Experts in the search industry including search engine representatives seem to agree that the search industry is moving towards semantic search. This trend indicates a noticeable shift in SEO strategies and has led to the emergence of a new buzz term – Semantic SEO.
Semantic search can be defined as one that delivers related results to a search that may not contain terms mentioned in the query or even contain no text in that query. Signals indicate that major search engines including Google and Bing seem to have embraced semantic search strategy in providing specific results. However, search industry experts do not have any strategy that can help sites become optimized for desired semantic search results.
Semantic SEO hence seems to be an emerging term that has been called as various other terms that all try to evoke the same search results. SEO experts will need to master this new trend in coming times to stay on top of their game.
Google has already begun displaying search results for places, people, and media in the form of horizontal cards with images along with conventional vertical results below the cards. These results are based on Knowledge Graph elements that rely mostly on data from Freebase.
While some results will be based on precise or even partial keywords matched to anchor text, recent trends indicate that this may change in the future. You may have already noticed YouTube results achieving improved ranking than websites that possess exact matching anchor text. SEOs will certainly have a tough time figuring out how to optimize websites when their hard-earned keywords are not considered by major search engines.
This has created a huge debate about the importance of keywords with some SEOs claiming that the death of the keyword is imminent in coming times. On the other hand, different experts argue that there is a limit to what Knowledge Graph and semantic SEO can do to uncover the real intent of a user based on personalization and localization. Some search queries are so direct that traditional SEO has to be applied to deliver precise results.
However, SEO experts are slowly coming to the conclusion that search results are now not dependent merely on keywords. With the launch of Conversational Search by Google, SEOs have realized that there are different layers of intent to a search query that cannot be analyzed with link graph and keywords research metrics. The sharp rise of mobile devices has also compelled major search engines to do a rethink on how they display relevant search results to users with different intent than that of desktop or laptop users.
The fact that Google does not announce what factors influence their ranking algorithm makes it very tough for SEO experts. However, some factors such as high quality links, social media popularity, website speed, high quality relevant content, and optimized titles, URLs, and tags currently play an important role in rankings.
Experts continue to argue about the importance of structured data markup in influencing results. Some SEOs are afraid that other scraper sites could use that data to achieve higher rankings while others think that their data could be used by Google merely for Knowledge Graph results or future forms of rich snippets.
Since major search engines provide results with Knowledge Graph elements, which in turn extract data from Freebase and other sources of semantic data, engaging in structured data markup by way of Open Graph Protocol, schema.org, or other methods will not have a noticeable effect on SERPs.
On the other hand, HTML does provide a lot of data currently and the future could witness major search engines such as Google and Bing boosting their quality of results by way of increased dependence on semantic data markup. SEOs will certainly need to adapt to these changes as well as stay away from bad semantic SEO techniques in the future since similar guidelines may be implemented for structured data in coming times.