SEO ( Search Engine Optimization )
When I was a kid, search engine optimization was simpler. Pick a target phrase and use it on the page. Put it in your title, header and body text. Pretty straightforward. These are still (and will always be) the SEO basics.
But then a shift made SEO more subtle, more complex and more interesting. Today, search rankings aren’t just about choosing and using a target keyphrase. It’s about the broader meaning of that phrase and the intent of the searcher.
SEO is about topics not keyphrases
This post is a specific, step-by-step process for semantic SEO writing and keyword targeting. Follow these steps to adapt your content and future-proof your rankings or watch this quick video that explains it all.
Target the topic, not just the keyphrase
Google is officially a semantic search engine, which means it’s connecting visitors to answers. To pages that contain the meaning they’re looking for, not just the letters and words they typed into that little box.
To adapt to this megatrend, you need to target a broader topic, not just the specific phrase. Using related phrases in your writing, covering the subtopics that are semantically related to your main topic.
There are several ways to find those phrases are semantically related, deep inside the heart of Google.
First, just start typing your primary target keyphrase into Google. Notice how it begins suggesting search terms?
As you slowly type in each letter, you’ll see more. Type in another letter as if you’re starting a new word. Try entering a question word at the beginning of your phrase. You’ll soon find a wealth of words connected to your topic.
Here’s an example of how we did this research for a recent post about web design tips. These words and phrases that are connected to that meaning: “tips and tricks” “for beginners” “for small business.”
Answer the related questions
Google answers questions. It’s one of the main reason people use it. With this simple understanding, a great way to adapt your content to the future of search is to find the questions related to your topic and answer them in your content.
It sounds so straightforward, but a lot of content marketers miss this simple trick.
ProTip! A more powerful, more complete source of questions is the paid version of BuzzSumo (recommended). The question analyzer finds questions asked in Quora, Reddit, Stack Exchange and any niche site related to your topic.
Once you’ve found the most relevant related questions, make sure to answer them in your content.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand.
SEO isn’t just about building search engine-friendly websites. It’s about making your site better for people too. At Moz we believe these principles go hand-in-hand.
This guide is designed to describe all areas of SEO—from finding the terms and phrases (keywords) that generate traffic to your website, to making your site friendly to search engines, to building links and marketing the unique value of your site. If you are confused about this stuff, you are not alone, and we’re here to help.
Why does my website need SEO?
The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. Although social media and other types of traffic can generate visits to your website, search engines are the primary method of navigation for most Internet users. This is true whether your site provides content, services, products, information, or just about anything else.
Search engines are unique in that they provide targeted traffic—people looking for what you offer. Search engines are the roadways that make this happen. If search engines cannot find your site, or add your content to their databases, you miss out on incredible opportunities to drive traffic to your site.
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Search queries—the words that users type into the search box—carry extraordinary value. Experience has shown that search engine traffic can make (or break) an organization’s success. Targeted traffic to a website can provide publicity, revenue, and exposure like no other channel of marketing. Investing in SEO can have an exceptional rate of return compared to other types of marketing and promotion.
Why can’t the search engines figure out my site without SEO?
Search engines are smart, but they still need help. The major engines are always working to improve their technology to crawl the web more deeply and return better results to users. However, there is a limit to how search engines can operate. Whereas the right SEO can net you thousands of visitors and increased attention, the wrong moves can hide or bury your site deep in the search results where visibility is minimal.
In addition to making content available to search engines, SEO also helps boost rankings so that content will be placed where searchers will more readily find it. The Internet is becoming increasingly competitive, and those companies who perform SEO will have a decided advantage in visitors and customers.
Can I do SEO for myself?
The world of SEO is complex, but most people can easily understand the basics. Even a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference. Free SEO education is widely available on the web, including in guides like this. Combine this with a little practice and you are well on your way to becoming a guru.
Depending on your time commitment, your willingness to learn, and the complexity of your website(s), you may decide you need an expert to handle things for you. Firms that practice SEO can vary; some have a highly specialized focus, while others take a broader and more general approach.