Keywords and the pursuit of relevance through terms that search engines can detect have firmly rooted themselves in the foundation of traditional SEO optimization. However, is the era of thematic authority approaching? After all, modern technologies strive to bypass keywords in order to deliver more relevant search results.
In the context of SEO, the term "authority" prompts marketers to consider the link-building scheme. Historically, backlinks have been a key factor in increasing a domain's authority. In most cases, this still holds true today, but creating high-quality thematic content appears to be a much more effective and organic method of boosting a website's authority.
The accumulated experience of specialists demonstrates that building thematic authority can enhance rankings for existing keywords. It is also an effective way to increase the number of keywords for which a website is ranked.
Has the time come to abandon keyword targeting and focus on thematic authority? Let's take a closer look at what this term means in the context of SEO.
It differs from authority in a specific idea or subject.
Understanding the difference between niche and broad authority is best summarized by the Search Engine Journal, which provides an example of an excellent article about blue widgets on a website dedicated to everything blue.
If we take an article about blue widgets and compare it to an equally high-quality page on a website about widgets of all kinds, we will notice a significant difference. Each page will have its own authority, but the website dedicated to everything blue (despite having a quality page about blue widgets) cannot be considered authoritative on this topic.
It may have a page that answers questions about blue widgets, but for Google or its users, there is no evidence that it is a knowledge source on widgets in general. Additionally, the website will lack other pages that allow visitors to find relevant answers to their widget-related questions, unless those questions also mention the color blue.
This means that most likely, a website with a page describing blue widgets on a website about widgets will be considered more relevant by search engines due to the presence of answers to more important questions related to widgets on other pages.
Keywords, especially low-frequency long-tail phrases, can undoubtedly help users find what they are looking for on the internet, but they are not necessarily the most natural way to achieve search goals.
Long-tail keywords can be effective in generating conversions, depending on how precise and specific they are. However, they provide little understanding of the authority or trustworthiness of the website where the content is published, although they successfully direct users to relevant pages.
With the advent of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, there has been a shift from search engine-oriented keywords to keywords and phrases that are more user-oriented.
Google aims to deliver the most relevant and high-quality content in response to user queries. Processing billions of daily queries helps meet the needs of millions of users.
For example, if a user enters the query "best headphones for commuting," they are likely looking to purchase headphones or compare options. If the Google results are irrelevant—for example, showing an article about portable speakers—the user's intent will not be satisfied.
Google's focus on improving relevance has led to a departure from simple keyword matching and query conditions towards an emphasis on the intent behind the query. Since the launch of the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, factors such as context, meaning, and natural language have been taken into account when processing user queries.
Understanding search intent in the Hummingbird algorithm was a challenging task, particularly due to the increase in queries performed through voice assistants. Today, queries involve not only keywords but also conversational speech.
Voice search is becoming more prevalent in East Asia and the Americas, making it crucial for search engines like Google to comprehend search intent.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are employed to accurately interpret the context of queries, but for Google, this is just one piece of the puzzle. After determining the user's intent, semantic analysis is necessary to understand the meaning and relationship between words, phrases, and other content elements on a website and extract the most suitable and relevant information to meet the user's needs.
To better understand intent, Google has developed its own Knowledge Graph, which connects the dots between related elements and assists the search engine in understanding the relevance of terms, as well as their meaning and intent. Synonyms play a significant role in this, creating new challenges for marketers and website owners in terms of targeting the desired audience.
Diversifying thematic authority can have far-reaching implications in the world of marketing. For instance, if you own an e-commerce website, you would seek ways to optimize the pages showcasing your products to ensure better navigation and discoverability by search engines. Traditionally, this entails optimizing each page for its relevant category, ensuring that every product has its own SEO content.
But what if we shift this approach and instead focus on optimizing by themes rather than keywords? Let's revisit our example of headphones and imagine a scenario where you need to optimize content for noise-canceling headphones. By creating more supporting content and articles on the topic of noise-canceling headphones across various pages of your website, you can achieve a much higher level of authority.
Thematic SEO allows you to surpass the limitations of keyword research, enabling you to simultaneously rank your site for different keywords and long-tail phrases while reinforcing thematic authority through engaging content.
This may take considerable time and effort, but it will lead to an increase in visitors who are eager to learn more about the subject in which Google perceives you as an authority. It also helps move away from outdated attempts to rank through vague matching of search queries in an effort to satisfy user search intent.