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What exactly is a 'Topic', when it comes to website content, and how should it be integrated into a website?

My current understanding is, that a 'Topic' is larger than a single blog post but too small to be assigned its own website. Whilst there is no exact quantity of Keywords a Topic may have, 10 is a fair rule of thumb.

Furthermore, are 'Topics' the same as 'Categories' or are they a subset of a Category?

Let's say I have created a website about Athletics. I then wish to write about:

  • Coaching & Training > Recovery Methods
  • Coaching & Training > Techniques
  • Coaching & Training > Injury Prevention

Would the above be the Categories and Child Categories, with the 'Topics' being the Contents posted within said Child Categories or are the above collectively known as 'Topics'?

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WordPress indeed defines a topic as a category. It actually gives a permalink example for categories showing the word "topic" (so instead of getting your categories under my-website.com/categories, you could place them under my-website.com/topics.

On my end, I think that a topic can be an entire website. I have a website about Niche Websites and that's the topic of the whole site.

In any event, as you were alluding to, this is mainly an English word which does not have a very specific usage as far as websites are concerned.

  • Yes, I guess a website could be anchored around a Topic. A more apt term, for my question, would be 'Niche Topics'. I was just unsure as to whether a Topic was referred to, as far as site content is concerned, a 'Collection of tightly themed content. spread between multiple posts' or 'A thematic overview of a single post'. Thanks for your insight. :-) – Craig May 22 '18 at 23:15
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I would recommend you to use the tag and category methodology (it's used by Word Press as an instance). I think nowadays this is the standard for content grouping.

Category >> 'main/big topics' of your website, for example the menu items

Tags >> smaller topics, that you use less or not that important to display on the menu

WP tags and categories are indexed by Google (usually), so a lot of webmasters use them for SEO purposes.

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    Many put forward, that Tag pages should not be indexed; due to the duplicate content issue. Personally, I cannot see why Webmasters do not ensure their Tag pages are unique. I have asked this, on several occasions, but it is usually met with reluctance. – Craig May 22 '18 at 23:19
  • @Craig How would you make the content of a tag page unique? Without writing a lengthy definition of the tag at the top... but the idea of those pages are to list all your pages stamped with that tag. It's a lot of work to write definitions for each tag, and you get the duplication... Personally, I stopped using tags & categories. – Alexis Wilke May 22 '18 at 23:23
  • @AlexisWilke ... There may be times where a unique Tag page may be relevant; albeit more work. For example: You may have a 'Gossip Magazine' may cover Fashion and Celebrity Lifestyles. They may have Categories such as 'News', 'Fashion' and 'Movies'. Then a Tag page dedicated to a particular Movie Actor; housing all of the Posts, pulled from the Categories, related to said Actor. Potentially targeting Keywords etc, more specific to the concerned Actor. – Craig May 22 '18 at 23:54
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Just to clarify, I use the term topics differently than most. No matter how someone views a topic, the advice of a set number of keywords is completely wrong when you consider how search engines view topics.

I will explain how I see this point and why I use the term topic the way I do.

When I refer to topics, I am referring to semantic topical analysis. Each word fits into one or more topics and with disambiguation just one topical area. It is a hierarchy where topics of a work is scored to determine what a work is about. A work will fit into more than one topic area, however, be strongest in one or few topics in particular.

This image is taken from Tropes.

enter image description here

When I refer to topical strength, I am referring to the scoring behind this analysis. The reason why this is important in search is because keywords are misleading. I often tell a story about a guy who called me frantic that he was receiving searches for women's clothing when he was clearly writing about cars. His problem was that he was using colorful language to describe the cars such as sexy, curves, and others such as leather, vinyl, hugging, etc. This was in the early days where semantics was being used more albeit inartfully in this case. The decision was to wait for Google to catch up with its mistake. It did not take long to Googles credit.

I mention this because words have more than one meaning. Focusing on a handful of keywords misses the point and takes away from the topical scoring potential. Full context is what is important. Here is another example.

enter image description here

This shows more analysis of the work. Notice factive, comparison, time, place, and manner. All of this is important to understanding content. In fact, this is a piece I wrote about an historical place both when built and today. I use facts as the basis of the work, but also colorful descriptions to engage the reader. So what does the analysis see? Just what I wrote about. Not keywords. But the content itself to be fully understood. Why is this important? You cannot match search intent with keywords. But you can with semantics. Anyone searching for facts on the location would find it in my content. And with strong topical scoring, it is likely to be found before weaker scoring content.

Remember the days where SEOs thought Google was grading grammar and spelling? In a round-about way they were. Semantics requires clear content to be analyzed. The topic must be clear, the emphasis must be clear, the point must be clear. Google was not grading content, but rather poorly written content was not scoring as well as well written content.

How you apply this to your site is up to you. However, I strongly advise when you write about a topic, you be as thorough as you can be and limit your scope as not to dilute it's search potential. In otherwords, write like a writer. You can use several pieces of content to complement each other and make your point. Organize them according to how they relate to each other and link between complimentary topics. Organization when it comes to content is less a computer science thing, and more a writer thing. For me, SEO is more about the disciplines of writing before getting down to the other off-page, on-page topics. It really makes a difference.

As for your example, I simply see this as topic/subtopic much in the way a file would be placed into directories. The reason why this may be limited to two or a few is because generally this works best for search though not exclusively and uniformly accepted in the blog world right or wrong. This is freeform. Many times people will change the organization of the site as they go. This is a normal discovery process. Whatever you end up with should make sense semantically. The categories and topics should score within the topic hierarchies found within the analysis. Otherwise they may be ambiguous.

  • "Remember the days where SEOs thought Google was grading grammar and spelling?" — Dude, you know, I think many people working on websites / blogs are not that old... :-) – Alexis Wilke May 22 '18 at 23:36
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    "set number of keywords" — this is a good point. For today's SEO, the keywords themselves are not as important as the content and meaning of the post which Google matches very well (at least in the English language and Latin languages.) – Alexis Wilke May 22 '18 at 23:39
  • @AlexisWilke Cheers!! That was my point exactly! I have been commenting on the OPs posts about topics so I thought I should be clear for a change. ;-) I also wanted to include that the categories and topics nomenclature was really topic and subtopic and not to get too bent out of shape but to makes sure they are relevant to the content. Lastly, I may be the chief relic here or one of them! I am fossilizing as we speak. Crust is forming. Which explains some of my comments! – closetnoc May 22 '18 at 23:48
  • @closetnoc ... As ever, thanks for the comprehensive response. Are you saying that 'Topics' should not be approached, structurally. Therefore, as a means of organising a website; using URLs such as www.example.com/blog/category/topic/ etc. Rather, a Topic should be seen from a contextual perspective? Therefore, you may have a URL, such as 'www.example.com/blog/category/post-name/' but then the Topics would be thematic extracts from a post? – Craig May 22 '18 at 23:49
  • @Craig Yes! Sort of. For example, /automobiles/chevrolet/ would be okay but not specific. However, /chevrolet performance cars/C3R Corvette/ would be better. Each should explain the topic as well as they can semantically so that search engines can better understand the content. This is why I debate the importance of URLs, title tags, and header tags despite the belief they weigh less. They are still strong signals for the content. But if a category needs to be generic and that is the best that can be done, do not freak out. As long as it is relevant to the topic of the page. Cheers!! – closetnoc May 23 '18 at 0:16

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