On-Page Topic Targeting for Advanced SEO
OMG! The search engine algorithm jargon continues to increase unabated.
Since the latest Google Panda updates we’re being told we need to think about ‘on-page topic targeting’, ‘entity salience’, ‘co-occurrence’ and ‘Latent Dirichlet Allocation’!
Whatever do they mean?
Does it mean we have to drastically change the way we organize our webpage copy and illustrated content?
The simple answer, you will be pleased to learn, is – no, not really.
It’s more about thinking of each page as a kind of well-structured, university-style essay. Remember all that stuff about beginning with a strong introductory paragraph that presents the main themes and links to the three topic paragraphs that follow, and the equally strong conclusion that refers back to the three paragraph themes that have gone before?
In other words, you need:
• a clear introduction that presents the type of information that is to follow
• clearly defined and labelled topic paragraphs that are focused and relevant
• a conclusion that reiterates the introduction and ties the topic paragraphs together with the page’s main theme
• a list of supplementary reference links – both internal and external – so that interested browsers know where to look for more relevant information concerning their query.
This doesn’t mean that writing good content has to be boring, academic or stuffy in any way. Most of the best websites use this kind of structured technique and are still entertaining and dynamic.
Just think Amazon or Wikipedia and you’ll get an idea of the sort of depth of content you need to be aiming for, as well as a model for the way to arrange your topics in a logical, reader-friendly and search-engine-crawl-able kind of way.
Creating an on-page topic targeting framework
Today’s latest paradigm on writing ideal online web content follows a very similar kind of structure as to what you were taught when it came to writing timed essays for your SAT exams.
1. Use diverse vocabulary to create contextually rich content
Remember how in primary school you used to brainstorm vocabulary before you started to write? It is pretty much the same thing now.
Now that keyword stuffing is a thing of the past we are being encouraged to use a wide and varied vocabulary to create interrelated keyword phrases and concepts that are relevant to our topic.
This not only makes what we write more interesting to our readers, but it also provides additional information to today’s more sophisticated search engines that can interpret all those synonyms and interrelated phrases to build up a specific contextual picture of what our page is about.
The latest search engine algorithms are designed to ‘predict’ the relationship between different words and phrases. So if you write “President”, for example, the search engines are anticipating also seeing the words White House, the First Lady, the Secret Service, the Rose Garden, Washington DC, in order to set the page in the context of referring to the US Presidency.
The more closely interconnected and specific the vocabulary, the clearer the indication to the search engines of just what your page is about.
So don’t be afraid to:
• Use synonyms and close variants of your principal keywords (ie, plurals, abbreviations, phrases that mean the same thing, etc). Useful websites include Alchemy API, SEO Review Tools, Social Mention and Google Trends, all of which can help you to find keywords and keyword phrases relevant to your topic.
• Create primary keyword phrases that incorporate your main keywords and related verbs.
• Create secondary keyword phrases that use complimentary vocabulary related to your page topic and website overall.
• Create entity relationships which make clear the relationship between the people, places and things mentioned on your page (and website in general).
Make a clear list of the primary and secondary keywords and phrases you plan to use before you try to create the content for any specific page.
2. Where, when and how to use your keywords and phrases
How you place your keyword phrases on the page will also affect the way they are read and put into context by the search engines.
To determine their inter-relationship, the search engines look at three main factors:
• Position or Placement: Search engines give more weight to those words and phrases that appear in headlines, titles and other important parts of the text, as well as those that appear earlier on the page (such as in your introductory paragraph).
• Frequency: Search engines compare how frequently the words and phrases you choose are used in other texts in general compared with how often they appear on your specific page to get an idea of their relative importance. This means that common words such as ‘the’, ‘to’, ‘and’, etc are pretty much disregarded since their use is so ubiquitous, whereas the specialized vocabulary related to your website will stand out in contrast.
• Distance apart: Search engines calculate the semantic distance between the words you use – ie how closely together certain words and phrases appear on your page, and how they are grouped by HTML markings. You can use this to your advantage by placing both primary and secondary keyword phrases close together within the same listings, paragraph or section of content.
In practice, this means:
• Using the primary keywords defining what the page is about as well as the secondary keywords that are the focus of each paragraph or subsection together in the introduction.
• Using primary and secondary keywords and phrases as headings to each of the subsequent paragraphs so that they clearly define the topic content of each paragraph.
• Using a wide and diverse range of vocabulary and synonyms to carefully structure paragraph content to provide sharply focused and relevant information that is related to the heading.
• Making good use of bulleted lists to group primary and secondary keywords together.
• Concluding with a paragraph that sums up the page content and reiterates the main topic keywords as well as the subtopic keywords that appear in each paragraph.
If you plan each page like this in advance, then the actual writing of each paragraph becomes relatively straightforward and the topics flow logically from one to another.
3. Additional content and links
Citing other websites can assist search engines in placing your page in context and may even increase your own site traffic. For this reason:
• Always be sure to include internal links to other relevant pages and information on your own site.
• You should also include links to other websites that provide the kind of supplementary information that you feel will be of good use to your browsers.
The point here is to make reference only to what you truly believe to be excellent and relevant sites that will enhance the information you are offering. Empty and irrelevant links will only end up putting off your browser and result in getting your website penalized.
Linking works best in terms of maximizing SEO when both internal and external links on the same page specifically point to a clearly identifiable topic
4. Semantic markup
Search engines are generally able to distinguish between page ‘entities’ (also known as nouns or people, places and things) and their properties and/or relationships between each other (eg height, width, price, value, etc).
However, to further enhance your search results it is a great idea to include Schema mark-up in your text so that there is no room for any ambiguity about your context.
Schema is invisible to browsers but can be read by the search engines so that they can explicitly identify page entities, their properties, and their interrelationships with each other. This is particularly useful for clearly and unambiguously identifying important data such as business information, names of products, reviews and more.
To read more about using Schema take a look at Builtvisible’s very usable Microdata and schema.org guide.
To conclude, the new search engine algorithms don’t fundamentally change the best way to create informative pages that provide the detailed content browsers are looking for.
However, getting an insight into how search engines crawl our pages and what they pick up on when deciding how to put our pages into context and rate them can be very useful in helping us to structure the content we present.
Or perhaps you have another easy, scalable method for approaching on-page topic targeting that both improves your online content for web-users and enhance your SEO efforts?
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