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How Will Semantic Searches Impact Your Website?

While semantic searches have been around for a few years, we feel that in 2016 businesses will begin to actually feel a shift in how it interacts with SEO which then begs the question, how will semantic searches impact your website?

With the release of Cortana for Windows along with the evolution of Siri, Sherpa, and Google Now, these helpful ‘virtual assistants’ are the reason we see this shift coming.

How we search matters

Searching for things on the internet in its’ early days was rather easy if you understood the basics; you focused on the proper keywords to help obtain the most relevant results. For example, entering in, “best taco shops Brooklyn Crown Heights” would usually pull up good results for anyone who had a website properly optimized.

Of course the drawback was all of the people who didn’t use websites or weren’t optimized would not show up. Then with things like Yelp, Facebook, and Google Places being added into the mix over time that search string has become more and more useful.

But, people don’t talk like that in a robotic, cold manner.

Cortana especially and more with Siri’s evolution, designers have understood the need to add a human touch to the AI so that it can interpret how we talk to understand our meaning. Rather than having to think about what we are saying to match how a computer wants input, the computer is translating our normal language into better search parameters.

“Find a good taco shop near me,” is all we have to say now and our smart little assistants are able to search considering the context, location and intent of what we say. The end result is to produce the most relevant results to a search based on actual content rather than simply matching keywords that claim a site is relevant.

Why is it more relevant now?

Google’s intent to make semantic search a focus was apparent with the 2013 update to the Hummingbird algorithm, but we see that concept coming more into focus now. The mobile shift has occurred with mobile searches now dominating desktop. Combine that with the evolution of how people search using their personal assistants and you can see how this more natural style of search query will be more commonplace.

But wait, there’s more!

Aside from smartphones and tablets, the shift has continued with our smart TV’s and gaming consoles which all now respond to voice. While people might have been slow to convert, the younger generation has more fully embraced technology and uses it quite regularly. Our words become concepts and our technology is better at understanding those concepts in an attempt to meet our needs.

With that shift, 2016 seems like the year that search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo will put more weight on the use of semantic searches and the results they provide compared to the mix that has been used before.

Optimizing for Semantic

So how does one prepare their site for semantic searches?

  • Optimize content differently – Rather than just following the base keyword idea, for semantic searches you need a layered approach. Your core keywords also need to include synonym variations because people will talk in those variations. There is a second level of thematic keywords that need to be included to match the way people actually talk such as, “good taco shops near Crown Heights”. Finally you have stem keywords which are things you try and anticipate people might ask in relation to the original query like, “with jalapenos”.
  • Quality Content – Of course have we ever said not to provide quality content? In this case the content quality needs to have aspects that include relevancy, share worthiness, and the ability for it to be integrated into social media. Social searches are a key indicator in semantic searches along with how well something is shared which shows the value of said content to users.
  • Topical Links – For those who do link to external sites, the content being linked to needs to be equal or greater value. This provides increased strength between documents and in turn provides greater value to uses.

Really, when you look at it, while there is going to be some time and research involved to make your site more semantic friendly, it should be more of an extension of what you are currently doing rather than a complete overhaul.

The Bottom Line

Search and SEO face a constant evolution and currently it is easy to see that we are evolving towards a much more natural way to ‘talk’ to our devices. However that does not mean that standard keywords have no use or prior methods of SEO are obsolete. The point we are trying to make about how semantic searches impact your website is that it is best to include semantic-based SEO as part of your whole strategy so that you don’t miss out on anything and if down the road you need to phase out other aspects, you easily can.

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