What is Topical Relevance?

Have you ever searched for something on Google and found an article that seems to be exactly what you’re after? As you read it, though, you realize that the topic is much broader than you need.

Or, worse, it doesn’t answer your question at all, instead diving into a semi-related topic that you’re not interested in.

This is a topical relevance fail by that website owner or content creator, and it’s frustrating for the reader on the other end who just wasted their time. And Google doesn’t like it, either, because search engines want users to find the best match for their query.

In this article, we’re going to explain what is topical relevance and how you can optimize your website for it.

What is Topical Relevance? The Term Defined

Topical relevance is a process used by search engines that help determine if a web page is relevant to a search query. Several factors go into topical relevance, including:

  • Backlinks
  • Content
  • Keywords

Each one is important, and the first two are very much in your control.

What is Topical Relevance for Content vs. Websites?

Most of the time, topical relevance refers to the content level. This means that your content matches the target keyword and the user’s interest. For example, if a user searches for “insulated travel cups,” a topically relevant result won’t include all types of travel cups; it’ll only include the insulated ones.

When we talk about site-level topical relevance, we’re looking at the site as a whole. A topically relevant website has web pages that, on average, cater to a certain focus. This is particularly helpful with niched-down websites that revolve around a specific topic or sell a specific kind of product.

The more topically relevant web pages you have, the more likely it is that you’ll eventually create a topically relevant website.

Is Topical Relevance Important?

You may know the answer to “what is topical relevance,” but is it important?

Yes! Topical relevance is important for websites because it tells search engines if a site is authoritative and reliable.

For example, consider the role that backlinks play in topical relevance. If a website has several backlinks from low-quality websites that Google doesn’t trust, the search engine will assume that the backlinks on that site aren’t trustworthy either.

That means those backlinks will have a poor reflection on your website and could potentially hurt your ranking.

On the same note, if your website gets backlinks from websites with high topical relevance and authority, Google will trust the referrals to your site more. That could give you a boost on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Remember, though: While topical relevance makes search engine crawlers happy, it also has to make your audience happy. Not only will a topically relevant result be ranked higher, but it will also have a higher click-through rate and conversion rate because people are finding what they’re looking for.

What is Topical Relevance Optimization?

Optimizing for topical relevance is simpler than you may expect. The key is to put in some extra work to create great content instead of rushing through this process.

Keyword Research

When done well, keyword research can help you (a) identify your target audience and (b) attract your audience to your website. There are a few different areas of keyword research to consider:

  • Competitor research
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Keyword popularity

Knowing what your competitors are doing will help you (a) create content that helps readers in the same way and, more importantly, (b) fills in gaps that your competitors are missing. This means your content will be more relevant than the competition’s.

With keyword research, you’ll also be able to hone in on keywords with a lower keyword difficulty, which makes it easier for you to rank for them, and still choose popular keywords that people are searching for.

Best Tools for Keyword Research

There are a number of tools to help with keyword research, ranging from free and budget-friendly to pricey for a full suite of SEO tools. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.


With AnswerThePublic , you enter a search term, and the tool pulls together queries from leading search engines. The “questions” (which are actually a combination of questions and phrases) are presented visually and divided into question types, like “when,” “why” and “where.”

Keyword results from AnswerThePublic to help show what is topical relevance.

What’s nice about the free version of ATP is that you get a lot of info for no cost, but it’s not too overwhelming to look through. You could upgrade for more insight, but if you’re on a budget, you won’t feel like you need to.

The results you get from ATP are excellent for exploring related queries your audience will want to know, adding additional sections, and rounding out your content.


One of the best — and completely free — keyword research tools is Google itself. There are three places to look on the Google home page and results pages:

First, pay attention to the autofill options when you type in your search query. This will give you an idea of related topics that are commonly searched for.

Autofill results from Google.

Next, on the SERP, scroll down just a bit until you find the People Also Ask section. You’ll find related questions that people search for:

The PAA section on Google to help determine what is topical relevance for your subject.

Then, if you keep scrolling, you’ll come to a Related Searches section, which gives you even more ideas.

The Related searches section on Google SERP.


If you’re willing to pay a premium for a keyword research and content planning tool, consider Surfer. Its Keyword Research tool automatically creates topic clusters for your query, which you can then tweak by removing certain terms you don’t want to include in your content.

Topic clusters in Surfer.

It also has a Content Editor that guides you to create competitive articles. By comparing your work against the top results for the query, you’ll see which keywords to add, how many headers to include, whether or not you need more images, etc.

More Keyword Research Tools

Here are a few more keyword research tools to consider:

  • KWFinder: Carry out SERP analysis to determine which keywords to target.
  • Long Tail Pro: Find keywords with high search volumes and low competition.
  • Semrush: Use a full suite of SEO tools, including ones for keyword research and competitor analysis.

When trying to determine what is topical relevance for your content, it’s hugely helpful to see what your audience is asking and searching for.

Long-Form Content

To provide users with deep and comprehensive content, you usually have to write long-form pieces, meaning 1,000 words or above. In addition to replying to the main query, long-form content should include other information a person searching for that query may want to know.

For example, let’s say the initial search is “what is long-form content.” After answering the main question, you could dive into these related topics that the searcher would also want to know about:

  • Do I need to write long-form content?
  • Header ideas for long-form content
  • How to write long-form content
  • Long-form content for different platforms
  • What is short-form content?

Note that long-form content isn’t always the best option. Sometimes, short-form content can answer a query in full. The point is to have thorough content. To be thorough, that often means writing long-form content, but don’t add words solely for the sake of making an article longer instead of adding value.

Networking and Backlinks

Building your backlink profile is an important part of off-page SEO. By networking with other website owners and content creators in your niche, you can build solid relationships. That makes it more likely that those people will link to your website when posting a complementary piece.

3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building Topical Relevance

When wondering what is topical relevance for your website and working on optimization, avoid these black hat SEO techniques:

  1. Never add fluff for the purpose of a higher word count. Long-form content is only effective if it’s valuable. Stuffing an article with excessive wording or unimportant information won’t help your ranking.
  2. Keywords should be included naturally. If you over-optimize your content and add so many keywords that they disrupt readability, it’ll backfire because search engines can penalize your website for it.
  3. Getting backlinks is difficult, and it’s tempting to cut corners. However, avoid buying backlinks, encouraging low-quality sites to give you backlinks and creating web pages only for the purpose of adding backlinks.

In general, if it seems like you’re optimizing your site the quick and easy way, avoid it. SEO takes time, and any shortcuts could get you into trouble with Google, which will make ranking even harder than before.

What is Topical Relevance? Final Thoughts

As a Google user, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the headache of trying to find an answer to a question and only coming upon off-topic results. Using black hat SEO tricks to get your content to the top of the SERP page won’t get you very far. As soon as a user realizes that you’re not providing what you said you would, they’ll click off and never return. You may have gained a click on your link, but your other stats, like dwell time and conversions, won’t grow.

Instead, enhance your content’s topical relevance by giving the user what they want and then thinking about what else they’ll find useful and providing that information, too.

If you don’t have time to create long-form content, choose narrow topics that can be answered thoroughly in fewer words. With proper keyword research and thoughtful content creation, you can build your topical relevance to impress search engines as well as your audience.

While you’re improving your website’s topical relevance and SEO, consider how internal linking plays a role. We have an article that’ll help.

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