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semantic writing

This series of articles will introduce you to the secrets of Semantic SEO, and it will include: Introducing Semantics, Lexical Relations, Semantic Roles, Semantic Features, Seven Types of Meanings, Three Important Semantic Expressions: Utterances, Sentences and Propositions, Ambiguity of Senses, More Semantic Expressions: Reference, Referent and Sense, Levels of Meaning in Semantics, Similarity of Senses: Synonymy, Paraphrase and Hyponymy, Dissimilarity of Senses (Part 1), Dissimilarity of Senses (Part 2), and Lexical Meaning: Ways of Developing New Words out of Old Words.

For every article in this series, we will explore particular semantic SEO concepts, clarify their meanings, explain their relevance (why they are important), and show how to implement these strategies to enhance search engine rankings.

This essay aims to introduce semantics to those who are interested in it. Initially, it displays where it is positioned in the “Language diagram”. Also, it discusses various definitions of semantics, importance of semantics and two types of meaning.

Let’s cast a glance at the language components and what each one deals with. The diagram below is self-explanatory. 

language diagram

Definitions of Semantics

What is semantics?
    • Semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases and sentences. (Yule 2014)
    • Semantics is the study of the meaning in Language. (Hurford & Heasley 2007)
    • Semantics is the study of meaning. (Partee,1999)

As we can see above, the definitions of semantics, by prominent figures in this field, revolve around the study of meaning  in language.

Importance of Semantics

The importance of semantics, as a subfield of linguistics, can be summarized in the following points:

1. Clear understanding  of meaning allows students and teachers to communicate their messages clearly. For example:
    • I see my father every day. yes
    • *I sea my father every day. no
2. Semantics provides speakers  with a structure to use when they need to put words into sentences, creating meaning. For example:
    • *A sandwich has eaten a boy.  ( Structure: yes, Meaning :no)
    • A boy has eaten a sandwich. ( Structure: yes, Meaning :yes)
    • *Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. X ( Structure: yes, Meaning: no)
3. The true power of semantics is that it is less structured than syntax and easier way to communicate information
If I said “The color of the sky is blue”, or “The sky is now blue”, or “I see a blue sky”, you would generally get the same meaning that the sky is blue. The important information in any of these variations are the words “sky” and “blue”.

4. Structural ambiguity can also give a good reason for the importance of semantic research.
For example:
‘The chicken is ready to eat'
This sentence can be an example of structural ambiguity. This sentence could mean:
    • The chicken (itself) is hungry and so it is ready to eat.
    • The chicken is ready to be served and eaten by somebody else.

5. Understanding the change in some words meaning over time
For example
    • The word “ nice” in 1300s was used to mean “foolish”, but now it is a positive Adjective.

    • The word ‘Silly’ was seen as ‘happy’ in the 1200s. However, in the 1500’s the meaning shifted to refer to a person who is ‘empty-headed’ or lacking in common sense.

Two Types of Meaning

Yule ( 2014) makes a broad distinction between conceptual meaning and associative meaning.

types of meaning diagram

Conceptual ( denotative/ literal/ dictionary) meaning covers those basic, essential components of meaning that are conveyed by the literal use of a word.
It is the type of meaning that dictionaries are designed to describe. Some of the basic components of a word like needle in English might include 'thin, sharp, steel instrument.

Associative (connotative) meaning
However, different people might have different associations or connotations attached to a word like needle. They might associate it with 'pain,' or 'illness,‘. 'blood,' 'drugs,' 'thread,' or 'knitting.
The connotation of a word can be positive, negative, or neutral. It can also be either cultural or personal. The table below displays the conceptual and associative meanings of  two words:“ blood” and “pig” 


Conceptual/dictionary Meaning

Associative Meaning


the red liquid that flows through the bodies of humans and animals.

(Personal connotation) accident, killing, oblation (sacrifice)


an animal with pink, black or brown skin, short legs, a broad nose and a short tail which curls round itself.

(Cultural connotation/for Muslims or Jewish) uncleanliness, not allowed to eat its meat etc.


How can we integrate basic semantic concepts into our website content to improve search relevance and user engagement?

Given the focus on semantics in the article, here are some practical SEO tips that complement its insights 

  • Dissambiguating entities:
    Disambiguating entities is essential in data processing and analysis, as it involves clarifying the meaning of terms that could be interpreted in multiple ways. This process ensures that data is accurate and efficient. It reduces confusion and increases the reliability of data-driven decisions by ensuring that each piece of data is associated with the correct entity.

    For Example: Creating structured data for all entities in a page insures that each entity is uniquely identified. you can go a step further by connecting all entities to the primary entity showing their relationships, using a tool like Schemantra.

  • Keyword Richness with Context 
    Use both types of meanings (conceptual and associative) to enrich content with relevant keywords that also carry contextual depth. This enhances search relevance and user engagement.

    Example: For a blog post about "Sustainable Living," using conceptual keywords might include terms directly related to the main topic, such as "eco-friendly practices," "renewable energy," and "waste reduction." Associative keywords, on the other hand, might include related concepts that readers are likely interested in, such as "minimalist lifestyle," "organic gardening," or "zero waste products." By integrating both types of meanings, the content is not only relevant to those explicitly searching for sustainable living tips but also to those interested in associated lifestyle choices, broadening the content's appeal and searchability.
  • Content Structuring for Semantic Richness
    Structure content to leverage semantic depth—use subheadings, lists, and paragraphs that cater to both direct and associative meanings, improving the article's comprehensibility and SEO performance.

    For example: A well-structured website organizes content to clearly define topics and subtopics, enhancing its understanding by search engines. This involves using HTML tags strategically (such as H1 for titles, H2 for main headings, etc.) to signal the hierarchy and relevance of content.
  • Semantic Variability for Broader Reach 
    Incorporate synonyms and related phrases that capture a range of semantic associations, expanding the article's visibility across a broader array of search queries.

    For Example: If your article is about "digital marketing strategies," also include terms like "online advertising tactics" and "web-based promotion methods." This not only captures a range of semantic associations but also helps reach a broader audience through varied search queries.
  • Answering User Queries with Depth
    Address user queries by providing answers that not only cover the direct meaning but also explore related concepts and contexts, leveraging the article's insights into semantics for richer content.

    For Example: In addressing a query like "how to improve website speed," go beyond just listing technical solutions. Discuss the user experience aspect and the impact on SEO, tapping into both the direct answer and its wider implications in the digital ecosystem.


In conclusion, we can say that semantics is a subfield of linguistics that is concerned with meaning in language. However, this meaning can be either a literal or dictionary meaning that Yule( 2014) called “ conceptual meaning”, or it can be connotative which is known as “ associative meaning.


George Yule (2014) The Study of Language (5th edition) Cambridge University Press

Hurford, J., B. Heasley and M. Smith (2007) Semantics: A Coursebook (2nd edition) Cambridge University Press

Partee, Barbara H. 1999. "Semantics" in R.A. Wilson and F.C. Keil, eds., The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 739-742.

SEMANTICS-1: What is Semantics? 
Word of the month: Nice! An Anglo-Norman insult.
The Importance of semantics.



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