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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Jun 22, 2018 4 min read

Why You Need to Start Focusing on Topics Instead of Keywords

{}Keywords used to be the “be all, end all” for top search rankings. That’s no longer the case. New technology, search engine algorithms, and consumer behaviours have impacted search results. It’s time to centre searches around topics to ensure your company’s success. Here’s why.

Keyword Results Are Too Varied

Keyword results aren’t deemed to be as accurate as they once were. Keywords result in search ranking success that’s dependent on a variety of factors. 

Results come via Google’s featured paid ads, local results based on geography, answers related to a user’s previous search history, and Featured Snippets, which offer better value to customers. Keyword searches have become too narrow, lacking any real consistency due to the many factors that now impact results.

Keywords Are Restricting with Little Weight Attached

Keywords are both restrictive and without impact. The ones you think are important may not be those used by your customers. While you appear to have a top ranking, it won’t mean much if your target audience isn’t searching those words. Today’s searches no longer rely on a specific set of words; they combine highly relevant information into one grouping. 

Consider a holistic SEO approach that focuses on pillar content and topic clusters. Your target audience wants relevant, informative, and engaging content—they gain knowledge when they find an answer. Topics provide a wider range of subjects that you can pepper with keywords throughout, instead of being limited to them. Google’s Hummingbird update has shown the effectiveness of group search queries in allowing better answers and relevant hits, as related to the main topic and its subsidiaries.

Keywords Aren’t Great Across Devices

Consumers haven’t been limited to searches on their home desktops in quite some time. They’re searching on laptops, tablets, smartphones, and voice speakers. As a result, search engines, such as Google, have had to adapt their strategies to bring authoritative content to the top. This creates a positive user experience, a now mandatory aspect of searches.

The broad range of topics allows for a greater expansion of content in your strategy. This type of strategy resonates more strongly with how consumers search and question things in real life. Combine the audience’s natural approach to asking questions online with topic-focused searches, and you can ensure discoverability from any device.

Keywords Can’t Create Cluster Content

Start with one primary topic, then create a cluster of themes related to the base term and your target audience. Brainstorm relevant ideas that fit together and use these like-minded ideas to interest customers and analyze results. Cluster content sounds more human and mimics our language, without the mechanical aspect of keywords.

Look to topics that are spoken naturally in the human language. Build around this central thought, while accounting for what your users are interested in.

Keywords Don’t Lead to a Better User Experience

At the end of the day, you want to provide a better user experience for your intended audience. Keyword searches aren’t providing this. Focusing on topics lets your writers use natural language that’s rooted in real-life communication, without being hampered by specific words. Writers gain newfound freedom in creating future content.

Using topics in a way that speaks to the relevancy of your business gives you a better chance of interesting new and current followers. Topics give you the ability to produce content your consumers actually want to read and find it more easily. They’ll keep coming back to read what you have to say.

HubSpot is doing away with its keywords tool. While you don’t have to abandon keywords entirely, make topics the core part of your approach to improve search engine rankings and hold your audience’s interest in you.


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.