The word semantic is defined in the dictionary as a branch of linguistics concerned with meaning and association of various words. Often times, when people start arguing back and forth about the meaning of a word or phrase, when you really start splitting hairs and quibbling over the fine details of a word choice, someone will simply say, “Semantics”. This is as akin to saying “Just who in the hell cares what the difference is between red and scarlet?”
That’s because those two words mean practically the same thing, or at least something incredibly similar. You can’t get to scarlet red without first passing through red kind of like you can’t get to a square without first having a rectangle. Not all rectangles are squares and likewise, not all shades of red are scarlet, but using this kind of related word for SEO purposes does help indicate to Google that you are taking a nuanced approach to content rather than repeating the same junk over and over.
That’s alright. Google is a massive algorithm responsible for understanding not just the relevance of keywords but how those keywords relate to each other and in what context.
Here’s an example. Say someone types in best hair straighteners. The number one article 5 or 10 years ago would certainly have had the title “Best hair straighteners” or something similar. However, as Google evolves to understand more than just the actual words we use but their meaning and association, phrases like “top hair straighteners” or “best-selling hair straighteners” might show a ranking boost, especially if these results are coming from a high authority website.
Google is no longer concerned with simply crawling the web for results. They are now concerned with understanding how the flow of information works and what ideas connect to each other on the web.
That means that practicing old school methods of simple, 500 word articles with relevant header tags is putting you behind the rest of the world in SEO. You can’t rely on tactics that are outdated and expect to rank. Semantic SEO is an example of how content is slowly evolving on the web to rank not just what contains a keyword but what contains supporting keywords to an idea in order to provide the best, most thorough content on a particular topic.
A Tale of 2 Articles…
Let’s imagine for a moment that two competing blogs are trying to rank for a car-related keyword. One is a simple, old school style site with basic SEO while the other is practicing semantic SEO strategies by using not just the target keyword but also a wide variety of broadly related keywords. How would those two blog posts look?
Well, the first blog post is short, typically around 500-1,000 words max. It contains the keyword itself several times and a handful of related keywords.
The second blog post is much longer. It has around 2,000 words total and not only contains the keyword itself but a huge host of keywords related to the auto industry like:
These related keywords are called latent semantic indexing keywords or just LSI keywords for short.
The article itself is not trying to rank for any of the above LSI keywords. However, Google can clearly understand based on word associations through indexing billions of pages that these are words related to the auto industry, hence the article itself has much higher weight in terms of relevance. It is providing the visitor with a more whole experience overall, not to mention it’s longer.
The end result is the longer, more thoroughly written article will tend to rank higher. This tends to happen with Google rankings regardless of whether or not the article writer made the header tag and title tags relate exactly to the keyword you were searching for. Surprisingly enough, the older, more flawed SEO article might not rank even though it’s quite obviously optimized for your exact keyword.
What does this mean for search?
It means that searching for a keyword might end up delivering content that is not exactly what you searched for, and oddly enough, this is actually a better model for search. After all, why not get results for the term “Cute cat pics” after you typed in “Adorable kitty pictures” as well? Is there really a significant difference in intent? Why omit huge portions of web data from your results simply because you used a different but essentially identical set of words?
So how do I make this work for my SEO efforts?
You can start by using some good tools for semantic SEO and keyword research:
Niche Laboratory – This is a free tool that quickly generates a variety of LSI keywords for a specific keyword.
UberSuggest – Another free tool, this makes effective use of Google auto-complete features to find you related keywords to a particular core topic.
Keyword Eye – This one has been recommended by Moz, SMX and Search Engine Land as an amazing tool for finding related keywords. You simply type your keyword or competitor in and start viewing a huge map of related terms to add into existing content to make it better for semantic SEO.
Alright, I’ve got the tools. Now What?
Assuming you have the proper tools for identifying LSI keywords and executing an effective content strategy, here are the ingredients to take to take full advantage of this new age SEO method and start ranking your sites better than ever:
Write long pages filled with content.
A page should have a bare minimum of 800 words of content all the way up to 2,000 or 3,000. Sites like http://boostblogtraffic.com only write 1 or 2 blog posts per week but make them at least 2,000 words and have generated a huge subscriber base in just a few years. Model yourself after this and make your content the best and longest in your market. This not only makes your content better, but the more you write, the more you are forced to use LSI keywords. You simply cannot avoid it when writing 3,000 words!
Check top competitors for LSI keywords to see what they are using. Add these into your article throughout the page so they are natural looking and relevant to the topic.
Use long-tail keywords as your main traffic source. The majority of traffic is long-tail on the web, so trying to rank for best cars for 2015 is a lot easier than trying to rank for cars. Keep it in mind. With proper link building, huge amounts of great content and a solid LSI footprint, your content should be unbeatable in the SERPs.
Add in links to relevant websites. This has been true for years, but citing a relevant website in your article, even if it isn’t exactly what you are talking about, has a great benefit both to users and search engine rankings. Just make sure it opens in a new tab and doesn’t contain anything harmful for a visitor.
Try to write content for users first and search engines second. Keep in mind that a search engine is simply a means to acquiring traffic from a real person, not a real person handing you money for that great product or service you are promoting from your blog. That said, don’t forget about the search engines and simply expect visitors to float in on their own.
Complex terms like latent semantic indexing are just fancy ways of saying Google is trying to understand meaning better to deliver better results. Marketers should be aware of the trend and embrace it rather than shying away.
If it’s still a bit confusing, just remember, write long, amazing pages filled with content and related ideas and the LSI keywords will flow naturally. The more and the better your content, the more likely you are to use these related keywords in your article, so follow the above steps and just keep banging out great content!
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