If you want to feature higher on search engine rankings, you need to start thinking more carefully about semantic SEO.
If I said the words “roller coaster”, “rides”, “attractions” and “days out”, you could take a stab in the dark that I’m referring to theme parks. If I just focused on one of those words and repeated it over and over again, you’ll find it a little harder to figure out what I’m talking about. So why do people still think the key to optimising your content for search engines is all about stuffing it with a keyword?
The above example is a little over-simplified, but it illustrates a point.
What is semantic search engine optimisation?
Put simply, it’s about focusing your content not just on one single keyword or phrase, but on a group of keywords that are all connected to the main topic of the page. They create a semantic field, a shared meaning, that helps show search engines a couple of things:
- You’re not using spammy tactics and `stuffing` your content with just one keyword;
- The article is of a certain quality because it focuses on one topic in more depth.
Semantic SEO helps to show what your content is about, in the same way as including your keywords does. Just more thoroughly, and in more detail.
You still optimise your content around one keyword, but then you reinforce that keyword with lots of other words throughout the copy.
It should happen naturally, but to really refine it like any optimisation, find out what people are searching for.
Why should I use semantic keywords?
The main reason people talk about semantic SEO is to help you feature higher on search engine ranking. It helps Google see what your article is about and that it offers good value because it’s closely related to what search engine users are looking for.
It also helps you plan what types of articles to write, because you can really see how one subject can become 5 different subjects, and those 5 become 4 more, all interconnected. With a bit of research you can start to see what people are actually searching for related to your keywords, meaning you can start building lots of relevant content.
But I use it for planning. I know what I want to write, but I want to see how I could develop my content through the whole piece. So by looking at related searches, stem keywords and phrases, and results on themed words, I can start to develop my content based on what Google users actually want to find out about.
Start with a bit of keyword planning
Let’s assume we know the type of article we want to write, and that we’re not exploring ideas for future content at this time.
Do a little bit of research, and a little bit of thinking before you start.
But don’t spend hours and hours researching. Your focus should always be on writing content that your audience will like. Write for your audience, not Google.
So let’s go back to the original theme park idea.
Step 1 – Core keywords
Create a list of alternative phrases for your main or core keyword. You can start by asking the search engine itself what you could use. So by using my search term `theme parks` in Google it gives me a list of results based on my search terms, current location, and cookies.
At the bottom of the screen, Google also shows us related searches. These are all the other variations of our search term that Google says people are looking for.
You can see here that it is still very generic. But we’re now able to see that `amusement parks` is a popular term to use instead, and other phrases like `top theme parks` and `merlin theme parks` are also related.
And Google highlights them so we can see the related keywords in each of the results.
But don’t forget about your brain! It’s a pretty powerful tool too, so you don’t need to rely on Google on its own.
Step 2 – Themed keywords
You can expand your keywords now by looking at words that aren’t specifically related to the core keyword, but related to the topic in some way, much like the words used at the beginning of this article.
You don’t have to use a specific tool to find these words, but it can help. Take the example below using Google’s keyword planner:
Because `theme park` is a very generic term, there are lots of related phrases. But by taking a look down the page we can see words like `rides`, `attraction` and `tickets`. And I’m sure with very little imagination you can see how easy it is to write a sentence that include those themed words:
You don’t need to pay to get on each of the individual rides, as all the attractions are included in the price of your tickets.
Step 3 – Stem keywords
This step focuses more on your target audience and why they’re going to be reading your page. I’m forever banging on about knowing your target audience and why you’re writing because if you don’t know, you’re wasting your time.
Stem keywords are just prefixes and suffixes for your search term; that is, the words that go before or after it. In particular, the words your target audience will use to go before the search term and after it.
Again, you can use either of the tools mentioned before to help figure out what to use, but you should have a pretty clear idea before you start why you’re writing and who for.
If your article is to give people information about the best theme parks in the UK, your stem keywords are going to be words like UK, best, top, number 1, review, rated. If it’s about the price of theme parks in the UK, you’ll maybe use stem keywords like cheapest, cost, and price.
Other variations on stem keywords are the phrases like `where are` and `how do I`. The phrase `where are theme parks` brings up a very different set of results to just `theme parks`.
So begin to think about which stems need to be included in your content to give Google a clearer understanding of the purpose and value of your content.
The simplified version of semantic SEO
As with all search engine optimisation, if it’s forced you’ve got 2 problems:
- Google will change the algorithm in an update to cut out forced keyword content, much like the Panda 4.1 update has done;
- Your content becomes difficult to read and written for Google, not your audience.
The focus on your content should always be on making sure it reads well and adds value to your visitors. ALWAYS!
If you begin to focus on Google, nobody will want to read it, your visitors will leave after only viewing one page (and only briefly), and your search engine ranking will be rubbish anyway.
Well written content poorly optimised is better than poorly written content that is well optimised.
So focus on writing really good content that speaks to your target audience, adds value to their visit, and makes them want to keep coming back to you for their answers.
If you’re doing that, you should be using words that are related to your core keyword naturally anyway. So here’s the simplified version:
- Decide what you’re writing about, why you’re writing it, and who for;
- Decide the main keyword or phrase for the page;
- List a few other words that mean the same thing;
- List a few words related to the theme;
- Write an interesting an engaging article focusing on what you’re writing about, why you’re writing it, and who for.
If you do this, you won’t go far wrong. So don’t spend hours on end planning how to use semantic SEO. It’s a tool in your toolbox, but it’s not the most important one.