Topical Optimization: A Modern SEO Strategy for Rapid Growth

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Topical Optimization has replaced the effectiveness of traditional keyword optimization to a great extent.

SEO is an ever-evolving industry. Google is becoming good at determining the quality of the content and returning relevant results to its users. It’s time for you to make the necessary changes to your SEO strategies.

In this post, let us look at one of the most effective on-page SEO strategies – topical optimization.

The art of optimizing an article for the entire topic as opposed to that of a single keyword is called topical optimization.

Let me explain.

The changes in Google algorithms

Changes In Google Algorithms

Earlier in 2013, you could have easily ranked an article by just stuffing your target keyword throughout the article.

Google algorithms were not so intelligent to rank your article based on the context.

They merely looked at the number of times the searched keyword is used in the article and assigned it a rank.

Later in 2013, Google rolled out the biggest ever semantic update – the Hummingbird update.

Then a big shift happened!

Google started looking for topical relevance in the article instead of ranking your article based on the keyword density.

In short, it gained semantic intelligence as we humans do.

Semantic Intelligence

It also gave rise to latent semantic indexing; wherein Google starts expecting some related keywords to be present in an article to rank it higher for a topic.

Later, Google RankBrain was introduced to make sure that Google understands the exact intent behind a query and deliver relevant results.

In short, the Google Hummingbird and RankBrain (to some extent) led to the advent of topical optimization.

Why topical optimization?

Topic Optimization

In this section, let’s discuss some of the benefits of adopting topical optimization in your web content.

Pick any top ranking page on Google and plug it into competitor keyword analysis tools.

You’ll notice that the pages along with the main keyword also rank for dozens, if not hundreds of keywords related to the topic. This is in spite of not having all those keywords in the article.

Have you ever noticed that some web pages rank on top even if the main keyword is not present in the title?


Because these articles have gained topical authority. With this, they are ranking for an entire topic instead of a keyword.

Here are the three main direct benefits of topical optimization:

  1. You rank for multiple keywords instead of a single keyword
  2. Your related posts that are semantically close will also rank high
  3. You gain topical authority

How to implement topical optimization?

In this section, I’ll discuss some of the strategies that you can implement in your blog content to make it topically optimized.

Do subtopics research

Before writing any blog post, it’s very important to prepare a detailed outline.

You need to do thorough research on what are the subtopics you need to include in your blog post.

For example, if you consider the topic – “Paleo diet for weight loss”.

Getting subtopics idea
Subtopic ideas
subtopic ideas research

You can also use keyword research tools, to dig in the sub-topics you need to cover.

When you do this and include relevant subtopics and headings in your blog posts, you’ll end up ranking your content for potentially hundreds of keywords.

 SEMrush’s topic research tool

You can also make use of SEMrush’s topic research tool.

getting related keyword ideas
related keywords to the main keyword

It’ll give you the ideas you need to work on to make your content a great piece.

Based on all these subtopics, you need to create a detailed outline for your content.

Using these subtopic-related keywords in the subheadings of your article is crucial when it comes to topical optimization and ranking for dozens of keywords.

Answer all possible questions

Your article needs to have answers to all the possible questions that may arise in people’s mind.

But, how to determine what questions to answer?

You need to research the questions that people are already typing in Google.

questions to cover in the article

If the term you searched is popular enough, Google will display you the “People also ask” section, which gives you enough ideas about topics you need to cover in your content.

The SEMrush returns you all the questions people type in Google when it comes to the topic. You can add filters like search volume range, keyword difficulty score, etc.

Here select “Questions” filter as shown below.

Getting questions in the SEMrush

Here are some results returned:

  • Can I use Bluetooth headphones on an airplane?
  • Do Bluetooth headphones work on airplanes?
  • How do airplane headphones work?
  • How to use airplane headphones?
  • Why do airplane headphones have 2 jacks?

These are some questions you may need to answer in your article. Although these questions may not have any significant search volumes, targeting all of them has a well combined search volume.

Along with this, you need to also make thorough keyword research, and come up with a broad match, phrase match and other related keywords to include in your blog post.

The content breadth and depth

Content Breadth And Depth

Content breadth refers to how wide your topic coverage is.

You also need to make sure to add some views on the tightly relevant topics.

However, you need to be a bit careful about the content breadth and don’t go overboard making the content irrelevant to the main topic.

Content depth refers to how in-depth your content is regarding the topic you’re covering. Your content should really dive deep into a topic and answer all the possible questions.

You need to add the necessary case studies, researches, statistics when it comes to the specific topic.

In order to satisfy the searchers’ task effectively, you need to try answering each and every information related to a topic.

For this, you need to make use of SEMrush’s “SEO content template” tool.

SEMrush’s SEO content template tool

This tool analyzes the top 10 ranking pages for a specific topic and gives you suggestions on what you need to include in the content to get a competitive edge.

It suggests you the LSI keywords you need to include, and it gives you an idea on your content breadth and depth. It also gives you an idea about how long your content should be based on similar top performing content.

Fill the SEO content gap

SEO Content Gap

This is one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to topical optimization. You need to make a thorough research of your competitor content on the topic you’re writing on.

You need to to make a note on what’s lacking in your competitor’s content.

In other words, you need to see the content gaps that you can fill in your competitor ranking pages.

In order to make this easier, you can make use of a table of content Chrome extension.

If you’ve covered all the gaps that the existing similar content has on the internet, your content will be the one-stop destination for the searchers.

The searchers’ intents will be accomplished effectively with your content.

To implement this, you need to spend at least 30 minutes preparing a detailed article outline before writing an article of say 2000 words.

Use LSI keywords

Do you remember latent semantic indexing that I discussed earlier?

To optimize your blog content around a topic effectively, you need to make proper use of LSI keywords. These are the keywords that are relevant and semantically close to the main keyword you are targeting.

In other words, LSI keywords are the additional keywords you’re willing to rank for along with the main keyword.

How to find LSI keywords?

You can make use of Google search suggestions.

Finding related keywords on Google

You see, these are all the keywords related to the main keyword – “best headphones for airplane”. Here in the screenshot, you can treat the words that are in bold text as LSI keywords.

After seeing this, if I were to write a post on “headphones for airplane”, I will make sure to include keywords like movies, noise canceling, travel, and so on.

These are some LSI keywords.

  • Noise cancellation
  • Movies
  • Wireless
  • Flying
  • Travel
  • So on

You can also look at all the keywords that top ranking pages are already ranking for by making use of tools like SEMrush.

SEMrush keyword research tool

With this, I got some more keywords like planes, headphones for iPad, and so on.

These are all the keywords that the top ranking page is ranking for along with the main keyword.

If we include these related keywords in our article along with the main keyword, then the chances of us ranking for the whole topic will be more.

Use inflections

This term may be familiar if you are from a linguistic background or have studied natural language processing.

The infections are the prefixes or suffixes added to the seed keyword to create slight variations or entirely change the meaning.

Consider these examples:

  • Paleo diet weight loss
  • Paleolithic diet losing weight
  • Paleo dieting lose weight

These keywords essentially mean the same, as they are grammatical inflections of the same main keyword.

Various NLP (natural language processing) algorithms treat these words the same.

Boosting topical authority on site level

Boosting Topical Authority

Topical optimization is not only about semantically optimizing a single blog post.

You need to think out of the box and also realize that topical optimization can be applied to your whole site. With this, you can easily rank any article on your topic of expertize.

Topical clusters

Topical Clusters

If a post on your site is ranking high and getting good engagement, then it makes sense for Google also to rank your other posts that are relevant to it.

On the other hand, if you are writing an article and it’s the first time you’re covering that topic in your blog, you may find a tough time ranking it quickly.

You need to learn publishing posts that have close semantic relationships with each other and internally link them in the form of topical clusters.

These topical clusters are also called as silos. I have a seperate guide on silo structure which you can refer to.

In essence, first you need to note down the different sub-topics you’re gonna cover on your blog – treat them as buckets. If you are struggling to find the subtopics, for a broad topic you have in mind, consider using SEMrush topic research tool.

Subtopics research using SEMrush topic research tool

Now, you need to categorize all the blog post/keyword ideas you have in the sub-topic buckets you have created.

Like this, you’ll have a set of topic ideas that are clustered, categorized, and related to each other. You can get started with Semrush by signing up for 30 days free trial.

Pillar pages

Pillar Pages

Pillar posts are very in-depth articles on your blog that attracts a lot of traffic and links. Typically, pillar content a.k.a. cornerstone content will be very in depth and averages to around 7000 words of content.

These kind of pages typically target very broad keyword/a specific topic, that is difficult to rank for with a regular piece of content.

Under these pillar pages, you can have many posts that cover subtopics within the main topic.

Typically for every content cluster, there’ll be one or more pillar posts (depending upon how important a topical cluster is for you) to attract great relevant links and traffic.

Here are some of the characteristics of a good pillar post:

  1. Very in depth when it comes to a topic
  2. Covers each and every question that a reader may have when it comes to that topic
  3. Really be the best resource on the internet when it comes to the topic
  4. Attract great traffic and backlinks

If you have more pillar posts in a cluster, more will be the chances of you ranking high for that topic.

Strategic internal linking

Internal Linking

You need to execute internal linking only within the same clusters.

Avoid linking to posts from other irrelevant clusters to prevent leaking of topical relevance.

To execute this right now, just identify the top traffic-driving posts/topics on your site. You can do this by going to Google Analytics > Behaviors > All Pages and sort the traffic by descending order.

Look for the landing pages that appear on the top of the report.

And then, come up with articles that are closely relevant to them, publish them, add internal links from them to your old posts and vice versa.

Make sure that relevant posts on your site are close to each other so that Google crawlers can make out of the semantic relations between the posts in your cluster.

Pages Crawl Depth SEMrush report

Here in this report by SEMrush, you can see the “Pages Crawl Depth”, make sure that pages are 1 to at max 2 clicks far from any page of your site. For pages which have more than 3 clicks of crawl depth, you need to consider adding them more internal links to them

Or else, it’ll not be friendly to Google when it comes to establishing topic relevance effectively.

Fill topical gap

Topical Gap

With the help of content gap analysis, you can easily identify the topics that you can cover on your blog for quick wins.

Let me say that you have two pieces of content that are quite related to each other – “a” and “c”. Analyze the content in them, and ask yourself whether you can come up with a blog post “b” to bridge the topical gap you have between the two contents.

It essentially consists of three steps:

  1. Identifying the goal you want to accomplish
  2. Analyzing the existing content with respect to that goal
  3. Closing and bridging the gap you have when it comes to content for fulfilling that goal

If you have a proper content marketing goal in mind, you need to start by pulling the existing content you have using Google Analytics. Now, you need to analyze what content gaps you have, and start doing necessary content research.

Or alternatively, you can also make use of SEMrush’s content gap analysis tool. It helps you figure out what topics your competitors are ranking in common, but you are not.

Keyword gap

This strategy is greatly helpful, only if you and your competitors have similar content marketing goals.

Wrapping up

These are some of the most effective strategies by which you can optimize the content on your site for a topic.

With topical optimization, you need to also target related keywords along with the main keyword.

But the basic keyword optimization for the main keyword still holds great importance.

Instead of keyword stuffing, I strongly urge you to use the relevant LSI keywords naturally in your article.

Hope you found this post on topical optimization helpful.

Akshay HallurAbout me

Hi, I’m Akshay Hallur. The founder of this blog BloggingX and many other online ventures.

I’m a professional full-time blogger, a digital marketer, and a trainer. I’m here to help bloggers like you to create an outstanding blog and earn money from it.

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    Hi, I’m Akshay Hallur the founder of BloggingX. I dropped out in 2015 to pursue my passion in blogging, digital marketing and training. I help people like you to learn blogging and help you grow your online business leveraging the power of strategic content marketing.

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