SEO Copy: using semantics to improve your website traffic

by Colm Hebblethwaite

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As a content agency, we probably spend a lot more time thinking about semantics than most people. Especially when you consider the increasingly important role it plays in producing great SEO copy and driving even more website traffic to your business.

And there is no way around it – SEO is getting more complex every year. Awesome content remains at the heart of any effective SEO strategy but getting the right people’s attention in an increasingly crowded digital marketplace means utilising every available tool.

Semantics SEO can help you cut through the noise by making sure you are answering real questions asked by real people. SEO used to revolve hitting certain keywords but now relevancy is king. Your content needs to be useful and engaging, not just optimised.

Here’s how to do it.

What is semantic SEO?

SEO has historically struggled a bit to bridge the gap between the needs of search engines and those of consumers. Semantics is an important way of bringing these two things together. It looks to help make web copy more aligned to the intent of your users and the true meaning of their queries.

Context is key here – and semantic SEO looks to use words and expressions to provide more meaningful metadata and semantically relevant content to user questions. Take for example, the search query ‘club near me’. Are we talking dancing, chess, golf or something to ward off attackers with? Semantic SEO looks at context, words, tone and other factors to provide users with the most accurate results. For example, Google’s content algorithm is based on a natural language processing technique named BERT.

For web copy, this means an interesting shift in SEO focus from keywords to semantically relevant terms that help your reader understand the topic. It’s all about figuring out the deeper meaning of why someone is searching for something and making sure your content gives them everything they need. This often doesn’t mean just answering the initial query, but the next two or three that logically follow on from it too.

Latent semantic indexing

The technical details of how exactly search engines work out how a specific term relates to a specific context is fascinating, but a little dense for us to cover here. Essentially, though, it revolves around a process called latent semantic indexing (LSI) which looks at words that are frequently found together (in this case called LSI keywords). So, for the search term ‘apple’, the context is completely different if it is followed by ‘launch date’ or ‘recipe’. LSI ensures that users are presented with the right results based on the context of their query.

So, what are the benefits?

The ultimate goal for any business when it comes to web copy is to look like an authority, to be a thought leader rather than a trend follower. When executed well, that is what semantic SEO web copy is designed to do.

‘Topical authority’ in this case is web copy that provides information on the user’s initial question, its context, similar topics and provides links to connected pieces of content.

By creating a content network for every sub-topic in your subject area, all filled with awesome and relevant phrases and terms, you can massively boost your contextual relevancy in the eyes of search engines. When you add a network of internal links and anchor texts, your site becomes a one-stop shop for people seeking the information they need. This means they are more likely to head to your site straight away when they have another question and potentially engage further.

Using Semantic SEO to create better content

Let’s get started then. Here’s what you need to think about when trying to create more semantically driven web copy.

Before you start writing

Like all good content, you need to start with some serious research. You are going to need to create a content framework that looks to link together the various related topics and search engine queries.

Key things to consider are:

  • How many things do you need to cover to provide a comprehensive view of a topic?
  • Is it feasible to do one article per sub-topic, or can you group several together around a specific context?
  • How are you going to link between various articles to create a logical flow for your reader?
  • You will need to organise the content into separate URL categories within a URL hierarchy to make sure search engines can make sense of it.

While you’re writing

When it comes to the actual writing, there are a few extra things to think about on top of standard best practice for web copy. Firstly, don’t worry too much about keywords. Instead focus on providing high quality, useful and accurate information. As well as making sure that the main angle and topic of the content is clear in the heading, make sure it is included in title tags, heading tags and semantic HTML.

Structuring your subheadings in the form of questions that you then answer will help increase readability and guide the reader to the end. And, importantly, make sure you don’t waffle and get straight to the point. When it comes to linking to other content, try to include the links towards the end of the piece so that readers have somewhere to go.

After you finish

Once the content is written, posted and promoted through social media, you will need to conduct regular content audits to make sure everything is still up-to-date and relevant.

The technical aspects of web copy are constantly evolving, and our approaches to making sure our words are seen by the right people have to grow and adapt too. Semantic SEO is the latest innovation that is helping companies reach their intended audiences and drive better commercial outcomes. What doesn’t change however is the stuff that makes great web copy: relevance, precision and a real understanding of commercial and audience context. That will always be our bread and butter.

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