Progress, that is what is happening in the world of search engines. Isn't that what should happen with technology? Since the beginning of Google's search engine history, we've all been clamoring to add the perfect keywords into web pages. Whether it was in the meta tags, in titles, in headings, or within the body, keywords have been at the heart of SEO basics. Well, that is changing. Keywords are out, and topics are in.
Why Topics and not Keywords
Ask any developer or web designer, the user experience is crucial. Searching habits are no different, and how we search has evolved. Both from a verbiage standpoint and a technology standpoint. Keywords strategies have been evolving, too. It started with basic keywords, like 'keyword research,' which made way for long-tailed keywords, like 'best ways to do keyword research.' As search engines algorithms have gotten more advanced, their ability to group words into topics has become much more intuitive. They can now crawl a page and identify similar words into topics. Think about this for a minute because this is incredible. This is artificial intelligence at work. Check out Google's Market Finder tool to test this. Type in a webpage URL and Google will crawl the page and spit out the top 5 topics that are identified on that page. This is a great tool to help you test your content to make sure it answers the questions your potential clients are searching for. This is the evolution of search engines and it is exciting.
How We Search the Internet
Search engine algorithms have had to evolve as technology and the devices we use continue to progress. Personal assistant technology like Siri, Alexa, or Google Home now allows us to tell our devices what we are looking for. In speaking, we think in terms of sentences and not keywords. We communicate to search engines the same way we talk. My three year old can now ask Alexa a question and get an answer, from the internet, within a matter of seconds. She can't read yet, let alone type a search into a keyboard. The internet has become drastically more accessible with less preconceived knowledge or skill. Topics vs. Keywords is that evolution of digital intuition.
Adjusting Your SEO Strategy
The shift from keywords to topics isn't a huge change. In fact, it actually catches up with how we have been creating content for years. I've always viewed the purpose of content as being a solution to an issue or a question. Keywords can't solve an issue or answer a question. They fall short in being the end all be all. We start with topics first and then do keyword research to better understand how we can add more value to a topic through keywords. Instead of basing your content around a keyword, base your content around a topic and/or a solution to a pain point. Create content for the end user and not the search engines. It will be higher quality and provide you more benefit in the long run.
Are Keywords Irrelevant?
The short answer to this is no, keywords are not irrelevant. We still do keyword research to help us identify topics and search trends prior to brainstorming out content topics. Once we know what we want to write about, we will do keyword research in more depth to help us understand what verbiage people are using so we can mirror that in our content. The shift from keywords to topics isn't a drastic change, I said that previously. I view it as a chicken and egg theory. Do you start with a keyword or do you start with a topic? The keywords will still be used within the content to help search engines identify your topic, but the focus should be on organizing your content around topics and not a single keyword. Again, create content for your end user and not for a search engine.
So in 2019 (or even now, you have time), I encourage you to move away from using keywords and move towards using topic clusters. The rest of the digital world is. Your options are to catch on or be left behind completely. If you are looking to take your marketing to the next level, or just learn more about topic clusters, download our guide to Website Marketing Must Haves.
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