2 and a half years ago, back in February of 2021, a case study (more like white paper) was published on the topic of semantic SEO. Until then the concept hadn’t really been covered.
The author did a great job explaining the details of his theory on the concept which resulted in massive traffic growth for 2 websites which he publicly shared the names of. The SEO guru was community was a abuzz (and still is) about the concept of SEO. Matt Diggity, a well known SEO ‘expert’ praised the research and reffered to the graphs of explosive growth as ‘traffic boners’.
But here now with 2.5 years of ‘out of sample’ data, and these strategies have failed to stand the test of time.
Let’s talk about what Semantic SEO is.
Semantic SEO, often hailed as the evolution of traditional SEO, represents a profound shift in how we approach optimizing web content for search engines. Unlike its keyword-centric predecessor, semantic SEO is all about understanding the intricacies of language and user intent. It recognizes that people use search engines to seek answers, solutions, and information, so it focuses on providing content that genuinely addresses these needs. In essence, semantic SEO moves beyond the mere matching of keywords and delves into the realm of concepts and context. It employs Natural Language Processing (NLP) and latent semantic indexing (LSI) to comprehend the meaning behind words and phrases, allowing search engines to deliver more relevant and contextually rich search results to users.
One of the core principles of semantic SEO is the recognition of entities, which are specific entities like people, places, things, or concepts. By establishing connections between entities and understanding their relationships, search engines can create a knowledge graph that enhances search results. This shift towards entity-based SEO emphasizes content that provides in-depth information and relevance, which not only satisfies user queries but also elevates the user experience. Semantic SEO also embraces structured data markup, enabling webmasters to provide search engines with structured information about their content. In an era of voice search and the ever-evolving nature of search engine algorithms, mastering semantic SEO has become crucial for websites aiming to not just rank well but to genuinely connect with their audience by delivering content that comprehensively addresses user intent.
semantic SEO is a process covering related topics in depth and interlinking them. The author of the white paper Korey
Semantic SEO have failed
The whitepaper on semantic SEO reads well. But I’ve never read a bad whitepaper. What matters is how these strategies perform AFTER they are published. In the quantitative world, we would call this ‘out of sample’.
And in the pseudo science world of SEO, most strategies don’t perform well going forward.
We’ve now got 2.5 years of out of sample data on this one, so I figured I’d pop it into SEMrush and take a look at the traffic levels. Here’s what we get.
Looking at the traffic chart we can see that when the strategy was implemented on the site, about 6 month before published the traffic estimate was about 35,000 visitors per month. And then it shot up rapidly. Peaking out around 130,000 just a month or two after the case study was publshed.
And then it was all down hill form there back to the same traffic they had before the study.
Here’s the other site.
for this site we can see the traffic boner continues up for over a year after the study was published, and then it tanks hard and fast over the next year.
What was ‘seo-prowess’ is now just another ‘rank and tank.
But I’m not ready to forget about Semantic SEO Entirely.
There’s something to be said for covering topics or categories in depth. I’ve experienced on my own business websites going back to 2010. Some of my best performing sites over time was started by covering topics in deep on a blog, before I even did keyword research or wrote to satisfy search intent. I was just helping out the audience.
I’m not sure what the problem is here. Possibly they published too much content, too fast. Possibly the content was low quality. Possibly they did semantic SEO so well that it looked unnatural. We’ll never know. SEO is like playing a game with the Wizard of Oz, and that’s one of the reasons why I say SEO isn’t worth it for many small businesses.
Personally I will continue covering topics in depth with interlinking as much as is naturally possible. To align closely with the objective as Google search, I always do things that are best for the end user and natural… not like someone trying to get SEO traffic asap.