What is Semantic SEO? 10 Proven Tips for Higher SERP Rankings

Abstract graphic of web designers sitting around a computer deciding which semantic SEO keywords to add to a web page

Semantic SEO is one of the vaguest, most ambiguous terms in the SEO world that I’ve had the pleasure of tackling lately. So chances are, you’re here because you’re not clear on what it is or how to use it. Not to worry – I’m here to help! At this point in your SEO journey, you probably already understand three absolute truths:

1. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing, catalyzing the latest trends in digital marketing.

2. It’s essential to keep up with the changes, or else your SEO campaigns will stay stuck in the past.

3. SEO isn’t just about speckling keywords into website content for search engines – it’s about understanding the user and what they’re looking to get from their search query.

This is where semantic SEO comes into play. In this blog, I’ll walk you through the game-changing concept of semantic SEO, which is redefining how search engines interpret and rank content. We’ll dive into the science behind semantics, how search engines like Google leverage it, and provide you with practical tips and strategies to optimize your content for semantic search—ensuring your website ranks higher and delivers a more satisfying user experience. Get ready to embrace the future of SEO!

What is Semantic SEO and Why Does it Matter?

Semantic SEO is the process of optimizing content to better address the meaning and context behind search queries, rather than just targeting a specific keyword.

It is an approach to search engine optimization that:

  • Focuses on understanding the context and meaning behind user queries rather than just their face value.
  • Leverages related terms and phrases to help search engines parse content more accurately and rank it for the most appropriate search queries.
  • Considers user intent and aligns content with various types of search goals (informational, navigational, transactional, or commercial).
Hands typing on a computer with a search engine pulled up

For example, suppose you’re writing about “sustainable fashion.” Instead of only targeting specific keywords like “eco-friendly clothing” or “sustainable fashion brands,” you could create content that comprehensively covers the topic, such as:

  • The importance of sustainable fashion and its environmental impact.
  • Different types of sustainable materials and production methods.
  • Brands and designers that prioritize sustainability.
  • Tips for consumers on how to make more sustainable fashion choices.

By doing this, you’re focusing on the meaning behind the search queries and ensuring your content provides valuable information for users interested in sustainable fashion.

Why do you need to do that in the first place? Because of something called semantic search.

Semantic Search and the Importance of Context: A Crash Course

When conveying and processing language at any level, we consider much more than just the words we use or hear. When you ask a person how they’re doing and they say, “Well, can’t complain!” do you think they’re so over the moon about life that they literally cannot complain, or is there something else going on? This “something else” that’s going on is context. We typically rely on facial features, tone, cadence, and many other nonverbal cues to understand the intent of the people we converse with.

Search engines do (almost) exactly the same thing. Nowadays, search engines utilize a technique called semantic search, which relies on understanding the “context” of user searches. This means search engines will try to interpret what users mean when they type in a query—even if it’s not explicitly stated.

Here’s an example: if you type in “Apple software update issues” into Google, what are the chances you’ll see results related to shiny red fruits? You’re far more likely to see results for the tech giant Apple Inc., and this is because Google has gotten pretty good at guessing its users’ search intent.

Google search results page for “apple software update issues” revealing results related to Apple Inc.

We’ll go over the history, intricacies, and practical applications of semantic search in a future blog post, but for now, just know that search engines are continuously becoming more advanced in their ability to understand and interpret language, allowing them to deliver results that are more relevant than ever before.

Keywords are no longer your SEO Swiss army knife; you need to start thinking about intent, topics, and related concepts. Let’s take a look at how to do that.

10 Semantic SEO Methods For Better SERP Rankings

I’m pleased to tell you that there are lots of easy, non-technical ways to introduce semantic SEO into your digital marketing game plan. We’ll discuss those as well as some more advanced strategies in the sections below.

1. Focus on Keyword Clusters (Rather Than Individual Keywords)

One of the cardinal rules you might have heard early on in your SEO schooling is to target a single high-volume, low-competition keyword (usually a long-tail keyword) for each piece of content you write, especially when your website is first starting out. This isn’t wrong, but if you’re only optimizing for one keyword per blog post, you’re likely going to miss out on a lot of traffic.

Instead, start thinking of that high-volume, low-competition keyword you found as your “primary” keyword. If you want to rank as highly as possible for that keyword, you need to beef it up by introducing secondary and tertiary keywords that are related to your primary keyword.

These will make up what’s called a “keyword cluster,” which is critical for creating blog posts that are relevant, comprehensive, and SEO-friendly.

2. Silo Your Content Even Better Using Topic Clusters

In addition to creating keyword clusters, introduce the concept of topic clustering into your high-level content strategy. While keyword clusters give search engines a better understanding of content on a per-page basis, topic clusters help search engines understand how your pages relate to one another on a much larger scale.

For example, if you create an entire topic cluster around the keyword “SEO,” your content should cover a variety of keywords and topics that are related to SEO, such as “on-page optimization,” “keyword research,” and “technical SEO.” This will help search engines understand the relationship between your web pages.

How does this relate back to semantic SEO? Think of topic clusters as a way to group related keywords together and let search engines know which topics your website is the authority on. This increases your topical authority, which can, in theory, make it much easier to rank for the keywords you target directly and ones that are semantically related.

Abstract depicting the concept of a hierarchical structure of ideas or topics

3. Use Structured Data (Schema Markups)

Structured data, often referred to as “schema markups,” provides additional context about your content, making it easier for search engines to understand. It helps them know, for example, whether a website is about a recipe or an event – and when you add this kind of context to your web page’s code, you’re really helping search engines out.

Some web builders, such as WordPress, have plugins available that make it easy to add schema markup to your pages. You can search for schema markup plugins in the plugin repository of your web builder and install the one that suits your needs. If you are not comfortable editing HTML code or using a plugin, you can use a schema markup generator tool to create the markup for you. There are various free and paid tools available online that can generate schema markup based on the information you provide about your web page. You can then copy and paste the generated code into the appropriate location on your web page.

When done correctly, you might even score rich snippets in search results, which are eye-catching and may boost click-through rates. Explore different types of schema markups and find the ones that suit your content best.

4. Figure Out Your Content’s Ideal Length

Google has been pretty clear about the fact that it doesn’t use word count as a ranking factor. That said, there’s an undeniable correlation between longer content and higher rankings. Why? Most likely because longer blogs contain more comprehensive information that is valuable to readers.

To figure out how long your blog posts should be, you can Google search your blog post’s primary keyword and see what the top-ranking articles are doing. You can also use a tool like SurferSEO if you want to reduce some of the legwork.

5. Include LSI Keywords (Sort of)

First, it is VERY important to note that Google does not utilize LSI technology (don’t take my word for it!). Still, since “LSI” or Latent Semantic Indexing is a buzzword that a lot of readers might be familiar with, especially surrounding the topic of semantic SEO, I wanted to include it in this list.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are words and phrases that are semantically related to your blog post’s primary keyword. Including them in the content of your blog post, even sparsely, is helpful because it can send a stronger signal to search engines that your content is relevant. LSI is a fancy term, but I’m really just referring to synonyms and similarly phrased keywords that are related to your primary keyword.

6. Optimize For Search Intent

Understanding and addressing the various types of user search intent (informational, navigational, transactional, commercial investigation) can help improve your content’s relevance to search queries. For instance, if your primary keyword is “running shoes,” you might create content that answers questions like “How to choose the best running shoes?” (informational intent) or “Top 10 running shoes for marathon runners” (commercial intent).

By doing this, you adhere to a fundamental tenet of semantic SEO, which is to focus on the meaning behind search queries rather than simply creating content that uses a lot of keywords.

7. Create High-Quality Content

This seems like a no-brainer, but as marketers have become fixated on search engine optimization and its best practices, their focus on content quality has sadly become decentralized. We have all done it – chasing after keyword rankings and traffic, thinking that this alone would bring in conversions.

But remember, search engine optimization is all about creating content that helps people find what they are looking for. And if your content isn’t helpful, then it doesn’t matter how well-optimized your website is for search engines – you won’t get any conversions.

By creating engaging, comprehensive, and helpful content, you are much more likely to naturally optimize your content for semantic search, which is the name of the game for semantic SEO.

8. Use Google’s “People Also Ask” to Your Advantage

You can often find questions related to your blog post’s primary keyword by searching it in Google and looking at the “people also ask” feature. This will give you a list of commonly asked questions about your primary keyword, and you can use these to create more comprehensive and helpful content.

Google search results page for “wordpress meta description,” highlighting Google’s “People also ask” feature

It’s generally good to have a Frequently Asked Questions section on your blog anyway, so you can use those questions to fill yours out.

9. Don’t Write Separate Content For Semantically Related Keywords

This is an SEO myth – that you should write completely separate content for semantically related keywords (or words that mean almost the same thing). This is a waste of time and resources, and you risk suffering a nasty case of keyword cannibalization.

Instead, focus on creating one piece of comprehensive content that covers multiple topics related to your primary keyword. Your readers will appreciate it, and Google’s algorithms are smart enough to recognize when one piece of content is helpful for multiple related queries.

Now, if you feel that a semantically related keyword is adequately far removed from the primary keyword to warrant its own web page, that’s fine. Use your best judgment and peek at the SERPs for both the primary keyword and the semantically related keyword. If Google is ranking mostly the same pages for both queries, you should probably stick to one web page/blog post for both of those keywords. If there is a healthy variety between the two SERPs, that might be your green light to separate the content out.

10. Keep Using Keywords (Yep, Still!)

Semantic SEO isn’t necessarily an alternative to traditional keyword-based SEO – it’s a supplement. Keywords still have their place in semantic SEO.

While your focus should be on creating helpful content, it’s still important to use the right keywords and phrases. This is especially true when it comes to using headings, which can help clarify the topic of a blog post and make it easier for search engines to understand the content.

Can You Over-Optimize a Web Page for Semantic Search?

One thing I don’t want to convince you of is that you should 1) try to stuff as many semantically related keywords/phrases into your content as possible or 2) broaden your topic scope so widely that your content loses its structural integrity.

There is a sweet spot for blog topic scope – you don’t want to go too narrow or too broad. Certain search queries need straightforward answers, not long-winded explanations or digressions toward tangential topics.

Take this blog for example. It’s good that I provided some background information on semantic search and search engine algorithms. This provided some much-needed context for readers. But, if I went on a tangent about the exhaustive history of Google algorithm updates, I would lose the interest of my readership pretty quickly. It’s not that that subject matter isn’t valuable – it just doesn’t belong in this blog post.

On the other hand, if I had skimmed over too much information in an effort to keep the blog post shorter, then I would have failed to provide enough context and detail for readers.

The level of detail and the number of topics you need to cover on a specific web page really depends on the search query that web page is targeting. Your best bet, as is often the case, is to consider your audience’s search intent and make decisions on what information to include from there. Additionally, you can take a look at what your competition is doing for your main keyword on the search engine results page.


By following these best practices, you can help ensure that your content is optimized for both traditional (keyword-based) SEO as well as semantic search. And that’s the key to success for any digital marketer.

At the end of the day, always remember that your ultimate goal is to create content that’s helpful and valuable to your readers. That’s the foundation of any successful SEO strategy and should always be your number one priority. Good luck and happy optimizing!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between SEO and semantic SEO?

The goal of SEO (search engine optimization) is to increase visibility and ranking on search engine results pages, while the goal of semantic SEO is to optimize content for semantic search by using natural language and related terms.

Both disciplines aim to make content more accessible to search engine algorithms, but they do so in different ways. SEO focuses on keyword-based strategies while semantic SEO focuses on providing helpful, high-quality content that is optimized for both traditional SEO and semantic search.

What is the meaning of semantic search?

Semantic search is a type of search engine algorithm that relies on natural language processing to better interpret the meaning behind a query. A search engine that uses semantic search seeks to understand the user’s intent behind their query and provide them with more relevant search results.

Semantic search works by understanding the relationships between words and providing more context to a query. This helps search engine algorithms better understand the user’s search intent and provide them with more accurate and relevant results.

Is Google a semantic search engine?

Yes, Google uses semantic search algorithms to better understand the meaning behind user queries and provide them with more relevant results. Google utilizes natural language processing and other related technologies to interpret user queries with more precision.

What makes a search engine semantic?

A search engine is considered semantic if it uses natural language processing (NLP) and/or other technologies to understand the context behind user queries and provide them with more relevant results. Semantic search engines strive to understand the intent behind a query and return answers that are more closely related to the user’s needs.

Google, for instance, uses a knowledge graph to interpret data from users’ searches and provide them with more precise results. This allows the search engine to infer relationships between different pieces of data, such as the fact that France is a country in Europe or that The Beatles are a popular band from the 1960s.

Without this type of semantic search technology, Google would have to rely on more traditional keyword-based searches, which are less accurate and often lead to irrelevant results – i.e., if you search for “Apple,” you might receive results about the fruit as well as the company.

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About Kouressa Smith

Kouressa is DOS’s resident Website Content Manager. In this position, she directs the content creation for DOS’s website development projects. She develops SEO strategies, maps out the overall direction of content per website, and helps facilitate the creation of that content. Kouressa has over seven years of experience writing professionally and an educational background in creative writing and technical communication at Texas Tech University.

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