Keywords vs Topics: Optimizing Your Pages for Search

Keywords vs Topic

Over the years, SEO has undergone tremendous transformations. While during the caveman times of the Internet, Google categorized search queries and content by matching keywords in queries with keywords in the content. This meant optimizing for one keyword per page including the keyword in title tags, H1s, and alt tags. With these optimizations, SEOs were able to influence search results. This approach is known as keyword-focused SEO.

Meanwhile, in topic-focused SEO practices, entities with similar attributes are grouped together like red, yellow, and blue are grouped together as colours. Next, information is stored based on how they fit into a hierarchy, which means they are grouped as topics and subtopics known as Topic Layer by Google. This Topic Layer adds subtopic links to the search results. This way Google keeps a big database of entities in a knowledge graph and also stores information about how these entities relate to each other.

Google continues to make algorithm updates that deliver the most accurate results for searchers hence you need to adjust your strategy to ensure that you get the most return on investment.

Let’s tap into the power of keywords-based search vs topic-based search:

Creating a Content Map:

After planning your content, you’re ready to write. But only publishing a large volume of content won’t do much for your page hence you have to create a well-structured network of content.

It is essential to create a content map based on a logical hierarchy if you want to nail this right. Creating a content map will help you decide how you should set up your internal links.

Consider the top of the hierarchy as your main topic and use your research to identify sub-topics and supporting content for those sub-topics.

If you’re creating content around ‘The Earth’, you can break it down into several sub-topics that cover ‘The Earth’. Furthermore, this can be covered by a blog that explains different parts of the earth.

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You could then create separate supporting content that explains every part of the earth and planets around it. This means you can curate content for:

  • Planets around the Earth
  • Life on Earth
  • Components forming the Earth

Pan Out Topic Clusters:

Make sure you are focusing on the topic and that you’ve got an understanding of the topic as a whole. You can later use that research to create really good content, answer specific search queries, and help drive potential customers to your new page, your money page, your conversion page, and the page you really want them to get to in order to know more about your brand and its services.

A lot of the time focus lies on narrow keywords, and people blog about very narrow keywords, without having a specific intent. People searching the internet are looking for websites to answer their queries and they want to see what you have to offer. How much will it cost overall? What does your brand actually render? How is this brand going to solve my problem?

Hence, topical authority helps you drive traffic back to the core pages on your site by creating easy, organic pathways instead of forcing your users down a landing page rabbit hole.  Landing pages are amazing, but you have to make sure that your pages are appropriate with respect to content for the user and that they can find the information they seek with the shortest amount of clicks possible.

Shift to Video Transcripts:

Traditional SEO means one page, one specific term, and you must optimize that page around one term from top to bottom and achieve the top keyword ranking position. This doesn’t mean that keyword research or on-page optimization around specific search terms is wrong. One must have the technical discipline to practice SEO the right way. However, for that, you need to start thinking outside of just generic keywords.

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This displays the shift away from keyboard-specific ranking toward more topical ranking. With Google, one shall begin to understand and continue to drive innovation toward understanding users and their behaviour.  It includes how they push more topic-based ranking, where a site known for specific topics is going to rank for a broader set of terms pertaining to that topic instead of just focusing on a particular keyword match.

Focusing on Keywords:

A keyword-focused strategy relies on optimizing pages to rank on specific results pages that represent specific keywords. This is achieved by adding keywords to important places. And it differs from the topic-based approach by ranking the content for a keyword independent of its meaning.

Every keyword will have its own metrics and if you want to improve your traffic, you have all the old-school methods in your content. What this means is; to include your keyword in relevant places such as title tags, H1s, etc. Moreover, you can also improve your quality signals by link building.

However, the most important question here is how does Google rank content for keywords that don’t appear in your content at all?

This forces one to re-examine their overall SEO strategy and hence, our advice is that you enter topics, not keywords.

Improving Keyword Ranking Position:

Users of your website are going to start driving interaction more than ever and if you aren’t really understanding your users or doing the correct persona research, you’re going to stay behind in this arena.

Instead of obsessing over rank tracking or obsessing over keyword positions, you need to start obsessing over your users as well as the problems that they have. Then, you must research their search intent and develop content that solves their problems.

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One of the amazing things about topical SEO is you don’t have to focus so much on one specific keyword when you’re writing for your website.  Most times SEO marketers hit a dead end trying to develop a piece of content around a very specific term. However, if you put that specific word aside and think of the topic as a whole, it allows you to be more creative and solve problems in a better way than just trying to stuff your content with generic keywords. This way you’ll be allowed to write more about the topic and help your users with their problems too.

Optimize Your Pages According to Topic-Based Search:

What are the basics of a topic-based SEO strategy? First off, you need to start with a very broad keyword and you must start at the very broad target that you’re trying to hit. This can be used if you want to be known for local SEO. Apart from the broad term and a top-of-the-funnel search query, you’ll need long tail keyword phrases. To nail the same, you’ll need to do keyword research and understand what your target audience is searching for.

Conclusion: SEO is no longer about creating single content per keyword and worrying about cannibalizations but it is rather about creating an SEO-optimised content-rich network that serves your audience and makes your website a one-stop shop for specific topics.