Understanding Topical Relevance & Authority In SEO
As marketers, we strive to provide engaging content to our readers. Not only do we want to create content that will drive organic search and bring more new users to our site, but we want our content to be helpful and informative to them. When we provide great content that resonates with readers or helps solve one of their business problems, they are more likely to return to us in the future. Great content helps to drive brand recognition and recall.
However, the challenge with this is that marketers need to generate content that will check two boxes.
1. Content that is useful to the user
2. Content that will be picked up by search engines because it is relevant to whatever it is that the user is searching for
In this article, we will help you to understand the following key topics better:
is Topical Relevance?
Topical relevance is the process used by search engines to ascertain whether or not a web page is relevant to whatever it is that the user is searching for. Search engines leverage a mix of factors, including content, backlinks, keywords, and more. Marketers need to pay attention to topical relevance as this is what allows Google crawlers and other platform crawlers to determine if your website is reliable and authoritative.
If your site or webpage is full of links that point to other random sites, it won't bode well for your search rankings. Thus, your content should include external links, but they need to be to reputable sites. For example, if you are in the medical field and writing medical-related content, linking to relevant articles from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WebMD, or Mayo Clinic will be useful and will help. On the other hand, linking to an article from a small practice in another state or a report from an online tabloid will hurt.
Another strategy that can help you grow your topical relevance is to receive backlinks from highly reputable and popular websites. This means that those sites need to link to your content. When this happens, it improves your page authority and boosts your rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Finally, when you optimize content with targeted keywords relevant to the user, and that same content goes into the appropriate depth to answer the question, the topic will be rewarded in high-ranking SERPs.
Topic Research vs. Keyword Research
Sometimes, it can be easy to forget the critical differences between topics and keywords. And the truth is, you need to conduct both topic research and keyword research to develop a strong content marketing strategy.
Marketers often focus on keyword research when developing their content strategies. This is important because it focuses on demand as well as what the competition is saying. But a content strategy that focuses on keywords alone and doesn't consider topics won't get you the results you are looking for in the SERPS. Keyword research doesn't consider the content that you already have. Though keyword research tools are essential and should be a part of every marketer's toolkit, these tools only look at the content to avoid developing more content for keywords already ranking well.
Over time, search engines have placed less value on keywords and have begun to emphasize topical authority. If your content marketing strategy focuses only on long-tail keywords and phrases, it is time to explore the value that topic research can bring to your marketing program.
Topic research provides content writers with a helpful tool in brainstorming overall content. Today's topic research tools let you enter a topic into the search bar, and the tool will then generate oodles of related subtopics and ideas for you to use in your content. You can leverage these tools to come up with ideas for articles, headlines, and topic themes. SEO topic research tools such as SEOScout, topicseed, and MarketMuse can help content writers identify keyword clusters, fill content gaps, discover new ideas for articles, and build higher-quality content than that of their competitors.
Optimizing Content for Topics Rather Than Keywords
As we alluded to in the previous section, topics are the king these days in content marketing. If you focus on keywords alone, you may end up with content that doesn't run the gamut of what your users want to see. You might find that your content has too much of one topic and not enough of one another.
Optimizing your marketing content to focus on topics will bring your users more value and will generate more traffic coming to your site. It should come as no surprise with the evolution of technology that today's users want to learn more. So, if your organization appears in the most informational queries regarding a particular topic, you will gain perceived authority in that user's mind. Suppose your customers seek information about your specific niche and want to find the best provider of services. In that case, you'll be able to break through all of the noise in the content system when you focus your SEO efforts on topics.
As you begin to focus on topics, make sure that you don't try to dominate a particular subject on just your website. If you generate too many results only to your site, it won't work in your favor. On the other hand, you achieve domain diversity by gaining inbound links from a diverse set of high-quality domains.
And as you probably guessed, this brings us back to the importance of a backlinking strategy. The more reputable backlinks you have from other sites to yours, the better. Part of your marketing strategy needs to include a backlinking and public relations type of approach so that you get mentions of your products and services on these "influencer" websites.
This is just one reason why many marketers seek influencer marketing strategies. For example, B2B companies might work with a publication such as Forbes, Newsweek, Harvard Business General, etc., on an article. These sites are considered reputable, and when the publication mentions your organization and links to your site, you gain some significant backlinking benefits.
Using Supporting Content to Boost Your Site's Topical Relevance
Before we get into the importance of supporting content, let's reiterate why topical SEO is so critical in your marketing strategy. Consider the following scenarios.
1. You are trying to rank a location that has no relation to any topics on your website in any other way
2. You have a new product that your organization wants to sell
3. You want to add a service-focused solution to your product portfolio
4. You are trying to rank something not related to your topic on the site
In all of the above scenarios, you don't yet have enough pages on your site that speak to that specific keyword or phrase. The root domain won't have mentioned anything on the topic in the past. Landing pages no longer rank for micro-niche sites, which is why those sites need supporting content by way of articles and blogs.
Consider this scenario. Say you are in the upholstery business, and you have started carrying and using a natural solvent that can help clean stains off of leather. If you add a page to your website that speaks to this chemical, Google won't see it as relevant because you have never mentioned it previously. Google will be far more likely to give ranking to pages from other sites that focus on upholstery cleaning and the specific solvent you said on your page.
Your marketing team should create some supporting articles that also speak to upholstery cleaning, and this natural solvent's benefits. These articles should be linked to your main page, ensuring that the overall website is relevant to the topic. For example, a topic such as "5 Strategies to Remove Stains from Your Leather Upholstery" should align with the overall theme of your website. Then, a second article about "The Benefits of Natural Solvents for Upholstery Cleaning" will also align.
Introducing these relevant articles for your niche will help your SEO strategy because you can weave in integral keywords and phrases such as how-to, what is, why use, etc. By scaling this topic, you will build a brand presence to help drive incremental traffic to your site. When writing supporting articles, keep in mind the following:
- Create supporting content that your readers will enjoy reading and share with others on their social channels. Incorporating humor and real-life examples resonate with users and create a connection.
- Add high-quality images and videos regarding the topic. For example, create a video of one of your employees using the natural solvent to remove a stain and embed the video into the article. The footage is practical and helpful and will resonate with consumers that have a tricky stain on their leather upholstery. Be sure to keep videos short and sweet wherever possible.
- Run Facebook advertising that targets your demographic and generates traffic to your new content.
- Link these recent articles to other pages on your site with defined calls to action.
Increasing Topical Authority with Relevant Links
Back when marketers started linking their content to other sites, it was natural to link to general phrases such as visit website, read more, useful site, and of course, the dreaded click here. Though this might have been a helpful strategy in the past, SEO has since evolved. Google now advises that marketers link to descriptive words and phrases versus the generic phrases of the past. The descriptive terms help to provide relevancy signals to the page that you are linking to. So, if you link to a page with the words natural upholstery cleaning solvent, it will rank higher in the search terms.
Your linking strategy needs to start with your anchor text. Anchor text refers to the visible, clickable text that exists in a hyperlink. In today's browsers, it is often blue and underlined and looks like this: SEOScout.com. Anchor text plays a critical role in search engine rankings. Though of course, we are proud of our tool's ability to help with optimal keyword density, build relevant links, etc. The truth is that there are other great tools out there. Tools such as Surfer SEO, Page Optimizer Pro, Frase.io, and Copywritely are also robust tools.
Google can ignore spammy links that manipulate search rankings, but relevant links on the right anchor test are valuable. Longer anchor text ranks well with Google as well. So, rather than merely linking to our site, it might be better to link to something like this: SEOScout offers marketing tools to help build topical relevance. This doesn't mean you should always use full sentences for your anchor text, but it does mean that where it makes sense, you should leverage more extended snippets of anchor text to build link relevancy.
How to Grow Your Topical Authority
Building topical authority should be part of every marketer's content strategy. Elevating your website to be one with authority on your particular business topic takes effort and perseverance. However, it also takes an exceptional amount of effort to understand how your user thinks of the subject. We have put together a list of crucial steps that marketers should employ to grow topical authority and relevance in your given market.
1. The importance of link structures
Your website's structure is an integral part of indicating to search engines that your site has topical authority. Various SEO frameworks exist to create an intentional system that is easy for users and search engines to comprehend.
Using the Hub + Spoke Model To Build Topic Clusters
A popular way to build an SEO framework is to use the Hub + Spoke Model. You start with the hub, which is the landing page for your keyword. The spokes consist of long-tail variations to use for post-targeting. When you structure your website in this manner, it allows SEO to grow with each article. The hub experiences the benefit of this because every spoke article links back to the hub. Each spoke article also links to other relevant content. This cross-linking strategy makes it easier for readers to get more information about the topic you are talking about.
Consider this example. If a user comes to your site to learn more about search engines and how they work, they will land on a hub article that provides an overview of the topic. If they want to dig deeper and learn how web crawlers interpret the data and parse the information from your site, they can then lick into that additional article to get more information. Let's say then that they want to learn about algorithms for various search engines. They can click on the linked items for each of those topics to learn more. The benefit is that they can do all of this without ever leaving your website.
2. Follow Best Practices for On-Page and Off-Page SEO
Let's start by defining on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to the practice of optimizing each webpage so that it ranks higher and earns more relevant traffic with the various search engines. On-page speaks to both the content itself and the HTML source code for that page, which can be optimized. Off-page SEO is about links and other external signals. So, think of the actions that take place outside of your website that can positively or negatively impact your rankings with the SERPs. Off-page SEO takes place through other reputable sites, pages, and users on the internet.
There are several ways to leverage on-page and off-page SEO to build the topical authority for your page.
1. Use metatags to mirror the language that users use when they are discussing your topic.
2. Be intentional with your content structure by using H1, H2, and H3 tags.
3. Include relevant keywords in your image alt text so that search engines can parse image-related information more quickly, thus making your site more accessible
4. Optimize the technology on your website by the browser so that page speed doesn't deteriorate.
5. Encourage users to share your content on their social channels.
3. Work with a Back-Linking Agency or Partner to Build High-Quality Backlinks
When you create content for your page, you should do so to generate backlinks from targeted sources. Search engines consider topical authority by looking at how many quality backlinks direct users to your website content.
Backlinking, however, can be a job in and of itself. For this reason, many marketers work with an agency that can go out and source reputable backlinks for you. In addition to this, however, tools such as Moz, SEMRush, and SEOScout can help you monitor your backlinks' quality at any given time. These tools allow you to keep an eye on portfolio changes, find new opportunities, and stay up-to-date on each inbound link.
4. Investigate Search Intent for Your Topic
Explore your target topic's search intention so that you create content to answer a specific question. For example, we generated this article that you are reading to answer the following question: What should I know about understanding SEO topical relevance and authority?
When a user searches for a topic, they have a pretty clear idea of what they want to understand. If your content doesn't answer their question, then it is not relevant or valuable. As such, your content will become less authoritative. When your content isn't useful, the user will bounce from your site faster. Not only that, they will be less likely to share your content as they aren't interested and don't think others will be either. Potentially worse, they'll make a note of your website and will remember that it wasn't helpful to them in the past. This means that they might not come back to give you a second chance.
As such, the internal structure of your website is vital to topical relevance success. When you build intentional design into your site and have articles geared to answer your users' questions, you will better meet their expectations. They will interact more with your content – this is an excellent thing.
5. Use keyword tools to help you generate your content
There are many keyword tools on the market designed to help you build a comprehensive topic list. When you use these tools, it becomes easier to gestate your topic and build out each article's content. To create tried and true topical authority, tools such as SEOScout can help in building out topical authority with keyword research, content planning, etc.
Don't Forget the Importance of Grammar and Punctuation in your SEO Strategy
We know that we have thrown a lot of information out at you, and it is a lot to absorb. But we would be remiss if we didn't conclude with one last bit of advice for you as you revisit your approach to content marketing. No matter what efforts you take to improve your topic relevance and authority in SEO, if you don't take time to ensure high-quality writing, your efforts will be largely wasted.
Readers expect to read content that is well-written and not laden with errors. This means that your content should have proper sentence structure. It should be written by native English authors who understand how language should flow in writing and be free of spelling and other grammatical or typographical errors.
Use tools such as Grammarly to double-check all of your content to make sure that it is error-free and reads at the reading level you desire. When you write content and do a lot of online research to create your articles, use tools such as Copyscape to ensure your content is 100% original. Your users will appreciate reading an article that flows well as it answers their burning questions.