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Topical and Tangential Content | How to Boost Your Organic Traffic

by Chris Lewis

If the rise of the content marketing industry in the last decade has shown us anything, it’s that the right content, in the right consumer’s hands, can significantly impact a business’s bottom line. 

Of course, content can create cash flow in a number of ways, but one valuable application is by boosting organic search traffic

So how can a brand boost its organic rankings? By giving Google what it wants.  

The idea is pretty simple: Google really wants end-users (like you and me) to find the answers we’re searching for and be able to trust the results we find. If Google thinks those two prongs are satisfied, it ranks websites higher or lower based on the query. By putting something at the top of search rankings, Google is effectively vouching for the source, both in terms of quality (and relevance) of content and trustworthiness of the source providing it. They’re staking their own reputation and business model on it. 

Google’s ranking algorithm will likely never be known, as the search giant has made clear that it values content that  “demonstrate[s] expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness,” and specifically says that incoming links from trusted websites help determine how trustworthy sites are. This is where link-building SEO strategies come into play, and where there is an exceptional value in a diverse content portfolio. 

For brands to be successful in reaping the SEO benefits of great content, they need to develop a strategy that addresses both prongs of what Google is looking for.

The most effective way to do this in a content strategy is to include both niche, topical content and more broadly-appealing tangential content. By tackling both topical and tangential content simultaneously, a brand will both have the answers to the questions Google is asking and will generate the links required for Google to trust the source. 

Topical Content vs. Tangential Content

Let’s say you own a store that sells high-end running shoes. You know everything there is to know about orthotics, midsoles, polyurethane, and even types of pavement. If you were to create content, the default would be to stick to what you know best, perhaps blog posts that reveal which running shoe is right for different types of feet, and guides on how many miles you can run before you change your running shoes. 

This type of content would be typical of topical content because it relates hyper-specifically to your brand and core audience. The people who search for these questions are likely to be runners, and more specifically, serious runners: the ones who would not only know that shoes need to be swapped out periodically, but would also know their own mileage count on their current pair. This type of information tends to be useful to your audience and lives in a prominent place on your site for people to easily find and reference. 

Catering your content to your core audience is crucial, but your sales would increase if you could reach more runners, athletes, or even people trying to hold on to their New Year’s resolutions. This is a much broader audience, and thus it has a much broader set of interests. They might not care so much about mileage on shoes and instead gravitate toward bigger topics like health, wellness, or sports. You might create nutrition and wellness guides, pump-up playlists to run to, or even infographics with Olympics statistics. 

These would be examples of tangential content because they don’t relate as closely to your brand and are aimed intentionally at a wider audience

Note, however, that while these pieces of content might not directly relate to your core offering (running shoes), they are believable, if not understandable, coming from your brand. These types of content tend to be more engaging and widely-shareable than topical content because it isn’t limited by as many brand and subject matter constrictions. It is more likely to be featured off-site and used to build links.

The key is to ask yourself: Even if this content isn’t still tied directly to my brand, is it valuable to my target audience? If the answer is yes, it’s most likely fair game.

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