In the past, pretty much anyone can claim to be an SEO professional – all they have to do is to post a few articles filled to the brim with keywords, and see their search rankings go up. It didn’t matter if the content was interesting or if it provided anything of value to the reader – all that mattered was visibility and the inclusion of keywords. To prevent this kind of search engine spoofing, Google has since introduced several new policies that have completely changed the game.
In fact, Google is releasing new updates almost daily, forcing optimisers to evolve and adapt as search engines become smarter and more streamlined. Today, the job of a professional SEO consultant goes beyond just finding the right keywords for the content – they have become digital marketers, analysts and web developers, with an in-depth understanding of the technical side of search engines.
One especially interesting feature to come out in recent years is the introduction of semantic search. Google introduced semantic search in 2013, just five years ago. Known as the Hummingbird update, this feature not only improved the search results for users, but have also had a positive effect on SEO.
Intent over Language
One of the reasons why keyword stuffing was so effective in the past was that search engines relied primarily on keyword interpretation. They will take popular keyword groupings, for example, ‘cheap dentist in Sydney’, and bring up the websites that match the keywords.
This is why optimisers in the past would just fill their web content with keywords, word-for-word, on as many pages as they can. The more you mention the keyword, the more relevant to search engine results your website would appear.
In other words, language was the only indicator for a search result, which is why old websites had keywords that didn’t necessarily make sense for content. After all, some people would type only the keyword and the location, which makes it difficult to use it in a grammatically correct sentence.
With the introduction of semantic search, however, there was a shift from language to intent instead. The search engines no longer rely on the keywords alone, but try to find the most relevant results for the user’s intent instead. This way, they are more likely to find search results that match their needs.
A New Approach to SEO
Semantics has a positive effect on SEO, in that it improved the way we build websites. There is a focus on creating content that addresses a user’s needs, rather than focusing solely on exact match keywords. The use of related terms, partial match keywords and even relevant images are now just as important to ranking as the use of the target keywords. Semantic phrases and synonyms now have more weight, as the context of the keyword is also taken into account.
As a result, SEO professionals now focus on producing higher quality content that caters specifically to the needs of the users. This is highly profitable, as a relevant web page means more visitors; increased time spent on the page, and increased chances of conversions. Though it is true that it requires more legwork, semantic search has an overall positive effect on SEO.
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