Sole targeting of keywords as an effective SEO strategy has been losing luster at a steep pace. Gone are the days when obsessively creating heaps of similar, overlapping content around high-ranking keywords can yield attractive ranks on the Search Engine Results page (SERP).
The truth is that SEO today has evolved to become way more natural, conversational than what it started out with. Presently, only that content, which seeks to solve real user problems, stands a chance to be indexed well in the search engine results. While keywords are important and have been all this while for a reason, they can no longer be the prime success mantra. The present time calls for new, reinvented and evolved approach.
That approach lies in creating valuable content for real users and not simply for the search engine bots. The shift of focus for SEO Marketers now needs to be oriented towards topic optimization over keyword optimization.
The Nature Of Search Is Changing
If you recall the time to only a few years ago when the web wasn’t so populated with information, you’ll remember the approach to search using very specific terms. For instance, “best restaurants in xyz city”. Now, with more content available on the web, search engines are able to fetch relevant content much more easily along a wider ambit, which is also what makes us so dependent on it for every bit of information.
If you look around (and observe your own behavior too!), you’ll find everyone these days searching for the minutest things using the most natural language and terminology they speak in to search for queries. For instance, “which are the best Chinese restaurants near me?” After all, with the sophistication level of the capabilities and possibilities of the search engine rising, our demands from Google are only evolving accordingly.
Moreover, with the increasing relevance of voice-based search today, such humanized search is only going to rise further. With the convenience of talking to say an Amazon Alexa device or Google Voice, our search behavior is now turning out to be more and more semantic driven.
Google’s Algorithm Is Evolving To Meet The Changing Nature Of Search
We all know that Google strives and thrives as the search engine leader by catering to its users needs most closely. In the process, as SEO professionals, we all recognize that Google values only what adds value to the end users. Hence pleasing the searching engine algorithm presupposes pleasing the web searchers.
Unlike earlier, when keyword match was one of the main factors that helped to index content, the algorithm now has evolved to give weightage to the usefulness quotient of the information way more than the presence of spammy keywords. In fact, this change became very prominent with the Hummingbird Update.
Earlier, the gold standard to rank well was to start with a keyword research, followed by keyword selection based on search frequency. The selected keywords were kept at the center and individual content pieces were populated on the website around them. Ranking essentially was only about optimizing for keywords and often websites created very similar content for different keywords. This approach then got iterated with the use of long tail keywords till the point that the approach stopped providing further user value. Now, neither of the two approaches are sufficient to float the boat.
Today, if you’re creating content, you need to and have to add value to the reader’s time.
The Way Forward
The only way forward lies in obsessing about reader value and thinking bigger than a bunch of specific keywords. It presupposes creating authority pieces of content that solve real problems, instead of populating very similar content pages around single keywords. That’s because keywords may bring in the traffic, but they won’t be able to retain or engage it unless the relevancy aspect is taken care of, without any spurious, overlapping information.
Wondering how to make that possible? The key to it lies in topic optimization that involves creating content oriented around the relevant topics that readers care about.
What Is Topic Optimization?
Optimizing for topics or following a topic-oriented approach essentially means understanding the target consumers of the content, their search intent and producing the kind of content that they would like to read. It involves thinking about the topics they are likely to care about, and covering that with producing authoritative content on the subjects.
You may also use Rrankedy’s topic orientation model tool to automate this process. This is the only tool available on the market for this purpose. It generates a chart based with relations between the topics that’s easier to understand and discover semantically relevant topics.
For instance, someone searching for “best cars to buy on a budget” may also be interested in looking at options for good condition “second hand cars for sale”, even though they never explicitly searched for it. Google has evolved its algorithm to understand such search intent minutely. Gebce, content catering to this semantic driven search, that comes come under “topic oriented content”, is likely to perform better than “keyword-oriented” content.
How To Optimize For Topics?
Now, so far we’ve only established the undeniable relevance of topic orientation over keywords. You might wonder how can you implement an SEO plan that is actually optimizing for topics.
The simplest to get that rolling is by understanding your target audience very well first, and thereafter using that to build a solid content plan. Here’s a brief breakdown of how you can achieve this –
1. Research user behavior about what your business is offering
This essentially means you need to turn to a keyword search around the services that your business offers. The idea behind doing this is however is different than what you did earlier. This research is to help you come up with core areas around which you can ideate for relevant topics. At this step, you can shortlist both short and long tail keywords that look suitable.
2. Put your creative brains to work
Now, with the core keywords you’ve zeroed upon, you need to start brainstorming for good topic ideas. The way to do that is to be as natural as possible, and keep thinking about what your readers are likely to be interested in, what can help you in enhancing your internal linking strategy and make your pillar content stand out. This might be time consuming but you shouldn’t skip it.
A simpler and more efficient way of going about this lengthy and creative process could be turning to tools that can help you with generating good and relevant topic ideas. In fact, there are some amazing tools that can help you generate topic ideas with the dual benefit of comparing your content with your top competing domains. For example, you can turn to Rankedy’s Topic Orientation tool. It will highlight for you, the successful topical gap between your content and your competitors and list out topic areas you can focus on.
3. Refine your ideas and create content
Once you have shortlisted topics, you can then refine them further in a way that makes your internal linking stronger. The idea should always be to attract more traffic and engage it well, instead of focusing only on conversion. With that, you can start publishing great authoritative content around these topics in a solid internally linked cluster structure.
4. Keep measuring your performance and iterate your activities
Once you have your content published, it’s good to track its performance regularly and measure to understand what’s working and where some improvement may be needed.
Once you start getting a better sense of what your users want and like, you can expand your further efforts on similar lines and rake in the results. If you find a gap, you must work to fill it up. If you notice that something is not bringing in results, you know your focus needs to shift somewhere else!
Following this approach is sure to bring in the SEO results you’ve been trying to get, and generate the maximum ROI from the content that you create.
Search Engine Optimization is all about providing users with the most relevant and useful content experience, in a way that the search engine bots are able to fetch the information upon a related query.
With the Google algorithms getting refined and tougher with every update, the approach of SEO marketers needs to follow match with the need to serve the indexing requirements.
As against the high relevancy of creating keyword focused content earlier, the approach today needs to adapt towards creating content around the most relevant topics, scattered with the most natural language people converse in.
This is not to say that incorporating highly searched keywords is no longer important. They are still relevant, but a hybrid approach is the best way forward, with topic orientation and relevancy as the cornerstone of the SEO content strategy.