This search engine optimization (SEO) guide explains how to use semantic SEO.
Below, you’ll find a list of the top semantic SEO best practices you can use to improve your website’s search engine rankings and boost your site’s overall topical authority.
There’s also a section with additional resources that explain more semantic SEO tips you can put into action for higher rankings and organic traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Table of Contents
How to Use Semantic SEO
1. Conduct Semantic Keyword Research
The first step for how to use semantic SEO is to start with proper keyword research. You can’t create semantic SEO content if you don’t know which semantic keywords are most relevant to your primary keyword.
Fortunately, there are a number of top free semantic keyword research tools available that you can use to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of semantically-related keyword ideas for any given subject.
After you uncover the most important conceptually-related words and phrases using one of those tools, you can then insert those terms into the content to increase the topical relevance for SEO. However, not every single word or phrase will be appropriate for the content because it may or may not match the user search intent, which is explained next.
2. Get Clear On Use Search Intent
Starting with keyword research is important, but simply having a massive stack of keywords isn’t going to instantly optimize your content for higher rankings and traffic.
After all, the whole reason that semantic SEO exists is for search engines like Google to get away from matching search results based purely on keywords. Instead, this growing practice places more significance on the kind of natural language used by website visitors to determine a page’s relevancy to particular search terms.
One of the most essential semantic SEO best practices for understanding which keywords to use and how to use them properly is to pay close attention to user search intent so that you understand precisely what people want to achieve with their search and create content that fulfills that goal.
There are four main types of user search intent:
- Informational: The user is looking to learn more about a particular subject.
- Navigational: The user is trying to find a specific website, web page, or business.
- Commercial: The user is researching a product and looking for more information to help them make a purchasing decision.
- Transactional: The user has done all the research they need and wants to make a purchase.
Whether it’s buying a product or simply expanding consumer knowledge, knowing what your users want to do will prove invaluable in determining the semantic SEO keywords and subjects to include in your content.
For example, if you’re writing a commercial article on the “best dishwashers”, then it’s reasonable to assume that users may conduct other related searches such as “what to look for when buying a dishwasher?” or “how much does it cost to buy a dishwasher?”, both of which you can include in your content to ensure you’re giving users everything they need and, thus, increasing the likelihood of earning better rankings.
On the other hand, adding those question-based semantic phrases would not be beneficial on a web page that’s targeting a transactional keyword because the user has already made up their mind about the product they want to buy. Therefore, the user does not need extra information about features to look for a dishwasher or the average cost of these appliances. They simply want to buy the product of their choice and adding irrelevant information dilutes the topical relevance of semantic SEO.
3. Create a Comprehensive Content Outline
Before you start weaving all your newly found keywords into your content, you’ll benefit from creating a well-structured outline. This will help you ensure that you cover all relevant, thematically-related terms and topics linked to your main subject.
For example, suppose you were writing a piece about the benefits of cycling. In that case, you might break your content down into four main subtopics covering the physical, mental, social, and environmental benefits of riding a bike.
Each of these subtopics would have its own optimized H2 tag, such as “Health Benefits of Cycling”, and be divided further with H3 subheadings to highlight the key elements for the associated benefit, such as “Increased Cardiovascular Fitness”.
Next, you can organize your subtopics into a logical order, starting with the subjects most relevant to your audience and ultimately creating a narrative that links each subtopic together.
For example, in this article, you’ll notice a natural flow between each of the semantic SEO tips, with at least a sentence or two revealing the relationship between each section and the previous section.
Once you have your outline in place, treat each subtopic as its own mini article, so to speak. Conduct thorough research on each subtopic, just as you would if you were writing a separate article on that topic. This will help you to provide more in-depth and authoritative information to your readers that fulfills the basic information required for doing semantic SEO.
4. Take Advantage of Content Optimization Tools
Before you go fleshing out your content outline with engaging, high-quality content, you’ll have much better success by using a top content optimization tool such as Surfer SEO, the Rank Math plugin for WordPress, or the desktop Website Auditor software from SEO Powersuite.
These solutions take your targeted keywords and scan the top-ranking pages for those terms to provide you with an extensive array of semantic words, natural language, topics, and questions to include in your content.
As you incorporate the most important terms, keywords, and phrases, and tackle other on-page SEO essentials, your optimization score increases so that you can ensure you’re only hitting the publish button when your content stands the absolute best possible chance of ranking high on Google, Yahoo, and Bing for its target keywords.
5. Answer People Also Ask Questions
If you’ve ever searched for anything on Google, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the “People Also Ask” section that appears in the organic search results. These are questions related to a search term that real Google users ask or that the AI (artificial intelligence) system has determined is highly relevant to the search.
Not only do these People Also Ask snippets provide a treasure trove of semantic terms to use in your content, but they also provide an opportunity to boost your search visibility by providing the most accurate and helpful answers to those questions.
Targeting People Also Ask snippets in semantic SEO can also help boost your reputation as an expert on your subject, providing further positive signals to search engines. Therefore, you should incorporate the most relevant questions into your content by making them H2 subheaders, followed by a concise and accurate answer.
6. Use Topic Clusters to Link Content Semantically
A topic cluster is valuable for organizing your website’s content around a central topic. This idea is also referred to as a silo structure in SEO.
Essentially, a topic cluster involves creating a main hub (or pillar page) that covers the primary subject and links to several supporting pages (known as the cluster) that cover subtopics related to the main topic. Those supporting pages then link back to the pillar page to strengthen the topical authority for the main subject.
Organizing your pages into clusters helps Google understand the relationships between each topic you cover, strengthens your site’s reputation as an authoritative source of valuable information on your niche, and allows you to take advantage of the SEO benefits of internal linking.
If this semantic SEO concept is new to you, then check out this related guide on how to build an SEO silo structure which explains the setup process in complete detail. By following that guide, you can ensure your website maximizes the benefits of linking content semantically for improved SEO performance.
7. Use Contextual Anchor Text
As you’re creating your topic clusters, and when you’re linking naturally to other pages on your site for the benefit of your users, it’s important to use optimized contextual anchor text.
Multiple SEO case studies have been performed that reveal the power of keyword-optimized anchor text with internal links. When internal links include relevant keywords for the target page, it often increases in ranking positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs). That’s because Google’s ranking algorithm uses the internal anchor text to better understand the primary keyword topics for the page.
To employ anchor text semantically, it’s best to use contextual anchor text that uses descriptive keywords that provide context to the reader and search engine crawlers (i.e., exact match and phrase match keywords).
8. Employ Structured Data Markup
Structured Data Markup helps your site talk to search crawlers in their own language, giving them all the context and information they need to better match your content to the right search terms and search intent.
Ultimately, this helps you achieve higher visibility and can even help your web pages earn rich snippets in search results.
You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to get tag sections of your content to take advantage of this SEO strategy. This tool will automatically create the markup for you in JSON-LD or Microdata to quickly copy and paste into your article’s HTML source code for immediate semantic SEO benefits.
9. Optimize for Voice Search
As the popularity of voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant continues to grow, optimizing your website for voice search is becoming more critical than ever.
One of the best semantic SEO tips for optimizing your website for voice search is to focus on long-tail keywords that match natural language queries. Unlike text-based searches, voice searches are often phrased as complete questions, so your content needs to provide clear and concise answers to those questions.
You can optimize for voice search by targeting question-based long-tail keyword phrases as H2 subheadings on the page followed by conversational language. This is a good way to use semantic SEO to help extend and add more depth to an article so the content can be pulled for more voice searches.
10. Optimize Images for Semantic SEO
Using relevant and descriptive file names and ALT text gives search engines more context about your images and increases the likelihood of them appearing in relevant image search results. Optimized images also boost the semantic SEO signals when used correctly.
For example, if you were targeting a keyword such as “best window air conditioners”, rather than naming one of the uploaded image files as “IMG_1234.jpg” or “image-1.png”, you should give it a semantically-relevant and descriptive name such as “casement-window.jpg”. Additionally, the ALT text should contain the semantic keyword in a natural way to boost their semantic relevance, such as “Casement window with an air conditioner”.
This SEO strategy helps search engines better understand what the image is about, how it relates to the content, and increases the on-page signals for semantic SEO.
Learn More About Semantic SEO
The following links will help you learn more about how to put the semantic SEO tips in this guide to work in boosting your page rankings. Use these resources to boost your knowledge on the subject.
- Semantic Keyword Research Explained
- Why Are Semantic Keywords Important for SEO?
- How to Find Semantic Keywords
- Best Semantic SEO Tools
- Best Free LSI Keyword Generators & Research Tools
- Semantic Search vs Keyword Search
Use Semantic SEO Summary
We hope you enjoyed this guide explaining how to use semantic SEO.
As you discovered, there are many semantic SEO best practices you can follow to improve your website’s rankings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing, including doing effective semantic keyword research, employing content optimization tools, creating topic clusters, semantic internal linking, adding Structured Data Markup, and optimizing images for conceptually-related words. Following these semantic SEO tips can help you boost your content’s visibility in search results and drive more traffic to your site.
The Editorial Staff at SEO Chatter is a team of search engine optimization and digital marketing experts led by Stephen Hockman with more than 15 years of experience in search engine marketing. We publish guides on the fundamentals of SEO for beginner marketers.