In my last post on Semantic SEO, I mentioned that the greatest challenges are to understand what should be written about and posted on a site and how you can get the necessary signal generated on social media. Google has developed Semantic SEO because it uses factors that are very hard to game. By doing so it stops the ‘arms race’ between Google and the SEO community. I believe that Google made this decision because they were totally fed up with fighting what was a seemingly unending war.
Why is user interaction at the heart of Semantic SEO?
The very fact that user interaction is hard to game is why it’s at the heart of Semantic SEO; that’s very different to links (which underpinned Page Rank, Google’s first rankings methodology), which have for many years been created to artificially boost sites’ rankings. Of course, Google fought back with its Penguin updates, but because of the fact that links can be so easily created (or bought) in ways that Google can’t always detect, links are no longer given the power they once had.
User Interaction is much harder to game because Google finds it much easier to tell if the person causing the interaction is real or not, and by their search patterns and comments reveal that they are interested in, or an expert in, a subject.
How do you generate interaction?
This is the key and is also the hardest thing to do as it requires that your content is not only found (so it can be commented on) but also (the IMPORTANT bit) that this content is relevant, interesting, entertaining, challenging, informative or any combination of these.
Clearly we have a bit of a chicken and egg situation here, at least for new sites. That’s because they have to be found before the content can be seen and before interactions can take place. True, sites can be listed in Google SERPs when they are new, as long as the page concerned contains the right sort of words and the site itself has enough links to get it on the radar. Thus to a degree, writing good content may be enough.
However, to speed up the process and start it in the right way, it’s a much better idea to start the ball rolling with links to these ‘useful’ pages and by creating some social media chatter. The latter is more relevant today than ever.
User interaction is stimulated by relevant content
We know that Google wants to see interaction taking place, but what should you (or your copywriter) write about? And what should you bear in mind when writing this content. All your content should do the following:
- Promote your brand
- Promote your company values
- Make you stand out against competitors
- Create a better understanding of your business
- Help people understand the value of your products
- Help people understand why they should buy from you
Your Posts should also do at least one of the following:
- Answer a specific question
- Create a challenge
- Leave the reader feeling enriched
- Help establish your company’s authority
- Generate greater equity for your brand
What is a ‘good’ site?
While you are creating content you should consider that what you are trying to achieve is a ‘good’ site, the characteristics of which are as follows:
- It contains lots of unique content.
- It is content-solution orientated for questions (phrases).
- It contains sticky content that creates a desire to stay on the site or come back for more.
- It invites interaction for further clarification or additional information.
The types of search phrases to consider writing for
When considering SEO (whether Semantic or not) you have to consider the search terms being used by people, as this shows you what people want answers for, or information on. One thing that will help here is to understand that there are three main types of serach query:
- Informational – How do I? – What is?
- Commercial – the price of, the specs of, the problems with advertising.
- Transactional – where can I buy… a laptop or a Galaxy smartphone? Special offers; Used RVs.
Bearing in mind your type of site and what you’re trying to achieve, you should pick a type and then write with this in mind, As you do this, you should bear in mind what a post should aim to do.
What will all this achieve?
The aim of all this hard work is to obtain traffic, whether via social media or Google. This traffic is generated with the promise of great content; I say it’s a promise because no-one can be absolutely sure of its value before they read it.
Even Google can’t be sure that content is good. Of course it can check the words used, the links to and from, and how well the article is structured. But it cannot really tell how good it is. This is where the user and user interaction comes in; Google’s thinking is that anything that’s talked about and commented on must be interesting enough to mention and thus be included in their listings.
So this is where Google lets the visitors rule on whether a site’s content is really good or not; this is demonstrated by the level and manner of interaction with a given page.
What sort of interaction is Google looking for?
In order of importance, Google seems to be looking for the following:
- Comments on a blog post (on the website).
- Responses to comments on a blog post (on a website).
- Comments about a website on social media.
- Responding to comments about a site on social media.
- Resharing the content of website and adding a comment to the share.
- Resharing without adding any other content.
- Following websites.
- Liking the content of a site.
- Interacting with social posts on a site.
Make It Easy For Your Visitors
All these interactions will only occur if your copy gets seen, but many of them require changes to your site: for instance, if you want people to be able to leave comments, then you must provide a means by which they can do so. Another example is sharing pages: if you want it to be easy for visitors to share a page, then you should provide a Share button.
Social media buttons that link to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts need to be provided too. Having them in place makes sharing easier and therefore more likely to succeed.
The Overall Factors That You Need to Be Aware of
SEO always had a lot of acronyms, abbreviations and buzzwords. The latest of the latter being the ‘Four Vs’: volume, velocity, variety and veracity. In reality, they’re not actually that new; each ‘V’ covers something that had a different name in the past. Nevertheless, they are important.
This is obvious enough and refers to the number of posts, Tweets or pages that you create. While there may not be a ‘do not exceed’ level, there’s definitely a minimum for posts on a site, with one a week being lowest recommended. You of course can do more than this and Tweet away too. The advantage of the latter is that you don’t have to point to, or mention, anything on your site. Instead, you just need to talk (or more specifically, write) about something relevant.
Google has always checked on the number of social media mentions and links to sites. The main reason for this is that it has been looking out for anyone trying to game the system. This is still the case for links, so make sure you never create too many at once. The same applies to creating too many Tweets at once. Of course, others may create chatter about you, but don’t worry. As long as the reason for this increased chatter is valid (e.g. you have a great bit of copy) Google won’t penalise you.
In essence Google is looking for natural patterns, those going up and down and looking, well, ‘natural’…
This covers more than just the sources of your links or your social media following, both of which should be as varied (and therefore as natural) as possible. This is where you must make sure your links come from lots of different sites and areas (some of which must be relevant, but NOT all) and that they use different anchor (linking) text. The latter is all part of the Old SEO, but remains important.
Variety is also important at the very heart of Semantic SEO. It’s essential that your blogs, pages and social media signal is varied and covers more than just your services and products. This may sound strange, but let’s consider for a moment someone selling pet beds, dog leads and other accessories – but not pet food. If they only talk about their products they are very unlikely (never?) going to appear in a search about keeping your dog happy or your cat healthy. Consequently, they will miss the opportunity to be found by people who are not actually looking for their services or products at the time, but who could well be interested.
Because of this, they should aim to be considered as an expert in the field of pet products (in this example) so they get lots more traffic and exposure. This is called Serendipitous Search and is another core part of Semantic SEO as Google provides suggestions about the sites it thinks might be useful. It’s all very different to the simple keyword matching results that used to be used.
Variety in the type of content is also vital, so remember to include videos, images, infographics and possibly even podcasts when you can.
This is another word for authority and trust. It was (and still will be to a degree) gauged by checking the links to a site to identify where they are from as well as the outbound links from the site to authority sites. Linking to an authority source is important; for instance, if you quote any statistics it is vital to link to the sources of any statistics used, or research mentioned an imperative, as this makes Google believe the post can be trusted.
Google has always been on the lookout for mentions (no links used) of a site, brand or product that causing it to think the site must be considered an authority and is therefore worth ranking. As with anything in the SEO world, it’s vital that these co-citations aren’t overdone, but this is an area that you should consider.
We understand that links are less important than they were, but it doesn’t mean this area can be ignored. Instead, the variety and authority of links to a site must be constantly reviewed.
As mentioned in my last post, the ‘blind man’ that used to be Google has metamorphosed into ‘Master Po’ and can see an awful lot. One of these areas is who has posted on your blog or about you on social media – Google can even tell if posts are real or fake! While this stops gaming of the system, it also helps when you get a comment from a person who is seen to be an authority in an area and your page gets a boost.
My last two posts on Semantic SEO cover some important changes in the SEO world and what you should do when creating content. The next post will give you some ideas about gaining more social media traction and how to use ‘old fashioned SEO’ to help.