Want to Win Over the Search Engines? Focus on Topics, Not Keywords


If you’ve been in search engine optimization for any length of time, you know how important keywords are when it comes to ranking content. That’s why you hear so much about keyword research and selecting the right keywords based on user intent.

Of course, keywords are important for measuring how successful your site is, but it’s time to move away from the keyword-focused mindset to shifting toward a topic-focused mindset to get even better results.

Topics vs. Keywords

What’s the difference between a topic and a keyword? Topics offer a more holistic approach to keyword research.

A topic consists of several relevant terms and searches queries that can fall into various areas of the buyer’s journey. The types of content you create around any given topic is a bit dependent on the vertical your site falls into.

For instance, you may need content that covers early stages where clients and potential customers need to learn more about a topic. You may also need content from the business point of view on a subject. You may also need content that covers your product offering that solves a problem.

Smaller sites, however, may only require a small piece of the early funnel content that also points to content that outlines products or services offered to solve problems for consumers.

Begin with a Topic Strategy

The most crucial thing you can do for your site when building it from the beginning or rethinking its structure is to strategize the topics you must focus on. By examining the broader aspects of your offerings and identifying a top-level topic, you’ll have a better understanding of what you need.

Once you have an idea of what your main topic focuses need to be, you can go through the standard keyword research process.

The main idea is that you want to expand your keyword research to encompass more semantically relevant terms related to the topic itself rather than just the main keyword. Answer the Public is a great place to start with this.

By looking at the areas surrounding the topic that need to be covered to satisfy a searcher’s various needs, you can provide a better experience. Ask yourself what questions someone may ask about the topic and then do research on those terms.

If you can, talk to people within your target demographic to learn more about them and what they may search for or questions they may have.

Research Your Competition

After you have a basic understanding of what content you will need, start looking into who is already ranking well in those areas. If they are ranking high in the space already, it’s safe to assume they are doing something correctly. As such, it’s important to make sure you continue monitoring your competition in the spaces that you are targeting.

Once you identify your competitors, run their site through tools to see how they have performed for relevant terms over an extended period of time. This helps you see if the results are long-term or if it is a recent jump to let you know whether it’s worth researching them further. Once you know what your competitors in the space are targeting, pay closer attention to how they structure their content.

Look at how they are delivering their content and what their site structure looks like surrounding they’re topics. This gives you a baseline structure when working on building your site.

That doesn’t mean to copy your competitor’s content. You can use it as a guide but plagiarizing doesn’t do anything but hurt you. You want to see what your competition is doing well and find ways to do it better.

Focus on Matching User Intent

Search engines continue to grow smarter, it’s important to go beyond the keywords themselves to understand the intent behind the queries so you can create content that matches the intent. This is what will serve your prospects best and keep the search engines happy.

Take some time to search your keywords in an incognito window. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find the intent around a particular keyword or phrase. Based on what the search results are returning, you can determine what content you need to create or edit to fit the needs of the search.

Site Structure Matters, Too

The content creation isn’t the only thing that matters. For the best results and usability, you must organize your content in such a way that it makes sense to the robots that are crawling and indexing your site. It must also indicate that you are an authority on the subject. If the search engine see you create more relevant content around any particular subject, you should see better results around those terms.

One of these easiest ways to demonstrate authority is to use breadcrumbs to show the information flow across your website. This provides an additional layer of navigation for users and also help crawlers understand how you get from one point to another on your website. Breadcrumbs also allow you to change the structure of your site without having to make major changes to URLs which can be dangerous when it comes to search engine optimization.

Domination Begins

Once you have identified your topics and built your road map, it’s time to get started implementing your plan. Sit down with the team that will create the content and review the strategy with them. This keeps your writers in line with your end goal and makes it easier for them to produce high impact content fit your website visitors’ needs.

Long gone are the days where you can focus on hitting a particular word count because today’s search engines want to deliver content that ultimately helps users regardless of word count. Answer questions efficiently and keep the focus on quality over quantity.

I’ve been in the SEO business for a long time, and know how frustrating it can be for businesses who don’t understand the intricacies. That’s why my agency exists. We’ve got everything you need to be successful online, and we’ll help you develop a strategy to reach search engine results page domination.

Contact me today to learn more about how we can work together.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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