You may remember I mentioned help engines a few weeks back.
As the year closes on what I believe has been the most challenging year ever for search, the help engine philosophy is spreading its wings and becoming more noticeable in a post-Hummingbird world.
As time passes more people will need to sit up and take note of the advances of semantic search and its conversational search possibilities.
But what is semantic search?
You only need to look at Google releasing the Google Voice Search extension for its Chrome browser last week to get a greater understanding of semantic search.
The extension allows users to search with their voice and follows the Hummingbird philosophy of more people searching for specified queries vocally via their tablet or smartphone.
The Chrome extension now brings that feature to desktop PCs. With a simple “OK Google” users can ask Google to crawl the web for them for search phrases and return the most relevant results.
Which is what Google’s supposed to do, obviously.
That’s absolutely no comfort at all to people that have been optimising for specific keywords for the last five years. How on earth is somebody supposed to research all the facets of conversational search when they’ve spent so long optimising for the term ‘buy cheap shoes’?
What are your experiences of semantic search? Have you tried any specific tactics that have yielded positive results? Let me know in the comments section below!
It’s good to talk
I’ve said it so many times in the past. If you’ve only budgeted to optimise for certain keywords and nothing else then your chances of success are miniscule.
Your marketing budget needs to be spent wisely on the areas where you’re most likely to see a positive return on investment (ROI) and benefits the core message of your brand.
Online marketing is comms at its finest, with a huge number of platforms for you to take advantage of to spread word of who you are and what you do.
For semantic search to work, you’re essentially starting a conversation with people before they’ve even asked a question.
You need to premeditate the types of questions potential customers would ask which are relevant to your business and the products it sells.
Let’s stick with the shoe example. How can you answer questions such as ‘what are the best children’s shoes for school under £15?’ effectively?
One answer is with an effective combination of content and social media – and checking your expectations.
Push your creative limits
Coming back to the help engine philosophy that shoe question above fits in perfectly. It answers questions for people looking for affordable kids’ shoes, is useful, would be bursting with information, and can be shared with people.
But the most important thing to understand with semantic search is context. Are you creating content that gives users a light-bulb moment and encourages them to put their trust in your brand?
It’s essential when planning for semantic content to take an objective look at your site and the topics that would be best suited for it.
For example, if yours is a local brand then it’s best trying to dominate your local niche with contextual content before expanding outward and upward across the region and nationally.
Creativity doesn’t mean writing something crazy, trying to be popular and funny for the sake of hits, or planning some huge ad campaign to take the world by storm.
I like to think of creativity more as using your knowledge to become a specialist in your field, and answer people’s questions intelligently on a consistent basis.
What’s your definition of creativity in your industry, and how have you done something different to set yourself apart from your competitors? Let me know below!
Blending the old and the new
Before you start considering creating content based around questions and other semantic traits it’s important to understand that a number of pre-Hummingbird optimisation techniques are still essential.
Make sure load times are fast. Optimise sitemaps, and make sure your site is easy to navigate and read on a number of devices through responsive design and more.
Make sure all the technical bits of your site are sound and as streamlined as possible. Visit schema.org and make sure your pages are marked up properly and that major search engines will be able to crawl your site efficiently and effectively.
Make sure you have your business and site optimised in Google Places, that it has its own page on Google+, and that you’re showing off your credentials as an influencer by incorporating Google Authorship and other measures.
Once you’re confident with your structure, then there’s nothing stopping you from creating an inclusive, creative content campaign that attracts visitors and converts that traffic into sales.
Plan ahead for semantic success
Writing about the arrival of Google Now last month I noticed a few people online remarking the technology as something of a personal assistant that recommends things you need without you knowing you need them yet.
Talk to your customers over social media and in-store and get a feel of the questions they typically ask and the information they would want and expect to find from a business like yours.
Take notes, plan ahead, and take a look at your site. Is it answering these questions for potential visitors?
Take a look at your previous keyword strategy and construct some who, what, where, when, why, and how questions around those words to expand your reach.
The best tip to offer when creating semantic content is to imagine you’re face-to-face with a customer and putting yourself in the shoes of a sales clerk answering their queries.
Creating conversations with content and social media is the future of search. Make sure you’re on the right path, though, by listening to the people that matter when constructing content. Your customers.
To find out more about semantic search and the future of SEO contact the Webpresence team today to find out what we can do for your business!