Semantic Variance is a concept that (I think) I coined to refer to simple idea of not repeating exact phrases over and over. Where do we repeat the same phrases over and over? I can think of four common places:
1. In the title of our article
2. In the body of our text
3. In the anchor text of the internal links within our site
4. In the anchor text of the external links to our site
Let’s look at a concrete example to get my point across more clearly. I’ll use a page on The Dog Guide to show you what I’m talking about.
Take a look at this article on the Affenpinscher breed. So the first thing to note about this page is that the title tag is not well optimized:
Affenpinschers: A guide to dogs and puppies of the Affenpinscher breed
Take note of how we repeat the singular and plural forms of the breed name: Affenpinschers and Affenpinscher. All indications are that Google sees this as keyword duplication and diminishes the value of the second instance. It turns out that since the Affenpinscher breed has a nickname, The Affen, it would be much better to reshape this title to replace one instance of Affenpinscher with Affen. Remember, the intention of SEO is not to cater towards Google but to cater towards the user. Many users will know the nickname of this breed, and we shouldn’t leave them out. Here’s a possible alternative title tag:
Affenpinscher Breed Information – A guide to Affen dogs and puppies
Not only is it better, but it’s a little shorter and gets an additional two keywords in as a bonus (“information” and “Affen”). As a general rule, you should always try to keep your titles as precise as possible while still casting a wide, relevant keyword net.
Ok. So we’ve taken a look at keyword duplication and semantic variance in HTML titles. Now let’s take a look at keyword variance in the body of text.
I did a quick search on the singular “Affenpinscher” and found 13 results. Then I did a search on the nickname and found 5 results. This isn’t terrible, to be honest. You definitely want to weight the keywords towards the official breed name. But one thing I did notice is that for every instance of “Affenpinscher” there was an opportunity to capture a longer search phrase. However, I only find a handful of instances where that is done:
A quick glance at google’s keyword tool reveals numerous other phrase combinations that have been neglected:
Since 9 of the 13 uses of Affenpinscher do not combine to make a longer phrase, there is opportunity for growth on this page.
Ok. We’ve taken a look at the HTML title and the use of keywords in the body of the text. Now let’s take a look at internal links on your site.
An internal link is any link from a different page on your website to the one you are focusing on. If every time The Dog Guide site was to link to it’s Affenpinscher page with the word “Affenpinscher” it would not only be wasting opportunity, it just might be hurting it’s search placement.
Look again at those keyword combinations I listed above. Those serve not only as recommended keywords to use in the text of the article, but also as phrases to use in the anchor text when linking to the page. In fact, if you have a the phrases both on the page and then in links to the page, you basically have the magic recipe for long tail ranking.
So, you should be intentional about following up the semantic variance that you place in the text with semantic variance in the links you place to the article. I should bring up one note of warning here: if you rely almost exclusively on Related Posts plugins to do your inter-linking for you, you are pretty much guaranteed to be committing the sin of keyphrase over-duplication where more than 90% of the links coming into your page are exact matches. The same goes for sidebar links.
There isn’t much more that needs to be said about external linking. Just be intentional when choosing the anchor text of an external link to match phrases on the page you are linking into. And don’t always use the same phrase. If you are targeting a 2 word phrase, then why not build a bunch of anchor text with 3 word phrases that contain the 2 word phrase you are targeting. Then you will be killing two birds with one stone.
Ok. So that’s it. I firmly believe in this stuff. I hope you can use it. I may be wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s all about trying your best to give as many users the information they are looking for. Google will take care of the rest.