Semantic Relevance or Exact Match Domain Penalty ?

One of the tests intended for the freshwater frisbee article, posted just a few days ago, was to determine whether the page would be returned in SERPs for semantically relevant search terms. The test term for this page is a common 4 letter word beginning with ‘f’ and ending in ‘ish’. This word had been deliberately omitted from the page content and each natural occurrence was replaced with a dummy term ‘frisbee’.

The page was indexed successfully shortly after publication and is now duly returned for the following search query as shown in the screen shot below:

Freshwater Carp
Search Results for: SEOEditors freshwater carp

All six indexed pages relevant to this search are shown above. The first two results are from this site, as expected.

Notice that the search included an ‘exact match domain’ term: ‘seoeditors’

If we repeat this search, and add the semantically related term beginning with ‘f’ and ending in ‘ish’, then this site is not returned in the SERPs:

Freshwater Carp with semantically related term
Search results for: SEOEditors freshwater carp + ‘semantically related term’

Only three results this time…

Hang on, this means that the ‘freshwater frisbee’ page was the most relevant result before, but now that we’ve added one more search term to the query – and not just any old term – a semantically related term, the page isn’t returned in SERPs at all!

This might suggest that because we’ve included the word beginning with ‘f’ and ending in ‘ish’ to the search query, the page has now been deemed irrelevant to the query because it doesn’t contain the term in the content. The addition of just one additional term makes the page irrelevant, even though the page is by far the most relevant to all the other terms in the query: ‘seoeditors’,  ‘freshwater’ and  ‘carp’.

This suggests the following possibilities:

  • the keyword must be on the page
  • even if every other word in the query is on the page, the page will not be returned at all (let alone rank well) if just one key term in the query is absent
  • semantic relevance hasn’t been established for this test: despite talking about carp, tench and freshwater and linking to pages including words beginning with ‘f’ and ending in ‘ish’
  • an ‘exact match domain’ penalty may have been applied, but only when one of the search terms is absent from the page

This is just the first stage in a series of tests planned to investigate semantic relevance, however the recent exact match domain penalty has introduced a new dimension to the test.

Only one link (a no-follow link) has been built to the freshwater frisbee page from a semantically relevant page. The linking page mentions the word beginning with ‘f’ and ending in ‘ish’ frequently.

Perhaps one inbound semantically relevant link isn’t enough to associate the page with the term ?

Perhaps more links are needed before the test page will be returned for a query including the word starting with ‘f’ and ending in ‘ish’ ?



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