Semantic Search and Intent Optimization: A Brief Guide

A human hand opens futuristic applications on a touchscreen. Text says: Semantic search: The future of SEO.

Find Out Why Secondary Keywords Are Your Superpower

The way people search the Internet is changing, with as many as 33% of households using voice commands to ask questions.

That’s not all. Way back in 2010, the key to ranking well in the search engine results pages (SERPs) was to produce as many backlinks as possible while filling each page to the brim with keywords.

Times are changing. The focus of a great SEO strategy has shifted.

How does semantic search play into this in 2022, and why are secondary keywords so powerful?

First, let’s peer into semantic search and why it’s so crucial for an exceptional modern SEO strategy.

Defining Semantic Search

Semantic search refers to a new era of SEO in which experts are not so interested in what keywords a searcher uses, but rather how those keywords are used. It seeks to understand the core behavior, motivation, and search intent behind a search query.

When you understand semantic search, you get a deeper understanding of:

  • The topics that are important to your target audience
  • What questions they are asking
  • What language and tone they are asking in
  • What they are expecting to see pop up in the SERPs after they’ve made their query

In short, understanding semantic search gives you a better understanding of your target market’s wants, needs, habits, and expectations.

Semantic search has become the key focus of the very best SEO plans in place today.

Understanding How Search Engines Have Evolved

Google algorithm updates like hummingbird, rankbrain, and BERT have shown us that engines are upping their game to examine how keywords are used and to best match the context of the search with SERPs that answer the question being asked.

Since search engines themselves are spending a lot of time and money on patents related to these updates, it makes sense to begin examining your internet marketing strategy to ensure it is optimized with semantics top of mind.

The Impact of Semantic Search on Modern SEO

Whether we like it or not, the emergence of voice search has played a pivotal role in how semantics have influenced SEO.

With voice search, content must be short, conversational, and to the point, if it is to succeed and rank well.

As for keywords, they are still significant, but they’ve taken a backseat to semantics in that secondary keywords are emerging as the ticket to the top of the search results page.

The Sweet Spot: Semantically Related Keywords

What are semantically related keywords?

Why are they important?

Semantically related keywords, also known as Secondary keywords, are short phrases or strings of words associated with a keyword.

Peppering your text with a few well-placed secondary words shows intuitive engines that you know what you’re talking about and can answer a searcher’s query.

Consider this example:

If your topic is t-shirts, your primary keywords could be some of the following:

  • T-Shirts
  • T-shirt
  • T-shirt design
  • Custom t-shirt

Secondary keywords for the term t-shirts could include:

  • Shirts
  • Graphic tees men
  • Funny t-shirts
  • Christmas t-shirts
  • T-Shirts for Women

What are the best places to pop in a secondary keyword?

We’re glad you asked.

The best places to put secondary keywords are:

  • Web URLs
  • Anchor text
  • Web page title
  • Headers
  • Meta description
  • First paragraph
  • Last paragraph
  • Blog tags
  • Image alt text

Search engines are looking to see that these supporting pieces of text are present in your content, but a word of caution to the wise:

Just like you wouldn’t stuff text full of keywords, you don’t want to overstuff your content with secondaries either.

Your Focus on Semantics Improves User Experience

Why is user experience the most critical aspect of SEO optimization in 2022?

The answer to that question is pretty simple.

Google prioritizes the satisfaction of its users, and therefore, so should you.

There is no limit to the upcoming algorithms search engines can introduce to help them fine-tune their services to offer customized results that connect users with the information they’re searching for.

The best way to respond to these changes is to follow suit and implement a solid SEO strategy with a robust selection of secondary keywords that show Google you’re an authoritative resource for the valuable information searchers seek.

Tips for Marrying Semantics with SEO for the Best Results

Evolving technology and a shift in the way searchers use the internet to answer questions means SEO experts always have to be on their toes to succeed. To save you time and hassle, we’ve compiled the following tips on how to marry semantics with SEO for optimal results:

  • Prioritize search intent and user experience
  • Create content that answers one of the top queries for your topic
  • Crop and modify content to be short and very much to the point
  • Structure your data and content so that it is easy for the user and the engine to read and understand
  • Focus less on primary keywords and more on broad topics where secondary keywords shine
  • Use long tails
  • Create original content that focuses on a niche or topic where you are a knowledge leader so you can produce a wealth of content that is as easy to digest as it is to share
  • Build authoritative backlinks by making content that attracts links naturally a priority
  • Use Rel-canonical tags if you have different versions of your site
  • Reduce errors and redirects as much as possible
  • Improve site speed wherever possible
  • Don’t forget to fully optimize your mobile site

Key Takeaways

We know Google is striving to understand user search intent fully, so in order to stay ahead of the curve, it’s time to step up your game and commit to understanding semantics. Doing so will help you create content focused on the user experience, improving the quality of your content in the process.

In 2022, you need to strike the perfect balance between technical optimization for indexing and ranking and homing in on search intent. Incorporating the use of secondary keywords is a powerful place to start.

Did these tips help you define a clear path toward a successful content strategy? Sprinkle a few lines in the comments below to let us know your take on how semantics fits into the big picture.

John Wickham

Author: John Wickham

About John Wickham

John Wickham is Senior Content Writer and Strategist at LinkNow Media. An SEO expert, he writes to empower small-business owners by giving them the information they need to market themselves. His love of the written word is matched only by his love of ancient history, as well as the semi-colon.