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How To Dominate SERPs By Focusing On Topics Instead Of Keywords

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How To Dominate SERPs By Focusing On Topics Instead Of Keywords


Over the last few years, Google has made several changes to the way their crawlers understand how content answers queries.

Most recently, those changes have included more algorithm updates that include sophisticated enhancements to natural language processing and machine learning models like BERT and MUM.

These updates help Google better understand how people are searching for topics and what type of content the user is actually looking for to meet the needs of their query, then how pieces of content across a site can best match those needs.

The end goal being to serve the best content possible for the user to enhance their search experience.

With this in mind, it is even more important now to focus on creating a topic structure that meets the needs of a user’s various stages of the buyer’s journey instead of just what keywords are being used on a page.

How Are Topics Different From Keywords?

You may be asking yourself at this point what is the difference between a topic and a keyword, especially considering I just mentioned that keywords are still an important piece to the SEO puzzle.

In my way of thinking, a topic is a more holistic approach to “keyword research.”

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A topic can be made up of several relevant terms and queries that can fall into different areas of the buyer’s journey.

The types of content you can create around a given topic is a bit dependent on the vertical your site falls into.

Some sites would require:

  • Content that covers early-journey learn topics.
  • Content on the business’ point-of-view on the subject.
  • Possibly their product offering that solves this problem.

Smaller sites, especially local businesses, might only require a piece of educational/early-funnel content that also points to content that outlines the services or products offered to solve the problem or need the customer/user may be facing.

See also  Mastering SEO Within Google's SERPs [Podcast]

1. Start With A Strategy

The most important thing you can do for your site when either building it or rethinking its structure is to take a step back and strategize the topics you need to focus on.

By looking at the broader aspects of your offerings and identifying a top-level topic for that offering, you will have a better understanding of your needs.

After you have an idea of what your main topic focuses need to be you can follow the standard keyword research process.

The main catch is that you want to expand that research to encompass more semantically relevant terms related to the topic, not just the main keyword.

Take a look at the areas surrounding the topic that need to be covered to satisfy the searcher’s various needs. Ask yourself what questions might be asked regarding the topic and do research on those terms.

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If possible, don’t be afraid to get out into the real world and ask people in your target demographics what they might search for or what related questions they might have.

2. Research Your Competitors

Once you understand what content you need to have to perform well for a topic, start looking into who ranks well in these spaces.

If they are performing well in this space already, then it’s safe to say they are doing something right. There are exceptions to this so make sure you continue to monitor the competition in the space you are targeting.

Once a competitor is identified, I like to run their site through a tool to see how they have performed for relevant terms over an extended period.

This will give me some base info on if these results are lasting or if it is a recent jump to determine if it is even worth researching them further at this point.

See also  Google Drops FLoC For Topics API

Once you understand what your actual competitors are doing in the space you are targeting, take a look at how they structure their content.

Look at how they are delivering their content and what the site structure looks like surrounding that topic. This information will give you a baseline blueprint when working on your site.

Now, with that being said, do not copy your competitor’s content. Use it as a guide, but plagiarizing content will do nothing but hurt you in the end.

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As cliche as it may sound, you are looking to identify what your competitors are doing well and then do it better.

3. Consider Intent

As search engines have evolved over the years, especially with the recent rollout of BERT by Google, it is important to understand the intent behind the queries you are creating content around to target.

While there are many tools out there in the SEO world to identify topics and keywords, I’ve always found one of the best ways to identify the intent behind a query is to simply search for it within an incognito window.

You may surprise yourself.

You may search for something as simple as a single-word query and notice that the results are returning more educational content around the term – like a “what is…” result.

This will help you determine what content needs to be created (or even reworked) to fit the needs of the search.

4. Don’t Forget Site Structure

Creating content around a topic isn’t the only piece of the puzzle.

It is important to organize your content in a way that makes sense to crawlers and show that you are an authority in a given subject.

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If search engines see that you are creating more relevant content around a given subject, you should see more improved results around these terms.

See also  Google Proposes New 'Topics' Approach to Replace Cookie Tracking

One of the best ways to demonstrate this authority is by using breadcrumbs to show the flow of your site.

Not only does this act as a second layer of navigation for users, but it also helps crawlers understand how to get from point A of your site to point B.

Breadcrumbs can also help you shift the structure of your site without having to make changes to URLs, which can be incredibly dangerous for SEO.

Don’t forget to take a look at your competitors that are performing well to see if there are any insights you can glean from their site structure.

No need to reinvent the wheel and you might gain some more info on how to expand your coverage of a topic in the process.

5. Time To Dominate

As Google has implemented more intelligent ways to process and return content to match user queries, it’s important to create a logical topical structure on your site to make it easier to process this content.

This gives your content creators a north star to guide their writing efforts.

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Ensure that your content answers the promise made to the reader completely and with clarity. Avoid fluff, jargon, and wasted words.

Remember, it’s all about quality over quantity!

Well, it’s almost all about quality – it’s about discoverability, too. Make sure you’re using the keywords and phrases searchers will use to find solutions to the issues they’re experiencing.

Then, make sure you’re tracking performance – both yours and that of competitors. Establish benchmarks and always strive to be better.

Do this, and you should begin to dominate your competition with lasting results.

More Resources:


Featured Image: kentoh/Shutterstock

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Surfer SEO Unveils New Semrush Integration

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Surfer SEO Unveils New Semrush Integration

Surfer SEO has a new growth management tool that includes backlink data provided by industry leader, Semrush.

Here’s what the integration means for users.

Surfer SEO

Surfer SEO is a machine learning tool used by SEOs to conduct keyword research, create content strategies, and generate AI outlines.

Companies such as Square, ClickUp, and Shopify use the tool, in addition to over 15,000 other brands and agencies.

Semrush

Semrush is an enterprise SEO tool marketers use to audit websites, conduct competitor analysis and develop content strategies.

IBM, TESLA, and Amazon are just a few companies using it, in addition to more than 10 million marketing professionals.

Starting today, Surfer SEO will use Semrush’s backlink data to expand Grow Flow task recommendations.

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Grow Flow

Grow Flow is like your friendly SEO AI assistant.

Described on the Surfer website as an “AI growth management platform,” the tool provides a few SEO tasks each week to help you stay on track — and not get lost in the overwhelming amount of information that comes with learning SEO.

For example, it may recommend adding keywords (GSC) that a website is ranking for but not explicitly speaking to in an article.

Screenshot from Grow Flow, June 2022

Or, the tool may recommend where to add internal links.

internal links_growflow_surfer seoScreenshot from Grow Flow, June 2022

It can also recommend new content topics that users can open in a content editor at the push of a button.

new content topics_content editor_growflowScreenshot from Grow Flow, June 2022

The integration with Semrush comes into play in the Grow Flow recommendations.

See also  What Are Keywords? (and Why You Need to Know How to Find Them)

Once you connect Surfer to the freemium Semrush account, you unlock new tasks.

connect semrush to surfer_growflowScreenshot from Grow Flow, June 2022

Voila – a list of referring domains every week pulled from your competitors!

Backlink research automated_Growflow_Surfer SEOScreenshot from Grow Flow, June 2022

Manually researching a competitor’s backlinks is a considerable drain on internal resources. Thanks to this integration, you’ll discover new opportunities automatically.

An Industry First

Until now, Semrush has not integrated with an SEO company.

Historically, Semrush has only integrated with Google Products like Search Console and Analytics, and social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

It’s also worked with task management tools like Trello and Monday.com – but never a direct SEO competitor.

Semrush’s “SEO writing assistant” feature is a direct competitor to Surfer’s “SEO Content Editor”: one of its most popular features.

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So, why partner and offer this fantastic AI assistant to search marketers – for free?

I asked Tomasz Niezgoda, Surfer SEO’s Marketing Executive and Partner, how this partnership came to be.

“Pretty straightforward,” he said. “Semrush reached out to us with a proposition to integrate Surfer inside their marketplace [and] after some time, we decided to give it a shot and started working on this integration.”

From the beginning, Semrush felt like this would be a successful integration because it was applying its backlink data in a customer-oriented way.

“For Semrush, it’s a very meaningful integration. It allows Surfer SEO users to gain valuable link building insights and knowledge, which is crucial for ranking their content,” said Eugene Levin, President, Semrush.

What This Means

Two major SEO competitors are working together to create a free tool for small business owners and entry-level marketers to develop weekly best practices.

See also  Tips and tools to combine content marketing and PPC

Matt Diggity, CEO and Founder at Diggity Marketing, calls the tool “Simple. Efficient. Automated.”

“You get the list every week and gain immediate insights [into] which referrals your competition is getting. Then, you can start working on your own link-building strategy straight away.”

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The two giants hint that combining Semrush’s backlink data with the machine learning power of Surfer is only the beginning.

“We like each other,” said Niezgoda. “Maybe it’s just the first integration that’s coming.”


Featured Image: Screenshot from Grow Flow, June 2022

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