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Keywords or Topics: What’s More Important?

March 9, 2016 // By: Daniel Woods

 Achieve Broad Rankings with Topical Pages

In the world of content marketing, the conversation of keywords and topics comes up often. Do we just use keywords and build page after page to cover every keyword, or do we create just a few pages per topic to cover all of the keywords and keyword phrases?

If you look at the enhancements that Google has made as the leader in search engines, you’ll find that it’s easier to rank broad topical pages high in the search results for many keywords.

Broad Rankings

Achieving broad rankings with topical pages allows one webpage to rank high in the search results for multiple keywords. This is what Google prefers because it gives the most value to the searcher.

Creating content for broad rankings in Google has been the “secret sauce to SEO” since the company began its major updating. Google has released thousands of minor updates and a few major updates that affect the way we build our content.

Let’s look at the changes and how to write content for today’s search engines while providing incredible value to our visitors. Let’s also point out the roles of the four major updates: Phantom, Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird.

  • Google Phantom: Demotes thin content webpages
  • Google Panda: Demotes low-quality content webpages
  • Google Penguin: Demotes unnatural links to webpages and linking patterns within the website
  • Google Hummingbird: Promotes the use of synonyms and context.

So Google doesn’t favor thin, low-quality content with unnatural links and/or linking patterns.

Hummingbird, on the other hand, presents an opportunity. When writing about a topic, this update promotes a webpage which includes multiple points about the topic and the different natural conversations people have about the topic.

Let’s focus on Hummingbird and how we can now achieve multiple rankings for just one page of content!

Building a Webpage Before and After Hummingbird

With the Hummingbird launch came latent semantic indexing (LSI), which identifies patterns in the relationships between the terms and the concepts contained in the text. LSI keywords are similar to synonyms and related keywords. They’re the words that a person normally would use when talking about the keyword topic. This is how Google predicts user intent.

For instance, let’s say we created a website about widgets and our widgets came in three colors: red, white, and chrome, and three sizes: small, medium, and large.

Google prefers to rank large topical pages on branded sites and ranks them for more than just the focus keyword.

The way to build the website prior to the Hummingbird launch was to create seven different pages about our widgets: one page about the widgets themselves, three for each color, and three for each size.

After Hummingbird, we can place all of our efforts on creating one page, with specifications and all of the colors and sizes on it.

Achieve Broad Rankings with Synonyms and Context

Now that we only need one page on the topic, let’s talk about adding the synonyms to the main keywords and their role in broad rankings.

Let’s say we research keyword traffic and discover “buy widgets online” is the most used keyword phrase. It makes sense to add this keyword to your website. However, think about some of the synonyms of the word “buy,” such as purchase, acquisition, accept, order, shop, arrange, and procurement.

If, in the natural writing of the page, you incorporate synonyms of the word buy, you can rank the same webpage for all of these terms:

  • Purchase Widgets Online
  • The Acquisition of Widgets Online
  • Order Widgets Online
  • Shop Widgets Online
  • Procurement of Widgets Online

Now add the word “products” between widgets and online. Now add the words “where to” in front of the keywords. Google and other major search engines will pick up on all of the targeted keywords if you include these words naturally within the body of the text.

For example, one of our auto clients has a webpage about how to get your car out of the snow. A major storm came up the East Coast this winter and dropped more than 2 feet of snow. During this snow event, our webpage received 57 visitors for the keyword “how to get your car out of the snow.”

However, because we wrote it for broad rankings and incorporated many of the other phrases that people use for this search, this page received over 1,100 visitors on the day of the storm and two days after, which would be the time when people were digging out from the storm.

This number of visitors is a significant difference and a lot more exposure than just the 57 visitors the page would have received from the target keyword!

To Sum It Up

Google and other major search engines aren’t in favor of thin, low-quality content with unnatural links and/or linking patterns. They prefer to rank large topical pages on branded sites and for more than just the focus keyword. LSI and the keywords will play a larger role as time progresses.

To answer the question of whether keywords or topics are more important, I think the results have proven that the topics will outperform keywords. Think customer first, search engine second, and enjoy the traffic third.

Stream’s Kick-Start Step

Make a list of the topics that are important to your prospective buyers. Think about the search terms they use and start from there. Use these topics to fuel your content marketing strategy, and in no time you’ll be on your way to increasing your rank and driving relevant traffic to your website.


—Dan Woods is a Digital PR Coordinator at Stream Companies, a full-service Philadelphia-area advertising agency.

We have free digital stuff for you! http://www.streamcompanies.com/free-stuff


Topics: Digital Marketing, broad ranking, content creation, content marketing, Inbound Marketing