What do your customers really mean when they search for keywords related to your website? Are you really giving them what they want? The answers lie in semantic keyword research.
Google’s Semantic search algorithm use contextual keywords and synonyms to serve people the best possible results based on their intent. From an SEO perspective, semantic keyword research and optimization means focusing on your customer’s behavior and end-goals, rather than your ideal dream for their journey.
Businesses often experience dissonance between what customers want and what they want customers to think or do. A brand might see a drop in clicks or conversions after a change because their perceived optimizations lead to confusion and a poor customer experience. By putting customer intent first, you can create a strong semantic keyword strategy that drives traffic that will convert.
Here’s how you can develop a strong semantic keyword campaign in 2018 and build SEO into your sales funnel with great keyword research and content.
What is semantic research?
On the surface, semantic keyword research is similar to long-tail keyword optimization, except that the long-tail keywords are highly targeted to customer buying patterns and your visitor’s needs.
Neil Patel created a strong example of semantic search for Moz: imagine you search for a particular single-word keyword, like Chicago. Based off of that keyword, search engines like Google have to figure out exactly what the user wants to learn about that particular city. They might actually be looking for:
- Hotels in downtown Chicago.
- Basic information about the city of Chicago.
- Things to do in Chicago.
- Chicago sports scores.
Over the past few years, Google has increased the number of results that feature fast answers in the featured snippets box or “zero position” by understanding what people want, meaning it can answer their queries immediately. However, if someone wants to learn about the history and demographics of Chicago and they’re served ads for hotels, flights, and tours, they’re likely to have a bad response.
If your content optimizes for phrases that aren’t tailored to your customers intent – regardless of how relevant the content might be, then you’re unlikely to see the traffic and sales responses you want in your SEO campaign.
To that end, there are steps any company can take (no matter your size or budget) to tap into semantic keyword research and campaign development.
Step 1: Synonyms and Related Searches
Keyword quality trumps quantity when you’re focusing on semantics. Each piece of content and keyword should have goals and forecasted analytics attached for better campaign evaluation. To develop keywords, some SEO teams take a three-tiered approach to build their campaigns.
- The Tier One keywords are the core keywords related to your website that you want to rank for. These keywords are likely the ones you have been targeting for years. (ex: plumbing)
- The Tier Two keywords provide context and intent for customers, resulting in better searches and more relevant traffic. (ex. Plumbing in Tampa)
- The Tier Three keywords off descriptions and extras to further narrow your audience into customers. (ex. 24/7 emergency plumbing in Tampa on Thanksgiving)
Fewer people will search for emergency plumbing in Tampa than simple plumbing services, but customers who need an emergency plumber are highly likely to convert. Creating content based on customer needs and intent can improve the traffic that visits your website while growing your overall audience.
Create Content Focusing On Phrases
Once you have your keyword lists, it’s up to your brand to create content based on your semantic keyword research. Not only will these synonyms and phrases improve your SEO, they will also make your content more interesting. Your website copy, product descriptions, and blog posts will have more depth and flexibility when you’re not just targeting the exact same keywords every time.
Many of these phrases can help your team generate ideas and website copy. For example, the phrase used above “24/7 emergency plumbing in Tampa on Thanksgiving,” could be answered with a quick blog post about the company being open on Thanksgiving or a landing page clarifying what the business means by “open 365 days per year.”
Sujan Patel actually encourages teams to create intent trees with their keywords. Every long-tail keyword based off of semantic research should have at least one content idea tied to it, if not more. Keyword research without appropriate action is a waste of time.
When Intent and Search Results Don’t Match
Brands focusing on semantic keyword research need to keep an eye on their analytics. Your data will help you identify weaknesses in your content that’s confusing customers or preventing them from converting. As you review your blog posts and landing pages, keep these questions in mind:
- Are there pages with high bounce rates and low engagement because of poor content or keyword optimization?
- Are there pages with high engagement but low conversion, meaning the content is relevant to the search but not your brand?
- Do you have high-quality content that isn’t ranking, possibly because it needs improved keyword optimization based on intent?
By combing through your pages and past blog posts on an individual level, you might identify a few pages that need content major improvements. By starting with this low-hanging fruit, you can dramatically improve your SEO just by cleaning up your website.
Another option for keyword monitoring and content creation is to develop a paid search campaign. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on AdWords, but a few tests can help you build your keyword lists with relevant searches almost immediately.
Check your campaign’s search terms to see what Google shows your ad for in Phrase and Broad match results. These can be your new long-form keywords. More importantly, reviewing these search terms can also help you develop negative keyword lists for SEO that drive poor traffic to your pages and should be avoided.
Every company wants to increase its traffic, but these efforts are futile if audiences aren’t converting. Google constantly updates its algorithm to serve the best results to users, so failing to take customer intent into mind can put you on the bad side of your customer base and the search engines. With semantic keyword research, you can create content that matters to customers and rank for searches that address audience intent.
If you’re unsure how to evaluate your SEO strengths and weaknesses, sign up for a free diagnostic audit through Trinity Insight. We can identify pain points and make a strategic plan for increased keyword performance.