I was discussing a website project with a French client the other day and got into quite the discussion about semantics. Not quite the conversation you’re likely envisioning, but one about semantic keyword research.
Semantic keywords are nothing new. They have been around for around five years at least as far as I know. Yet very few clients know about them or their significance in SEO performance. This has to change. If you’re paying for SEO services from Coastal Content or someone else, you need to at least know what you’re getting for your money.
According to the Collins English Dictionary, semantics means:
‘The branch of linguistics that deals with the study of meaning, changes in meaning, and the principles that govern the relationship between sentences or words and their meanings.’
In the real world, semantics is about how we use words to convey meaning. For example, if you’re doing a web search on the subject of tablets and you just typed ‘tablets’, are you:
In reality, we use qualifiers to clarify the search, which is where semantic keywords come in. In the same example we would more likely search for ‘best Android tablet’, ‘tablet screen repairs’ or ‘cheapest Windows 10” tablet’ because we know that the extra information will make the search results we see much more relevant.
Depending on how you use the search engines, location can also play a part. For example, if you’re accessing the internet from a mobile with location awareness enabled, the search engine could take your location and add it to the results. So your search of tablet screen repairs could then be further refined to ‘tablet screen repairs in [Location]’.
So rather than building a list of the most popular keywords in your niche, you’re building a list of potential intent. What is a person likely to search for or use your product for? How would you apply its uses in the real world? How is a user likely to see it, refer to it or search for it?
We all know that Google isn’t the only search engine but we can all admit that it is the biggest. It is also the cleverest. It has gained intelligence steadily over the years and has been studying semantics since 2012 if not earlier. It know knows how we use language, how we search for things and how words relate to each other on a range of levels.
It has given us much cleaner search results with far fewer spammy entries than before but it has also give us quite the challenge in mastering it. We have moved from just needing a list of the top performing keywords in a niche and optimising content. We are now in a world where we have to understand how someone would search for that content and what phrasing they would use to get it. That’s where audience research comes in.
So now we know why semantic keywords are important, how do we generate some? Taking the initial example of ‘tablets’ from earlier, we now need to generate some more useful keyword terms to optimise content around.
I tend to use the LSI Keyword Generator. It’s fast, powerful and free. There are many premium alternatives but the ones I have tried tend to not perform any better than this one. Enter your general term into the search box, complete the Captcha and generate. A list of popular terms will appear ready for your use.
A new window will appear with a selection of the top performing semantic keyword terms around your search. A simple search for ‘tablet’ returned quite a few semantic terms for me to peruse. If I was looking to create content for someone who sold tablet computers, a few returns offer a good place to begin.
These would be the core keywords to begin building a content marketing project around. We could further expand that by looking at the wider industry. Consider terms such as ‘mobile computing’, portable computer’, ‘tablet cases’, ‘how to use Android’, ‘how to use an iPad’, ‘making an iPad secure’ and so on. While these don’t directly relate to the core term, they support it. That makes them almost equally valuable.
Semantic keyword research is about thinking more about language and how it is used by your audience. It explores user intent which is a core concept of content marketing and something I am very interested in!