Going Beyond Keywords and Phrases — Gaining a Semantic Understanding of Search

Have you ever thought about the relationship between the optimized keywords you use to build your e-commerce content around and the terms and phrases your customers are typing into the on-site search box as they look for products? It’s true these might be two different things, but they’re connected in ways that only come to fruition when you have a semantic understanding of what your customers’ needs are.

Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Your natural inclination when it comes to SEO is likely to optimize keywords around the products you sell. This makes perfect sense. If you’re a t-shirt company, optimizing your on-page content with keyword variations of “t-shirt” is going to make sure you’re ranking on Google and other search engines when people search for these keywords.

But how do you know you’re optimizing for the right keywords?

Generally, you’ll use some sort of keyword research tool to figure out what keywords are applicable to your ecommerce. Again, this is a smart way of approaching things… but it leaves more to chance than you might realize. How can you really be sure of the relationship between the products you’re selling and the key terms and phrases customers are searching for to get to your website?

One great way to measure this relationship — using hard data and clear facts — is to examine the search data from your on-site search, rather than just inbound clicks. Not only is on-site search data going to give you a clear picture of what people are looking for once they get to your site, it’ll weed out potential keywords you might be optimizing that aren’t as applicable as you think they are!

Let’s take a look at an example of how a semantic understanding of on-site search terms can pay dividends against regular keyword research:

John optimizes his t-shirt ecommerce site around the keyword “t-shirt” and applicable variations. Over time, he sees his rankings climb on Google, but conversions on his site aren’t increasing at the same pace as his search rankings. John decides to consult his on-site search data and finds that the most popular searched terms on his website are “sport graphic shirts” and “sporty cotton tees.” Neither of these terms are terms he has optimized his content for!

In the example above, realizing the specific needs of customers can lead to executables that improve an ecommerce’s overall optimization. Using that data, John can implement a few immediate improvements to garner more viable traffic:

  • He can place more relevant content on his home page, to capture leads immediately.
  • He can rewrite applicable product descriptions to highlight these keywords and phrases.
  • He can create landing pages that are optimized for these keywords.
  • He can create categories that include these types of products exclusively.

The possibilities for improving site function are endless, and they all root back to having a clear understanding of on-site search data.

Now, you might be wondering what role semantic site search plays in all of this. What makes semantic search such a necessity? Simple: if your on-site search data is littered with inconsistent data that’s the result of improperly parsed searches, you’re not going to get a clear picture of your customers’ needs. Something as simple as failing to hyphenate “t-shirt” in keyword-based site searches can skew data tremendously — semantic search, on the other hand, is inclusive to these types of common mistakes.

The bottom line is that having and using semantic site search data is supremely key to the continuous improvement of your e-commerce. Better search data equals better optimization, equals quality leads, equals more conversions.

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