Five Problematic Local SEO Tactics

Local SEO is a constantly evolving practice. What was very effective a few years ago is often no longer effective now. And in some cases, what was effective a few years ago will actually get you into trouble now. It is very important to stay up to date so you know the best practice for improving your local search results. Here are a number of local SEO tactics that are still quite common but I will dissect the SEO tactic and show you that there is a better way of achieving the same result.

Local SEO Tactic 1 – Exact Match Domains with a Location Qualifier

Exact match domains with a location qualifier are urls which use a combination of service-keyword + location in them, as opposed to the business name or brand. This Local SEO tactic was very common a few years ago but we still see it today. An example of this is:

www.plumberwashington.com

While url optimization does carry some SEO benefit, if a boost in local search results is your SEO goal, then it makes more sense to focus on using location-specific keywords throughout your site content and structure. It is much better to use a brand-led domain. Google likes it more and it conveys more trust because it doesn’t look spammy.

Brand-led domains also make it easier for you to expand geographically. Think about it this way. If you have a region-specific domain, then you’re narrowing your business to one location.

The best-practice approach is to use a brand-specific domain and then create localized landing page content. This approach builds trust and credibility, provides location-specific content, and doesn’t limit you to one geographic location.

Local SEO Tactic 2 – Region-Specific Top Level Domains

Region-specific Top Level Domains allow you to end your website domain with a specific geographic location. Like www.mylocalbusiness.boston. While this looks cool, Google confirms that it carries no additional SEO weight. The best practice Local SEO approach is to choose a brand-specific domain name and then build region-specific content in your website.

Local SEO Tactic 3 – Local Doorway Pages

Local doorway pages are similar to landing pages except for the key fact that landing pages are designed to funnel real visitors who search for a unique keyword and then “land” at your site and come in through a page that’s not the home page. Local doorway pages have urls like yoursite.com/plumber-washington. You can have a page like this if there is truly unique content on that page and it’s a page that’s part of the site structure.

Local SEO Tactic 4 – Focusing Link Building Only on High Domain Authority Websites

If you’re a small local business, it’s important to get links from small local directories and websites. From a local link building perspective, these are links from sites involved in your community, e.g. hotels, bed and breakfasts, city information, libraries, churches, etc. As long as these websites provide actual value to your local community, they will also bring inherent SEO value to your local business. Once indexed, these links will show Google that your business is actively involved in its surrounding community.

Local SEO Tactic 5 – Setting up a Huge Service Area in Google My Business

Google My Business gives users the ability to set their radius of service around their physical address. This allows customers to see how far a business is willing to travel to visit a customer.

Some business owners set their radius to its maximum in the hope of ranking across several locations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work and you’re still only likely to rank around the actual, physical location of your business.

The radius setting should be used realistically & needs to accurately show the area of your business. If a huge service area is correct then that’s fine, just don’t expect any cross-location ranking boost to come from it.

The reality is that if you want to rank across several locations and make the most of local SEO, you need a physical site in each major city that’s actually used and occupied by your team.

What is AMP & How Can They Help Boost Search Rankings?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, a Google project designed as an open standard for any publisher or website owner to have pages load rapidly on mobile devices.

For many people, reading on the mobile web is a slow, cumbersome, clunky, and sometimes extremely frustrating experience. Google’s AMP Project is designed to improve the mobile experience.

On Feb. 24, 2016, Google officially integrated AMP listings into its mobile search results. Web pages making use of AMP coding appear within special places in the search results and/or with a special “AMP” designation.

Connect4 Consulting can help you integrate AMP into your existing website.

The process is detailed, but for starters, it requires maintaining two different versions of any article page: the original version that users typically see, and the AMP version of that page. There are limitations for form elements and third-party scripts so some elements that you are used to having on the desktop version of your site don’t work on the AMP version.

Contact us today if you are interested in boosting your search rankings by integrating AMP into your existing website.

 

 

SEO Myths That Don’t Work in 2016

SEO – search engine optimization – has changed so much in the past couple of years that many marketers don’t know what’s outdated, what’s still important, what will actually have a positive impact, and what’s just wasted energy.

This post will point out common myths and assumptions about how SEO – search engine optimization – works in 2016, so you can use your energy and time wisely and productively.

Myth #1 – I must submit my website to Google.

The idea that you have to submit your website to Google directly is nonsense. While a brand new site can submit its URL to Google directly, a search engine like Google will still find your site without you submitting it. Whatever you do, don’t pay someone to do this for you.

Myth #2 – More links are better than more content.

In the past, SEO – search engine optimization – worked by building as many links to your site without analyzing the linking domain. It didn’t matter whether the site linked to your site had anything to do with your site content. Links are still a very important part of SEO, but how you build links is more important than the overall number of links. And if there is a choice between creating good content and building links, then you should spend your time and money creating good content. Why? Because people will naturally link to good content. When you invest in content, that content can be used for web pages, blog posts, lead generation offers, and guest posts on other sites – all content types that will bring more links with them over time.

Myth #3 – Having a secure (HTTPS encrypted) site isn’t important for SEO.

Some URLs start with “http://” and others start with “https://”? Maybe you have noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online. Put simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your data. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

In August of 2014, Google announced that it had started using HTTPS as a signal in their ranking algorithms, which means if your website still relies on standard HTTP, your rankings could suffer as a result. For now, however, HTTPS remains a small signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries (according to Google). So while it’s clear that Google wants everyone to move over to the more secure HTTPS protocol, don’t worry if you haven’t done it yet. Connect4 Consulting can help you transition to a HTTPS site. Contact us if you want to learn more.

Myth #4 – SEO – Search Engine Optimization – is all about ranking.

While there’s a strong correlation between search results placement and clickthrough rates, ranking is not the supreme end goal that it used to be. There is a big misconception — that higher rankings mean more search traffic. It is true that people will see your listing, but it does not mean you will get more click-throughs. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. You do not have the correct keyword strategy because you are trying to rank for keywords that are unrelated to your field.
  2. Your meta descriptions are not appealing and inviting for the user.

To solve these problems, try using Google Adwords to create a great keyword advertising strategy relating to your business, and be sure to use enticing meta descriptions to get people to the site. It is a good rule of thumb to think about what would entice you to click a link.

Myth #5 – Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings.

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that concisely explain the contents of webpages. Google announced, all the way back in 2009, that meta descriptions (and meta keywords) have no bearing on search rankings. That’s not to say, however, that these descriptions aren’t important for SEO. On the contrary: Meta descriptions present a major opportunity to separate yourself from the riff-raff and convince searchers that your page is worth navigating to. So – meta descriptions are critical for clickthrough rates but they don’t impact search ranking.

Myth #6 – Keyword optimization is THE FOUNDATION of Search Engine Optimization.

It used to be important that you write your content with the keyword incorporated exact match, but Google now uses something called latent semantic indexing (LSI), which was conceived in 2004. With this type of indexing, webpage contents are crawled by the search engine and the most common words or phrases are combined and identified as the keywords of that page. Latent Semantic Indexing also looks for synonyms that related to your target keywords.

Today, it’s important to optimize your page entirely for user experience; this means that you do not have to place your keywords word-for-word in the content. Write the content for the user. By using synonyms and related terms, the search engines will still understand what your goal is. It’s important to realize that Google has moved beyond keywords. Google is trying to understand the intent behind the keywords so it can match intent with relevant, authoritative content.

Myth #7 – Keywords need to be an exact match.

Keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim throughout a piece of content. In a headline, in particular, you only want to use a keyword (or keywords) in a way that makes the most sense to your audience. The goal should be to write a great headline (somewhere between 4-9 words) that clearly explains what a piece of content is about.

Myth #8 – The H1 is the most important element on the page.

It really doesn’t matter what header tag you use, as long as you present your most important concepts upfront and closer to the top of the page. Remember, you’re optimizing your page for users first and foremost, which means that you want to tell them ASAP what your page is about through a clear headline.

Myth #9 – My homepage needs a lot of content.

Think of your home page as the gateway to your business. It’s your chance to make a first impression on visitors and tell them what you are all about. Your home page content should be long enough to clarify who you are and what you do, where you’re located, what your value proposition is, and what visitors should do next.

Myth #10 – I need many pages of content.

Some people think that the more pages a site has, the more visitors they will get. Just like link building, creating content for content’s sake won’t get you anywhere. Make sure you focus on content quality and not quantity.

Myth #11 – Good user experience is not a requirement.

If Google sends you to a web page, they want to make sure you have a good experience on that page. They are after all a business too, and thus they want to delight their users. Think about it from the search engine’s point of view: they didn’t create the webpage themselves, but they are endorsing it. They need to ensure that users have a good experience on that page to keep people coming back to Google.

To improve user experience, you will want to focus on:

  • page load time
  • bounce rate
  • time on page
  • page views per visit
  • how far a person scrolls down a page

Myth #12 – Local Search Engine Optimization doesn’t matter anymore.

If you’re a local business, optimizing for local search won’t only help you get found, but it will help you get found by people who are nearby and more likely to buy from you. The bottom line is that local SEO matters more now than it ever has before.

Myth #13 – Google will never know if I have bad sites linking to me.

Google knows everything. Don’t try to fool them or you will be penalized.

Myth #14 – Images don’t require optimization.

For many years, it was okay to neglect the images on your site and still rank without using alt text and image file names to boost your page relevance. However, on-page SEO is more important than ever, so excluding images will prevent your website’s SEO from being the best it can be.

Search engines cannot see images on websites, so it is important to give the image an alt text and relevant file name to ensure Google knows what the image is about. If you don’t create this text, you lose a huge opportunity to be as visible as possible online.

It also helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image, too, so always try to reference your images in your text, close to where it lives on the page, using keywords similar to the alt text/filename of the image.

Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images, so consider adding those when relevant. Name your image files something that is indicative of what the image is itself, rather than something like IMG2394870.jpg. Yes, keywords matter here!

Myth #15 – I don’t need to optimize for a mobile users.

In the spring of 2015, Google had a algorithm update called “Mobilegeddon,” which expanded Google’s use of mobilefriendliness as a ranking signal. The update rewards mobile-friendly websites and penalizes those that aren’t fully optimized for mobile in mobile search results.

If your web presence screams 2009, you should be thinking about a comprehensive strategy to modernize your site and bring it in line with consumer expectations. The optimal experience for your visitors and your own performance is to implement responsive design. Responsive design makes your page adapt to the visitor and will display information that is sized and zoomed appropriately so it’s easy to read on whatever device he or she is using.

Conclusion – Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher.

If you can take one thing away from this blog post, it’s this: More than anything else, Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher, and that experience starts the moment they enter a search query.

Increase Search Traffic with Google’s Next Update

Increase search traffic with Google’s next update. On April 21st, 2015, Google will roll out an update that makes mobile friendliness a larger part of its algorithm. This is a really big deal.

Why? Because Google is saying the mobile update will have a bigger impact than its Panda update.

Should you be worried? Yes!

Neil Patel’s blog on Quick Sprout gives you 3 steps to help you take advantage of this update. Be proactive and help yourself so you are not caught with your pants down.

Don’t Get Caught with Your Pants Down: 3 Steps to Increase Your Search Traffic with Google’s Next Update

 

 

How Google Indexes Web Pages

Have you ever wondered how Google crawls and indexes web pages? If you haven’t and don’t know, you should. Why? Because knowing how Google indexes web pages will help you understand how to rank better on Google.

First you’ll need some facts.

Google has had a search engine since 1998 and it has the largest database of indexed websites. Google’s database is twice as large as Yahoo or Bing. When you search for something on Google, you’re not actually searching the entire Internet, you’re just accessing Google’s database of indexed websites.

What is Google’s Index?

The Google Index is the list of all the pages and sites that Google has crawled and cached or stored on its servers. When someone performs a search, Google pulls out pages from this data. More than 40 billion web pages are indexed by Google.

Less than 10% of the entire Internet is indexed. That means there are more than 450 billion web pages that are not indexed by Google.

Google uses programs called “Spiders” to index your site.

Spiders have the following characteristics:

  • they browse the web just like people browse the web
  • they move from page to page and link to link
  • they try to find and index every page on the web

This process is called crawling.

Crawls can happen several times a day or once every few months.

Update or change your content regularly and Google will crawl your site more often.

Fun Fact: Google needs more than 1 million servers to crawl the web and deliver search results.

  • Facebook only has 181,000
  • Intel has only 75,000
  • eBay has only 54,000

7 most common reasons Google can’t crawl your pages:

  1. No or incorrectly configured robots.txt file
  2. A badly configured .htaccess file
  3. Badly written title, meta, and author tags
  4. Incorrectly configuring url parameters
  5. Low pagerank
  6. Connectivity or DNS issues
  7. Domains with bad history

How to help Google crawl more pages:

  1. Check out crawl errors and address them
  2. Be careful with Ajax applications
  3. Add a robots.txt file and make sure it’s working
  4. Add a sitemap to your site

We can help you address these four critical steps to make sure you are doing everything you can do to help Google crawl your pages.

Contact us today by emailing [email protected] or calling 202-236-2968 for more information.

Seven Obsolete SEO Tactics

Search Engine Optimization has changed dramatically over the years and what worked before doesn’t necessarily work anymore. Some of the old tactics you are using may now be a waste of time or money and it’s also possible that some obsolete SEO tactics may actually now harm your search engine ranking.

Obsolete Tactic #1: More Backlinks Means Higher Ranking

Although more backlinks used to mean a higher search engine ranking, this is no longer completely true. These days you’ll notice new sites with few backlinks that rank better than old sites with hundreds of backlinks. What’s going on? Google is prioritizing backlinks – rewarding backlinks that are more relevant. This just shows that you don’t have to focus on backlink quantity. Focus on building highly relevant links that are topical to the content of your website.

Obsolete Tactic #2: SEO is About Writing Keyword-rich Content

If you want to rank for a term like “business loans,” you would need that phrase on your web page, right? That used to be the case, but Google’s algorithm uses latent semantic indexing.

Latent Semantic Indexing is an indexing and retrieval method that uses a mathematical technique called singular value decomposition (SVD) to identify patterns in the relationships between the terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text. LSI is based on the principle that words that are used in the same contexts tend to have similar meanings.

In other words, Google sees the words “corporate loans” as being similar to “business loans”. That means that if you used the word “business” instead of “corporate” you would still rank for both words.

Instead of trying to write keyword-rich content, write content that is user-friendly. If you put your users first and you write what’s best for them, Google will naturally figure out what terms you should rank for and will place you there.

Obsolete Tactic #3: SEO is Just Links, Code, and Content

This is what SEO used to be five years ago. Sites with tons of links, good on-page optimization, and mediocre content ranked really well. That’s not the case anymore.

Sites that rank well are sites that have a large social following. The more popular your site is on the social web, the more eyeballs you will draw to it. And the more people see it, the more backlinks it’ll get.

Check out this great Social Media Tutorial if you want to build your social following yourself.

Obsolete Tactic #4: You Need to Track Your Rankings

Rankings are irrelevant. Sure you want better rankings, but search has changed into a long tail game. Just look at the data: search volume for head terms is down by 8%, and sites are starting to see the majority of their traffic coming from long tail phrases.

The beautiful part about this is that you no longer have to track your rankings. Instead, you need to focus on creating a long tail strategy by using content marketing.

Obsolete Tactic #5: More Pages Means More Traffic

If the pages aren’t high in quality, you won’t rank well. Instead of actually helping you, adding too much content, especially mediocre content, can hurt you.

Google released an update called Panda, which targeted sites with low quality content. Such sites got penalized, and their search traffic dropped.

Don’t create sites with thousands of pages. Focus on creating high quality content.

Obsolete Tactic #6: Higher Rankings Means More Traffic

There is a big misconception in the SEO industry that higher rankings mean more search traffic.

It’s true that more people will see your listing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get more clicks because the keywords you are targeting may not get much search volume. Or your meta tags may not be appealing, which will cause people to not click on your listings.

You can solve this by doing two things:

  1. You need to start using the Keyword Planner tool by Google to find the right keywords to go after.
  2. You need to optimize your click-through rates.

 

Obsolete Tactic #7: You Need A Lot of Text to Rank Well

Until recently, you needed as much as 2,000 words on a page to rank well, but this is changing dramatically. Sites like upworthy.com have very little text but rank well.

This shows that text isn’t the only form of valuable content. Videos and images also do well in the rankings, which is what Upworthy typically uses within its posts.

If you want high rankings, use different types of content to reach this goal. From podcasts to videos and quizzes, there are many possibilities.

Conclusion

Stop wasting your time on obsolete SEO tactics, and start focusing your energy on strategies that will boost your traffic.

Best Practices for Title Tags

This post goes far beyond standard search engine optimization practice. If you haven’t read our post on standard search engine optimization, you should read that first and then come back to this.

Best Practices for Title Tags

Here are the basic best practices for title tags:

  • Generally 55 to 60 characters in width
  • Place keywords as close to the beginning as possible; the closer a word to the start of the tag, the more influence it exerts
  • Make title tags readable
  • If you include a brand in the title tags, place it at the end unless it is a well-known brand people seek out
  • Make each title unique
  • Avoid stuffing keywords
  • The title should form a complete coherent thought before Google cuts it off at the 60 character mark. Title tags that communicate a clear, coherent thought earn a higher click-through rate.

 

 

SEO – Basic Strategies for Top Ranking Search Results

Everyone wants to know how to rank as high as possible on Google. That’s the definition of SEO for most people. What it comes down to is fairly straightforward – content, links to your content, and an organized structure of your content. All Google is doing is trying to connect questions with answers. If your site provides answers to questions (all sites do), then it’s important to know what those questions are, and how Google wants you to answer those questions.

SEO – What Is the Ultimate Goal?

Websites that are rewarded with top ranking search results, are those that deliver a consistent and customer-centric user experience. Everything about the site must be for the benefit of the customer, and that goal must be obvious to Google.

How Can This Be Achieved?

The following are some key strategies that will improve seo and help websites receive top ranks in search results:

  • Post Natural Content

Content should read almost conversationally; it shouldn’t sound awkward or forced in order to squeeze in specific keywords.

  • Use Page URLs Like Website Signage

Page urls should read normally and give visitors a clear indication of what the page is about. Get rid of special characters and gobblety-gook.

  • Use Accurate Title Tags to Keep Visitors On Your Website

Title tags and meta descriptions should accurately reflect the page content. For locally-focused companies, heavy emphasis on geographical reference will aid in the search results.

  • Create Intuitive Site Architecture

Site architecture should be clear and intuitive for visitors. Users should never have to wonder how to find information or get somewhere on your website.

  • Full Support for Mobile Devices is a Must

Full support for mobile devices is mandatory. With the expected number of mobile online users surpassing desktop users this year, this market will only continue to grow. If your site doesn’t capture this audience, you’re likely to see a big dip in traffic if you haven’t yet already.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a cat and mouse game. As Google makes changes to and refines its search algorithm, the websites and businesses that adapt to those changes are the ones that will be rewarded with higher search results.

Best WordPress Plugins – Search Engine Optimization

WordPress is an incredibly flexible, easy-to-set-up and manage web publishing platform that has been downloaded more than 60 million times since its launch in 2003. As of August 2013, WordPress is used by nearly 19 percent of the top 10 million websites. The content management system’s popularity has spawned thousands – nearly 30,000 in fact – of plugins that expand the basic functionality of WordPress. At Connect4, we routinely use 45 WordPress plugins. We use some plugins, for security, admin, and SEO, for example, on nearly every site we create.

The problem with WordPress plugins is that many of them present as much trouble as they do opportunity on a website. Not all plugins play friendly in the same sandbox. And not all plugin developers continue to provide updates for their plugins. Plugins that haven’t been updated in a year make for a security risk. So make sure you consult with your webmaster or web developer prior to installing any of these plugins. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a backup before trying out a new plugin.

Today we are going to focus on search engine optimization (SEO) plugins. It’s a large category with two main plugins – WordPress SEO and All In One SEO. You can’t go wrong with either one but you should definitely use one of the two.

SEO

  1. WordPress SEO
  2. All In One SEO
  3. Google XML Sitemaps for Videos
  4. Broken Link Checker
  5. Redirection
  6. SEO Friendly Images
  7. SEO Smart Links

WordPress SEO

Out of the box WordPress out of the box is already a good platform for Search Engine Optimization. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t improve it further. The WordPress SEO plugin is written from the ground up by Joost de Valk and his team at Yoast to improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects. While this WordPress SEO plugin goes the extra mile to take care of all the technical optimization, it first and foremost helps you write better content. WordPress SEO forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles, and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere.

 

Download WordPress SEO by Yoast

All In One SEO

All In One SEO is like the little kid next door to WordPress SEO. If you want to improve upon the basic SEO settings of a clean WordPress site but don’t have time to optimize each page of content, All in One SEO Pack will automatically optimize it for you.

 

Download All In One SEO

Google XML Sitemaps for Videos

Sitemaps are a way to tell Google, Bing and other search engines about web pages, images and video content on your site that they may otherwise not discover.

The Video Sitemap plugin will generate an XML Sitemap for your WordPress blog using all YouTube videos that you may have embedded in your blog posts.

Download Google XML Sitemaps for Videos

Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker monitors your website for broken links and lets you know if any are found.

Features

  • Monitors links in your posts, pages, comments, the blogroll, and custom fields (optional).
  • Detects links that don’t work, missing images and redirects.
  • Notifies you either via the Dashboard or by email.
  • Makes broken links display differently in posts (optional).
  • Prevents search engines from following broken links (optional).
  • You can search and filter links by URL, anchor text and so on.
  • Links can be edited directly from the plugin’s page, without manually updating each post.
  • Highly configurable.

Download Broken Link Checker

Redirection

Redirection is a WordPress plugin that manages 301 redirections, keeps track of 404 errors, and generally cleans up any loose ends your site may have. This is particularly useful if you are migrating pages from an old website, or are changing the directory of your WordPress installation.

New features include:

  • 404 error monitoring – captures a log of 404 errors and allows you to easily map these to 301 redirects
  • Custom ‘pass-through’ redirections allowing you to pass a URL through to another page, file, or website.
  • Full logs for all redirected URLs
  • All URLs can be redirected, not just ones that don’t exist
  • Redirection methods – redirect based upon login status, redirect to random pages, redirect based upon the referrer!

Existing features include:

  • Automatically add a 301 redirection when a post’s URL changes
  • Manually add 301, 302, and 307 redirections for a WordPress post, or for any other file
  • Full regular expression support
  • Apache .htaccess is not required – works entirely inside WordPress
  • Redirect index.php, index.html, and index.htm access
  • Redirection statistics telling you how many times a redirection has occurred, when it last happened, who tried to do it, and where they found your URL
  • Fully localized

Download Redirection

SEO Friendly Images

SEO Friendly Images is a WordPress SEO plugin which automatically updates all images with proper ALT and TITLE attributes for SEO purposes. If your images do not have ALT and TITLE already set, SEO Friendly Images will add them according to the options you set. Additionally this makes the post W3C/xHTML valid as well.

The ALT attribute is important part of search engine optimization. It describes your images to search engine and when a user searches for a certain image this is a key determining factor for a match.

The TITLE attribute plays a lesser role but is still important for visitors as this text will automatically appear in the tooltip when mouse is over the image.

 

Download SEO Friendly Images

SEO Smart Links

SEO Smart Links provides automatic SEO benefits for your site in addition to custom keyword lists, nofollow and much more.

SEO Smart Links can automatically link keywords and phrases in your posts and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories and tags on your blog.

Further SEO Smart links allows you to set up your own keywords and set of matching URLs. Finally SEO Smart links allows you to set nofollow attribute and open links in new window.

Download SEO Smart Links

How to Fine-Tune Your Existing Website for Better Search Engine Optimization

Search is changing. It is now more personal, more engaging, more interactive and more predictive. Search Engine Results Pages no longer just display 10 blue links — they have become more useful and more visually appealing across all device types.

Google’s Hummingbird update in August 2013 brought semantic search to the forefront of these changes. Beginning with user intent and interpretation of the query itself, semantic technology is used to refine the query, extract entities as answers, personalize search results, predict search queries and more — providing a more interactive, conversational or dialogue-based search result.

In order to leverage the benefits of semantic search on your own website, you’ll have to understand how semantic search works at a conceptual level.

1. Optimize for User Intent

semantic-searchGoogle is now using “form based” queries at scale in real time. Take a look at the image to the left. Suppose you are a travel agent. If you do a quick search for “flights from dc to”, you’ll see the most common user search queries for that structure of question in the dc area. Well, let’s say you are in the travel industry and you have offerings that would apply to someone traveling to “chicago, orlando, boston or miami”, (e.g., tourist attractions or some sort of event). You might want to make sure your page content includes that destination (entity or city or airport) as well as activities and items geared toward the interest of your target audience.

 

2. Align Your Search Engine Optimization with Social Media Campaigns

Identify your social audience and their interests. Write content that covers those interests, your offerings, and the intersection thereof. You can find a great example here, detailing how Virgin leveraged big data to create an interest graph, thereby creating a more targeted content strategy.

3. Make Sure You Leverage Google+ to Its Full Potential

Google+ is critical when it comes to how Google will view your business (and you, too, if you elect to create a profile for yourself). With regard to Google+ for business, here is a great and comprehensive resource from Simply Business.

GoogleplusguideforbizbyGoogle1

4. Ensure Your Web Pages Use Structured Data Markup

Paying special attention to HTML markup vocabulary from schema.org, as that is recognized by most major search engines at this point in time.

There are several great new tools currently available to assist with the process of adding this HTML markup to your pages, including various WordPress plugins and code snippet generators (including Google’s own Structured Data Markup Helper).

5. Use Standard SEO Techniques

The standard SEO techniques that worked previously are still important:

  • Optimize page load times,
  • Optimize sitemaps and website architecture,
  • Cross-platform optimization

The last one is more important than ever with the rise of mobile devices, especially since sites that offer a poor mobile experience may find themselves hurting in mobile rankings.