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How to Use Topic Modeling for Structuring Content

Marrying Technology and Creativity Gets Results

Keeping up with how Google’s search and ranking algorithms work is akin to the arcade game “Whack-a-Mole.” Just when you think you’ve conquered the challenge, another change pops up, and you're struggling to get your website and your content to rank on SERPs again.
While we aren’t privy to the intricacies of Google’s algorithms, we do know that topic modeling is part of the process. This glimpse behind the curtain gives you useful insights to consider as you develop your content strategy. To ensure your content produces results – i.e., shows up for your audience – use topic modeling as a foundational pillar of your content marketing plan. 

An Overview of Topic Modeling to Guide Your Content Strategy

Before we examine approaches to topic modeling, let’s briefly explain the concept.

  • Topic modeling examines search words and phrases, looking for the contextual relationships between them. When the context of keywords or inquiries shows up repeatedly, topic modeling will give higher ranks to that context (and associated content).
  • We’ll use Justin Bieber as an example topic. He's well known for his musical talents, but in recent years, he's also interacted with Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong Church. Justin recently married model and TV personality Hailey Baldwin, daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin and niece of actor Alec Baldwin. He has a history of getting in legal trouble and has been open about his struggles with depression. He’s also known for his philanthropy, donating to more than 20 causes.
  • After scouring through searches, you learn that “Justin Bieber” and “music” occurs more often than “Justin Bieber” and “charity.” Topic modeling would then rank sites and content about Justin Bieber’s music higher than his charitable activities.

Our example reflects Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), a popular method of topic modeling. This technique groups content found in posts, articles, and website pages into topic clusters based on recurring words. The LDA process mirrors how we think, grouping content based on contextual clues and intent. When the content is grouped to reflect associations, like "Justin Bieber" and "music," it becomes easier to bring it to the top of a SERP.

You can invest in software to help with topic modeling. From our perspective, however, getting content aligned with the intent of an audience looking for answers starts with critical thinking. You may find it useful to do a bit of manual topic modeling in the early stages of your content strategy development. After you have a framework of understanding about your business, applying AI-driven analysis to thousands of pages of related content can give you robust support for your strategy.

Focusing Your Content with Topic Modeling

Mapping out topics relevant to your company or product starts with a few fundamental questions:

  • Since search engines rely on word associations for ranking content, ask, "What keywords are most relevant to our industry?" Be sure to include a list of phrases and words that should never link with your brand. You want to avoid terminology that will confuse customers or doesn't fit your brand's identity.
  • A useful follow-up question is: “What questions do customers have about our industry/company/brand that we can answer?” A question and answer structure for your content provides the clear context that search engines rate highly. Do some competitive analysis to support this activity; you’ll learn what they’re sharing and can decide how to uniquely position your brand.

Next, create a list of focused topics and the intentions for your content, whether it’s blog posts or pages on your website.  This step of the process will help guide your strategy and provide you with a rubric to use if you’re evaluating current content. You can revise unfocused material and add new content to fill information gaps. Importantly, topic modeling helps you identify opportunities for unique content. Going back to our Justin Bieber example, let’s say we’re adding content to a fan website. The main landing page may be purely informational, but we find nothing about the topic of ‘Recently Released Music.’ We create a new page with the intention of helping visitors buy Justin’s latest single through a link or ecommerce feature.

With the list of topics and intentions complete, it’s time to develop your content. Keep your ideas tied to the topic associated with your keyword or phrase. You'll still need to mention the keyword to get exact match search results, but you don't have to stuff your content with it. Incorporating concepts related to your topic will increase your content's relevancy. We recommend following natural language processing (NLP) constructs as you write.

  • Reference the questions customers ask and provide clear, concise answers in your content.
    • By concise, we mean sentences less than 30 words in length!
    • Clarity refers to your word choice, which should naturally reflect how your customers talk.
  • Incorporate SEO tactics like headings, lists, and word placement to improve the readability of your content and make its contextual meaning clear.

Topic Modeling - A Checklist for Mapping Your Content Strategy

Activity

Purpose

Tips

Identify keywords and phrases relevant to your industry, company, or brand.

Begin identifying topics and word associations.

Include words you never want associated with your brand.

Think like a customer and ask questions about your brand that you can answer with content.

A Q&A framework for content establishes the context search engines seek.

Check out your competition to learn the questions (and answers) they provide.

Create a list of focused topics and intentions for each type of content.

Gives your team specific direction for developing new content and assessing gaps in existing content.

Complete this activity for your entire website to ensure each page contributes to your overall story.

Develop content around topics and keywords or phrases.

Connect with your audience and get recognized by search engines.

Use Natural Language Processing constructs like short(er) sentences, reader-friendly language, and SEO tactics such as headings and lists.

From an SEO perspective, clustering topics together logically on your website or blog posts will get you more recognition from search engines as an authority on the subject.

The last part of this process—developing content—is essential. You can identify keywords and outline your content strategy by using topic modeling. What matters most to your customers, however, is thoroughly researched, well-crafted content.

Do you want to learn more about topic modeling and how you can apply it to your content strategy? Talk to the experienced team of SEO copywriters at MintCopy, a content agency in Mississauga, Canada. Our team has the experience and knowledge to help you develop the plan and content you need to stand out online.

You can use our online form to reach us. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up-to-date with content marketing trends.

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