Semantic search and the future of SEO

Source: Traffic Jam, episode #30. Interview with David Amerland.

Semantic search is the biggest disruption we ever had since the whole web came along.

Semantic search allows us to find information which is contextualized for us.


Content strategy was based on keywords. Website owners had to anticipate what people would likely to search for.


Search understands how good you content is and what it is about.

Google returns personalised search results based on your past activity, location, social connections and other contextual factors.

Keyword-based search was easy to game. Semantic search is harder to manipulate because it is more complex.

Magic formula

In order to gain traction in semantic search ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why do you do what you do?
  3. How do you do it?

The answer to those questions forms your unique business identity.

Transition from ‘Web of sites’ to a ‘Web of people’

Build a social layer to everything you do.

Your clients want to see people behind your website: their passion, drive, their identity. Connections create trust. And without trust all commercial activity stops.

World has got very small again. Traditional 6 degrees of separation became 2 or 3. Connection “friend of a friend” has monetary value. People will find you through social connections that you build with customers.

You now need to market to only one single person at a time. Make resonant connection with that person and they will become your online evangelist, an amplification point that will spread your message. This will make you surface in search in many different ways.

Many roads lead to your web site

With semantic search being on 1st Google page is not that important anymore. People will find you anyway because search is using social, geographic, time, historical and other personalised signals.

Recently sites had up to 40% decrease in traffic. But they are having increase in conversion up to 15%. Semantic search delivers fewer but more targeted customers to your web pages.

Mind shift

Instead of focusing on search try focusing on people. And through people you will get search.

You can now approach your online business exactly how you would approach a traditional offline business. Send a message to people so they can make an informed decision.

Your voice and passion in talking with your audience is the key. No SEO guru in the world will be able to compete with you. Make brilliant videos, podcasts or write interesting articles.

Google Plus is a shortcut

G+ is nothing like Facebook. The purpose of G+ is to create digital identity service for semantic search.

Your G+ activity and connections are used to assess the importance of what you do. For example, if you have a lot of connections with people who like cycling your content about it will be more trusted by Google. But not the content about ballet.

Tests have shown that if you are an Authority on G+ in your area and you promote a post on G+ this post is likely to raise in Google search results within a day or two. It will not stay there very long unless it gets some traction: frequently visited and reshared. If the post gets engagement it stays in the search results for a longer period of time.

Backlink building is still a valid SEO strategy. But because backlinks can be manipulated Google tries to move away from them. Value of backlinks is being diminished and they are driving less traffic.

Google constantly changes the importance of different ranking factors. Any particular SEO strategy only works for a short period of time because Google frequently changes the game.

Semantic search adds new factors and old factors like backlinks are loosing their weight.

Are we there yet?

We are not quite there yet.