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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Search Engine Technology: Semantic Mapping – The Hot New SEO Technique?

Posted by @ 11:08 pm

The buzzword “semantic mapping” is cropping up more and more often – so what is all the buzz about?

Firstly, semantic mapping is not a SEO technique. Semantic maps (which are similar to mind maps or concept maps) are a graphic way of representing and organizing words, concepts and their relationship to each other. Semantic mapping assumes that there is more than just one relationship between a concept and any knowledge associated with it. You might have come across semantic maps in your children’s homework – they are often used to teach new vocabulary to children.

Semantic maps are relevant in the search engine context because searchers have their own semantic maps in their heads when they are using a search engine to find information. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a certain idea in your head of what you are looking for.

Here’s an example: If you type “Broadway” into Google, you might be searching for

  • Online tickets sales for Broadway shows
  • Information about show times
  • Show reviews
  • Directions of how to get to Broadway from an airport or hotel
  • Or you might be looking for information about a movie or TV series called “Broadway”.

Even though the only clue you gave the search engine was “Broadway”, you’ll then scan Google’s search results pages in light of your semantic map. So even if a site selling Broadway tickets comes up as the top listing on the first search results page, you won’t be interested in it if you are looking for a movie called “Broadway”. Instead, you will scan through the search results until you find one that matches the concept you had in your head (information about the movie).

As search engines strive to increase the relevancy of their search results, the accurate interpretation of a searcher’s semantic map can provide far more relevant search results than the reliance on keyword information. Basically, search engines are trying to get better at guessing what you are thinking of when you are typing in a certain search term, and they are also trying to get better at locating relevant content on the Internet and presenting it to you.

So, for example, if you are interested in buying something, the search engine will try to present lots of online shop results to you. If you are only interested in getting more information on a subject, they will try to only show informational search results.

Even if searchers are only looking for information, marketers can use information content to create and build brand awareness for their products and brands. But this means that marketers will probably have to rethink their web content, and possibly even their pay-for-performance (P4P) strategies.

For websites, search engine optimization will have to expand from optimizing a site for certain keywords to optimizing a site for certain concepts, which will add a new level of complexity to search engine optimization and require an advanced skill set from SEO professionals. If site content corresponds to the semantic maps potential buyers have in mind, a site will be much more successful in generating traffic and conversions.

Discussion (2 - comments)

the article snippet looked interesting enough to go to the full article page. unfortunatly it didn’t really give any new insight. makes me want to check out what was said about childrens semantics, though….

By Anonymous - August 2, 2005

I agree. When you start building your pages with a concept steering your writing instead of a handful of keywords, that will make for better content. But it will also require topical detail knowledge of the person writing the text.
Could it possible be older people with long experience would be the best ones writing new web page text?

By Capt. Donpedro - August 2, 2005

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