How to Gracefully Transition from Keywords to Topics

seoorangeSince Google recently switched all of its keywords to “not provided,” many SEOs have been frantically searching for a new way to conduct keyword research. But is finding alternate ways to acquire keyword data really the best solution to this problem? Yes, you still need to find some creative ways to gather information on keywords, but perhaps this update actually signaled a widespread shift towards focusing on topics instead of keywords.

From Keywords to Topics

So what does it mean to base your SEO strategy on topics instead of keywords? By topics, I mean of course entire queries instead of just the one or two keywords that SEOs traditionally focus on in a query. Essentially, emphasizing topics allows you to use a more holistic approach to SEO. I know this is a radical change for SEOs who have relied on keyword data every single day for years on end, but we have to keep up with Google!

Think about it this way – this is essentially what Google is trying to do with the Hummingbird update. Hummingbird allows Google to better process the deeper meaning behind any given query because it looks at the whole phrase and tries to understand any synonyms or double meanings that might be applicable.

Don’t get me wrong – keywords are still a valid part of your SEO strategy, but they simply don’t have quite as much weight as they used to. It’s time for SEOs to begin focusing on the big picture instead of getting bogged down by focusing on individual keywords.

What Could Be More Important Than Keywords?

To put it simply, user experience is far more important than keyword research, and in the end, an SEO strategy based on topics creates a far better user experience than those based on keywords. A great user experience is based on relevant, useful content that is present on a well-designed site.

There are a variety of ways to conduct research based on topics instead of keywords. For instance, many SEOs are turning to Twitter’s “trending topics” to get an idea of what topics and queries might be popular at the moment. Google Trends can also provide insight into topics that are currently generating interest.

The End Result

This change is actually great news for content providers. Writers are now freer to use natural language as they deal with fewer restrictions based on keyword requirements. Even better, content based on topics should now be based on how you would communicate in real life, which allows for even more freedom for content writers.

For SEOs, this shift allows you to essentially create your own keywords based on the language that is most relevant to your business. Study the intent behind any queries that are related to your business and develop a keyword or topic strategy that targets the interests of those searchers. “Not provided” keywords give you license to unleash your creativity as you build a content strategy for 2014!

How do you plan to cope with the shift to “not provided” keywords?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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