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Semantic Search and Content Marketing #SEMrushchat

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Semantic Search and Content Marketing #SEMrushchat

Becky Shindell
Semantic Search and Content Marketing #SEMrushchat

Gone are the days when search marketers optimized keyword-stuffed articles hoping to rank higher for their targeted keywords. As the search algorithms evolved to detect these black-hat techniques, marketers had to change their strategies and abandon this practice entirely. Now, quality content marketing is a buzzword that is steadily flooding the digital marketing scene with many brands joining the bandwagon. Content marketing is very valuable and serves as a common strategy that almost every website uses.

Those who have been involved in content marketing over the past few years have probably heard the phrase “semantic search,”; it is not a new concept. Semantic search will continue to shape the way marketers build their content strategy. So, understanding the future of semantic search will allow you to optimize your articles for a specific intent and achieve success in the SERPs.

To help you get a good grasp of semantic search and how to best use it for content creation, we invited Dido Grigorov, an SEO specialist, a semantic search and content marketing professional, CEO and founder of NetPresenta, to our SEMrush Chat.

He and our other chat guests shared their opinions on the biggest challenges of semantic search:

Q1. What do you think the biggest problems/challenges of semantic search are?

Understanding the search intent behind a particular query.

This can be a daunting challenge because you are trying to get into your users’ heads and determine what they mean when they are typing a query. The user intent of a keyword is their goal, and it usually falls into three main categories:

  • They want to learn something.

  • They want to do something.

  • They want to go somewhere.

Each search query that a user types into Google is essentially a question that reflects the intent of your audience. Understanding what they are asking for will help you to create content that will give your users what they want.

Focusing on users, instead of search engines.

Instead of focusing on search engines and constant algorithm updates, site owners need to shift more of their attention to their users. Many marketers don’t integrate user behavior into their content marketing campaigns. They focus solely on keywords in the search queries. It is obvious that keywords are extremely important because people use them when searching for something. However, what is even more important is what they want to find. Site owners need to understand the searcher’s real intention behind those keywords.  

Localization

Depending on which regions and cities you are targeting, you also need to take into consideration regional dialects and colloquialisms when performing a keyword research. For example, “pop,” which is a soft drink in the American Midwest, is called "soda" in the Northeast and West Coast.

Avoiding Old Practices

Some marketers are still sticking to outdated practices that are no longer useful. If you have multiple target keywords, there is no sense in optimizing one webpage around a single keyword. In this video, Brian Dean explains how to properly optimize your page for multiple keywords.

Lack of Experience

Dido Grigorov‏ - @DidoGrigorov says that some website owners and search marketers don’t have enough expertise in optimizing sites for semantic search.

There are many things you need to pay attention to if you are looking to embrace semantic search. To ensure that all your content is relevant to your readers and can easily be found in the search engines, you need to understand related terms and how to use both structured and semantic data.

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To adapt your content strategy to semantic search, you need to better understand the real meaning behind the questions your users ask, and what motivates them to search for a given topic.  

Q2. What's the best way to create content that is in line with semantic web, the arrival of voice search and Google RankBrain?

The digital landscape is rapidly evolving to meet the needs of the online audience. All of these changes are shaping the way that people interact with digital content and better understand how users are performing search queries. This is why Google developed RankBrain, a machine learning technology that is used to help Google process the search results.

Another big trend is the growing popularity of voice-search enabled digital assistants, such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. ComScore estimates that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice searched.

As a content marketer, you need to adapt to these changes and learn how to optimize each piece of your content for Google RankBrain, voice search, and semantic web. Here are five tips from our chat participants that will help you create content that meets the challenge: 

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Special thanks to everyone whose tweets we used to make this image: @DidoGrigorov, @Carolyn_Lyden, @MattLacuesta, @rsj8000, @R8chel_Marie, and @bright_local.

To find out more on the topic, you can also check out how to write SEO content to appease Google RankBrain.

Q3. In your opinion, do you think that Google’s switch to semantic search influences the way content marketing is done?

Today search engines aim their efforts at understanding the semantic meaning behind the keywords users type into the search box. Rather than viewing the query merely as a string of individual words and displaying sites that have the most matches to those words, semantic search urges Google and other search engines to dig deeper into the meaning of the phrases people use and provide results based on this information. So, how does semantic search influence the way marketers develop their content marketing campaigns?

Content is becoming more user-centric. This means that content marketers now care more about people who consume the information that they provide.

Aside from focusing on quality, create content that is responsive to customer feedback and isn’t treated solely as a sales opportunity.

Today, brands care more about how their content makes their audience feel. Content that is written by humans for humans resonates better with your readers.

The more you get to know your audience and produce materials targeted specifically at them, the more benefits you can get from your content marketing efforts. That is why more content is now written specifically for a certain demographic. When writing for a larger audience segment, you have an opportunity to reach out to a higher number of readers. However, this can decrease the relevance of your content and can lead to lower conversion rates. You may want to consider focusing on one specific demographic, choosing relevancy over volume.

You have probably heard the phrase “content marketing is the new SEO.” Neil Patel says that today SEO is all about content marketing and vice versa.

Even though content marketing and SEO are two different aspects, they overlap a lot. Launching a page on your site and optimizing it solely for SEO isn’t going to cut it anymore; your content marketing will be successful only if it takes into account SEO features. Even the most brilliant content will not go anywhere unless people are able to find it. To make it easier to find, you need SEO.

As a content marketer, you need to keep in mind the following things:

  • Thorough research enables you to collect a list of direct questions that your audience may ask. This will help you write content that answers those questions and provide self-contained information.

  • Instead of aligning a specific phrase with one page, try to create multiple pages dedicated to a certain topic. Andy Crestodina names these pages around a specific topic, “content hubs,” and explains that this tactic is the key to winning the attention of your audience in a crowded digital field.

  • Use clear, simple language. This not only makes your content easy to read but can also help users find your content faster.

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Does semantic search influence your approach to content marketing? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Q4. How will Google’s semantic search impact the search results in finding publishers’ content websites?

Semantic search is definitely changing the search's landscape. With RankBrain and voice search taking hold, semantic search takes on a new significance for content publishers and content ranking.

Google continues to roll out updates to its algorithms and experiment with the SERP layout. As a result, marketers need to understand how other elements (e.g., Knowledge Graph, Local Pack, Answer Box, etc.) on the search page can influence content ranking.

Today, the best search results aren’t those that contain a lot of keywords. Instead, the most relevant webpages are those that align with the intent of searchers. Semantic search saves users’ time and provides better search experiences. As semantic search across the web becomes smarter, it is getting easier for people to get the information that they are looking for.

Understanding how semantic search works allows content creators and publishers to effectively leverage it. Here is a quick list of three things they need to do to take an advantage of semantic search:

1. Optimize for user intent. As stated earlier, in the time of semantic search, user intent is more important than ever.

2. Align SEO with your social media campaign. Today, social media plays a critical role in the search results, and social search is becoming more powerful because social networks send strong signals to the search engines. This means that you need to address your social audience and their interests as well. By producing content that covers those topics of interests, you can create a more targeted content strategy.

For some social media networks, you can markup your content with metadata to improve the way it is displayed, i.e., Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Cards.

3. Don’t focus on keywords, instead, focus on the meaning of your content. Even though keywords still matter, your content should be focused on a clear topic, because Google now looks for meaning rather than specific terms.

The search landscape continues to change, which forces publishers to give their audience the best experiences possible. Those who can align their content strategy with semantic search and take advantage of the opportunities it provides will be rewarded.

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Semantic search is on the rise and should be understood by anyone who wants to make smarter content and SEO decisions.

Q5. What's the best way to get a featured snippet without using KWs in your content?

As mentioned earlier, the search engines are making it so users can get answers to their queries without having to click on any specific pages, which can lead to a drop in traffic for some websites. However, some site owners see it as an opportunity to become featured for free by Google. Here are some effective ways to get a featured snippet without using keywords in your content:

1. Know which questions your users ask and then answer them.

If you understand which questions users are asking in your industry, you will improve your chances of getting into the featured snippet position. Instead of focusing on broad queries like “content,” you should use long-tail keywords, such as, “how to plan a content marketing strategy” which looks like a question that your audience would likely type into the search box.

To find out which questions your readers may ask, you can use Google autocomplete and related questions (or “People Also Ask) as an excellent source of keyword ideas. Answer The Public is another handy tool for discovering what people are searching for.

Once you get the idea what your audience may be asking, it’s time to tailor your content accordingly and provide clear answers to those questions.

2. Create a Q&A section on your site.

If you have more than one question to target, you may want to consider adding a Q&A section on your site. After analyzing more than 10 million keywords and 1 million domains, former SEMrush Data Scientist Qi Zhao suggested putting all related questions on the same page with properly formatted questions and answers. This will give you a good chance of getting a featured snippet. If Q&A or FAQ content is not the best option for your topic, you can use a good alternative, such as how-to pages.

3. Use “snippetable” formats.

According to a study performed by Stat, there are three types of featured snippets: paragraphs, lists, and tables. Their findings showed an interesting point: paragraph snippets were most common, showing up in 82% of featured snippets. The majority of featured snippets you see pull information that is within the structured markup. All of these three formats provide clear and concise answers to questions and, in turn, improve the user experience.

4. Use structured data markup.

The purpose of microdata is to describe content. Semantic markup helps the search engines to display more relevant results for the users. By implementing schema markup in your content, you improve your chances of getting rich snippets. To semantically mark your content properly, use Schema.org.

Let’s sum up!

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By understanding what you can do to produce content that is suitable for the featured snippet position, you can boost your online presence and make it much easier for your audience to find your content. We would like to thank Dido Grigorov and our other chat guests for sharing so many great tips for adapting your content in the time of semantic search.

Make sure to join us next week as we discuss “Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO” with Jenny Halasz!

Becky Shindell is the US Social Media Manager at SEMrush and host of the weekly #SEMrushchat. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter. You can find Becky at many of the US Digital Marketing Conferences, feel free to say hi!
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