How to make your content topically relevant
In an age of highly intuitive search engine technologies, topical relevance is more important for SERP ranking than ever before.
This begs the question, as search engine algorithms only get better at ranking content most relevant to searchers’ keywords, how can brands shift their content to remain on top—or even rise in the rankings?
In this guide, we’re breaking down how to build topical relevance in web copy, social content, and other digital assets to keep (or start) ranking in search.
Why is topical relevance key to digital growth?
In the early days of search engines, brands increased their web traffic primarily by boosting content volume.
Since the search engine indexing technologies of old couldn’t interpret the type of content available on a page, it didn’t matter whether or not the information was reflective of the site’s purpose or its contributors’ topical expertise. So, site builders crammed their pages with (often irrelevant) content in hopes of securing a ranking.1
Search engines are smarter now, having refined several methods to find the relevant information and high quality content users are actually looking for.
One of these methods is finding content that’s considered “topically relevant” and giving it search priority. To achieve topical relevance, a site must:
- Cover subjects related to the keyword in-depth (and at length).
- Cover closely related topics or a topic cluster to establish authority.
- Integrate a high volume of copy and links related to keyword topics.
When the search engines comb through the post to determine if it’s a good match for a user’s search result, they look to see if the page is an authority on the search subject and rank it accordingly.
Numerous factors impact the algorithm (and paid SEM strategies can certainly influence ranking), but backlinks, keywords, and length of content communicate to the search engines that a page offers valuable, relevant information.
The building blocks of topical relevance: Backlinks, keywords, and volume
Let’s break down these topical relevance cornerstones—backlinks, keywords, and content volume—and explore how each one can impact ranking.
Backlinks are simply links on one site that lead to another—hyperlinked text directing readers away from your site.2
Backlinks are like a citation list in an essay; they communicate:
- Credibility – When site builders link to other topical-relevant pages on the web, they communicate to the algorithm that they’ve done their homework on a topic. A site’s text is (quite literally) connected to other relevant content, convincing an algorithm of its value.
- Expertise – In today’s algorithms, expertise is the crown jewel of content marketing. If an algorithm can confirm that a page offers expertise on a subject, it’ll give that page search priority.
The process also works in reverse: when other websites with equal or more traffic link to you, search engines interpret this as a stamp of approval.
Years ago, sites could be 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 in the content are relevant to the topic
- The content at those links is high-quality
In this process, algorithms profile the accuracy and link relevance of outbound links from referral pages. Links are also checked against known spam sites and over-optimized sites that try to manipulate the system by using too many links.
Keywords are essential for search ranking. Proper keyword research keeps your content topically relevant in the world of search. When your article is supported by relevant keywords related to search terms, algorithms take notice.
But relevance is the operative word here. For example, if a brand sells hair tools, its digital team might incorporate the following keywords under the appropriate topic cluster into its content:
- Hair tools
- Hair care
- Hair brushes
- Hair spray
Then, when a search engine user searches, “Hair care products for women,” the algorithm might recognize the brand’s keywords and rank it accordingly for that search.
But choosing the right keywords is critical for ranking. If a brand sells grooming tools for pets, for instance, they don’t want to rank in searches for hair tools for humans. Put simply, brands need to choose keywords that accurately match their target audience’s search intent through proper keyword research.
The last aspect of the topical relevance triad is content length. 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.
Although (generally speaking) more content is better, the volume has to correlate with both keywords and backlinks to truly embody topical relevance for a search term:
- Topically relevant keywords must appear in a reasonable concentration on a page.
- Backlinks, anchor text usage, and keywords must be on the same topic to achieve relevance, no matter the concentration or volume of either.
- Pages with high copy volume must demonstrate topical focus in order to rank—if too many irrelevant keywords and backlinks are also present on a page, the volume of the content still won’t influence ranking.
So, although length of content is important when creating content that ranks, brands need to be wary of wordy posts that aren’t topically relevant.
Tools powerful brands use to build topical relevance
In addition to internal efforts to write topically relevant copy, brands can use powerful online tools to support their strategies. Let’s explore some of those tools in detail.
A simple tool to use, Google Trends will show how often a particular keyword search term is used—this metric is called interest over time.
After the suggested keyword is entered, Google Trends displays a graph that will show how search interest changes:
- Over time
- Based on a specific location
- In various search platforms (e.g., YouTube, Google Images, Google Shopping)
If someone types “Florida real estate” into Google Trends, for instance, a graph displaying the search over the last year shows a heavy spike in the winter months (when searchers in cold climates, perhaps, are looking for a sunnier place to call home) and lowered interest in the summer months (when Florida is very hot and humid).
MarketMuse is a resource for any brand looking to step up its overall topical relevance game.
When users subscribe to the paid service, they can generate custom content blueprints designed to help create and optimize topically-relevant content. This information is specifically targeted to:
- Content creators
- Digital marketing agencies
- Media publishers
Like other paid online services, MarketMuse also helps members come up with the right keywords, then strategize how best to use them for new content.
SEMRush is one of the most complete and comprehensive software solutions for guiding optimized content. Users can:
- Search keywords
- Compare keywords
- Compare the content of multiple brands
This tool identifies a wide array of keywords and shows their popularity over a specific time period. Users can also check backlinks through a special search bar that examines a link’s authority, origin, and anchor.
Building topically relevant content step-by-step
So, how can brands apply the knowledge and use the tools above to create topically relevant content that ranks? Let’s build a content marketing strategy for a hypothetical hair products brand with the goal of building topical authority.
Step 1: Determine relevant topics
Before they can develop topically relevant content, a brand must first choose which topics they want to pursue in their content.
A hair products and tools brand, for instance, might choose to create high quality content about:
- Hair styling
- Hair care
- Hair tools
- Hair products
Of course, the brand could also either:
- Branch out – To attract a wider audience, a brand can explore topics related to its primary content. For a hair products company, this might include barber and salon topics or hair coloring concepts.
- Niche down – Instead of branching out, a brand can also highly refine its subject matter to cater to a specific niche. If this hypothetical brand makes products specifically for curly hair, for instance, it might niche down to curly content only.
Step 2: Choose keywords
Let’s assume that the hair products brand wants to niche down and focus on curly hair. Its keyword profile might include:
- Curly hair styling
- Curly hair products
- Curly hair tools
- Curly hair care
- Curly haircuts
- Curly vs. straight styling
- How to find your curl pattern
- How to prevent frizz in curly hair
To start ranking for these keywords, the brand must start producing content that includes them.
Step 3: Develop a linking strategy
In addition to incorporating keywords, the hair brand must also incorporate backlinks into its copy to improve its chances of ranking highly in searches.
This brand might source backlinks from:
- Cosmetology schools
- Hair product regulatory agencies
- Salons and barber shops
These sources are topically-relevant and, as long as they’re high-authority, they could help the brand rank higher in searches.
Importantly, the links and keywords must be incorporated at an appropriate concentration relative to the volume of the content to demonstrate topical relevance to search engine algorithms with regards to anchor text and link relevance.
Build topical relevance and grow your brand effectively
Experimenting with keywords, backlinks, their concentration, and the overall volume of content can help brands achieve a highly effective organic search strategy—one that consistently draws in new site visitors and (ideally) paying customers.
Brands can leverage organic search strategies (like building topical relevance) to grow, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital growth opportunities and building topical authority.
At Power Digital, our expert team combines a wealth of technical and marketing knowledge to facilitate rapid and sustainable brand growth. Our partner brands grow 2.4 times faster than the industry average, and our high-fidelity tools produce positive results for brands every time.
Ready to start crushing ambitious brand goals? Start the conversation today.
- Search Engine Journal. 20+ Years of SEO: A Brief History of Search Engine Optimization. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo/seo-history/
- Search Engine Journal. Backlinks: What They Are and How to Get Them. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/backlinks-what-they-are-how-to-get-them/468186/