What Is Semantic SEO, And How Does It Help Get More Traffic

What Is Semantic SEO, And How Does It Help Get More Traffic

“It’s just semantics” is a phrase you might have heard before. It’s often used to brush off seemingly unimportant details or nitpicks over wording. But in the world of SEO, semantics is everything.

So, What’s Semantic SEO?

Semantic SEO is the practice of optimising your website for meaning rather than just keywords. It’s about using the same language as your users and giving search engines the context to understand your content.

In short, semantic SEO is about making sure your website makes sense for [both] users and search engines.

Example of Semantic SEO

A simple example of semantic SEO would be if you were to change the title of your blog post from “5 Tips for Running a Marathon” to “How to Train for Your First Marathon.” The latter title is more descriptive and tells the reader exactly what they can expect from the article. 

It’s also more semantically relevant to the keywords someone might use to search for an article. 

Whereas someone searching for “5 tips for running a marathon” is likely just looking for a quick list of pointers, someone searching for “how to train for your first marathon” is likely further along in their journey and looking for detailed instructions.

Semantic SEO ensures that your content isn’t just keyword-rich but also relevant and descriptive. It helps search engines understand your content better and ultimately rank you higher in search results.

Why Is Semantic SEO Important?

Semantic SEO connects your website to searchers’ intent.

It’s no secret that keywords are important for SEO. But as search engines have become more sophisticated, they’ve also become better at understanding the context and meaning of those keywords. That’s where semantic SEO comes in.

Semantics allows you to create content with a bigger purpose than just trying to stuff in keywords. It allows you to create relevant, informative, and engaging content — all of which are qualities that search engines look for when ranking websites.

Don’t forget that Google wants to provide its users with the best possible results. It wants to provide them with the most helpful, relevant, and engaging content. And semantic SEO is how you ensure your content fits that bill.

It allows you to create content that’s not just optimised for search engines but for humans as well.

After all, your website is for humans, not search engines. But too often, websites are created with only search engines in mind. The result is thin, keyword-stuffed content that does nothing to help the user.

What Are the Benefits of Semantic SEO?

Here are seven benefits of semantic SEO:

Improved Content Quality: As we mentioned, semantic SEO allows you to create content that’s not only keyword-rich but also relevant and informative. It allows you to focus on the broader topic term rather than trying to cram in keywords. 

Better User Experience: When you create content with semantic SEO in mind, you’re also creating content more likely to help and engage the user. And if users find your content helpful and exciting, they will likely stay around for longer.

Improved Domain Authority: In-depth topic research is a significant part of semantic SEO. Doing proper research ensures that your website covers all the relevant subtopics for your niche. This comprehensive coverage signals to search engines that your website is an authority on the topic, which can help improve your domain authority over time.

Opportunities for Internal Linking: When you dive deeper into a topic, you create more internal linking opportunities. You get to link the various sub-topics within your website to create a comprehensive resource for the reader. That not only helps with SEO but also creates a better user experience.

A More Future-Proof Approach: Semantic SEO is about creating quality content relevant to your niche. This approach is much more future-proof than keyword stuffing, which puts you at risk of getting penalised by Google.

Keyword Cannibalization: Keyword cannibalisation occurs when two or more pages on your site compete for the same keyword. 

Semantic SEO allows you to avoid this issue by targeting different phrases that are semantically related to your primary keyword. For example, if you have a page targeting the keyword “best tent,” you can semantically also target related keywords like “tent camping” or “family tents” on other pages. 

Better ROI: Because semantic SEO is focused on quality content, it can provide a better ROI than other SEO tactics. With semantic SEO, you’re not just trying to game the system — you’re trying to create genuinely helpful content that will improve the user experience.

What’s Semantic Search?

Semantic search is a term used to describe how search engines understand the searcher’s intent and delivers results that are relevant to that intent.

In the past, search engines would match the keywords in a query with those on a website. But with semantic search, search engines can understand the meaning of a word and the context in which it’s used.

For example, if you search for “pizza near me,” the search engine understands that you’re looking for a pizza place you can go to right now. It will then use your location to deliver results that are relevant to you.

Semantic search is made possible by advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). With AI, search engines can understand the searcher’s intent and match it with the most relevant results.

How Does Semantic Search Work?

Semantic search operates as an additional layer on top of the traditional keyword-based search. It helps search engines dig deeper and try to read into the searcher’s intent.

Search engines rely on several factors to do this, including:

Co-occurrence: Co-occurrence is when two words appear together in a piece of content. For example, if you have a page about “pizza recipes,” it’s likely also to mention ingredients like “cheese” and “tomato sauce.”

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI): This technique is used to find the relationships between terms in a piece of content. LSI looks at how often certain words appear together and assumes that words that appear together are related.

Query reformulation: This is when a search engine automatically changes the searcher’s query to better match the intent. For example, if you search for “pizza place,” the search engine may reformulate your query to “pizza restaurant.”

Entity recognition: A search engine identifies entities (people, places, things, etc.) in a piece of content. For example, if you have a page about “Barack Obama,” the search engine will recognize that “Barack Obama” is an entity.

These factors help search engines understand the searcher’s intent and match it with the most relevant search results.

To understand your content semantically, search engine work through five critical steps:

  • First, they’ll try to understand the meaning of each keyword in the user’s query.
  • They’ll then try to find a connection between the keywords in the query and understand the context. 
  • They’ll also consider UX signals such as bounce rate, click-through rate, and dwell time to understand how users interact with the results. They’ll also look into the searcher’s history, interests, and location to provide more relevant results. 
  • Next, they filter the results only to show the most relevant ones based on their contextual relevance and user engagement. 
  • Finally, they’ll rank the results to show the most relevant and useful ones.

What Is The Difference Between Semantic SEO And Traditional SEO?

Ultimate Guide to Semantic SEO: How to Use It for Better Ranking - weDevs

The main difference between semantic SEO and traditional SEO is that semantic SEO considers words’ meaning, while traditional SEO focuses on matching keywords.

Semantic SEO is a more holistic approach to SEO that looks at the meaning of words and how they’re used in context. It’s also focused on providing the most relevant and valuable results to the searcher.

On the other hand, traditional SEO focuses on matching the keywords in a query with the keywords on a website. It’s a more simplistic approach that doesn’t consider the meaning of words or the context in which they’re used.

Does Google Use Semantic Search?

Google does use semantic search. If anything, it has been using semantic search for many years now.

Google uses AI and machine learning to understand the searcher’s intent and match it with the most relevant results. 

They’re also constantly updating their algorithms to provide better results. 

Here are three algorithm updates that show how Google is using semantic search:

Hummingbird: This update was rolled out in 2013, and it helped Google understand the meaning of words and, most importantly, the context under which they were being used. 

RankBrain: This update was rolled out in 2015. It helped Google better understand the searcher’s intent. Google released it as part of the Hummingbird update. 

Google uses it as a ranking factor.

BERT: The BERT update has been in effect since 2019. It uses NLP to understand search queries better, interpret texts, and identify the relationship between words, keyword phrases, and entire sentences.

So, yes – Google does use semantic search. And they’re constantly updating their algorithms to provide better results.

Why Does Google Use Semantic Search?

Google’s algorithm has come a long way since its early days. 

In the beginning, Google’s algorithm was based on keywords. They would match the keywords in a query with those on a website. 

But as time passed, they realised this wasn’t always providing the best results. 

People use different words to mean different things. And sometimes, the same word can have different meanings depending on the context. 

So, Google had to find a way to understand the meaning of words and how they’re used in context. Semantic search was the answer.

Google uses semantic search to:

  • Understand webpages and websites by topics, not just the keywords used
  • Interpret user queries and match them with the most relevant results
  • Separate low-quality websites from high-quality ones
  • Provide quick answers to user queries (such as featured snippets, Knowledge Graph, etc.)
  • Integrate different technologies to provide better results (such as voice search, image search, etc.)
  • Improve user experience by providing relevant and valuable results (consider Core Web Vitals)

How Do Keywords Fit Into Semantic SEO?

Keywords are still a critical part of SEO. But they’re not as important as they used to be. 

Previously, you could stuff your content with keywords and rank high in the search results. But fast-forward to today, and that won’t work.

Semantic SEO is based on broader topics, not just keywords. It combines multiple, semantically related keywords to form a comprehensive, almost exhaustive topic coverage. 

For example, if you’re writing about “SEO,” you could use the following semantically related keywords:

And more!

As you can see, many different keywords are semantically related to “SEO.” 

And by using these keywords in your content, you get to cover all the different aspects of SEO. That will help you rank high in the search results for your target keyword. 

Semantic SEO also allows you to exhaust the number of keywords a particular web page could potentially rank for. 

In other words, it allows you to cast a wider net and attract more traffic to your website.

See an example of how this works in practice:

Suppose you have a webpage optimised for the keyword “SEO tips.” 

With traditional SEO, you would only be able to rank for that one keyword. But with Semantic SEO, you could potentially rank for hundreds or even thousands of different keywords. 

Here are just a few examples:

  • SEO tips for beginners
  • SEO tips for bloggers
  • SEO tips for small businesses
  • SEO tips for eCommerce stores

And many more!

As you can see, many different keywords are semantically related to “SEO tips.” 

And by optimising your webpage for all these keywords, you can get more traffic to your website.

What Keywords Should You Use For Semantic SEO?

When focusing on Semantic SEO, you must consider the bigger picture. 

You can’t just optimise your webpage for one keyword. You need to find all the semantically related keywords and use them in your content.

The idea is to create a comprehensive, all-encompassing resource on your chosen topic. 

There are three types of keywords you can use for Semantic SEO:

Short-term keywords are the keywords you want to rank for in the short term, hence the name. 

These are usually high-volume, highly competitive keywords. And it can be challenging to rank for them without a lot of time and effort. 

For example, if you’re in the fitness industry, some of the short-term keywords you could target are “fitness tips”, “lose weight”, and “workout routines”. 

Medium-term keywords are the keywords you want to rank for in the medium-term. 

These keywords are usually less competitive than short-term keywords. And it’s generally easier to rank for them than short-term keywords. 

But they also tend to have lower search volume. 

For example, some of the medium-term keywords you could target are “weight loss tips for men”, “how to get ripped”, and “workout routines for beginners”. 

Long-term keywords are the keywords you want to rank for in the long term. 

These keywords are usually very specific and have low search volume. But they’re also usually effortless to rank for. 

For example, some of the long-term keywords you could target are “weight loss tips for men over 40”, “how to get ripped abs in 2 weeks”, and “workout routines for skinny guys”. 

As you can see, there’s a big difference between the three types of keywords.

Type of Keyword Keyword Example Volume (the number of searches/month)
Short-term Keyword SEO 101,000
Medium-tail Keyword Local SEO services 5,400
Long-tail keyword Local search engine optimisation services in Singapore 800

As you can see, there’s a big difference between the three types of keywords. 

For Semantic SEO, you need to optimise for medium-tail and long-tail keywords. 


Because these are the keywords that are most relevant to your audience

And by optimising for these keywords, you can attract more targeted traffic to your website. 

Let’s Break down a topic:

Suppose we want to write an article on “SEO.”

Some potential short-term keywords could be:

Some potential medium-term keywords could be:

  • “On-page SEO”
  • “Off-page SEO”
  • “Technical SEO”
  • “Local SEO”

And some potential long-term keywords could be:

  • “SEO trends”
  • “SEO techniques”
  • “SEO tools”
  • “SEO resources”

How To Optimise Your Webpages For Semantic SEO?

We’ve gathered a collection of tips to help you get started with Semantic SEO:

#1. Do your keyword research

Before optimising your web pages for Semantic SEO, you must perform thorough keyword research. 

That will help you identify the semantically related keywords you should be targeting. 

You can use different keyword research tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, keyword.io, Ahrefs, and SEMrush.

For example, if we enter the seed keyword “SEO tips” into Google Keyword Planner, we get the following results: 


Now go through the list of keywords and choose a few that make sense for your business. 

#2. Focus on the Topic and Create a Structure Plan

After you’ve completed your keyword research, it’s time to start writing your article. 

But before you start, it’s important to take a step back and focus on the topic. 

  • What are the main points you want to cover? 
  • And what are the sub-topics you want to include? 
  • What are the possible questions your readers might have? 

Answering these questions will help you create a structured plan for tackling your article. 

You want to take the reader on a journey, starting with the basics and progressing to more advanced concepts.

#3. Write for humans, not search engines

Forget about search engines for a second and focus on your audience. 

  • What does your audience want to read? 
  • What are their pain points? 
  • How can you help them? 

Your goal should be to write engaging, informative, and helpful articles. 

For example, when writing about how to prepare an omelette, you might want to include tips on making it fluffy, adding flavour, and cooking it so it’s not rubbery. 

Paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind and make sure your article is easy to read and understand. 

It’s only after you’ve written a great article that you should start thinking about how to optimise it for search engines.

#4. Analyse Your Target Audience’s Search Intent

One of the most important aspects of Semantic SEO is understanding your target audience’s search intent. 

  • Why are they searching for a particular keyword? 
  • Are they looking to buy something? 
  • Are they looking for information? 
  • Are they looking for entertainment? 

Your goal is to match your content to their search intent. 

If they’re looking to buy something, you want to include a call-to-action (CTA) that encourages them to make a purchase. 

The idea is to look for the top-ranking pages for your target keyword and analyse their content. 

By doing this, you can get an idea of what type of content ranks well for that particular keyword. 

For example, if we look at the top ranking pages for the keyword “SEO tips”, we can see that most are listicles. 

It tells us that this type of content ranks well for this particular keyword.

#5. Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords

What are LSI Keywords? And Do They Help With SEO?

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are semantically related keywords that help search engines understand the context of your content. 

They’re essentially mini-keywords that you can sprinkle throughout your article to give search engines a better understanding of your topic. 

For example, if we’re writing an article about “SEO tips”, we might want to include LSI keywords such as “search engine optimisation”, “Google ranking factors”, and “SEO tools”. 

You can find LSI keywords using a tool like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush. 

Enter your seed keyword into the tool, and it will give you a list of semantically related keywords you can use. 

#6. Check Out Google’s “People Also Ask” (PAA) Box

Google’s “People Also Ask” (PAA) box is a great way to find LSI keywords and understand what type of content ranks well for your target keyword. 

Enter your seed keyword into Google and scroll down to the PAA box. 

That will give you a list of questions related to your seed keyword. 

For example, if we enter the keyword “SEO tips” into Google, the PAA box gives us questions such as “What are some useful SEO tips in 2022?” and “What Are the Top 3 SEO Strategies?”

You can use these questions as LSI keywords or as ideas for your content.

#7. Optimise Your Title and Meta Description

How To Write Page Titles and Meta Descriptions for SEO [2022]

Once you’ve written your article, it’s time to optimize your title and meta description. 

Your title should be catchy and descriptive and include your target keyword. 

Your meta description is a short summary of your article that appears in the search results. 

It should be exciting and encourage people to click through to your article.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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