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What is Topic Optimization?

7 min read

Topic optimization is the practice of optimizing your web content around specific topics and concepts relevant to your business. You can optimize topics on a single page of content (built to describe a “focus topic”) or in a collection of material.

topic cluster is a key focus topic that includes all related topics, user intents connected to those related topics, and the content on your site that links to those topics and intents. In essence, a topic cluster is built around an overall theme of your website.

For example a site for pet owners may have a topic cluster around “dog food” and another cluster around “cat food.” Then, within the “dog food” cluster, you would have:

  • related topics (“doggy treats”, “high-fiber dog food”)
  • user intents around each (“what is high-fiber dog food?”, “what should I look for in high-fiber dog food?”)
  • content connected to each (a 500-word post on what to look for in high-fiber dog food)

How to Write Web Content for Google Search?

Writing for Google is different than writing a book. When you’re writing a book, you write linearly – page by page. For search, you want to organize your content to match the buyer journey. The four phases are awareness, consideration, decision, and post-purchase support.

The starting point is awareness, so you’ll want to write information content. Typically, informational content that will answer:

  • What is X?
  • What types of X are there?
  • What important features of X should I be looking for?

Often, you’ll write one long article, typically 2,000 words or more, to describe a topic in detail. This is often called “pillar content“, “hero content”, “thought leadership content”, “long-form content.” However, it could also be a whitepaper or an e-book.

How Does Google Look at Topics?

Google has made several important updates over the years. Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, and Rankbrain are the most famous updates. All have focused on better detecting high-quality, comprehensive content that matches search intent.

The change has been nothing short of dramatic. Google now favors sites showing demonstrable expertise.

It prefers those that offer comprehensive content organized around specific topics. Sites providing thin content and poor user experience are finding it difficult.

They can’t achieve consistent and meaningful rankings as they did before. Since the introduction of Hummingbird, topic optimization has become the best SEO strategy.

What Are the Benefits of Topic Optimization?

Proper topic optimization results in better SEO performance. By that we mean:

  • better rankings on existing content (more keywords that rank in higher positions)
  • better rankings on your supplemental content (content connected to the optimized content)
  • better ranking performance on newly created material that is linked to these topics.

What is the difference between topic optimization and keyword optimization? Are Keywords Still Important For SEO?

Traditionally, people looked for particular keywords for which they wanted to rank. They would then add specific phrases repetitively into their content. The idea was simple. To rank for a particular phrase, you had to repeat it enough times in your content.

While it did work a while, those critical Google updates that we mentioned put an end to that practice. This approach is now considered to be outdated. Topical authority is where it’s at!

So, you should be thinking:

  • How can I create relevant content for my users?
  • How can I create semantically-rich, topic-focused content?

Do your research, talk to experts, and read quality articles relevant to the topic. Write for a better user experience.  Aim so that your readers learn something from your content.

Better user experience also improves engagement. That translates into multiple benefits including better search engine rankings.

Artificial Intelligence for Topic Optimization

You’ve got two choices when it comes to optimizing the topics on a page. You can do it manually, the hard way. Alternatively, you can use a tool like MarketMuse, which uses topic modeling to automate this task.

Manual Topic Optimization

To do this manually, you’ll need to come up with a list of terms semantically related to the focus topic of your post. Unless you are blessed with an encyclopedic mind, you’ll need a thesaurus or something to come up with this list. Easier said than done, but bear with me.

Now comes the fun part. Search your document to see whether these related topics are mentioned at least once in the text. If your content covers all these subtopics then great, you’re done! If you’re missing some, then you’ll need to revise your post to include what’s lacking.

However, we’re not done yet.

You’ll need to perform the same analysis on at least every URL appearing on the first page of Google.


So that you can discover how well the competition is covering that same focus topic.

Keep in mind there’s no magic number of topic mentions for which to aim. Your goal is to create content that is more in-depth than everyone else. You want recognition as the authority on that topic.

Optimizing Topics With MarketMuse

The manual process is not only time-consuming, but it’s also prone to error. That’s one reason we created MarketMuse. It uses topic modeling to construct a map of the concepts surrounding a specific focus topic.

MarketMuse evaluates and scores your content against the competition. That enables you to see the content gaps that exist within your page.

Plus, you can run a head-to-head comparison of your page against a competing URL. This provides more details on where to improve content depth.

Now that you know what related topics to cover, how do you accomplish that objective?

How Do You Write Your Content In A Way That Emphasizes Topics More Than Keywords?

First of all, don’t read too deeply into keyword volume. “Keywords in isolation” are not useful anymore.

Google doesn’t care if you have specific keywords in your title, headings or meta description. Google rewards the pages that describe a topic comprehensively and deeply.

Instead of worrying which keywords to pursue, identify a focus topic your audience cares about. Then make sure you cover it in detail.

Connect that piece to supporting content on your site. Use appropriate anchor text and link from within the material. This type of connection carries a more significant weight than one from a menu, a sidebar, a footer or any other site-wide area.

For small sites, it’s relatively easy to find the right content and anchor text for linking purposes. But the bigger your site gets, the larger this problem becomes. One option is to take advantage briefs supplied through MarketMuse. They include linking suggestions to relevant onsite content using appropriate anchor text.

Connect to high-quality and relevant external pages that give the reader additional insight. The anchor text should contain terms related to both your topic and the page to which you are linking.

Just make sure you’re not linking to your direct competition in the SERPs. Fortunately, MarketMuse Content Briefs differentiate between relevant external pages and those of the competition.

Above all, make sure to write for your target audience.

How Should I Think About Keyword Density?

In the past, SEO experts would caution you from mentioning a specific keyword more than 2.5% of the time.

As with the focus on keywords, this advice is now outdated. There is no magic number of keyword mentions that will help your content rank. However, if you resort to massive amounts of “keyword stuffing,” Google will notice.

So, write naturally.

Write for your audience.

Don’t write for search engines.

Make sure to describe in detail any fundamental concepts that you include in your content. That’s the best advice I can give to anyone looking to optimize their topic coverage.

Featured image vector designed by Freepik

Aki Balogh

Co-founder & CEO of, Co-founder & President of MarketMuse, Advisor at (builders of the El Salvador Chivo wallet). Holds 2 patents in semantic analysis. Ex-VC at OpenView. Building decentralized tech to empower society.