What is Semantic Search?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important for website owners, as it allows their web pages to be found through Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It is well known that “keywords” are important elements for SEO, but what is also important is having a website that is structured or “marked up” with favorable Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) elements. HTML elements that your website is marked up with directly influence the search engines’ ability to scan, index, and learn about the relevance of your website to end-users. Web developers use built-in HTML tags to create elements on a page, and those elements consist of an opening HTML tag, content, and a closing HTML tag, making an HTML element appear like: (opening tag) – content – (closing tag). The content may include images, buttons, titles, paragraphs, lists, or links.
Semantic search can be defined as, “…the ability of search engines to consider the intent and contextual meaning of search phrases when serving content to users on the web.”1 In the past, search engines could only analyze exact phrasing of search terms when matching results with a search query, but now search algorithms are more sophisticated and incorporate semantic search principles when ranking content. The two primary factors that guide semantic search are:
User search intent. Search intent relates to what the user is trying to accomplish, such as learning, finding, or purchasing. Search engines can provide more relevant results when they consider the intent of users.
Semantic meaning. Semantics is the study of meaning and relationship between words. In search, semantics relates to relationships between a search query, words and phrases related to a search query, and content on webpages. Search engines can display results that are more closely related to the context of the search query by considering semantics (what the words mean, not just what they are).
Many HTML tags have semantic meaning- the element itself conveys some information about the type of content contained between the opening tag and the closing tag. Semantic markup requires that HTML elements be used according to their intended purpose (so it is readable by both humans and machines) and also requires a separation of content and presentation. The semantic use of HTML elements enhances searchability and accessibility, ensuring that your website achieves high search engine rankings while also being accessible to all visitors.
1 Alexa, 2022, “Semantic Search: What it is and How it Impacts Your SEO”