Top 5 Positive Impacts of Semantic Search for SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has changed a lot over the past years.

From a worldwide web in its infancy to the search engine juggernauts of today, this was only to be expected. Of course, if you’re a passive web user, you may have simply noticed that your search queries have improved over time

If you delve into SEO, however, you may better grasp the exact extent of these changes. From tackling “black hat” SEO tactics to incorporating semantic search principles, Google has truly been busy.

As such, we’d like to devote this article to exploring the positive impacts of semantic SEO practices and semantic SEO strategies.

What is semantic search & semantic SEO?

To start with the basics, let us begin by defining semantic search itself.

At first, search engines would, for the most part, simply examine exact phrasings and keyword matches. However, this is not how humans work; we recognize that every query carries specific intent. Synonyms, paraphrasing, and other semantic factors carry undisputable value as well; we don’t merely look for exact matches, but valuable answers.

That’s where semantic search begins – at recognizing that rigid keyword matches don’t suffice.

Semantic search, then, comes with two core principles:

1. Semantics

This term carries different significance for the field of linguistics, but search engines apply similar principles. Namely, that words and phrases share relationships. Matching the exact words of a query to a page offers some basic value but understanding the phrase’s actual meaning and examining content against it provides so much more. Thus, semantics seeks to understand the aforementioned synonyms, paraphrases, and other related terms.

2. Search Intent


On the same subject, search intent carries more significance than one might think. Each search query carries specific intent, which can belong to any of the following broad categories:

  • Information
  • Commercial investigation
  • Purchase intent
  • Navigation

In short, users’ intent dictates what they hope to achieve. Where simply stuffing the keyword “boat” would previously suffice to yield notable SEO benefits, the same does not apply to semantic search. SEO requires patience, much more so than before – the user may be looking for information on boats, or searching for boat prices, or seeking to purchase a boat, or simply trying to navigate to a known site about boats, respectively.

That’s what SEO experts have now embraced through semantic search and semantic SEO; that search engines seek to take intent into account to provide better, more accurate, and more valuable results.

Google’s algorithms and semantic search in semantic SEO

Having defined semantic search, you may still be wondering why it’s relevant to SEO today. The answer is quite simple, and it lies in search engine algorithms.

In all such discussions, Google tends to be the one to whose criteria SEO adheres. This should not surprise you, of course, given Google’s massive market share. Nonetheless, most other search engines establish similar standards over time as the intent is, after all, the same, a better user experience.

Regardless, Google’s algorithms have seen many changes since 2002. Perhaps most notably, the Hummingbird update in 2013 paved the way for semantic search. In short, where previous algorithms would rank websites more leniently in terms of search intent, Hummingbird solidified it.

It allowed the positive impacts of semantic search for SEO to shine through by emphasizing semantics and intent. Finally, in 2015, Google launched the AI-powered RankBrain, which worked in tandem with Hummingbird to prioritize results. Combined, the two prioritized user intent over keywords more than ever before.

For some simple examples, consider the following factors in opposition to simply matching keywords:

  • Spelling
  • Singular/plural
  • Tense
  • Synonyms
  • Keyword order
  • Query structure

All the above help search engines focus on the user’s actual intent and achieve what they wanted. It makes them adhere much closer to natural speech and human behavior, thus better optimizing search results to benefit the user.

The positive impacts of semantic search & semantic SEO

Having discussed all the above, you may have a clear concept of the benefits of semantic search. However, those arguments only served as a cursory glance. Let us become more specific and pinpoint the exact positive impacts of semantic search for SEO.

1. Less rigid emphasis on keywords


The definitive first advantage lies in less rigid keyword focus. SEO experts no longer need to focus on exact keyword matches and can thus create more flexible content. At the same time, users can be less precise and still get valuable results.

For SEO experts, this doesn’t invalidate keyword research by any means; effective keywords still represent effective search terms. However, it may not be that the words per se are valuable, but that the concept behind them is. In this regard, you may consider approaching the concepts in a creative or innovative way that can produce results. Consider the argument of short keywords against long-tail keywords; the same principle applies here.

For users, this means that they need to be less precise with their phrasing. From paraphrasing a possible medical condition to looking for a broad type of product, they can expect valuable results. That’s precise because the search engines now focus on their intent, not their queries’ exact keywords and structure alone.

2. More SEO flexibility



Through semantic search, both content creators and users enjoy more flexibility, increasing the value of content across the board.

Consider how constructing content around specific keywords limits creativity. Businesses and brands continue to try to inject character into their content since it incites better emotional responses. Indeed, a more human tone is known to foster brand loyalty and let businesses rise above the competition.

However, structuring context specifically to frame exact keywords clashes with this concept, limits content creators, and often reduces overall quality.

With the flexibility afforded by semantic search, content doesn’t need to be so rigid and prone to repetitiveness or redundancy. More SEO flexibility lets marketers innovate and provide better value, enabling their users to receive said value.

3. More valuable search queries


By extension, these practices do produce higher user value. As a likely web user yourself, you can probably relate to the need for user value, where results match your needs. This is precisely the positive impact of semantic search for SEO that search engines seek to accomplish.

A great example of increased user value arguably lies in voice-to-text. This is a field where semantic search has made strides towards improving search results. Consider how humans write and speak differently and that a conversational tone offers relatively less accuracy. Put simply, semantic search allows virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Cortana to effectively relay spoken queries to search engines.

But regardless of that specific field, semantic search increases user value by applying the aforementioned principles. This incentivizes content creators to produce higher-value content, which already finds itself high on the list of SEO criteria. In turn, users get more valuable content, and skilled content creators get the rightful results for their effort.

4. Rich results and quality content


Furthermore, the quality of the content itself aside, the semantic search focuses equally on actually delivering said content. On this front, you may recall the fundamental principle of SEO itself; providing relevant, valuable content.

Google has somewhat explicitly addressed this through rich results and featured snippets. Following the principles of semantic search, these features highlighted the positive impact of semantic search for SEO.

Featured snippets appear prominently on search engine result pages (SERPs) and let users swiftly access valuable information. Thus, by featuring snippets of relevant information before the user even accesses a website, Google promotes quality content.

At the same time, rich results enrich query results, as the name implies. By analyzing the semantics of queries, as opposed to merely matching exact keywords, search engines can enrich SERPs with relevant information.

From knowledge panels and graphs to maps and studies, these features put the user experience at the forefront. At the same time, this context incentivizes SEO to innovate and provide quality content, where authoritative sources enjoy higher rankings that can be tracked with SEO rank trackers.

5. Better content


Finally, to consolidate all the above points into one key benefit, semantic search simply calls for better content. This situation benefits SEO experts and content creators no less than it helps users.

Frankly, offering value cannot be at the forefront of content creation without care for semantics. Plagiarism checkers can only do so much, and spun content abounds online. In turn, websites that often employ guest writers may fall victim to low quality, rehashed content that hampers their rankings. At the same time, users cannot find value in such an ecosystem either. Thus, semantic search promotes quality content from which both sides can benefit.


In conclusion, there are as many views on semantic search and semantic SEO as there are people. However, from tackling undeserving bad actors to promoting valuable and reader-friendly content, it has a very notable net benefit for the internet overall. Having briefly explored the multiple benefits it can yield for both parties throughout this article, you should now be able to see how it can serve you and your SEO efforts.

Manuela Willbold

Manuela Willbold

Online Media & PR Strategist at ClickDo Ltd.
Blogger and Educator by Passion | Contributor to many Business Blogs in the United Kingdom | Fascinated to Write Blogs in News & EducationI have completed a journalism summer course at the London School of Journalism and manage various blogs.
Manuela Willbold
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