Topical Relevance – Most Important SEO Factor in 2021?

Topical Relevance is an underrated yet extremely important SEO factor. I would say it is one of the most important SEO signals in 2021 and beyond, yet you rarely hear about it. But what exactly is topical relevance? And why is it so important for SEO?

In order to help you with your SEO results, first let’s see what topical relevance is. Then I’ll explain why is it so important for good results for both content and e-commerce websites. And lastly I’ll give you 5 tips on how to improve not only the topical relevance of your website but hopefully your SEO rankings as well.

What Is Topical Relevance?

Topical relevance is the relevance of the content on your entire website compared to a particular, smaller or larger, topic.

Let me explain this with an example below. But first let’s see what are the two key factors a website should satisfy in order to qualify as relevant in any given topic:

  1. All content should be within the chosen topic; no wandering off.
  2. You should cover the topic as extensively, with as many pages, as possible.

To illustrate this with an example, if we were to launch a website in the topic of French recipes, on one hand we should stick to only post French recipes and closely related information. Even if we had the best Italian pizza recipe on the internet, it should not go to this website as it is not a French recipe.

On the other hand, we should post as many French recipes as we can. We would need to conduct a thorough keyword research and find all possible keywords (recipes mostly in this case). Then publish content for many of these keywords. In the case of the French recipe website, not only should we post for low search volume keywords, but sometimes even more than one variation of a recipe.

The result would be a very relevant website in the topic of French cuisine. Covering only that particular topic, and providing extensive content for all search intents. And that’s a website that search engines would appreciate.

Please note that topical relevance, as a specific metric, doesn’t appear in any SEO or marketing tool. You need to use your own discretion to understand the concept in your particular case and find out what content must appear on your website and what shouldn’t.

Topical Relevance SEO Importance

It might be a bold statement, but I would say topical relevance is one of the main ranking factors in Google in 2021.

Simply put, Google does not only consider the content or relevance of the landing page, but the whole website. Landing page here means the page that appears in the search results and where your visitors land. Most people only focus on that one particular page for any given keyword.

But even if you have the best and more comprehensive content on one single page, thousands of links pointing to it (i.e. SEO heaven), this is not enough anymore. Google will also consider the relevance of your whole website. If you have a lot more interesting or useful content on the same topic, it will prefer your site. Think of it as an encyclopedia on one topic being much more useful than a single newspaper article.

Topical relevance is definitely not the only thing you should pay attention to, but according to my experience it serves as an all or nothing barrier before SEO success. What this means is that if your website is not topically relevant (either having articles from very different subjects and/or not covering your field extensively), you can barely rank.

On the other hand, if your website covers one topic extensively, than you really don’t need too much effort in order to rank in Google. Of course you still have to take care of all the on-site and off-site signals, but with much less effort than many gurus try to convince you about.

Back in the days website authority and author authority were the things that mattered. If you had a 'strong' website (meaning that you had exceptionally good SEO results), you could post basically anything and it would rank. I remember a client of mine had an extremely successful furniture e-commerce website. Just for fun, he once posted an article about a Montblanc luxury pen he had. And in just a couple of days he could rank on page one for a couple of keywords related to the pen. Totally irrelevant to the topic, yet the site was powerful. Long are the days of these stories - you're not only supposed to be strong but also relevant.

An Example

I have several websites that cover one smaller topic with hundreds or even thousands of articles, and they have extremely successful rankings, even if I only built literally 1-2 links to them.

Take this example. This is a website in a cooking-related topic. It has almost 50K pages, all in the same topic. We only built 3 links to this website (all other links were gained organically), yet it provides a steady traffic of 2-5K daily visitors.

The importance of topical relevance in Search Console

Topical Relevance for E-Commerce Websites

If you have an e-commerce website, topical relevance simply means the inventory in your store. For e-commerce stores product pages are the content.

So on one hand, you should define the topic of your store the same way as you would do it in the case of a blog. Don’t try to sell everything, pick one topic and stick to it.

On the other hand, the more products you have, the more broadly you cover that topic, the better. This means that unfortunately no e-commerce stores with a couple dozen products are viable in search anymore.

5 Tips To Improve Your Website’s Ranking With Topical Relevance

How to improve your website’s topical relevance in 5 easy steps

  1. Select your website’s topic.

    You need to determine the exact topic, be it super small or even broad, that you want your website to be about.

  2. Choose a small enough topic that you’ll be able to cover in the next 1-2 years.

    If SEO is intended to be your primary source of traffic, you’re better off choosing a smaller topic (or subtopic) that you can cover extensively than a large one.

  3. Stick to your topic with your content.

    This is simple. Don’t wander off. If you have a content idea in another topic, keep it to yourself or publish it on another website.

  4. Do a thorough keyword research in Google Ads Keyword Planner.

    The Google Ads Keyword Planner tool is the best tool to find topically relevant keywords. Period. No need to use expensive tools, Keyword Planner is about letting you know what keywords are most relevant to your main topic.

  5. Cover the topic as extensively as you can.

    This requires some effort. You need to generate interesting and/or useful content for your keywords, the more the better.

Please read my article on the topic of your website to understand the concept more deeply.

Why Don’t You Hear About This Then?

If topical relevance is that important, why is it that you don’t hear about it more often when it comes to SEO tips? Or why is it that most website owners haven’t even heard about it?

I think there are 3 reasons behind this, all of them being some kind of social commentary from my part.

  1. It is too simple. Stick to your topic, publish enough content, and you’ll be good in SEO, definitely not an overcomplicated approach. Unfortunately our society cherishes complicated things and ideas. Don’t believe it? Just look at your new car! And for some weird reason, when it comes to SEO, most people think that the more complex an idea or solution is, the more rewards it will give them.
  2. No expensive tools to back it up. As I mentioned before, you need to use your own discretion to find out what works for your website best. In other words, there are no tools that can tell you whether your website is topically relevant or not. But this also means that there are no affiliate income possibilities for the hordes of online marketers, thus you can rarely find anyone writing about this.
  3. It requires a tedious process. This is about you, dear reader. Or at least most people looking for SEO advice, and I hope you are different as you made it so far. Building a website with topical relevance in mind requires a lot of work, a lot of quality content. This is something you can’t escape. But unfortunately people trying to find SEO tips online tend to look out for easy, one-click solutions. And we’re right back at #2…

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