If you subscribe to the WooRank newsletter, you’ve already read the first part of our semantic web series: A Whole New World. As we noted in that piece, Google’s Hummingbird and RankBrain updates are working to process and analyze the meaning and context of the words used in search queries and on web pages. This is part of Google’s ongoing mission to provide its users with the best, most relevant search results (and to also keep as many people as possible inside the Google ecosystem). This is all part of the general push to the semantic web.

But how is the semantic web impacting websites for local businesses?

And how can these businesses get their sites ready for the semantic web?

In this piece, we’ll go over the semantic web’s impact on the content, on-page code and target keywords for local websites.

Local Content for the Semantic Web

How exactly you go about doing this depends on your website, obviously, but there are a few ways you can incorporate this into your local SEO content strategy. One is to publish locally-focuses content such as lists or step-by-step guides (always popular Answer Box fodder):

Google featured snippet where to live Brussels

Or publish authoritative content for keywords that typically generate local results, in this case, dentistry:

Rich snippet for local keyword

If you’ve got a newer site that hasn’t built up much authority with Google, or if you’re just struggling to gain traction with content on your site, you can piggyback off of other pages’ ranking power by putting your name on their site. This is a common off-page SEO trick we’ll get into later. Now, whenever someone searches for service providers or other merchants in your area, your name can shoot to the top without even ranking in the top 100 results.

Wikipedia local featured snippet

Remember, the most important part of the semantic web is creating content that is super helpful for human users. So think about the types of questions your leads or customers (or target customers) ask, and then answer them on your website.

Semantic Markup for Local Businesses

We know semantic markup isn’t a ranking signal, but semantic web means linked data, and linked data means semantic markup. Add Schema.org or JSON-LD wherever possible. Use LocalBusiness properties to highlight the information local users typically search for:

  • Opening hours
  • Payment methods accepted
  • Price range ($, $$, $$$, etc.)
  • Address
  • Reviews
  • Aggregate ratings
  • Telephone number

Marking up your site with linked data will help Google get your information to users faster. While it sounds counter-intuitive to answer users’ questions right in the SERP, instead of on your site, it will actually help increase in-store visits and purchases.

Voice Search Optimization for Local Businesses

There’s a good reason Google is so interested in semantics: Voice search is taking over. In fact, Google says that up to 20% of all mobile searches are voice queries, and more than half of teens (and 40% of adults) currently use voice search, and mobile voice queries are three times more likely to be local than not. One survey found that more than 70% of adults under 30 use digital personal assistants!

So how can you optimize your site for voice searches?

Lucky for you, we just covered one important part: local semantic markup. Since asking for directions represents the largest share of voice queries (40%), your local signals are vital. Double check your markup using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to make sure Googlebot can accurately interpret your information.

As for the the other part?

Stretch Out Keyword Research To Find New Targets

Focus on long tail keywords. And by long tail, I mean loooooong tail. Really stretch it out.

Streeeetch out the long tail keywords to target voice queries

These long tail keywords are very useful - they’re the questions that people are asking their digital assistants (asking via voice search). Get ideas for these keywords in a few different places:

  • A tool such as Ubersuggest or Answer the Public. These tools work by adding each letter of the alphabet to the end (Ubersuggest) or adding interrogatives and prepositions (Answer the Public). Both tools then take keyword suggestions from Google’s autocomplete.

  • Google’s Related Questions box. This is the grid box that appears in some search results with an expandable list of questions Google thinks is related to the user’s query. This is super useful information because it tells you what other questions people are asking and what topics Google sees as related to the first query. This will help you plan future content.

Google’s related questions box

You can’t yet, but Google has hinted at the fact that, eventually, you’ll be able to find voice search queries in Google Search Console. However, you can add some quick filters to the Search Analytics report to find queries that contain words like "where" or “how” to find typical voice search queries that people already use to find your website.

Google Search Console include word filter for queries

This is the same process you use to find opportunities for Answer Box Optimization.

Optimize Your Site To Answer Questions

Now, optimize your content to answer those question. This doesn’t necessarily mean new content you could:

  • Expand your existing FAQ page
  • Rewrite page titles as questions
  • Rework popular blog posts to answer popular questions

The good news with voice search optimization is that you don’t need to focus so much on writing long, in-depth content that’s robot-friendly. Since Google is getting so good and processing natural language, the old style of writing content optimized to be readable by robots isn’t going to help you any more. Instead, focus on the user friendliness of your content. When writing local semantic content focus on:

  • Using local or regional dialects. That means local slang, idioms and phrases. This will also help you develop a conversational tone, which search engines like when processing voice queries.

  • Referencing local landmarks. This is especially helpful on your location page. Yes, you need to include your address, but also add your neighborhood and your relationship to local parks, statues, squares or other places of interest. And be sure to use the local name for your neighborhood, since that’s what people will use when searching.

  • Appealing to micro-moments. Micro-moments are a bit bigger than just SEO, but they represent instances where someone turns to a smartphone to achieve a goal. Creating content that caters to these micro-moments - that achieve the goal as quickly as possible, potentially without even requiring a click through to your site - is key to conquering the semantic web. Design your content strategy to address the micro-moments relevant to your business.

Think Beyond "Just SEO"

Thanks to rich snippets, the Knowledge Graph and digital assistants, users are expecting to achieve more and more without ever leaving the SERP. Take advantage of sites and features that allow users to take action without clicking to your site such as OpenTable, ZocDoc and app stores via app indexing and app packs.

OpenTable rich results and app promotion

It may sound counter-intuitive to change your site so that people can convert without clicking through since we’re all trying to boost our site’s search rankings to get more visitors. But this will be the expectations moving forward for users (plus, we’ve already seen how appearing in rich snippets actually increases website traffic) and, in the end, meeting user expectations will improve both your SEO and overall marketing performance.