Saturday, July 4, 2009

Semantics for SEO

Semantics is the study of meaning and relationships and plays a role in SEO. Google makes its money from being successful at crawling, indexing, and ranking data. One important aspect of this procedure is being able to understand content in a manner that is more complex than keyword density. One way of doing this is Latent Semantics Analysis or LSA. Google may not use this exact approach, but Google is sure to use some similar system of semantic analysis to look at textual content.

Intro to SEO Semantics

By using semantics, search engines can have a basic understanding of the English language. There is an understanding of synonyms, antonyms, and polysemes. In addition, Google can relate niches and keywords. They’re able to develop complex relationships with keywords through their huge database of information and linking relationships.

For example, Google can understand the following relationships for a Make Money Online site.

Make Money Online

  • Make Money
  • Make Money Online
  • Make Money Blogging
  • Make Money on eBay

Internet Marketing

  • Internet Marketing Services
  • Online Marketing

Social Media Marketing

  • Social Media
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Web 2.0
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon


  • Blogger
  • Wordpress
  • Plugins
  • RSS Feed


  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Link Building
  • Article Marketing
  • Directory Submissions
  • Dofollow
  • Nofollow

Google knows that the usage of any of the above keywords is related to the primary keyword of make money online. It can relate long tail keywords as well as related keywords and the long tails of those related keywords.

Role of Semantics when Writing for Search Engines

Knowing that Google uses semantics is important when writing your site’s content and building links. You should use this knowledge to solidify your page’s focus on a keyword.

Quick Note on Keyword Density

Google content analysis is more advanced than keyword density. Do not stress keyword density. Keyword density will not help you rank higher. Anyone still teaching you to achieve a certain density is wrong. Keyword usage is important, but there is no set density that you should target. Simply use it naturally, but ideas like LSA move Google away from basic keyword density analysis. Keyword density is not a direct measure of relevancy. The usage of a keyword 10 times does not make it more relevant than a page that uses its keyword 3 times. If anything, the over usage of a keyword can hurt your rankings. The usage of semantics can be used to determine if a site is using natural language. An over optimized keyword stuffed page does not use natural language and may hurt your rankings.

Use Long Tails

Instead of trying to use your primary keyword over and over, use long tails. Research your keyword before you write your article to determine long tail keywords. Select two or three long tails that have your main keyword as their parent keyword. Use them in your content to support your main keyword and do it without keyword spamming. Not only does this create natural content, but this increases the number of terms you can rank for. You can now work your primary keyword as well as the long tails.

Related Terms

In addition to long tails, use related keywords. If you’re writing about SEO, talk about internet marketing. If you talk about McDonalds, talk about hamburgers. If you talk about hamburgers, discuss hot dogs. If Apple, discuss Mac and Ipod. These related terms will support your main keyword because Google understands the relationship. In addition, it will increase the number of keywords you can rank for.

Role of Semantics when Link Building

The classic advice of varying your anchor text. If you get too many links with the same anchor text, Google will consider it a Google bomb. Varying anchor text is important for two reasons. First, it looks natural. Having the same anchor text is a sign of self generated links. Second, semantics comes into play. You can use related anchor text to support your primary target keyword.

A post about BANS (Build a Niche Store) could use any of the follow keyword(s) as anchor text and still support the primary keyword.

  • BANS
  • BANS site
  • BANS ebay
  • Build A Niche Store
  • Make Money on eBay
  • Make Money Online
  • eBay Niche Store
  • Build an Online Store
  • eBay Affiliate

Google understands that all of these keywords are related.

Dominating Multiple Long Tails Keywords

By using this approach instead of keyword stuffing one keyword phrase, you’re able to dominate multiple keyword listings for long tails. You can rank for many long tails by simply mentioning the keyword. Instead of repeating one keyword phase over and over, use semantically related keywords. This will reinforce your main keyword while also increasing the number of long tails you can rank for. As your page gains authority for the main keyword, your authority for the semantically related keywords will also increase. And the opposite is also true, as you gain authority for the semantically related keywords, your authority for the main keyword increases.


Understanding that Google uses semantics to evaluate content can help you improve your on site SEO. Simple measures like keyword density are out dated and should not be used to determine how targeted a page is. So when developing content, consider developing a list of long tails and related keywords that you can sprinkle through your content to help support your targeted keyword.