Semantic Search Places The Emphasis On Context
Identifying the most important keywords has always been fundamental to SEO. But today’s search algorithms are more focused on intent than individual words.
For the past four years or so, commentators have been sounding the death knell for keywords. With the latest developments in the world of voice search, the voices have, quite literally, got louder, and we are all being told that keywords are history and topics are the future for successful SEO.
Is it really that simple? Should we be throwing away our keywords and focusing purely on the brave new world of semantic search? Unsurprisingly, the answer is a resounding “yes and no”. While the modern technological landscape has certainly added a layer of complexity to achieving the best SERP results, the fact is that keyword research will remain an important ingredient for as long as people continue to type keywords into Google. And however popular Cortana and Siri might be, there is no sign that people will stop doing that any time soon.
When Google launched its Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, it started a change in the way we approach SEO, and has gained momentum ever since.
This clever piece of coding is what allows Google to almost seem to understand what you are looking for, with seemingly few clues. The best way of seeing this is when we search for a topic and Google has understood what we wanted to know, despite the result containing none of the keywords that we typed into the search box.
If Google is so intent on understanding the intent of searchers and focusing on topics instead of keywords, then it makes sense that you need to do the same when it comes to the content that you publish on your site.
Of course, coming up with suitable topics can require a little more creativity than simply creating some content and saturating it with relevant keywords, so where do you start?
A great way is to create a “topic cluster” around each of your primary search terms, by thinking what topics people might be searching on. So for example, if your search term is “gourmet burgers,” some relevant topics might be “good quality burgers made from organic meat” or “tasty but nutritional food that the whole family will enjoy” or “the perfect ingredients for a summer barbecue” to name but a few.
However, the brave new world of topics does not mean that keywords are no longer of any importance. It is easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater and produce some great content on a relevant subject, but then couch it in phrases that the google algorithms will miss entirely. This is why it is more important than ever to track your results using Google Analytics or a similar tool to keep track of what is working and what is not.
UX Is Key
As is the case with almost every aspect of SEO, the magic formula for success is to step into the shoes of your visitor. What are they typing, what are they looking for, what will they see when they arrive, how will they react to it?
Know the answer to these questions, and you can create content on the perfect topics, leading to higher SERP rankings, better conversions and the best possible return on your investment.