Semantics is defined as the study of meaning of words, phrases or sentences. And while arguing over semantics is usually not particularly fruitful, semantic marketing could be very fruitful for you and your business in the very near future.

Semantic marketing is transforming the way marketers understand and target their customers' interests and allows them to deliver results that more closely align with what customers really need. Identifying the right key words and targeting those is no longer enough. Now, semantic marketing means marketers must determine the true intent behind those words.

Semantic marketing asks, "When people search, what are they really looking for?" Semantics and context are already a huge part of search engine marketing. And they'll only become more important as technological capabilities grow. The ability to quickly analyze ever larger volumes of search data and online content will make it possible to discover correlations and relationships between different search queries, and deliver results based on larger sets of data about content.

What are some signs that the future of marketing is semantic?

1. Semantic is more intelligent - Artificial intelligence is driving today's semantic search. Once, search engines were dumb bots that simply indexed the web looking for keywords. Now when you search, it's likely you're using voice to do it (perhaps you're asking Siri or Cortana), or posing your text search in the form of a question. Natural language search, capable of understanding and contextualizing your search target, or even making suggestions based on other searches, is becoming the norm. Semantic search uses a broad variety of data about you to place your search into context - if you're searching for "Thai food," search engines may look at your location to provide context for that search: "Thai food in your city." Semantic search also looks at structured data - data about the content it finds, such as categories, tags, image and video attributes, and more -to better understand what's actually on the page and deliver better results. "Not too long from now, we'll see a shift: sentiment analysis and buyer intent will replace predictions of these behaviors because we'll be able to analyze it easier", says Adam Fridman, Founder of creative branding agency, Mabbly.

2. Semantic is more social - Search engines aren't just parsing huge volumes of data about you and your search terms to try and deliver more relevant content. Semantic search seeks to deliver results based not just on intent but also "authority": what others are saying on the web about those terms and questions. For instance, if you're searching for "Thai food," Google's most recent search algorithm, Hummingbird, looks at your location and delivers highly rated results from social sites like Yelp to help you find the best - or best rated - Thai food in your area. Rather than ranking your site because the words "best Thai food" appear in your website content, Google ranks authority based on other factors, such as what others are saying on social media. In the future, social results and SEO will work together as an integral part of semantic marketing.

3. Semantic simply works better - Semantic marketing offers improved results for marketers and customers across the board: better alignment between search and results, better user experience, better intelligence about customers and trends, even better customer relationships when marketers understand the language their customers are using. Ultimately, semantic marketing is about delivering value. Research shows that the use of semantic tactics as simple as adding structured data to your page can deliver 30% better click through rates. But the value goes beyond click through. Value lies in being able to better understand what your customers want, and targeting them with content that meets their needs; bringing you closer to more closed sales.

Although there's complex technology "under the hood" - structured data, search algorithms, artificial intelligence, GPS and a whole lot more - semantic marketing at its core is conceptually simple. It is about discovering what people want and giving it to them. Semantic marketing may spell the end for "black hat" marketing that makes search a less valuable tool for consumers and marketers alike.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the impact that semantic marketing has on influencer marketing. If you're looking to get better results from your digital marketing, semantic marketing shows up in every piece of communication that you deliver to your audience; even when it's an influencer you've hired to create original content and speak about your company to your top prospects. The language they use to describe your business really does matter. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing and improve your relationships with your customers and prospects, its time to embrace semantic marketing and be more precise in the language you use to describe the value you deliver.

Published on: Sep 2, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.