Keywords vs. Topics: Do You Have to Pick a Side?

Posted by Nikki Wardle on Feb 17, 2017 1:54:36 PM

Keyword groups and topics

Ever since Google came out with its Hummingbird update to its search algorithm, there has been much talk about the value of keywords. Does Google still care about keywords? Will Google know what keywords to rank my page for if I were to focus on broad topics or concepts?

The answer is: Nobody knows (maybe not even Google).

Let's take a real-world example of what I'm talking about, Tribute Media's very own ebook A Step-by-Step Guide to Email Marketing.

Traditional Keyword Research and Targeting

Before we released this ebook, we did keyword research and targeting in an attempt to get this content in front of as many of the right people as possible. Keywords such as:

  • email marketing
  • email marketing best practices
  • email marketing tips
  • best strategy for email marketing
  • (there are more, but you get the idea)

We put those keywords to work on our landing page, using them in our header text, meta description, page title, etc. After this campaign was launched, we watched who was going to the page, what search terms they used to get to the page and made adjustments where we through were appropriate.

But then we ask ourselves, are we missing some opportunities by limiting ourselves to just these keywords?

Topic or Concept Targeting

What if I said, "I think that Google's Hummingbird update made keywords irrelevant, so we're going to skip that step. Instead, I'm going to target searchers' intent. Google will recognize my content is about email and will match it to people who are searching for help with email marketing."

Since my topic is email, I'm going to make a page that includes charts and graphs to show the effectiveness of each email marketing tool like MailChimp and Constant Contact. I'll also add each tool's pricing structure to give users who are looking for cheap solutions value as well. And finally, let's show how many templates each platform offers. Google will obviously know what keywords to map to. It's going to be so rad!

Google isn't going to rank that page for crap either.

It's not Google's fault. This ebook is a great piece of content (have I mentioned that before?), but what if other sites link back to the webpage with anchor text such as "Comparing email platforms," "Best Email Templates," and so on. Those terms, not the terms you want to be found for, is what Google will pick up on.

Keywords AND Topics

Why not get the best of both worlds and combine keywords and topics together? Start with developing a great topic or concept that engages your customers and prospects.

In this case, our ebook is about email marketing. Now let's break down email marketing into small groups of keywords. The first group is about email strategy. The keywords for this group will be "how to create an email strategy," "best email strategy for businesses," "business email strategies," and so on. We take those keywords and write blogs and social posts around those keywords.

The second group of keywords will focus on email content. Those keywords will be "how to write compelling emails," "marketing emails people want to read," "email marketing customers love." Again, we will write posts for our blog and social media to draw in people who are searching for help in those areas.

As you can see, both of the groups of keywords target different searchers' intent, but both of these topics are addressed in the ebook. So in essence, we are doing topic matches with different sets of keywords.

Now, how will you use topics and keywords to create amazing content for your audience?

Oh, and in case you want to get your hands on that ebook you've heard so much about...

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Nikki Wardle

Written by Nikki Wardle

Nikki has a degree in Marketing from Boise State University and has been an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Tribute Media since 2014.

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