But it’s amazing to consider that some of today’s largest global publishers and content owners are totally missing the party. In some cases they are getting less than 1% of their traffic from topical hub pages. That means they are missing out on high value traffic that is going directly to their competitors.
This isn’t some short-term loophole in the Google Algorithm. In fact it’s the opposite. Since the Google ‘Hummingbird’ update, topical hub pages have attracted better rankings for long tail search terms. This is a trend which is only increasing with each algorithmic improvement.
What do we mean by ‘Topical Hub pages’?
Topical hub pages aggregate content around a particular person, place, thing or theme. Each topical hub page is a single authoritative page that can engage visitors who are interested in that topic.
So for a sports site, topical hub pages will focus on managers, players, teams. For a general news site, the focus may shift to politicians, court cases, companies, war zones. For e-commerce sites, key topics include product categories (eg screwdrivers) and product brands.
Why do Topical Hub Pages receive so much search traffic?
Almost all search requests are structured around entities ie people, brands, places, things.
The search results you receive back for each entity differ based on their position in the news cycle.
If an entity has been involved in breaking or recent news, their Google results will be dominated by news items. We can see this with the search results for footballer Luke Shaw the day after his leg was broken.
Lots of news links and not a hub page in site.
But yet in a time of quiet or no news, Google’s results will be peppered with topical hub pages. For an example, we can look at the search results for England cricket Director Andrew Strauss a few weeks after the Ashes have ended.
3 of the top 6 results are hub pages (including the Guardian in 6th position).
Google has a database of over 1 billion entities. Only a fraction of these entities will be in the breaking or fresh news cycle. The remaining hundreds of millions of entities will be receiving multiple search requests every day. A large portion of those searchers will end up being sent to topical hub pages.
So if you own or work for a content-rich web site, how do you take advantage? Here we offer an initial 3 simple, powerful tips to get the ball rolling.
Key Tip #1: Scaled aggregation
Many content-rich web sites can create hundreds of topical hub pages simply by aggregating their content well.
So let’s take the hub page for Andrew Strauss on the Guardian’s site as an example of this.
We can see that it is nothing more complicated than a timeline which aggregates historic articles about AS.
Andrew Strauss is just one of many entities with automated topical hub pages on The Guardian. Digging into data from SEMrush, we found 1,145 unique topical hub pages. It is worth noting that this is most likely the tip of the iceberg as SEMrush only analyse SERPs for the top 1m Google search queries
As we can see in the image above, their topical hub pages cover a number of subjects. Their biggest traffic driver is this Facebook hub page which appears on page 1 of Google for the search term ‘Facebook’. SEMrush estimates that it generates an estimated 1 million Google visits a month to The Guardian web site.
The other 28 million monthly visits for The Guardian are split between the other 1,144 plus topical hub pages. Every one of these is generating at least some long tail search term traffic.
Key Tip #2: Internal Linking
When you read new articles on the Guardian web site, you will notice that they almost always link to at least one topical hub page.
This is tremendously valuable as many articles pick up backlinks and citations – which are strong Google ranking factors.
For example, according to Majestic, this article from 2013 about Kevin Pietersen’s sledging exchanges with Michael Clarke picked up links from 388 different sites. And as we can see, the article links nicely to the Kevin Pietersen hub page.
The cumulative effect of this internal linking strategy is very powerful. It means that every day, articles that are gaining page rank and passing value onto the topical hub pages. It is due to this strategy that The Guardian ranks on page 1 for the search term ‘Kevin Pietersen’.
This article may be long forgotten but its parent hub page is still benefitting and getting visits from evergreen search terms every day.
Key Tip #3: Content and Key Phrase Optimisation
Key tips 1 and 2 are particularly powerful for the powerhouse publishers with lots of articles that attract a lot of links. Tip 3 addresses the needs of smaller content companies that are trying to compete.
As I mentioned, The Guardian topical hub pages only aggregate their historic content. This fulfils a base level of interest but it goes no further. If on the other hand you look at the Mirror topical hub page for Kevin Pietersen, you will find a bio and news summaries for related topics like the Ashes and the England Cricket team.
An even better example is the Mirror topical hub page for Kelly Brook. Here we can find content for “Kelly’s Boyfriend”, “Kelly’s Undies”, “Kelly Naked” and “Kelly On Twitter”. These are all highly searched for phrases associated with Kelly Brook.
This allows the Mirror to rank well for those longer tail terms and it improves the content for their hub page making it more likely to be shared and cited.
Summarising the huge short term growth benefits
1) Billions of search visits from Google, Bing and co
2) Topical hub page content can be machine automated.
Once you’ve set your site up the right way, as long as you continue producing your regular content, there is almost no ongoing resource cost for your topical hub pages. It the only high traffic, scalable, automated content play that works.
3) Improved Site Architecture creates additional growth
As explored in my last blog, topical hub pages make aged content easier to find. Thus they can be used to simplify your site architecture. This is a process we have used to create 40%+ growth in natural search traffic almost overnight.
Topical Hub Page Development can help you deliver long-term growth as well
I have focussed today on some of the starting actions needed to create short term growth. Topical hub development also creates several other exciting growth prospects. This is because topical hub pages are underpinned by entity databases. When executed at a high level, this means
- Topical hub pages can act as data points to tell you more about your customers’ interests.
- This data can be used to help customers discover new content they love
- This can help you create a unique and engaging experience for each customer.
We have entered the age of the semantic web, when customers have started to expect businesses to predict their needs. Entity database development can help you deliver that modern customer experience.
David is the founder of gro. We offer a dedicated programme to help you deliver bumper growth in 100 days using topical hub pages. Our next available slot is on 15 October 2015.
To book please contact [email protected]