Semantic SEO: How and Why

Search engine optimization (SEO) will be at the forefront of digital marketing in 2020, and the one thing you may start to hear more about is a newer format called “semantic SEO.”

Many bloggers, SEO experts, and others have started exploring semantic SEO and what impact it will have on the future of search. It actually goes all the way back to 2015 when a short blog post from Oncrawl caught my attention and then again in 2017 when Search Engine Journal published the first article I saw about the topic. The quick definition of semantic SEO is the optimization for user intent rather than user keyword strings.

For years, the common best practices of SEO were all about how to include a long-tail keyword phrase into well-written content without over-saturating the page. The image below is an old-fashioned look at SEO (just look at those logos!) and the ways to rank well on search engines.

Semantic SEO follows many old-fashioned principles to optimize for search

However, we have started to see a fundamental shift about SEO and what it truly means. I’ve spent a lot of time reading a lot of posts about this shift, and the best one might be this breakdown from Orbit Media back in 2018. You can watch their video below for more detail.

The best part of this video is the fact that they dig into the origin of semantic SEO as not just another Google algorithm update, but the future of artificial intelligence.

Right now, we live in a time where Alexa, Google Home, and other voice-activated machines listen to our commands (and maybe more) as a single statement. We as consumers are weary about their limitations as we often speak to them as if we are ignorant native speakers talking to a foreign tourist. We enunciate every word and try to be as direct as possible. And when we don’t, the machine does not comprehend and we end up flustered.

The Future of Machine Learning

Eventually, the day will come when machines can understand us like a friend or colleague. Think Tony Stark and his relationship with Jarvis in Iron Man.

Tony Stark can speak in any form he wants and Jarvis knows what is happening, whether it be short sentences, sarcasm, or a rushed command when the future of the world is at stake.

Obviously, we are a long way from Jarvis being in our homes, but it might not be too far out as you think. That is where semantic SEO comes back into play. Machines are going to understand us much better in the near future, and our content needs to be prepared for that time. It won’t be a sudden switch like many Google updates you are accustomed to, but it will be gradual over the coming years.

Semantic SEO As We Know It Today

So what does this mean for us today? Well, maybe nothing right now. If you take no action from this post, you won’t see any loss in keyword rankings and your traffic will remain the same. In fact, the best way to get more traffic is to start slowly on the semantics front with a true expert like Neil Patel.

But the fundamentals of semantic SEO are simple:

  • Well-written content in a natural voice
  • Make your content about the user’s intent, not just what they search
  • Think about related questions users may ask and address those as well

If you start integrating those principles into your current SEO strategy, you will being to “future-proof” your content for upcoming Google algorithm updates. Google’s updates simply try to improve their search offerings to customers. They try to better deliver the content users want, not just what they search for in a few words. Thus, semantic SEO will help align your content with Google’s goals.

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