semantic web

What do you need to know about search engine optimization and semantic keywords, also known as LSI, for “latent semantic indexing”? In a nutshell, when creating content, you want to make sure to include keywords related to your main keyword. So, for example, if your page is targeting “car insurance”, it would be helpful to also include “auto insurance” somewhere within the content. Exact keyword matching strategies are becoming less and less effective. LSI also makes it easier to create content around keywords that are difficult to naturally include in content (more on this below).

Semantic Keywords vs Keywords

In traditional SEO, there was a one-to-one correlation between the keywords you targeted and the search query that returned your content. If you targeted “digital marketing professionals,” you’d only get results back for that exact keyword phrase. It meant that targeting specific phrases of high search volume were key to ranking high in the SERPs.

Obviously, this won’t provide the most accurate results for searchers, and it meant that many search results turned up low-quality information that had been specifically written to rank high in searches. To combat this, Google implemented semantic search as part of its mission statement to organize information in order to deliver more relevant and higher-quality information. It turns Google into a better natural language processing engine and it forces search engine marketers to rethink the way we target keywords.

How To Use Semantic Keywords Naturally

First, we should explore how semantic keywords work. Because Google treats a query for two similar long-tail keywords “apartments for rent in Tulsa” and “apartments for lease in Tulsa” as semantically relevant, they return many of the same results, even if the page has not been optimized for both keywords. What this means for you is that you can stop targeting specific long-tail keywords and instead target more natural language keywords.

Why use semantic keywords? It makes it easier to write great content. For example, if your target keyword is “apartments Tulsa,” it’s going to be hard to place that keyword in an article without breaking the readability of the text. If you can intersperse semantic keywords, like “apartments in Tulsa” or “housing in Tulsa,” you’ll still get most of the value of the search query, and your users will likely convert more often as a result.

But, you ask, as SEO practitioners, isn’t our goal to get the MOST value for certain, valuable keywords? If “apartments Tulsa” is a better keyword than “apartments in Tulsa,” due to competition or search traffic, shouldn’t we target the better keyword? The short answer: not always.

Putting aside facts like text readability, we have come to realize that Google has gotten very good at semantic indexing. Your page will probably show up for your term and a bunch of other semantically-related terms, even if you’re not actively targeting them. That’s because the primary factors in ranking are things like your brand strength, your number of inbound links, and your activity in the social media space, not the exact keyword matches you’ve selected. What semantic keyword targeting can do for your brand is create a higher-quality and more readable site, which over time, will likely do more for your actual rankings than keyword stuffing with unintelligible language.

Doing Semantic Keyword Research

Let’s talk about semantic keyword research for a minute. How do you go about finding new semantic keywords that you’re going to use in your content?

Method #1 – The Google “Related Searches” feature. Simply type your keyword into Google and use the “Related Searches” feature on the left sidebar. These are keywords that Google has semantically linked to your search term, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Method #2 – Grab a Thesaurus, like thesaurus.com. Using a thesaurus and your keyword, find all of the related keywords that show up. If you’re searching for apartments, you’ll find keywords like “accommodation” or “rooms for rent.” Don’t forget that your nouns can be turned into verbs as well, like “lease” or “rent.”

Method #3 – Write for humans, not search engines. If you write your articles in natural language, you’ll include lots of semantic keywords without worrying about exact keyword matches.

Method #4 – Get several lists of keywords based on how relevant they are to your original keywords. Label them “Tier 1” for exact matches, “Tier 2” for semantic matches to exact keywords, and even “Tier 3” for semantic matches to semantic keywords. Each of these semantically related keywords can be used to help reach more users and more keyword search terms. Try to include each tier proportionally, with about twice as many level 2 keywords as level 3 keywords, and about twice as many level 1 keywords as level 2 keywords.

Method #5 – Finally, if you’re doing semantic keyword research in bulk, there are a number of services you can use to help find semantic keywords for your terms. We’re a fan of searchlikethis.com, which returns a list of websites that use keywords similar to the keyword you’ve entered. Quintura.com is another great example of a site that helps you find related keywords for your searches.

With Natural Language Search, Location is Crucial

The point of semantic search is to help the person on the other end doing the search find relevant information for their search query. Many times, the best results are local. If a user fails to enter a location for their search, Google’s semantic search will recognize the location where the search is being performed based on either GPS (for mobile devices) or IP Address (for computers). As semantic search grows in popularity (and becomes more crucial to the Google algorithm), including your store location on your website is of paramount importance to receiving high ranking for competitive keywords. If you’re targeting a keyword like “laptop repair in Tulsa” and searches for “laptop repair” from near Tulsa, you’ll have the benefit of higher placement simply as a result of the semantic nature of local search.

Image – © almagami – Fotolia.com

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