- Semantic search enables retailers to reach a broader audience of potential consumers who are outside their traditional targeted approach.
- For semantic search to be effective, websites must provide a rich landscape of relevant content for context.
- Effectively influencing semantic search requires the right tools and technology to achieve results.
Search capability is an obvious, integral aspect of any online marketing. But, more savvy marketers look beyond the traditional lexical search capability where the search engine looks for exact matches to a query or search term and respond with a text tag to a specific keyword set to also explore the viability of semantic search. Taking intent and contextual meaning into account broadens the search and is beneficial to those retailers attempting to reach an audience who might not know exactly what they want but are interested in starting a purchase journey.
Taking search to the next level
Using retargeting and social ads is effective to reach out to a group of potential consumers based on what you think your customer base looks like and your established profiles. You need to be visible in that space for a chance to win that business. However, it’s not enough to reach out to those who likely fit your traditional personas. It’s vital to think both in terms that are broader and more refined by being visible to those who are interested in what you have to offer but might not yet know about your product or brand.
Paid search is a tried and true method for reaching customers who already are raising their hand to say they’re interested in what you have to offer. It’s the digital advertising channel to ensure you show up in the right space to meet customers where they’re already searching. That’s great if you sell lawnmowers or boat lifts and someone is searching for a specific type or brand of lawnmower or boat lift. However, what if a customer has only a vague idea in mind and isn’t searching for a specific product or service? Semantic search takes paid search to a new level by considering both contextual meaning and the intent behind the search. It leverages machine learning to better understand what a customer is looking for and appropriately applies a response.
Making semantic search work
To influence semantic search, you must have current content, with all your alt tags, and image tags that are current and relevant to the specific audiences you want to reach. The algorithms within the search change constantly, so to stay in the game you have to offer enough relevant content to provide surrounding context. Everyone knows about SEO, but you need enough substance around the terms for them to rank. For semantic search to be effective, there has to be enough content material to support the full meaning of the concepts.
That content runs the gamut from localized landing pages and website experiences to specific brand pages on a retailer’s site. It includes key product descriptions, promotional information, and local dealer information. Whether it’s a product catalog page, a promo page, or a basic conversion landing page, all the content feeds into the algorithms to give the site a fair chance to rank in a search.
Moving from search to viable consumer action
If you’re a retailer who sells a range of products, channeling a prospective customer to the right information is critical. A dealer who sells lawn equipment, power tools, and hardware might show up when someone searches for mowers but the key is to direct that inquiry to specific information on the brand and product at your store. The customer might only know he wants to find out about lawn equipment, the context of semantic search can help you to direct him to the section of your site with information about a specific brand of mower you want to sell.
By responding to a potential customer’s search with relevant, contextual information, you’re streamlining the search process and putting them on a more concentrated conversion path to purchase. From the retailer perspective, there’s more actionable information on a viable sales lead. This consumer has let the retailer know of a valid interest, now the retailer can follow up and close a sale.
By taking advantage of semantic search opportunities, a retailer offers a potential customer more tangible, relevant information on a product of interest, and the retailer has a clear path to an already interested buyer for a specific product. The consumer learns about what he wants to find without having specific product knowledge beforehand, and the retailer has direct access to an interested customer.
Nikki Vegenski is Chief Strategy Officer at PowerChord.