The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

– Mark Twain, maybe, sort of

The semantic web is a hot topic in SEO these days, and seems to have been for the last decade or so. It was first described by Tim Berners-Lee in 2001. It’s defined by the W3C as:

A common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.

Basically, it’s a way of linking the data on one page to data stored elsewhere to provide context to machine readers.

There’s a lot of semantic web technologies and solutions out there to help you add linked data to your website. However, years since “semantic web” entered our lexicon, many people are arguing the semantic web has failed. Or that the idea of the semantic web is dead.

So, is the semantic web dead?

The Semantic Web Is Not Dead

Let’s explore the internet a little bit to see if the semantic web is actually dead. Don’t skip ahead and ruin this blog post for yourself.

How do most web users start online? With a query on a search engine. So we’ll do the same thing.

Let’s say I have a problem with a messy desk, and I want help decluttering. So I, like most people, turn to Google for help. Check out the pages Google returned fro my query “my desk is too cluttered”:

Check out the pages Google is recommending. You’ll notice that these pages aren’t optimizing around the phrase I searched for. In fact, most of them are focusing on the word “clean,” which I didn’t use in my search at all.

How does Google know I want to organize my desk? Maybe I’m bragging about my filth.

Let’s take a look at another problem that pet owners might have.

Again, you’ll notice the top results are optimized around “stop barking,” despite the fact my query didn’t use the word “stop”.

Pierre may bark but he's still a good boy.

If you’re one of the 55% of teens or 41% of adults who use voice search daily, you probably see this in action all the time.

Google is able create SERPs like these because of two main factors:.

  1. RankBrain – Google’s query-processing machine learning system. RankBrain is the part responsible for turning “my desk is cluttered” into “how to clean my desk”.
  2. Hummingbird – Google’s revamped algorithm designed to return useful content. It the part responsible for figuring out “Clean Your Desk In 3 Steps” fulfills the need I expressed with my query.

The Semantic Web At Work

You’re right, but within semantic search we can see the semantic web at work.

That’s right, Google’s Knowledge Graph rich search results (aka knowledge panels) are created by the structured data that powers the semantic web.

For an example of a richer semantic network, check out Arnold Schwarzenegger’s knowledge panel:

Google’s semantic network is able to tie Arnold, his short bio from Wikipedia, his social media profiles and his major movies together. It even contains some of his quotes.

But what’s that you say? You want to see a site using its own semantic web? Well, take a look at what Facebook is doing with its Graph Search.

Facebook has a huge amount of structured data at its disposal, just though the very nature of being Facebook. It was able to take advantage of its structured data by incorporating it into its search function. Now I can more easily find out who my real friends are:

And I can easily find someone I need to reconsider having in my life:

So, as you can see, the semantic web is not dead.

Making The (Alive) Semantic Web Work For You

The great news here is that the semantic web is not only still alive, but hard at work helping people and machines connect data and language. So how can you make the semantic web work for you?

The way to make the semantic web work for you is to create your own semantic network of entities and connect them using linked data. Using the semantic web will help your website and business in several ways:

  • More effective content marketing
  • Increased audience reach and engagement
  • Improved user friendliness for your website
  • More conversions and higher conversion rates

So now that we’ve seen that the semantic web isn’t dead (it’s alive and well and more important than ever), it’s time to integrate it into your website and use it for your business.