Google has always been at the frontlines in providing people with readily accessible information as close as possible with what they need or are searching. In its effort to provide exactly just that and also as a way of combating spammers and scammers taking advantage of the technical limitations in digital architecture, Google continues this pursuit by continuously improving and making changes in its search algorithms.
From the old search rules of merely matching keywords from search queries to keywords found on web pages, Google has shifted its focus towards semantics. What this mean is that the intent and meaning of search queries identified by the new Hummingbird algorithm update, will be matched to content that have the same context and meaning as identified through the Knowledge Graph.
Google’s own head of Search, Amit Singhal, confirmed that the search giant will be focusing beyond mere keyword matches and more into understanding the intent of the search user, with the goal of providing the user with what he or she is actually looking for. To do this, the search engines will have to rely on semantic mark-ups to help them better understand the meaning and context of the words and not just the words themselves.
What this mean for business owners and digital marketers is that they too should make a shift in their content marketing efforts – if they haven’t yet – away from mere mechanical concentration on keywords, to really providing their targeted audiences with quality content.
The infographic (click to zoom):
Understanding What Semantic Mark-up Is
First, you must have a clear understanding of what Semantic Mark-up is. You must probably have heard of HTML tags, CSS codes, and the like, and for the average online user these technical terms may all sound gibberish to them. In its most basic sense, Semantic Mark-up is the code or language that the search engine machinery use to help it understand the exact information of a particular webpage.
Since search engines bots don’t read content just like what humans do – they’re machines after all – it would take them a longer time to index, categorize, relate and understand the context of your content. With Semantic Mark-up, you can tell search engines directly the underlying meaning behind your content. Using the data classification and microdata provided in the semantic mark-up, search engines can index your website faster and much more accurately.
So it’s all about meaning now, not merely individual words but on how these words are related or connected to one another in context and intent. Semantic mark-up can be added as an HTML code to each of your web pages to tell search engines exactly what that particular page contains. However, you can even go beyond that to more advanced applications of the semantic mark-up like providing these codes to specific snippets of information within your pages.
But before going into deeper detail, it would be best to understand first the importance of how semantic mark-ups can affect your website’s SEO.
The Importance of Semantic Mark-up for SEO
If search queries can be categorized according to their intent and not on mere keywords, they can be grouped into three types:
- Informational (80% of queries)
- Navigational (10% of queries)
- Transactional (10% of queries)
As mentioned earlier, search engines are machines that do not read web pages like humans do. They read code and semantic mark-ups can help them understand web contents faster and much more meaningful. What this means for SEO is that search queries based on the three types categorized above can better be matched with content if they contain proper semantic mark-ups. This will definitely affect how search engines will treat each query and will return the most appropriate search results based on the meaning of the words.
What this means is that search engines can now transform itself beyond its basic function as a “search” engine, or a machine that merely returns a bunch of links from web pages that contain matching keywords. With Semantic mark-up, search engines can become Answer Engines: providing search users with answers, and not just links, as close or as meaningful to their original intent when they made their query.
Using Semantic Mark-up for SEO
There are many types of Semantic Mark-ups, or what webmasters call schemas or marked-up HTML codes that you can add to your content. Each type will actually depend on your content and there is a particular schema that will apply to your content’s intent and context. What this will do is to drastically increase search traffic from targeted users, as search engines get to filter out irrelevant links or websites with content that are from a totally different context and perspective. The following describes some of the semantic mark-ups that you can use for your content.
1. Schema for Local Business
If your digital marketing strategy is intended to attract potential customers to a local business, then Schema for Local Business is what you need. The code includes important local business information like address, operating hours, maps and contact information that you want targeted customers to know. With this schema, search engines can properly list your site on queries from local users that match your content. You can even GeoTag your “Place” to make it even easier for users to find your establishment.
2. Schema for Retail / E-Commerce Business
Whether you have a physical or an e-Commerce business, it would be best to include proper semantic mark-up for your products to make it easier for search users to find them. This can include specific product information consumers usually ask like the price, manufacturer, color, weight, etc.
3. Schema that Identifies Breadcrumbs
While breadcrumb use could be straightforward for people, search engines do not have the same capability of understanding. Using Schema for Breadcrumb, it will make it easier for search engines to index and navigate your content based on hierarchy of pages and categories, making them more readily available in search results.
4. Schema for Alternate Languages
Some sites that target different geographical locations can benefit with schema codes that can help identify the proper language for your site for a particular region or geographical location. Search users from France can best be served by search engines by returning proper content from your French-targeted pages because of these mark-up codes.
5. Schema for Testimonials and Reviews
Capitalize and leverage on testimonials and reviews by making use of Schema for Reviews to tell users that there are testimonials and reviews about your site or products available. These can help persuade your targeted audiences to take one step further and become paying customers.
6. Schema for Events
The Events Schema mark-up can be a great tool for telling people about upcoming events listed on your website. You can use this in conjunction with another webmaster tool called Data Highlighter for Events to highlight specific elements in your event like date, venue, name, etc.
There are other schemas available that you can use including Schema for People, Music, Videos, Special Offers, and other types of content that your site may have. You can create and edit these schema codes yourself or use the Schema-creator.org tool for creating the proper semantic mark-up. But before you set your semantic mark-up in action, it would be best to test this using Google’s structured data testing tool.
Semantic mark-up is important for the future of your SEO efforts and the best place to start is to learn the What, Why and How of Semantic Mark-up and boost your digital marketing campaigns. Google is really focusing on the Semantic Web – they already filed a bunch of patents to prove just that – so it is just but logical for you to swing the same route.
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