Semantic Search Is In — But Is SEO Out?

Semantic search might provide personalized results, but on the text-based web, SEO still impacts which sites show up at the top.

semantic search

semantic search

Search engine optimization may be going the way of the printing press. Sure, it serves a function, but there are much better ways of doing business these days. According to Forbes contributor Daniel Newman, semantic search is how the Web will operate going forward. That said, there are still opinions that SEO is necessary, and even a worthwhile investment.

Several years ago, SEO was essentially the only way to push your website to the top. This created a number of problems, including keyword spam, and other efforts to game the search engine system. As a result, search became hit and miss, according to Newman.

“The outcomes of your searches had to do with the sites that were best developed to be found when you entered certain, often-incoherent search phrases,” he wrote.

Your search didn’t serve up the best content, but presented the site best-prepared to receive that search instead. With the glut of user data that now exists, searches can adjust for location, gender, previous shopping habits, location check-ins and any number of other factors. Blunt force SEO stands much less of a chance when results are so tailored to user inputs, conscious or otherwise.

Semantic search looks at the meaning behind the search terms used. This means users can use questions to search, instead of keywords. Semantic search “will strive to better understand what I’m really asking and not just analyze the words,” Newman writes in a subsequent article.  By relying on context for search, and then biasing the search with social connected results, semantic search can surface relevant, useful and personalized content.

In the face of that, SEO doesn’t seem to stand a chance. Steve Olenski, a senior creative content strategist at Oracle Responsys, outlines 7 reasons that isn’t true. SEO still delivers higher search engine rankings, it provides a good ROI, and since “your competitors are doing it,” Olenski suggests that it would be foolish to disregard SEO.

Semantic search delivers more personal results, but because the Web remains text-based, good old-fashioned SEO remains a reasonable investment. Eventually, semantic search could easily crowd out SEO as it delivers better results for consumers and marketers alike.

“The Web is smarter, but mostly because we incessantly use tools that allow data to extract meaning. For consumers that leads to some better content to be driven our way, but for marketers this is a goldmine for understanding current behavior and how that may lead to a purchase in the near future,” Newman writes.