Google’s search algorithms are constantly changing. Updates big and small are both the lifeblood and the pain in the side of digital marketers, content strategists, writers, and SEO specialists; they keep the field of SEO relevant and in hot demand and also ensure that it is a constant challenge and learning curve.

Long gone are days of relentless keyword-stuffing and stilted content that didn’t have much of a place in its wider context. Google wants helpful, well-written information—or to put it more accurately, Google’s users want that, and Google wants to get it for them.

Topic-based content is content that holistically covers a broad topic in its entirety. In the context of modern digital marketing, this is generally achieved through a series or cluster of shorter articles, each diving into a subtopic that supports its core, overarching topic.

With this kind of content, marketers aim to provide a complete picture—like links in a chain or chapters in a book, each contributing to the whole story.

Why do search engines love topic-based content?

Part of Google getting smarter is that the algorithm uses latent semantic indexing to capture the essence of a topic including synonyms, alternative keywords, and relationships to similar information. Essentially, it indexes information according to the latent (hidden) relationships between different words like “broken” and “fix,” rather than just looking for keywords and ignoring context. It’s AI text comprehension, and it’s making it harder for low-quality sources to simply game their SEO with keywords, which rewards the best quality content.

It comes back to what I said before—Google wants to deliver helpful results, and their search engineers have found this to be a better way to do so. Pages that contain relevant and related keywords and phrases, and that are interlinked with many other pages discussing similar topics, form a mesh of content that tells search engines you’re not just keyword stuffing—you’re serious about your content.

Thought leadership as SEO

Building out a topic cluster has both immediate and follow-on effects. The structure and quality of content are good for ranking, and the links between each post signal to Google that the central "pillar" post is a major authority on the topic. It’s also a great way to go about creating and organizing content on any site.

By creating a comprehensive overview of a topic, along with smaller interlinked blog posts going in-depth about particular facets of that topic, you’re creating a hugely valuable resource: content that site visitors are more likely to read and click through to other internal pages. Time on site goes up, and with it the opportunity to convert prospects further down the funnel. Other sites are likely to link to it to add value for their readers, which can boost your site’s domain authority.

Ensure that your blog post or article clusters are thorough, holistic, organized, readable, relevant, and useful. Think thought leadership: offering valuable and helpful resources with your content. If you can corner the market on quality content in your area of expertise, you’re definitely on the right track.

Google saves the day, again

The power of controlling over 90% of the online search market and handling billions of searches each day is that you get to make the rules. Google is always making updates to its algorithms, and rarely bothers to explain them (even when they impact rankings significantly). But, when the team wants to influence Web behavior for any reason, they need only disclose their intent, and the wider Web jumps on command. They’ve done this to influence web security, incentivize mobile-friendly web design, and more.

Now, we’re seeing Google flex its powers again by rewarding sites that publish quality, topic-based content. By ranking these sites higher in search results, Google helps searchers find the best answers to their questions.

For inbound marketers and content creators, it means that there are no real shortcuts. There’s no simple trick to making your pages rank—you have to make them good. That’s why Google favors topic-based content: it’s good, it’s comprehensive and it will provide the information that people want.

So set those keyword planning tools aside for just a few minutes, and focus on broad topics first. You can factor keyword data in once you’ve got a solid idea of the content you want to write in the first place, and how it can help your readers.