Gone are the Y2K days of websites cramming their pages with lots of links and articles on totally unrelated topics to boost traffic. A decade ago it wasn’t uncommon to find, say, a Florida Real Estate website chock full of cut-n-paste content on everything from knitting crafts to lifted Wikipedia articles about lemurs. Search engines are smarter now, having refined several methods to find the relevant information that we are actually looking for.
One of these methods is to find content that is considered “topically relevant” and give it search priority. Topical relevance means that a subject and closely related subjects, are covered in depth on a page. Most pages achieve this with a hefty amount of text, keywords and links.
Related: Content, SEO, & PR: Three Peas In a Pod
When the search engines comb through the post to determine if it’s a good match for a user’s search result, they will look to see if the page is an authority on the search subject and rank it accordingly. There are a lot of factors that go into the algorithm but basically backlinks, keywords and length of content communicate to the search engines that a page offers a lot of valuable, relevant information.
Backlinks let the world know you’re an authority on this subject. The crown jewel in this trio to achieving a higher ranking is through backlinks from authoritative sites that confirm your page as an expert on the subject. When other websites with equal or more traffic link to you, search engines interpret this as a stamp of approval.
Related: What are Link Penalities and How to Avoid Them
Whereas years ago one could get listed on link farms, (sites with pages and pages of nothing but links which tricked the web crawlers into thinking a page was popular) now search engines look for clues to find out if the links are there for a good reason and if they take the visitor to good content.
In this process, the accuracy of outbound links from referral pages is profiled: does it go to a trustworthy website with lots of traffic on related topics or to an eCommerce store for something totally unrelated? Links are also checked against known spam sites and over-optimized sites that try to manipulate the system by using too many links on a super-fast hyper-optimized page (the new version of a link farm).
Another factor when search engines look for topically relevant content is keywords. Keywords keep your content topically relevant in the world of search. When your article is supported by relevant keywords around the main subject and then features more synonymous keywords, Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other tools take notice.
This is helpful to know when considering which keywords to plug into your content. Some keywords are sure-fire winners while some won’t do anything to help your cause of topical relevance. When the writer beefs up their description with synonymous keywords the search engines see this as content that is really digging into one particular subject. Why else would they use so many near-similar words?
Related: Are You Choosing the Right Keywords? A Guide to Search Intent
If you’re the Florida Real Estate page we mentioned earlier, you might have keywords like mortgage, interest rates, home appraisal, housing market, etc. Going a step further, keywords that are bolded or set apart from the standard text help search engines identify that content is topically relevant as well.
The last important aspect is the length of the content posted to your page. More content is better if it’s the right content. An article with more relevant text than another page with the same amount of traffic (assuming a variety of other factors are all equal) will be pushed higher into the search results page or SERP. Why? Because more words tell the search engine that there is more information and detail on a subject.
To illustrate this “more is better” component, marketing company SEMrush discovered that first ranked Google pages contained an average of 1,890 words. More is better, but this doesn’t mean you should write a 2,000 word piece that doesn’t give any value to your reader. Your content needs to be engaging, relevant and useful for your target audience.
Related: How Much Written Content Should I Have on My E-Commerce Site?
So, although length of content is important when creating content that ranks, you need to be wary of wordy posts that aren’t topically relevant. Now that we’ve looked into what is important to the search engines let’s take a look at what you can do to improve your topical relevance by employing some online tools. There’s a host of services out there, both subscription and free that will help you shape your content into something more attractive and SEO friendly.
A simple tool to use, Google Trends will show how often a particular keyword search term is used. After the suggested keyword is entered, Google Trends displays a graph that will show the word’s peaks and valleys.
In this instance we used “Florida Real Estate” and the resulting graph showed a heavy spike in interest during the winter months and lowered interest in the summer months when it’s hot and humid. Users can also break down their keyword search results by global region and related topics. In this case “Real Estate” scored 100 as a related keyword while “Real Estate Broker” scored a 15.
MarketMuse is designed as a resource for those who want to improve their overall topical relevance game. The company provides a custom content blueprint to help marketers, content creators, agencies, publishers and others discover how to create topically-relevant content and then optimize it. Like the other paid online services, MarketMuse also helps members come up with the right keywords and then strategize how best to use them for new content.
Related: Market Muse Review: Semantic Search Optimization Tool
There are no online boxes to use, like with Google Trends. Instead, non-subscribers have to enter a term and wait for an email from a sales representative. But once subscribed to, Market Muse has a semantic search content optimization tool available that will help users develop everything from a content plan to navigation optimization and internal linking. The process is broken down into three steps: site audit, content audit and content analyzer.
SEO Gadget Content Generator From Builtvisible
Having just launched version 3 to include more social media, news and content aggregators, many content marketing specialists swear by this service to help improve topical relevance.
The company uses Google spreadsheets to create a sort of idea generator by gathering content related to the keywords you enter. It taps web search engines like Google and Bing then sees what people are searching for related to your keyword, as well as all the places they went to in search of that topic.
It will also search through social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit and wrap all of these related keywords into a nice, neat document for you. The greatest benefit of this tool is overcoming writer’s block for content creation. But the bonus is that the keyword work is already done when you move on to that new idea.
Long Tail Pro will score your keywords for competitiveness and help users find out which ones will impress Google. Using their own algorithm, the built in Keyword Competitiveness metric calculates a 0-100 score for your keywords.
Related: Understanding the Full Environment of the Search Landscape
The simple score idea is great as it eliminates the need to consider a variety of factors that can get confusing. Instead users can just look at one, simple number and go with the higher one. Like other paid services they will do an in depth domain and page level analysis.
Subscribers to nTopic can submit the content and keywords they are thinking of using and nTopic will make suggestions and recommendations. The great thing about this service is that they will also provide a list of counter productive non-SEO friendly words. Users can heed this advice and avoid those keywords when writing on a specific subject.
The site claims a 4% lift in traffic for those who follow their directions and include the recommended nTopic words. This platform will also help you improve existing content by reworking the copy to better reflect what internet users are looking for. And yes, they too will assign a number to each keyword to represent how strongly it will show up in the search engines.
SEMRush is one of the most complete and comprehensive software in guiding you and your content. Along with the now-standard keyword search tools users can check their own keywords against the keywords of their competitors.
Related: 7 Content Marketing Tools to Create Content That Will Rank
This tool identifies a wide array of keywords and through graphs shows their popularity over a specific time period so that you can determine if they are trending. You can also check backlinks through a special search bar that examines a link’s authority, origin and anchor.
Apply What You Know
So now that you’re armed with a little bit of knowledge to improve your topical relevance, you can test out some of these online tools to help you to get the job done. Just remember that once you start to break down where your links are coming from (and going to) and whether your keywords are the right ones and start checking your word count for articles, you’re on your way to improving your topical relevance and attracting a larger audience.