December 12, 2022 Content Chat Recap: How To Optimize Your Content for Semantic Search

A Content Chat header image that says today's topic is How to Optimize Your Content for Semantic Search with guest Mariah Obiedzinski, who is @MariahWrites on Twitter.

The days of keyword stuffing to get a top rank on search engines are out. If you’re trying to reach your audience through content, you’ll need to factor in the new way that they search for content and the language that they use.

In this #ContentChat recap, Mariah Obiedzinski, AVP of content services at Stamats, and the community discuss how to optimize content for semantic search. Read the full recap below to learn:

  • What is semantic search and what has led to its rise
  • How to understand your personas\’ semantic search profile
  • Ways to address semantic search needs in your new and old content

Q1: What is semantic search, and how does it differ from other forms of search?

Mariah says that semantic search involves the natural way that people type or speak into Google when they’re seeking information.

A1a: Semantic search isn’t a fancy style of search – it’s just the natural way that people type or speak into Google when they’re seeking information. #ContentChat

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

The “people also searched for” section on Google is a great example of how people conduct their semantic searches.

A1: You know how #contentmarketers are always being encouraged to write for humans, not robots? That’s also writing that is optimized for semantic search, i.e. the way your typical content consumer would type in a search query.#ContentChat https://t.co/iWtUyWh6rd

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

If you are struggling to understand this part, the “people also searched for” related search results in Google search are a great example of this.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Semantic search gives us insights into how to tailor our content pathways, the language we use, and the topics we discuss.

A1b: Content producers can serve our audiences by creating work that reflects those pathways, the phrasing, and the answers they seek. #ContentChat https://t.co/HsCgoVgKLE

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A1c: #Semantic search is simply more natural phrasing and intentional, relevant responses that offer closure or a next step. #ContentChat https://t.co/HsCgoVgKLE

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A1: Context matters in semantic search#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) December 12, 2022

Q2: What has led to the rise of semantic search?

Semantic search reflects the way that people naturally ask questions and seek resources through search engines, which includes voice search.

A2a: GREAT question! People are on the go now much more than when Google searchers started taking off. We’re talking and typing into our phones more than on a desktop. And searches can happen anywhere! #ContentChat https://t.co/bVNFTmAgWO

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A2b: Now, Google algorithms are catching up to how people look for information. Google rewards content that reflects the way people naturally search. And that’s what #contentmarketing pros have been waiting for! #ContentChat https://t.co/bVNFTmAgWO

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A2c: Today’s #contentmarketing pros are positioned to do what we do best: Give people the information they need in a useful, relevant way. #ContentChat https://t.co/bVNFTmAOMm

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A2: People are now much more likely to dictate search queries as they use their phone on the go, or use an electronic assistant like Alexa as they move around their workspace. And most people don’t talk in Boolean search terms! :)#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Search queries can help content marketers understand how to provide a satisfying answer to questions from their community.

A2: The longer-tail searches also help you better understand the intent of the query so you can provide a satisfying answer. And with so many more longer queries occurring, you have more opportunities to get found organically via your useful information. #ContentChat

— Your Content HQ (@YourContentHQ) December 12, 2022

A2: Google wanting to make their search engine more user-friendly IMO#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) December 12, 2022

Q3: What steps should teams take to understand their personas’ semantic search profile? Are there tools that help?

Mariah says that your own site data is the best way to understand how people interact with your website content—she explains why below:

A3a: Your own site data are the best source of intelligence about how people interact with your website content. For example, using #heatmap tools like CrazyEgg shows you where people click and where they get stuck in navigation. #ContentChat https://t.co/XenL6B5KKx

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A3b: If you have #GA4 – Google Analytics 4 – set up on your site, you can intuit where content gaps lie by seeing which events are triggered and which are dormant. In other words, you can see if the users are finding what they seek. #ContentChat https://t.co/XenL6B5KKx

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

P.S. even though the date has been pushed out for the retirement of the old Google Analytics codes, you’ll want to get your GA4 code on your site ASAP so you won’t have a gap in YoY data when the old codes are finally turned off.#ContentChat https://t.co/iKfje9vSqo

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Yes, yes, yes! Do that b/c it’s not a “true migration”. The data collection starts when you connect GA4. It will not take in the data previously collected. Spend some time learning about GTM (Google Tag Manager) which will help you get the most out of GA4. #ContentChat https://t.co/PtnBqHWPU7

— Maria Elena Duron | Marketing Coach (@mariaduron) December 12, 2022

A3c: For prospective user #personas, look to #socialmedia. What questions are people asking that you can answer – and are those answers missing in your site #content? #ContentChat https://t.co/XenL6B5KKx

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

I find that Reddit and Quora are both great places to see questions that people are asking, to augment @ mention type social listening.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

A3d: If your #content review reveals gaps, that’s a great place to start fleshing out answers to serve the site search needs of people who could benefit from your expertise. #ContentChat https://t.co/XenL6B5KKx

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Vahag shares a few tips here:

A3:

– Considering the terms and language their target audience uses that’s different from formal language
– Geo-location differences and how they affect the search terms
– Considering spelling variations
– Most importantly, taking intent into serious consideration. #contentchat https://t.co/yn5o1EdL99

— Vahag Aydinyan (@vahaging) December 12, 2022

Q4: How can you plan for semantic search as you’re planning a new piece of content?

Conduct keyword research to understand what terms or phrases you should include. Use those terms naturally and conversationally—keyword stuffing is no longer an effective strategy.

A4a: #Keyword research and use is still important, but not in the way it used to work. You don’t have to worry about using phrases a certain number of times on a page – use them naturally and conversationally for optimal #SEO. #ContentChat https://t.co/1fLC29OL82

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

The mandatory use of a keyword 4-5 times in a blog post used to feel so unnatural for many writers (and readers for that matter). This has been a very welcome change. #ContentChat https://t.co/r9IGmvzSUt

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Refine your keyword list as you research other existing content on your topic.

A4c: Use the words and phrases you discover while researching for your content pieces. These search terms will help people find your stories and get the information they need – from you, a reliable source – quickly. #ContentChat https://t.co/1fLC29OL82

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Those frequently searched-for terms that you include also have the potential to become anchors for your next piece of content that delves into your topic more deeply. Makes your content hub planning much easier!#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

The community shares a handful of keyword research and search trend tools below. Did we miss your favorite(s)? Let us know using #ContentChat on Twitter or LinkedIn.

A4b: You can also use #keyword and #search trend tools like Moz or SEMRush, or take a look at free tools like Answer the Public, Google Trends, or Google’s People Also Ask. Or, scope out convo platforms like Reddit or Quora, as @SFerika noted. #ContentChat https://t.co/1fLC29OL82

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A4: When I have my outline for a piece of content in place, I typically use @Semrush’s content marketing tool to help me identify the related keywords and top-performing content for my topic. This helps me ensure I am filling in a content gap + using the right terms. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

A4: Tools like MarketMuse, Frase, SurferSEO examine the topics and semantically related words in the top-ranking pages for a given keyword phrase. That can help you cover all aspects needed to rank, plus you can differentiate by expanding to cover additional info. #ContentChat

— Your Content HQ (@YourContentHQ) December 12, 2022

A4a: And datastudio. Still need to set that one up #ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) December 12, 2022

LOVE me some DataStudio! #ContentChat
The visuals alone are worth the setup!

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Q5: Should teams optimize existing content for semantic search? If so, what is an efficient and ROI-focused way to prioritize and update old content?

Updating content is essential for keeping up with semantic search (and improving your blog performance in general).

A5a: Absolutely – updating content is a must to keep up with #semantic search. #Governance is key to any #contentstrategy, really! #ContentChat https://t.co/DNAI5K4mQN

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Prioritize your content updates based on what is most viewed or which pages will be used for an upcoming campaign.

A5b: To start content #optimization, I recommend prioritizing a list of content with the most pressing need of updates. Perhaps for a forthcoming campaign or pages or stories that are most outdated. #ContentChat https://t.co/DNAI5K4mQN

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A5c: Once you have a list of #content to update, start with the main “hub” piece – the landing page or the main and most intensive #blog story on the topic. #ContentChat https://t.co/DNAI5K4mQN

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Identify which pages get the most traffic but have low search traffic.

I’d add on that it can be helpful to see which of your pages are getting the most traffic but that have the least amount of that traffic from search. Chances are there is room for improvement there.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

And see which content isn’t performing well. How can you improve it?

A5: I would start with underperforming content first to ensure that your semantic #SEO strategy produces conversions#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) December 12, 2022

Stay aligned with your stakeholders and move down your priority list until you’ve completed your content updates (for now).

A5d: From there, you can start working through the second and third tier pages. When you and your stakeholders are happy with that section, start with the next one on the list! #Governance is a continual and rewarding process. #ContentChat https://t.co/DNAI5K4mQN

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Q6: What are the main SEO elements that can address semantic search needs?

Add links in your content to related blog posts and new webpages.

A6a: Optimizing for #semantic search revolves around matching #intent and improving the #userexperience. One key element is to update interlinking – add links to related #blog stories and new #webpages. #ContentChat https://t.co/XzQgFuqGgW

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Embed audio and video content. If your goal is to drive subscribers to your YouTube audience, however, then you should link to your video instead.

A6b: More searchers are seeking #multimedia content. Consider adding #audio or #video to your pages during #governance for #semantic search. #ContentChat https://t.co/XzQgFuqGgW

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Excellent point! And make sure it’s a video that’s actually about the topic. I’ve seen many websites try to game the system by embedding one random video across a ton of pages in an attempt to raise their search visibility.#ContentChat https://t.co/iN9nNh6jRq

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Is there a rule of thumb on embedding that type of rich media vs. linking to it via YouTube, podcast platform, etc.? #ContentChat

— Carmen Hill (@carmenhill) December 12, 2022

If your goal is to keep people on your site, you want to embed instead of linking. But if you are trying to grow your YouTube audience and drive subscribers, you’d want to link from my POV. Comes back to your content objectives.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

My advice is (often) to use #socialmedia as a distribution platform. @JoePulizzi says it best, and this is a paraphrase, “Don’t build your mansion on rented land.” Rather than building it all out in one place, test and see which platforms draws the most visitors. #contentchat https://t.co/Za6AgPHh7M

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Create more than just web pages and blog posts. Consider templates, illustrations, samples, and other content types that can help your community.

A6: An often overlooked element that semantic search has elevated is how frequently people are looking for a very specific type of content on a topic, such as a template, a sample, an illustration, etc. Don’t just focus on web pages and blog posts. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Avoid keyword stuffing and ditch the brand promotional language.

A6c: #Google rewards content that answers users’ questions and matches search intent. Searches often use conversational language. Eliminate “keyword stuffing” and reduce excessive institutional language. #ContentChat https://t.co/XzQgFuqGgW

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Search your keyword/phrase and see what elements the top-ranking pages include.

A6: Search the keyword/phrase you want to rank for. What are the top results? For example, if you see several video results on Page 1, then you’ll likely need to make a video in order to rank well. #ContentChat

— Your Content HQ (@YourContentHQ) December 12, 2022

A6: Look to schema for your business type. Which schema are competing brands using in the search results? And start there for useful content types.#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) December 12, 2022

Q7: What common pitfalls do content marketers face when creating content that appeals to semantic search, and how can they avoid these?

Don’t try to address every question your customers may have about your industry. Create content on specific topics in your area of expertise.

A7a: There is a BIG temptation to try and create all.the.content. But you know what they say…while you can’t do EVERYTHING perfectly, you can master specific topics in your area of expertise. #ContentChat https://t.co/rY4TgDu0BC

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

See also trying to be everything to everybody! It’s pretty difficult to talk to multiple personas in a meaningful way on the same website, unless you invest the resources like @salesforce has to develop content hubs for multiple audiences under one umbrella. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Interlink your content on the same topic to provide a deep dive for your readers.

A7b: Focus on the biggest questions a searcher might have about a specific topic. Create an intensive, interlinked piece of content that takes a deep dive on the topic. #ContentChat https://t.co/rY4TgDu0BC

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

Great reminder that unless it’s the very first pillar blog post you are writing on a topic, it’s critical to reinforce your keyword strategy by updating links amongst your relevant related content to surround your keywords.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) December 12, 2022

Focus on answering the main questions your community asks through content. Over time, your organic search rankings will rise.

A7d: Create pieces of #content that answer those questions and watch your organic search rankings lift over time. #ContentChat https://t.co/rY4TgDu0BC

— Mariah Obiedzinski (@MariahWrites) December 12, 2022

A7: In addition to building out content on low competition keywords that don’t convert, not matching the other results!

Also an exact match keyword search by a single user as reported by analytics might not match the most common semantic search query!#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) December 12, 2022

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