New Hyperlocal Experiment: Topic Pages
You may have heard of the phrase “topic pages” already — it’s a fairly popular idea these days in journalism circles. The idea behind a topic page is that, rather than have multiple articles or posts about the same thing all competing with one another for attention, you collate them on a single “topic page.” For examples, see how the New York Times has created dozens of topic pages.
The goal is that the topic page becomes the authoritative resource for information about the topic. And generally, by “authoritative,” we mean it’s the page that earns and holds most of your search rankings about that topic, and the page that you can always refer people to when they need information. They’re kinda like Category pages, but not quite. I’ll explain the problem I hope a topic page will solve for one of our blogs, and show how we’ve setup our first topic page below.
What Problem Does a Topic Page Solve?
Primarily, it solves the problem that — for some topics — your hyperlocal blog might have lots of great information spread across multiple articles. Secondarily, some of those articles may be old or outdated and it becomes a challenge to keep them updated for new searchers who land on them via Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.
My Specific Problem
In West Richland, there’s an annual event called Hogs & Dogs that attracts more people to the city than we have residents. It’s that big. We’ve been covering it since our blog launched in 2008, and we now have more than a dozen posts about Hogs & Dogs — some from 2008, some from 2009, and some from this year.
People come to this event from all over the Pacific Northwest, and they find our blog after searching online for information. But sometimes they hit a 2008 post, sometimes a 2009 post, and rarely a current post because the new content doesn’t always rank as well as the older stuff. So, we’re forced to go back and try to update all the old posts with links to the new content, like this:
That doesn’t really scale. You can’t keep going back and updating all the old posts (the ones that get search traffic) with links to all the new posts. So, our hopeful solution is the topic page.
Creating a Topic Page
Here’s how we’re doing this:
1.) Not a post, but a page. Rather than create a new blog post, we’ve created a WordPress Page. You can see it here: Hogs & Dogs. It’s somewhat bare right now, but we’ll add more content about the event as we get it. The theme we’re using (Canvas by Woo Themes – aff) allows us to create pages without having them show up in the page navigation, which is nice.
2.) Permanent URL. Although the content will be updated each year, Hogs & Dogs information will always be available at the same URL: http://westrichlandrealestateblog.com/hogs-dogs/.
3.) SEO & human-optimized content. We’ve created this page primarily for human visitors, but with the understanding that most of them will find it via search engines. The keyword is in the URL. I’ve optimized the page title. And we mention “west richland” and “hogs and dogs” several times in the page content.
4.) Evergreen, easy-to-update content. The page title says “2010″ but I can update that easily when the 2011 event rolls around. The page also lists date and time info, plus this year’s big raffle prize. All of that is evergreen content that I can easily trade out next year.
5.) Link to it often. No doubt we’ll be writing new blog posts as the event gets closer, but each new post will also link to this topic page and position it as the ultimate resource about the event.
The Hogs & Dogs event doesn’t happen until June, and even though people are already searching for information now — search traffic won’t really spike until the week before the event. We basically have about two months to get this page ranking for the terms that people use on the main search engines. I’ll let you know how it goes after the event has come and gone. If it works, we’ll be doing more of these on all our hyperlocal blogs.
Your turn: Are you using topic pages on your blog/site? Are they working? If you’re not, is it something you’d consider creating? Comments are open, as always.
UPDATE, APRIL 26: For an update on this, please see Update: Topic Page Experiment.