SEO goes semantic
Tips for the changing landscape of keyword usage
Google has ramped up semantic search in 2017, to the point where personas and journey mapping are critical to a good keyword strategy.
For some time now Google has advocated ‘user first’ as an umbrella term to account for many algorithmic tweaks. Optimising for users and not search engines is about really understanding what your customers are looking for, the vocabulary they’re using, and the kind of questions they’re asking.
Going forward, optimising keywords in isolation from an SEO angle won’t be enough. It all comes back to optimising naturally. The way we do this is to look at the broader customer journey (as well as not over optimising in the first place).
So with the changing landscape of keyword usage, here are my top tips for making sure you are semantic search friendly this year and beyond…
Tip 1: Personas - it’s all about personalisation
Understanding your audience isn’t new, and is something that more traditional offline marketers have been doing for many years. Aligning the language and tone of your site with your audience will allow you the opportunity to invite your prospects to click through, get to know the brand and take a deeper look. First impressions count!
Tip 2: The buying process - be brand visible
Understanding your customers’ buying process (Kotler is a good place to start if you need a model to work with) is a great way to expand your content plan. It allows you to generate the right content, at the right time and, most importantly, in the right place.
If you know the questions that people are asking, understanding whether they are at information or evaluation stage will help with surfacing the next piece of content they are likely to want. This also means that throughout the buying process (from initial searches to detailed product searches) your content is visible. From a semantic perspective, this reflects the way Google understands search queries, and better aligns your content. Google call this process ‘Micro Moments’, and it’s worth reading through to understand Google's thinking on this.
Tip 3: Optimising for people, not pages
SERPs do more than tell a user what’s likely to be found on the other side of the display. They are an opportunity to engage with the user, to let them know that your brand has personality and to tempt them to click through.
Don’t just cram your title with target phrases and your meta description with meaningless fluff. This is your time to shine! Think of it this way, if you could only tell a user one thing about the page they’re clicking into, what would it be?
Tip 4: Keyword mapping - we’ve come a long way from the days of stuffing!
So, now we know our users personally and where our content needs to be, how do we organise those insights into a coherent onsite strategy?
Your taxonomy will help signal to search engines the hierarchy and flow of your content, and your content must signal to the user that they are indeed on the correct path to answering their original query. The right content, using the right language, on the right landing page is key to keeping your user on site. Any subsequent internal links must add value to the user’s journey, be easily navigable and aid them further up the conversion funnel.
Semantic SEO isn’t new, but one thing is clear: as Google continues in the quest for ever more localised and personal results, knowing the lingo of your audience at a micro level is a must.
A quick overview of semantic indexing: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-latent-semantic-indexing-why-does-it-matter-for-your-seo-strategy