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5 Steps for Semantic, Holistic Content

Admittedly this headline may sound like a typical online marketing catchphrase. We’re already used to ‘semantic’, but now we need ‘holistic’ too? But, this is the future of online marketing.

What is Semantic? What is Holistic?

'Semantics' is about meaning. There are relations and interconnections between words, and this is what people look for. People who type 'BMW motorbike' into Google relate this to a concrete question, and maybe even an attitude towards life. We should adapt our content to this.

'Holistic' is a modern term for 'comprehensive'. That means answering the users' questions comprehensively. So I could have said '5 steps for meaningful, comprehensive content'. But that sounds lame, and we online marketers just aren't like that...

What are we making so much effort for anyway? Most users find you via Google – and the search engine only rates back-links technology, title-tags and length of text, and maybe user behavior. How can it decide whether the content is semantic and holistic?

But that’s a false conclusion: Google can now judge the semantic and holistic nature of content, and it’s getting better at this all the time. Google wants to show results to users that fit the users’ intentions; that provide precise and comprehensive answers to the questions asked, not just long texts stuffed with keywords.

Don't worry about having too much work: this doesn’t apply to all individual pages of your website. It's about the main pages of your website that convey meaning. We don’t need to address semantics in detail on product pages - in these cases, it's best to talk to a conversion optimizer. News and many other standard contributions don't need the entire content process either. But where you are really presenting yourself, where it's about winning over the user (potentially a client), I recommend these five steps to make your content semantic and holistic.

1. Decide what you want to be and what you are offering the world

That is the most important step and should be done first. What do you actually want?

  • Do you want to sell pencils on your website?

  • Do you want to publish current information?

  • Do you have a tool that you want as many users as possible to sign up for?

Great! Regardless of your economical or content goal: THIS is what you should pursue. No credible business model aims at visibility in search results. Even the amount of visitors is often irrelevant. Both are more or less a means of achieving the goal, but they are not the goals themselves.

For example: If you want to sell pencils, you shouldn’t be optimizing your content for the short tail keyword 'pencil', because this has a very high search volume, and you therefore have too much competition. What about 'print pencils', 'buy pencils online', etc.? Maybe you can leave out the big pencil guide. At any rate, it is often not a good idea (anymore) to fixate on keywords. If you want to sell pencils, there are likely 10,000 different search terms people might use. You don't need to know them all, and you especially don’t need to feed them into your text. But, you should be able to provide the answer.

So: Write on paper what you want to be and what you offer the world in as few sentences as possible, and stick it up over your desk. Believe me, it will help you stay on track.

2. Identify the needs of your target group

This is always easy to say. But in the real world, it's just not that easy to figure out what the people out there actually want, unless you’ve been running your shop for some time and have been observing everything precisely. But with a new business, it will be hard to figure out the needs of the target group. Here are some tips:

  • Spend some time in forums for your topic.

  • Read books and magazines (yes, they still exist…)

  • Create surveys – you can do this for example with SurveyMonkey very easily and quickly, and you can often buy appropriate addresses.

  • Use a questions tool. That is probably the easiest and quickest option to get to know user questions for your area.

  • Of course any research source has it’s difficulties, errors and even cost. But we are aware of these, and seriously want to find the needs of our target group. A few Euros per month should not be too much to ask.

3. Look at what others are doing

Of course, by this I mean, compare yourself to competitors. But, sometimes, looking at the competition prevents you from developing your own new ideas. And as long as your goals sheet above your desk doesn't read 'copy cat', you should find your own, better ideas.

So, when I say 'Look at what others are doing', I am referring to TF*IDF analysis on a keyword. And by TF*IDF, I don't just mean a quick search for keywords that you want to build into your text - that's too simple in my opinion. I recommend taking the TF*IDF analysis seriously and to think about what themes or trends it can show you.

For example: Looking at a fairly old text of mine regarding TF*IDF, I was ranking well for the keyword 'TF*IDF'. But, gradually, the article slipped down the rankings. When I noticed this, I checked the article with a newer tool for its TF*IDF optimization.

I found that there were a lot of keywords surrounding the subtopic 'tools', because in the meantime, a few tool providers had entered the market and all newer pages about TF*IDF were reporting this. But not me, because my article had appeared too early for that. So I quickly added a paragraph about tool providers - and shortly after that I was back among the top results.

If you're looking for a good TF*IDF tool, try out the TF*DF feature in RYTE Content Success.


Figure 1: TF*IDF Analysis with Ryte

Remember: It wasn't my goal to add the word 'tool' in the text, but rather to complete my article with a subtopic about 'tools'.


Figure 2: Whooooops, this is where it went downhill. Maybe it was because we hadn't described certain aspects for the 'canonical tag' in an up-to-date fashion. At least the update worked wonders for the article.

4. Invest in usability and design

There are so many bad, cheap websites, but if you visit the website owner in their actual shop, you'll find that they have door knobs made of gold. Why do so many entrepreneurs think that anything online has to be for free or cheap? If you want to be successful with doing business online, you have to invest.

Think about the structure of your articles using proper sub headers and bullet lists. Or better, don't think about it, just do it. You should also pay attention to your mobile strategy: how important are mobile users to you? In some shops, they might not play an important role yet. But in most cases, you should consider them. Maybe even a 'mobile first' approach could be right for you? Or, and this is a delicate move, maybe you want to show mobile users different content than desktop users?

In general: You increasingly hear of content that is set-up differently according to the marketing channel. That way users with Google referrers get different content than those who reach the sub page via an internal link or a newsletter. That naturally makes sense, the language and need for information will be different for each of these groups.

You think that's exaggerated? Don't mistake 'big efforts' for 'not available benefits'. And don't forget how smart supermarkets are set-up these days, so that customers spends a few Euros more than they originally wanted to. Why is online investment so much worse than offline investment?

In short: Implement, test, optimize. Your client expects the best content from you - and they deserve it too.

5. Stay at it!

If you think you're done, you'll be disappointed: the world moves on. Even if you become the market leader, it will not take long for your customers to ask other, perhaps more detailed, questions about your products and thus about you. So, you should run through steps two and three again and again. And you should regularly question your technical implementation.

As I said, that doesn't necessarily apply to every one of your sub-pages. But if you take a plunge for an important keyword, it’s high time to use a good question tool and TF*IDF analysis. You should also have a look at what others are doing. That's when you will notice that your content becomes more semantic and holistic each time, and that’s what this is all about.

It Might not be Easy, but it's Worth it

Despite all the excitement about simplicity, quick money and scalability: We can't ignore the fact that semantic and holistic content is the only sustainable type of content. Only then will Google be on our side. And you will notice that it feels great to have the same goal as the most valuable web company in the universe.

Ryte users gain +93% clicks after 1 year. Learn how!

Published on Feb 19, 2018 by Eric Kubitz