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Improve Your SEO with Semantic Search
If you want more leads and sales from the Internet, you most likely understand the importance of getting your website ranked high in search engine results. So what does it take to get ranked in Google?
In an effort to improve user experience and reduce web spam, Google changes its search rank algorithm constantly—upwards of 500 times a year. In the past, it was easy to pick a high traffic keyword you wanted your website to rank for, like “AC repair in Maryland,” and write content targeting that keyword. That’s because Google previously matched keywords within a query to keywords on a web page. The more keywords that matched the query, the more relevant Google assumed the page to be.
As you can imagine, this lead to a lot of poorly written and “spammy” content stuffed to the brim with these keywords—causing poor user experience amongst its users. So Google decided to switch things up again with semantic search.
What Is Semantic Search?
In September 2013, Google announced one of the biggest chances to its search engine—a complete rewriting of its search algorithm to handle longer, more complex queries. Given the whimsical name “Google Hummingbird,” the update seeks to understand the intent behind search queries—not just the vocabulary.
My coworker Nick offers a great example of this:
“The way search worked before, for the most part, was as follows: a user typed in “What’s the best furnace replacement company Kansas City” and the algorithm crawled the web for trustworthy sites that contained phrases matching “best” “furnace” “replacement” “Kansas City.”
“The problem with this is that Google only knows what the search says – it doesn’t know what it means. As a result, it was easy for things like technical manuals and manufacturer sites to rank when people wanted the number of a local HVAC company.
“The new algorithm changes all of that. Now when you type in “What’s the best furnace replacement company Kansas City,” Google assumes you’re talking about a service company – goodbye technical manuals and manufacturer pages. It may also know the location of your home (if you’ve provided it), and can use that information to show you companies closest to you.”
Using Semantic Markup
One of the best ways to take advantage of Google’s shift to semantic search is through the use of appropriate semantic markup on your website. Also known as structured data and microdata, semantic markup helps search engines like Google understand what your page is about through a hierarchy of schema types and properties (also known as “entities”) such as:
- And more
You can view a full list of the schema types at schema.org.
The Benefits of Using Semantic Markup
It’s very possible that using semantic markup can help your site rank better by giving search engines a better idea of what type of content is on your page (remember—Google is trying to focus on searcher intent, so this is important!).
In addition, when you use semantic markup on your website, it creates a better “rich snippet” in the search results and could improve your click-thru-rate (CTR). A rich snippet is the first few lines of text under your search listing. According to Google,
“If Google understands the content on your pages, we can create rich snippets—detailed information intended to help users with specific queries. For example, the snippet for a restaurant might show the average review and price range; the snippet for a recipe page might show the total preparation time, a photo, and the recipe’s review rating; and the snippet for a music album could list songs along with a link to play each song. These rich snippets help users recognize when your site is relevant to their search, and may result in more clicks to your pages.”
In addition, Search Engine Land reported that using structured markup helped increase CTR by 30 percent. Hey, I’d take that!
Adding Semantic Markup to Your Website
And now for the hard part—figuring out how to add semantic markup to your website. The bad news is, you’re late to the game. The good news is, there are now a lot of tools available that allow you to more easily markup your website with structured data.
If your site is on WordPress, it’s as simple as installing a structured data plugin. Well. As simple as installing a plugin and then filling out a bunch of entities. Google also offers a structured data markup helper tool if your site happens to be on a different CMS. Once you’ve marked up your data, Google also recommends using its structured data testing tool to see what information it can extract from your marked-up pages.
“The Future of Search”
SEO nerds everywhere are calling semantic search “the future of search.” I recommend you get on board or prepare to lose business to your competitors.
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