Semantic search brings a human element to the search engines, using artificial intelligence to help understand exactly what the searcher means by their words. When you input keywords into Google’s search engine, the results you receive are based solely on those keywords, but with semantic search, the results are designed to use the words to understand what you mean and deliver more accurate results.

Semantic search is quickly replacing the search algorithms, creating a more human approach and understanding within the major search engines. The semantic search creates a more defined meaning, allowing computers and humans to interact with each other in a more cohesive environment.

Google already started this process by adding features, such as “did you mean?” and auto-complete. The Hummingbird update in 2013 just pushed the process towards a more humanistic searching result.

In the past, you might type in “hotels in Cincinnati”, but today, you are more likely to type in “where to find the best hotels in Cincinnati”. The way people search has changed, so it was natural for Google to respond. In the past, when keywords or keyword phrases were used, the results displayed were vast, but not always on target. Google wants to ensure that every time a search result is displayed, it is accurate. In order for Google to keep up with the changes, they have had to make some serious changes, and with that, webmasters are expected to change as well, or risk being phased out.

The Hummingbird update offers results based on geo-location, inter-relation of words, and key phrase search intent. So, go ahead and ask why, how, where, and when, and start getting real conversational-type responses from Google.

As early as 2008, search engines were beginning to focus on natural language and pushing aside the keyword search. Siri was a large start to creating the need and desire for conversational search. You can ask Siri what foods are good for your diet, how to get to Mount Rushmore, or how to trim your cat’s claws. Today, Google is using that same approach to create a simpler and more effective way to search.

The Knowledge Graph

Semantic search is supported by Google’s knowledge graph. The graph is a compilation of information gathered from various sources that are aimed towards answering any possible question that is asked. The focus of the graph is to supply more contextual information for the question, and not just a list of sites that could possibly answer.

How Does Semantic Search Affect SEO?

The days of creating content based solely on keywords or keyword phrases is over. Keywords are easy to manipulate, but the intent is not. Now website owners need to fully understand the meaning behind those keywords and keyword phrases and create specific content around them. This creates a strong emphasis on keyword research and quality content.

Content needs to be created to answer specific questions that are related to a keyword. For example, if someone types in the keyword “exercise”, their intent may be to find:

  • Easy exercises
  • Foods to eat while exercising
  • Where to find exercise videos
  • The best shoes to wear while exercising

That is the short list of what the searcher could mean, it is up to the website owner to determine the searcher's intent surrounding the keyword and create content that is relevant to their searches.

SEO in the past was focused more on the keyword, but the semantic search is now focused more on the natural language and intent of the searcher. SO, a user is more likely to be specific in their search, such as asking what types of food are best to eat after an exercise? With that questions asked, there is no room for error on understanding the user's intent, so Google delivers only responses that match that query specifically. That is why it is a good idea to create content that is specific, clear, and that answers a specific question. Do not create content that offers several intents to try to shortcut the process, stick to a topic, answer a specific question, and be clear, informative, and helpful to the user.
In order for Google to succeed in its goals to create the perfect search engine for users, they do need your help. They offer plenty of information on their own, but their goal is not to push out other webmasters but to encourage them to get on board with the new method of search. The better your website, the more relevant your content, the better Google looks when they present it to the user, so believe it or not, they do want you to succeed.

Website Owners Competing With Google

One of the toughest issues surrounding this change is the competition level that has been created. Google’s knowledge graph is focusing on answering the questions that searchers are asking and not directing them to other websites. What this means to a website is more competition. Not only do the website owners have to compete with other sites and still fight to become relevant in the search rankings to have Google display their site, but they also have to compete against Google itself.

So, when someone asks a question in Google, and Google displays the answer, what are the chances the searcher will move from the information given by a company they already know and trust to another listed site?

What Website Owners Can Do

Website owners need to understand that Google does not have a monopoly on semantic search. Websites can still compete with the Google knowledge graph by utilizing semantic search as a way to create content for their site.

Google can quickly answer some questions, but not all. That is where other websites need to step up and get noticed. If a user inputs a question asking how long the Amazon river is, Google can quickly answer that without directing them to another website, but if someone asks the best ways to save money on their tax return, Google obviously cannot answer that without directing the user to a valuable site containing the answers.

Website owners need to spend more time researching their targeted audience in order to fully understand their intent. What the searcher is looking for, what information, what answers, and how they want it displayed is crucial for survival in these changing times.

Websites should be designed for mobile usage in order to compete for traffic, as a majority of searchers are coming from their iPhone, Android or other mobile devices. Mobile designs can be implemented to offer a fully functional version of your site or created to offer only a few key aspects of the site. A mobile design offers less information than the original website, but the information displayed should be the most valuable to the user.

Quality content on your page is useless without authority on the topic. Google is looking for authorities, and one way to gain this status is to use social media platforms and create a link-building strategy for your site with content that people WANT to share.

Google’s goal is to create the best possible search system for users. They offer a step-by-step guide to website owners on how to create good quality websites that will be ranked high in the search results. The rules are constantly changing, so a good SEO campaign needs to be adjusted to match the changes frequently.

Semantic search is not pushing SEO out of the game, it is just changing how it is played. 


When writing content for your site, social media platforms, blogs, or other people's blogs, write for the user, not the search engines. The algorithms in which Google are using now are geared towards the human mind, so your content should be as well. Try to answer a question, give instruction, entertain, or offer an opinion that people are looking for. Stay relevant to your topic, never veering off on another just because it is trending or popular. The goal is to become an authority in Google's eyes, and the only way to truly do that, is to become an authority in the people's eyes.