Semantic search is a budding type of search engine that is able to extrapolate meaning from contextual search queries. Using the population of Charlotte as an example, a user would go to Google and type in “charlotte, nc population” or something similar. However, using a semantic search engine, a user could type “how many people live in Charlotte?” and the engine would be able to deduce the proper response.
There are a few notable engines including Powerset, Hakia, and Cognition, but in all likelihood you haven’t heard of any of these. You might be wondering why SEO for semantic search is important, and truthfully, it isn’t yet. But one major semantic search engine has recently launched that will skyrocket the popularity of these queries: Siri.
Apple recently got in trouble with several high profile pro-choice groups when a Siri search for “abortion clinics” didn’t return a result for Planned Parenthood, but instead showed a nearby pro-life counseling office. Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land did a much better job explaining why than I could, but the bottom line is this: Siri couldn’t find Planned Parenthood when searching for an abortion clinic because Planned Parenthood doesn’t call themselves an abortion clinic. Danny gives an example for Home Depot as well, which appears for “hardware store” but not “tool store.”
So what does this mean for SEO? It means that while this isn’t a huge concern right now, it will be if Siri catches on. The implications for local search are strong as well, but I’ll cover that in a different blog post. For now, my advice would be this: Don’t throw link building and page structure in the garbage just yet. Keep this in the back of your mind when writing blog posts and website copy though – keywords are great now, but natural language may be equally important soon.
Have you considered the implications of Siri and semantic search? What are you doing to prepare for the possible rise of this new type of SEO?