Jonathan Emmen
May 19, 2016

Why Topical Optimization is Important For Your SEO

Many content writers and SEO experts believe that the time has come to move away from keyword optimization and to adopt topical optimization instead. What’s the difference? Here are a few, brief insights.

Traditional SEO

16210559169_d7ebf083ec_kWith traditional keyword based SEO, marketers research and identify the keywords that they believe people are using when they search the internet for whatever products or services that they offer. Once these have been identified, they begin writing content. Usually each piece of content focuses on one or two sets of keywords, and the goal is often to publish several posts based around a grouping of similar keywords. The goal is to get good results by optimizing on keywords that are trending and relevant.

The problem with this methodology is that it results in a lot of duplication, and lower quality content. This is the result of the focus being on getting keywords into content, and then repeating those keywords (or similar) across several posts. Once that is done with multiple sets of keywords, that leaves little time for writing insightful and well researched content. It’s also difficult to focus on quality when being pressured to insert a list of keywords into a single piece.

Topical Optimization

492901897_93f01b4848_oIn 2013, Google implemented Hummingbird. Unlike other search engine algorithm updates that simply changed portions of the way that Google search works, this was essentially an entire overhaul. One of the features of this update was to move towards conversational search. Hummingbird made Google better able to search for the meaning behind people’s search terms rather than trying to cherry pick out words that it believes are relevant. For example, under the old algorithm, a search for “Where can I find employment as a nurse in my area?” would likely net results focusing on the words nurse and employment. As you can imagine the results might be frustrating for someone who is simply trying to find a nursing job close to their home. Post Hummingbird, this query is treated as a whole question. Because of this, the items that show up on the SERP are much more relevant.

The idea behind topical optimization is to take advantage of this improvement. Search engine optimization strategies can now focus on topics rather than keywords. If your current strategy has begun including long tail keywords, you have the right idea. In fact, the majority of pageviews are the result of researching long tail keywords than short and simplistic keyword phrases. In other words, what a potential customer is actually looking for.

Topical Authority

23761059936_f8b0666d58_hThere is a lot of focus on trust and authority these days when it comes to the topic of content marketing. The idea is that establishing a position of leadership and authority when it comes to certain topics is more valuable overall than generating traffic via keyword optimization. The idea behind topical optimization is to focus on creating both web page and social media content that helps a brand to establish authority on a specific topic. So, instead of writing 5 or 6 pieces of content that will hopefully be indexed because the writer used a few keywords, content writers focus on writing posts that meet customers needs and display the expertise of the brand they are writing for.

Implementing Topical Optimization

One thing that people often forget when it comes to search engine optimization is that their audience’s behavior isn’t any different from theirs. You phrase your search queries as questions. You include more words and phrases in hopes that the search engine that you are using will return results that meet your needs. For example, “Chinese restaurants near me” becomes “Chinese Szechuan  buffet restaurants open on Sunday near me” in order to narrow down the results.

What Makes Your Business Unique?

So, if you were the owner of a Chinese  restaurant, serving this type of cuisine with a buffet option, what would you do? To begin with, you might consider identifying what makes your business different and more desirable to potential customers that are performing these specific searches. This is especially true when there is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from  your competition.

What Can You Do For Searchers?

7646822112_84be4cd190_oHow does this work? Under the keyword optimization model, you might focus on words like Chinese Restaurant, Szechuan, Buffet and Sunday as their own individual points. With topical optimization, you focus on content that highlights what you have to offer with keywords being a second thought (or barely a consideration of all). Rather than thinking about what keywords might be associated with your website or social content, think about focusing on content that truly highlights what you do and what you have to offer.

Finding Your Niche

In your case, as the owner of a Szechuan (Sichuan) restaurant, you offer up a very traditional form of Chinese cuisine that is known for a particularly mouth numbing spiciness. If you offer up a buffet option, that likely differentiates you from other Chinese buffets that specialize in typical, Americanized, Chinese fare. If you opt to remain open on Sundays while other Chinese restaurants do not, this is another area where you stand out.

To optimize topically, your posts would likely focus on Szechuan cooking, traditional Chinese recipes and other content that is meaningful to your audience. You would also, without a doubt, publish promotional content that also revolved around your unique cooking, Sunday availability, etc. After publishing several posts on this topic and promoting them successfully, you would hopefully become known as an authority on spicy Chinese cuisine and as a restaurant known for being open on Sundays.

Are Keywords Dead?

Keywords are absolutely not dead. Topical optimization is not an abandonment of that. At least it shouldn’t be. Even though Google, and predictably other search engines have made significant improvements. The fact remains that keyword searches do work.

However, if you want to improve your SEO, you have to adopt topical optimization. When you do this, you can achieve the goal of becoming known as someone who has authority and expertise in certain areas. Isn’t this better than becoming a part of a random list that shows up on a search engine result page, just because of some viral search terms? It might be a challenging direction to adapt to topical optimization, but it could be worthwhile to try.


Lead/Featured Image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

The following two tabs change content below.

Jonathan Emmen

Jonathan Emmen – junior SEO specialist and a passionate blogger from Copenhagen and regular contributor for different educational and entertainment blogs. Follow him on Twitter to find more.

Latest posts by Jonathan Emmen (see all)