How to Improve Your SEO Game with Topic Modeling

Kendall Brennan
By Kendall Brennan

There’s no denying the importance of SEO when it comes to creating and publishing successful content online. In order to drive prospects to your site, you need to ensure your area of expertise is being matched with people who are looking for relevant content. And while knowing the latest and greatest best practices is important, SEO is an exceedingly complex area.

However, this was not always the case. Back in the early days of the Internet, crafting an SEO strategy was as simple as employing the keyword stuffing tactic. This practice stuffed as many keywords as possible on a page without any regard to readability or even logic—solely to rise to the top of the rankings and attract as many users as possible.

Related: Are You Choosing the Right Keywords? A Guide to Search Intent

Some marketers are still obsessed with crafting an SEO strategy that revolves around blasting keywords to call the attention of prospective clients to their website. But, as search engines are constantly evolving and adapting with increasingly sophisticated technology, the practice of solely focusing on keywords is no longer effective.

Search engines’ advanced systems now reward those who create truly relevant content and they do so by employing topic modeling.

How To Win With A Topic-Modeling Strategy

While the term topic modeling may sound like a simplistic phrase, it’s a rather complex concept.

In the most basic of explanations, it is a type of ranking system, but instead of only focusing on keywords, context is also important. Using advanced coding, algorithms, and even AI, search engines like Google are able to leverage data to understand the context of certain topics, keywords, and/or phrases. Search engines can also determine whether or not your content is actually what the searcher is looking for, taking context into account.

This SEO concept focuses on understanding searchers’ intent and tries to gain an understanding of what they mean to search for instead of what they’ve directly written in the search bars. Whenever you see topic modeling in action, it seems as though the search engine is reading your mind.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to remember your favorite TV from childhood. The name of the show is totally escaping you, but you know exactly how to describe the premise. You write into the Google search bar, “Cartoon with cat and mouse chasing each other.”

Related: Lunch n Learn Series: On-Page SEO

The search engine loads, works its magic, and spits out the Wikipedia page for Tom and Jerry, along with images of the cartoon, YouTube videos, and more. Google shows you exactly what you were looking for, and you didn’t even have to know the direct name.

So, how does Google employ this magic? The latest algorithm they use, Hummingbird, is able to judge context—thereby judging the intent of a person carrying out a search.

Hummingbird accesses vast amounts of data and information and employs logic that takes certain factors into consideration. It knows that a word or phrase that someone searches for, like “Star Wars Jedi,” probably isn’t the only thing that searcher wants to see. The algorithm pays attention to each word in a query and provides results that answer needs—even if the person searching wasn’t aware they needed those results in the first place.

To be able to provide these types of dynamic results the search engine recognizes that “Star Wars Jedi” might be connected to other terms and phrases—aside from the typical ones you might expect. Through topic modeling, the search engine might understand that “Star Wars Jedi” is more semantically connected to Luke Skywalker than it is to Chewbacca, and it will therefore provide the searcher with related Skywalker results.

So, when search engines like Google implement a topic-modeling algorithm, they take the following into account:

Physical Distance Of Keywords

The physical distance of the keywords in the actual page itself is extremely important in topic modeling. For example, Google finds “Star Wars Jedi” near the word “Skywalker” on documents and content where the two phrases occur. Then they measure the distance between the words to see if they are relatively far (far) away?

If they are close, then Google assumes the two phrases are somewhat linked and can develop a larger scope for understanding the searcher’s intent. On the other hand, maybe Skywalker appears near the words “cereal” a lot, but they’re actually quite far away from each other and therefore deemed possibly irrelevant.

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Citations And Links

Google might also look at citations and links between documents. They will evaluate the amount of times the page connects to other pages with related keywords on the subject—not just the main keyword “Star Wars Jedi.”

Anchor Text Connections

Google can also look at the anchor text connections of those links. They are able to look at the co-occurrence of the relative words in a given set of text or from certain domains.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Internal Link Building Strategy

For example, they might focus particular content on a fresh trend that’s popping up on news sites or via dependable domains. This leads the search engines to weigh different kinds of content more heavily when it comes to ranking.

Search Queries

Google can look at queries from searchers, which is very powerful for ranking content. For instance, they might see a pattern in behavior that shows people who search for Luke, Obi-wan, and Princess Leia are also searching for “Star Wars Jedi.”

Clicks, Visits, And History

Another thing search engines consider are clicks, visits, and history by the searcher, which is why Google seems almost psychic at times. All of the browser data that you compile, and data the search engine compiles itself, might influence the information that search engine uses to deliver results.

The above list touches on some topic modeling aspects, but there are likely a whole slew of other factors in play. For the purposes of this article, let’s discuss how these topic modeling concepts can apply to SEO strategy in action.

Related: Keyword Research Tips and Best Practices

If you’re targeting a keyword for rankings, going back to the example of “Star Wars Jedi,” the semantically connected and related terms and phrases can help you construct a winning SEO strategy when you produce your content. Essentially, you need to find the right words and phrases that search engines are connecting to your keyword so that you can take advantage of the topic modeling algorithm.

For example, just including the words on the page itself can go a long way for this strategy. Help tell the search engine your page is more relevant for “Star Wars Jedi” by including words like “Luke,” “Yoda,” “Princess Leia,” “Obi-Wan,” “Anakin,” etc. as opposed to random words like cereal, computer, purses, etc.

In the case with links, make sure the content you are linking to contains relative words and phrases. Also make sure that the anchor texts lead to you. For instance, when coming up with the name for your page or product, you might think about including more of these related words to have those words in the product description.

Wrapping Up

Topic-modeling algorithms are the perfect example of how SEO rules can affect marketers who are trying to produce content that will rank higher. This practice highlights the significance of writing truly relevant content that search engines can now pick up on to help increase traffic to your site. Simply stuffing keywords into your content is not the best strategy, so make sure your content is focused on relativity and quality instead of keyword quantity.

Related: 7 Content Marketing Tools to Create Content That Will Rank

Overall, the key to successfully implementing this strategy is having a basic understanding of how the search engine algorithms’ work. Once we understand the rules of the game that the optimization players have put in place, then we’re able to work with them to create a winning SEO strategy.

 

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Kendall is a Senior SEO Strategist at Power Digital. She specializes in SEO, but also has a passion for the holistic view of digital marketing and seeing how all channels work together to create a strong digital presence.