What Are You Talking About? Semantic Keyword Search & SEO

June 7th, 2012 by Claire Robichaux

Have you ever noticed two people to be arguing over the semantics of something? If so, they might make good SEOs! When it comes to search engine optimization, the meaning of the keywords being used in a search are as important as the well-optimized content you spend hours perfecting before rolling live.

A keyword is the word or group of words that a person types in to a search engine in hopes of finding a particular result. Someone searching “apple” may want to find a piece of fruit, but there may be different information that someone else hopes to find in their search results. This is where semantics comes into play.

Semantics is the study of words’ meaning or how we comprehend something. Until recently, this concept was irrelevant to search engine marketers. However, with the many changes we have been seeing from Google — Panda, Venice and Search Plus Your World, among others — it is not very surprising that our keywords are changing now, too.

Google has recently relayed the message that, while people worldwide search Google for answers to their every question, the search engine monster does not always understand what we are talking about. For years now, search engine users have thought that the better their keyword or keyword phrase, the better results they would receive.  Unfortunately, that is not the case. Amit Singhal, a Senior VP of Engineering and Fellow of Google, explains that “We cross our fingers and hope someone on the web has written about these things or topics.” Google will provide you with search results, but they may not be exactly what you were hoping for. So what does this mean?

The Future of Search and Semantics

With time, searching online will not be what we know it as. It will be focused on semantic keywords, which will be processed via artificial intelligence to understand the meaning of the search query. This is called semantic search, and is currently one of Google’s focuses. It will become necessary to understand the relationship between the keywords typed into a search rather than just searching for those specific words.

For instance, what could someone mean when they search “apple?”

• Apple nutrition information
• Apple recipes
• Apple computers and products
• Different kinds of apples and their growing traits
• The “Big Apple,” as in New York City

As you can see, there is a limitless list of meanings to the search of just one word.

What Does This Mean For SEO?

It will be critical to detect accurate keywords based on the searchers intent for a real world application and then to create content around those words. The content must be created for the keywords that are answering particular questions that people are asking about that topic. Consider our “apple” example. If you chose to focus on the Apple Company, you would want to create content focused on Apple computers and products, and answering any specific questions searchers may have about those products. If you’re a food writer, you’ll want to create recipes and creative essays that are easily readable. If you’re a horticultural specialist, it’ll be necessary to make sure you have clean, precise information and are backed up by appropriate scientific sources, and so on.

With time, we will be able to thank Google for allowing us to search online and find exactly what it is we are looking for. In the mean time, start researching and preparing your keywords and content for the future!