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When Optimizing Your Website, Think Topics

3293117576_05f43d8305_mAmongst our many resources for SEO information is MOZ.com, formerly SEOMoz. Recently the site published an interesting article that posited that the role of keywords in search engine optimization (SEO) may be declining. Part of the problem, and perhaps the greatest reason for concern, is that when Google launched Google Plus, users were able to search privately, which means that webmasters can no longer see the keywords that drew a visitor to a website. In a sense, given this change, it is difficult to know whether your efforts to optimize your site for keywords are truly effective. The post also notes that the use of keywords in backlinks (a much stronger way to write a link than the traditional “click here” hyperlink) is slowly decreasing.

Now before you throw away your keyword research in disgust, it’s important to pay attention to the full scope of what Moz is reporting. While keywords used in isolation in URLs or hyperlinks may be losing some of their verve, using keywords as the core of a topic that is relevant to your website is the new recommended pathway. We have been approaching on-page optimization in this way for quite some time as a supplement to the traditional methodologies of using keywords as individual tools. How does this work? Consider the following example.

Let’s say your company sells apple pies. You want to optimize your website, so first you invest in some keyword research. You discover that of all of the keywords that were uncovered, the ones that could most help push your site forward were apples, pies, dessert, locally grown ingredients, and American cuisine.

In the “keywords only” approach you would make sure that you used these keywords page headers (h1 tags), in URLs, page descriptions, and meta tags. What Moz is suggesting, however, and what we have been recommending to our clients, is that you create pages on your website that relate specifically (and topically) to those keywords and phrases. In our example, a page could be developed regarding different kinds of apples and which are the best for pies. A second page could be devoted to the history of pies as a dessert.

Another important point to consider when optimizing these topic-oriented pages is what the Moz article calls “content proof.” Search engines now want to send people to pages that are 100% credible. As a result, search engines are going to look for words in your content that are related to your keyword. You might want to consider, therefore, incorporating words like “cake” and “pastry” into your page about pies or desserts. That keyword research you invested in can be helpful in this regard as well. Words that you may not have had on your primary list can still be incorporated as proof words. Moz also suggests using images and/or video on these topic pages. Not only does this show a depth to your content but it of course also keeps people on your site for a longer period of time.

The Moz.com article is slightly alarmist. We still think keyword analysis, research, and optimization is integral to the optimization process. However, the idea that the keywords you choose to optimize for should be integrated into topical content is something we whole-heartedly agree with and have been practicing that approach for quite some time.

Have any questions? Feel free to contact us to learn more!

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/3293117576/ via Creative Commons