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
Google 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.
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.