If you constantly seek more leads and conversions from your online presence, then you more than likely understand the priority of having your website ranked high in search engine results. So what can you do to improve your ranking efforts in search results?
In the past, it was easy to pick a high-traffic keyword you wanted your Web site to rank for, such as “San Diego dentist,” and write content targeting that particular keyword. Google used to match keywords within a query to keywords on a Web page. The higher the on-page keyword density that matched the query, the more relevant Google deemed the page to be.
This resulted in a great deal of poorly written and often times “spammy” content that was stuffed with high-traffic keywords that resulted in poor user experiences and high bounce rates. In an effort to reduce Web spam, improve user experiences, and provide the most relevant content, Google is constantly updating its search rank algorithm. Included in these updates is semantic search to provide users the most pertinent Web pages based on a search query.
What is Semantic Search?
Semantic search is a tactic that combines search engine optimization and semantic Web technology. It focuses on artificial intelligence to understand a user’s intent and to determine the meaning of the query rather than parsing through keywords and content.
When you enter a search query into Google now, it dives into the relationship of the key phrases to determine the relationship among those words, how they work together, and their meanings. Google understands that “there,” “their,” and “they’re” all have different meanings and that when words such as “chocolate” and “chip” are placed together in a search query, it changes the meaning of those words.
It’s important for businesses to place focus on vocabularies and syntax for structured data. Structured data sends specific information regarding the meaning of your Web page content to Google that can be easily processed by computers. Semantic SEO involves the implementation of semantic markup into Web pages to promote the meaning of your Web site pages so they can be easily understood by machines. As a result, Google gives users a better search experience by providing the most relevant answers based on the users’ search queries.
Using Semantic Markup
Take advantage of Google’s shift to semantic search through the use of semantic structured data or semantic markup throughout your Web site. Also known as, microdata, rich snippets, microformats, and RDFa, semantic markup guides search engines to better understand the meaning behind your Web pages through various schema types such as:
- Google Authorship
- And more
Benefits of Semantic Markup
I wish I could tell you that semantic markup provides you immediate results in search rankings, but it’s impossible to guarantee that type of effect.
However, one thing that it will likely do is improve search traffic and conversions even if you do not rank number one for your desired search term.
Semantic markup will improve search traffic by drastically improving the user experience of your Web site. How will it improve the user experience?
- Semantic markup will deliver more targeted traffic.
- It will increase click-through rates (CTR).
- It will provide users with instant information, saving them time.
- Your result will stand out from standard text results—layouts with stars, asterisks, and photos are eye catching.
- Your bounce rates will decrease because more users prequalify themselves from your snippet content before they click on the search result.
What Semantic Markup Looks Like in Action
1) First, let’s look at local semantic markup, which is extremely important for small and medium-sized business to drive consumers to your business location(s). You can use this markup for the name of your business, address, and phone number. Additionally, you can include fields such as accepted payment types, menus, hours of operation, and more.
2) If you’re in the business of selling products, implement Product Schema markup. It will empower your listings by showing price, stock availability, ratings, and number of reviews in the search results.
3) If your business holds events such as conferences, webinars, business networking mixers, charity or fundraising events, consider implementing the Events Schema markup.
If adding code to your Web pages seems like a daunting task, consider using Google’s free tool to incorporate structured data into your pages.
Open your Webmaster Tools account and click on Search Appearance and then again on Data Highlighter. Using the tool, you can highlight various items of a the event such as event, name, venue name and address, dates, ticket prices, event URLs, performer names if any, images, and so on.
An example of Event Schema markup: “San Diego Concert Events 2014”
4) Reviews and testimonials incorporated on a business Web site can often persuade consumers to engage with your site and to possibly even become customers.
Apply the semantic markup for Reviews on your Web pages, and Google could possibly display a review simultaneously with the businesses listing in the search results.
5) If you go to Google and conduct a search for downtown San Diego sushi restaurants, as you can see below, Google will not return a basic list of search results but will instead display a scrolling bar of relevant restaurants, which also provides addresses, phone numbers, a map , reviews, images, hours of operation, types of payment accepted, and even menus.
From the context of my search query, the Google algorithm makes an educated decision that you are not searching for the “cheapest sushi restaurant in San Diego” or the “oldest sushi restaurant in San Diego,” but rather, Google determines that you are looking for a place to eat sushi in a given geological location, and Google does its best to display all relevant establishments in that particular area.
This is the basis of Semantic Search: going beyond keyword search and taking into account both user context and assumptions to return the most relevant results.
6) It’s highly recommended that you use the VideoObject Schema to aid search engines in understanding the content contained in your video and to then display a video thumbnail image and description in search results. If you’re not incorporating videos within your site, you should. In search results, video listings take up more room on the page, attract attention, and are enticing for users to click on.
Here are examples of Video Schema markup listings in search results for “golf instruction”:
7) Google authorship allows you to use Google+ to link content to your name. You can learn how to set it up here. For now, authorship is most important because it gets your picture listed next to your search results, which can have a strong positive impact on click-through rates. In addition to displaying author information, you can also mark up information about executives and employees on your site by using the Schema for a person.
There is also the possibility that authorship will eventually play a part in an algorithm that recognizes a concept called “author rank.” In other words, it is possible that if you as an author tend to write content that users like, content that you produce in the future will be more likely to rank.
Test Your Semantic Markup before Launching
It would be completely inefficient to implement semantic markup throughout your Web site only to discover it’s not structured correctly. Fortunately, Google has an extremely simple testing tool built right into Webmaster Tools. Just add your link and click “preview.”
My hope for you after you have read this post is that you will strongly consider adopting semantic markup as part of your SEO strategy for 2014. Semantic SEO is being labeled as “the future of search.” Have you implemented semantic markup to your Web pages? If so, what were the results? Let us know your story and thoughts in the comments below.