, the knowledge graph helped Google go beyond the words typed into the search bar and allowed it to make connections between topics. This was the first step for truly grasping the intent behind a user’s search.

Hummingbird (2013): 

Hummingbird helped look at searches as a whole and the intent behind them as opposed to the importance of individual words. Instead of just matching keywords, it helped match information based on user intent. Hummingbird also helped Google understand natural language.

RankBrain (2015): 

With a similar aim to Hummingbird of understanding natural language, RankBrain used AI to do this. All in all, it still aids Google in its semantic understanding but uses a machine learning algorithm.

BERT (2019): 

BERT took Google’s understanding even further. To do this, it emphasised the importance of smaller words in the search query (like conjunctions) to get a fuller picture of what the user actually wants to know.

MUM (2021)

MUM builds upon the previous algorithms established. Its main function is to handle complex search queries from a user. MUM includes the nuances of a user’s search when providing an accurate, detailed and desired answer.

The benefits of Semantic SEO

The benefits of semantic SEO prove that it’s a worthwhile practice. Here are some of what we think are the key benefits of optimising your content with semantic SEO:

1. Higher ranking

Arguably the biggest and most significant benefit your website is likely to achieve a higher ranking. Google can recognise the topical authority your site holds, placing you above competitors.

A higher ranking gets your site out into the open, and users are more likely to find you as opposed to sites that rank below.

2. Improved user experience

At the heart of your site should be a good user experience. As mentioned above, semantic SEO helps greatly with this.

Users are expecting quick, accurate and detailed responses in the SERPs- if your site is what gives them the answers they need, a user is likely to have had a positive experience with your site.

3. Increases your authority

You need to be seen as an authoritative, trustworthy voice within your industry to allow you to stand out from competitors.

Users should want to hear from you above anyone else, and creating sub-topic pages that are semantically optimised can automatically establish an authorial position for yourself.

4. Increased Click-Through Rate (CTR)

Despite some uncertainty surrounding the question of whether CTR is an SEO ranking factor, an increased click-through rate is still a helpful metric to determine how many users are engaging with your site.

Optimising your site semantically means your content is more likely to appeal to a user to answer their question. The more appealing, the more clicks you’ll receive.

5. Adaptation to Voice Search and NLP

Using semantic SEO means your content is more likely to rank for conversational, long-tail keywords as well as the main keyword you’ve optimised for. Not matching exact keyword strings becomes less of an issue.

Adapting your site for voice search and NLP helps your site rank for a variety of searches, increasing traffic and visibility. Optimising your content semantically keeps it in line with the nuances of human language.

Learn more about SEO

Want to learn more about SEO in general? Take a look at our wide range of blogs written by a team of dedicated experts.

At Embryo, we have a variety of SEO services, from technical to local SEO, which can help your site rank highly in the SERPs. We understand the importance of semantic SEO through our holistic approaches to strategy.

Have a question for us? Feel free to give us a call at 0161 327 2635 or email [email protected].

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