What is Semantic Search? Why It Really Matters for SEO?

In conventional times, around 2010, optimizing content for search engines implied incorporating more number of backlinks and stuffing content with as many keywords as possible.

It was then, SEO implies understanding how results are generated by search engines so that the content can be optimized accordingly and eventually rank higher.

However, in the present scenario, things have changed. The understanding of the search engine has evolved and now ways have changed how we optimize contents for the desired result.

Semantic Search

It is no more enough to simply find keywords and insert them in the content.

Now, you must have an in-depth understanding of what those keywords imply, offer rich information in context to those keywords, and have a firm understanding of user intent or search intent.

Combining all these things together is important for SEO in the era of semantic search.

What exactly semantic search means and why it is crucial for SEO as well as how you can optimize content for it are a few questions that must be popping in your mind. But need not worry as this post answers all your questions.

So, let’s get started!

What is Semantic Search?

Semantic search is the way search engines attempt or work to generate the most precise results by possibly understanding the following aspects:

  • Query in the context
  • Searcher’s intent
  • Relationship or meaning between words

Simply speaking, semantic search is related to understanding the natural language in a similar manner a human would.

Considering an example, suppose you ask your friend” ‘What is the biggest mammal?” and you then follow the question with “How large is it?” Instantly, your friend would understand that ‘it’ here refers to the biggest mammal, the blue whale.

Before the year 2013, search engines were not able to understand the context of the second question to the first question. Hence, rather than providing the desired answer, they used to phrase the second question as an independent question and then present an answer accordingly.

But with semantic search, things have changed. With the help of semantic search, Google can now distinguish between distinct entities including places, things, and people and interpret the searcher intent based on a range of factors such as:

  • User location
  • Search history of the user
  • Variations in spelling
  • Global search history

So, suppose, if you are searching for ‘scales’ after performing 10 searches on snakes, Google will consider that you probably wish to explore about snakes and scales as opposed to any other brand or query. Hence, it will offer search results on the same basis.

History of Semantic Search:

In order to understand the history of semantic search, we have to focus on its various aspects.

Understanding the Knowledge Graph:

The Knowledge Graph was introduced by Google in 2012 as a step to develop the significance of entities and context over a series of keywords or as Google termed it, ‘things not strings.’

This Knowledge Graph establishes a platform for the large-scale changes in the algorithm that may occur in the future.

It is considered a huge database of public information and the collected information is considered public domain like Abraham Lincoln’s term, distance to the sun, the cast of ‘Harry Potter,’ and more. Also, it showcases the respective properties of each entity mentioned in the list like their siblings, birthdays, occupations, parents, and more.


The Hummingbird update from Google was introduced in 2013 and is undoubtedly the starting of semantic search age, which we are aware today.

This update makes sure that pages matching the same meaning do better rather than the pages that match just a few words. It means that pages that match better to searcher context and intent will achieve higher rank as compared to pages, which have the context that less matches the keywords.


RankBrain was a robust machine learning system launched by Google, which is both a smart query analysis for AI and ranking factor.

Just like Hummingbird, RankBrain understands the user’s intent behind queries. The primary difference between Hummingbird and RankBrain is that RankBrain is a machine learning component. It is always analyzing, learning and best-performing the search results and always searches for similarities between the pages, which are valuable to the users.

For such reasons, a page may sometimes not get a good response from RankBrain even if it contains exact words matching the query.

Why Search Engines Pursue Semantic Search?

From a search engine’s perspective, it is not difficult to imagine why Google would wish to pursue a more connected era including less spam, more data, a better understanding of the user intent, and more natural language. Comprehending all these traits maximizes the possibility of the users getting the finest search experience.

One prominent way that semantic search supports Google is by determining and rejecting the content of low quality. Methods such as keyword stuffing and article spinning are more conveniently flagged because of advanced systems like latent semantic indexing, frequency-inverse document frequency, and Latent Dirichlet Allocation. This way, search engines get a better idea of words that statistically occur together and develop semantic correlation, which can be used against spam.

Moreover, using entity-based search and semantics help engines gain a better understanding of what users want. Also, semantics help to comprehend more completely what searches mean.

Impact of Semantic Search on SEO:

Semantic search impacts SEO in the following ways:

1. Users have now turned to Voice Search:

Over the years, semantic search has evolved a lot and has given rise to the concept of voice search.

It is now common for users to deliver mobile voice commands and use them on various devices. Even, among the high – income households around the world, 33% of them use only voice search commands to meet their search intent. This has been confirmed by a recent report from Stone Temple Consulting.

But optimizing the content for voice search is very different from optimizing it for traditional SEO. It is because you have to immediately reach to a point that satisfies intend based searches and have to maintain your content more conversational and engaging.

How to Optimize Content for Voice Search Commands?

In order to optimize content for voice search, one must create content that concisely and clearly answers a common query provided at the top of the page before entering into more particular details.

Moreover, you must use only structured data in order to support search engines understand the context and content.

For instance, if you are a sports goods retailer, you may create a checklist of what to consider on a day hike. This must be followed by details about local wildlife, hunting regulations, and fishing. Also, it must include contact details for emergency services.

2. Focus More on Topics than on Keywords:

In order to meet the semantic search requirements, it is time that you must stop generating content around keywords.

Rather, the shift must be towards thinking about broad topics in the niche, which you can cover in-depth. The aim here is to generate original, comprehensive, and highly qualitative resources, which meet the searcher’s intent.

How You Can Shift Focus to Topics

In order to create high-quality and original resources for the users, you must avoid creating numerous disparate and short pages with a specific topic. Rather, focus on creating a comprehensive and consolidated guide with resources which users find valuable.

3. Make Searcher Intent Your Priority:

One of the finest approaches to target keywords is not practicing keyword targeting as much as you practice intent targeting.

By analyzing the queries which lead people to your site, you must be able to come with numerous topics that are ideal for building the content around.

How You Can Create Content Prioritizing Searcher Intent:

The best way to do is to create a list of keywords and differentiate them by searcher intent.

For instance, the queries related to “Android vs. iPhones battery life” or “compare Samsung and Apple phones” both come under the same kind of intent, which is comparing the smartphones.

Alternatively, queries like “where to purchase new iPhone” and “best deals for OnePlus phones” both have intent to buy a new mobile.

Hence, your role is to understand the searcher intent and then create content which directly addresses their intent rather than creating content around broad topics or individual keywords.

4. Technical SEO is Equally Important as the Content:

Though, Google has transitioned from ‘string to things’, the algorithm is not yet intelligent enough to derive understanding or meaning on its own.

Still, you have to optimize the website and support Google to understand your content. In this context, you have to focus on the following aspects:

  • Link Building – Even today, authoritative backlinks is one of the most crucial ranking signals. For this, you have to prioritize content, which naturally attracts links. Also, it is important to use adequate internal linking structures to develop deep links to other valued contents you have created.
  • Keywords – Though you don’t have to create content precisely around keywords, this does not imply that you must not include keywords at all. It is still important to include relevant keywords in your content. You can use a content analysis tool to define common questions and include relevant long-tail keywords, which you can incorporate into the content. Include such keywords in the title tags, header tags, body, URL, and Meta tags. Most importantly, the keywords must fit in naturally.
  • Structured Data – The next vital thing is to use Schema markup to support customers find more business and let search engines index your website. You can include more details using the review markup as well as organization markup too.
  • Errors – It is important to eliminate redirects as and when possible. Avoid relying solely on 301 redirects for the missing pages. You must have no redirect per page. Also, use rel=canonical tags for distinct versions of the website.
  • Consider Website Speed – Website’s speed is one of the most important traits to maintain in order to impress search engines as well as offer users with a seamless experience. This can be done by compressing images, minify resources, and leverage browser caching. For the same, you can check Google’s checklist to optimize the speed of your website.
  • Optimize Structure of Website – Secondly, it is vital to maintain a logical website structure as this helps search engines to index the website as well as understand the connection between the content. Websites with a logical structure also enhance UX by offering users with a logical journey through the website.

5. Shift the Focus to User Experience:

The satisfaction of your users must be guided well through all your SEO efforts in the semantic search concept.

The main concern of Google is the satisfaction of its users and for this, it continuously fine-tunes its algorithms. This is done to better understand the intent of users and satisfy searchers. At the same time, SEO experts must focus on UX too.

In order to enhance your user’s experience, you must first make sure that your webpage has an incredible speed. Make sure that the page loading speed is as fast as possible. This is important particularly for indexing the website. Moreover, it is important to keep an eye on the session duration and bounce rate.

When you think you are unable to find something, which can be enhanced, it is best to perform A/B testing. This is essential to check if your attempts are able to boost engagement or not.

On a Concluding Note:

You now know how important the Google process data is for SEO. In the present scenario, modern content offerings and conventional SEO tricks would not work anymore, particularly when search engines are becoming intelligent towards understanding the context, the user intent, and the relationship between different concepts.

Hence, the content you prepare must be developed by keeping into consideration search engines and people. Moreover, the content you produce must be high-quality and relevant, but at the same time, it must satisfy searcher intent’s to as much extent as possible. Finally, the content must be technically optimized for ranking and indexing.

Once you are able to strike the perfect balance, you are moving on the correct path.

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