Keywords Are Dead: Long Live Topics and Entities #SemrushChat

Elena Terenteva

Jul 06, 20157 min read
Keywords Are Dead: Long Live Topics and Entities #SemrushChat

In September 2013, Google launched a new algorithm, Hummingbird, that has significantly changed the nature of search and the way we understand keywords. With the Hummingbird update, Google has moved toward semantic search, which primarily focuses on user intent, context and the meaning of words, rather than keywords.

Our special guest Bill Slawski, Director of Search Marketing at Go Fish Digital, and our Twitter Chat participants shared their tips and ideas on how to dominate semantic search, how to adjust your keyword strategy and how to cope with common problems. So, let’s dive in!

Entity search

First of all, let’s define what an entity search is. As Paul Bruemmer points out, “It’s basically a more accurate method for bots to understand user intent while mapping additional verified sources to answer a search query.”

What does this mean for SEOs? Do keywords still matter in the era of entity search? Of course they do. As Tripp Hamilton @Tripp_Hamilton claims, “People primarily use keywords to search.” The importance of understanding context and user intent is growing, yet this doesn’t mean we should neglect keywords altogether.

However, search has moved away from only delivering results that are relevant to a certain keyword that a user types in. Semantic search is more about context, meaning and intuition, rather than about specific keywords. “Search engines want more natural language and less manipulation,” as Larry Prevost @larryprevost asserts.

Basically, when optimizing content for semantic search, you should follow the same good old advice: know your audience, consider user intent and do not overuse keywords.

Keywords still have value, as they’re used to express user intent, and they’re a good place to start. But focusing only on them is the wrong strategy. Now you need to take a broader approach and move from specific keywords to context and topics. “Traditional SEO is not dead! But the focus needs to be on topics, rather than keywords.” — Omi Sido @OmiSido.

To get better results, try to think outside the box — all types of marketing activities are are needed to deliver the most relevant answer to a user’s query.

Technical semantic SEO tips

Now let’s take a look at how you can manage your SEO to win better positions in semantic search.

Structured data is an essential element of semantic SEO; so, use proper tags, and mark up and organize your content. As Brad Roberts @Brad_Machine points out, “If we want our pages to be understood by search engines, we need to make it easier for them.” Rich snippets that appear on the SERPs and attract higher attention are another benefit of semantic markup.

The more thoroughly you apply semantic markup to your website’s pages, the better your chances are of being found by users that are interested in your product or information.

Structured data is not the only way to boost your visibility; highlight your content with rich snippets and deliver your data to users who actually need it. A good markup leads to a better user experience.

Do not lay aside fundamentals, such as “ontology/taxonomy in site information architecture” — Tony Dimmock @Tony_DWM. To learn more, check out the presentation “The OWL And The Hummingbird: Ontology & SEO.”

To sum up, semantic search is all about guessing a user’s intent and delivering to them the most relevant results using context, rather than keywords. So the key to success is to understand exactly how your audience thinks.

A simple, yet significant tip: do not forget about grammar and “check your spelling.” — Ian Lurie @portentint.

How to create the possibility that your pages will be shown as direct answers

Q3 recap

Semantic SEO Toolkit

OK, now let’s move on to toolkits. Not surprisingly, we are going to talk a lot about tools related to content creation and analysis.

There is no way we could go without mentioning Yes, it's not a tool, but the biggest “markup vocabulary” will definitely be a big help. Of course, every time you deal with Google, check out Google Tools.

Bill Slawski ‏@bill_slawski recommends using Structured Data Linter — it helps you see what structured data your website’s pages contain. Also, you can use Semantic Chrome Inspector, a plugin with the same functionality, which was suggested by Tony Dimmock ‏@Tony_DWM.

When searching for topics, keywords and synonyms, Julia McCoy ‏@JuliaEMcCoy suggests using the following tools:

Writing For SEO ‏@writingforseo suggests using — it’s a free tool that shows you keywords suggested by Google Autocomplete. Now we come closer to the topic of content analysis. There are some tools that will help you with semantic analysis and give you a better understanding of the context of the text and main entities.

Julia McCoy ‏@JuliaEMcCoy also suggests using Grammarly: “It’s a good tool for checking web content once you have an awesome content team/writer.”

If you want to learn more about useful tools, check out these articles:

Structured Data Markup Visualization, Validation and Testing Tools by Aaron Bradley, shared by Tony Dimmock ‏@Tony_DWM.

Use These Tools To See What Entities Are On A Web Page by Barbara Starr, shared by Jey Pandian ‏@jeypandian.

Common problems of entity search and semantic SEO

Learning from someone else’s experience and mistakes — priceless! Let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that marketers face when it comes to entity search and semantic SEO.

Semantic search is one of the most complicated topics for marketers these days. So, be sure that you keep up with the latest news and trends, and, of course, invest in your education.

SEOs can avoid many semantic search errors by first understanding the meaning of on-page markups and the techniques for implementing them.

A lot of mistakes are rooted in a misunderstanding of content concept in semantic search.

Mistakes in management and communication also prevent marketers from unleashing the full potential of semantic SEO.

Check out these useful suggestions from BarbaraStarr @BarbaraStarr.

Author Photo
Elena TerentevaElena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at Semrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies. Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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