Long gone are the days when brands could earn SEO points via irrelevant links and keyword stuffing. Search engines now use artificial intelligence and machine learning to weed out the riffraff and rank webpages with greater and greater sophistication. The user experience is as important to search engines as the customer experience is to your company.
I know it can be tough to keep pace with search engine algorithm changes. Google tweaks its algorithms thousands of times a year in thousands of tiny ways. However, you can’t afford to ignore its major innovations like Hummingbird and RankBrain, designed to reward high-quality and deep content, respectively.
If you want your brand to achieve a top spot on search engine results pages going forward, your marketing strategy needs to include a healthy dose of topical authority.
Singular Content Isn’t Enough
Quality content is the linchpin of every marketing strategy. It’s imperative to a brand’s ability to create awareness, make sales, build trust and loyalty and become an industry expert. It’s also how you develop topical authority.
But just because you may be producing some great content now doesn’t mean you’re establishing topical authority. And that’s precisely what you need to do to please the Google gods and move up in the search rankings. If you don’t, you will find yourself just another brand in the pack of good but unauthoritative content.
The best way to establish topical authority is to create interrelated content that approaches a topic from multiple angles using multiple pieces of content. So your marketing strategy needs to focus on creating well-written pillar pages that provide a broad overview of a topic. Next, you need to surround those pages with cluster content that delves into more concentrated aspects of the topic.
In the end, what you’re creating is content that can answer a customer’s question with depth and dimension. That is what’s driving SEO now. Search engines want to have all the answers, but your brand is going to have to provide them.
You Have to Work the Lower Part of the Funnel
So many marketing strategies focus on the top of the funnel — attracting as many potential customers as possible. Of course, the ability to attract a steady stream of new ones is important to any brand. But I’m guessing you already know that retaining a customer costs less than convincing prospects to buy. Focusing on the lower part of the funnel is necessary for retention success, so your strategy needs to include efforts to achieve those goals.
I would argue, however, that you need to take one step further in a market made increasingly competitive by digital media. You need to mold loyal customers who are brand ambassadors, encouraging others to buy from you as well. You need to develop a savvy growth marketing strategy to muster those troops.
Central to that strategy is establishing topical authority. You wouldn’t send out sales reps who lack in-depth knowledge of your products and services, would you? In the same way, you can’t send out brand ambassadors without answering all their questions beforehand. You have to provide all the information they need to trust your brand and build up their confidence so they can influence others.
Conversations Have Replaced Keywords
First came short-tail keywords, then mid-tail and eventually long-tail keywords typed by users in their preferred browsers. Take a look at current voice search statistics, and you will understand why topical authority is so important to your SEO.
More and more users are speaking their queries rather than keying them in. Typing lends itself to an economy of words, even in long-tail searches, that speaking does not. People are now having conversations, and search engines are listening.
If you’re aiming for Google gold, which is the highly coveted snippet at the top of the page, you need to ask and answer the user’s question in your content. The only way to do that is by establishing topical authority.
Pillar content linked to cluster content tells search engines that your brand knows what it’s talking about. The more they perceive that you have the answers to the questions their users are asking, the more likely you are to land that top spot, which is right where you want to be.
Authority Always Wins
The entire digital landscape is forever becoming more intuitive. Search engines are no exception. They’re sussing out not just words keyed or spoken by users but interpreting their intent with the goal of delivering the most on-target results possible.
Your brand establishes topical authority with search engines when there are no gaps in your content. You’re providing everything the customer wants to know. Search engines, in turn, will reward your thoroughness with prime SERP positioning.
Even with an aggressive topical authority strategy, you’ll still need to constantly focus on execution. The competition for stellar SERPs is as fierce as a rugby scrum. If you want to come out carrying the ball and scoring goals, you’ll have to focus your strategy on what’s important now.