A couple of years ago structuring a site around keyword themes was all the rage in the SEO community. It was going to be the way to rank a site and if you didn’t use thm well good luck to you. Today you don’t see many people talking about building your site around keyword themes, but they are still used and it’s a good idea. If the idea of themes is new to you read on.
What Are Keyword Themes?
The concept of keyword themes, or theme pyramids as they are sometimes called, is pretty straight forward. Think of your site with a hierarchal structure. Your home page sits at the top and beneath your home page are perhaps four main categories that comprise the second level of your site. Each of your main categories has several subcategories on the third level and possibly these subcategories have a fourth level of pages beneath them.
Your content might then be structured around a set of keywords that form a theme. Maybe your site is about sports. You may then chose a domain with the word sports in it and your home page would focus on the very generic keywords sports or athletics. From your home page you might then link to sections on baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. Each still about sports, but now a little more specific even if still somewhat generic.
At the third level of structure your baseball section might have pages or subsections on baseball teams, baseball players, baseball standings, baseball statistics. Taking it another level down your baseball standings subsection could have pages on National League baseball standings and American League baseball standings. Each level down, the theme or pyramid becomes a little more specific and a little more focused on longer tail phrases.
The sports example above still has keywords and phrases on the general side, but the number of results returned for each keyphrase gets a little smaller as you work your way down another level. There are a lot less results for ‘american league baseball standings’ than there are for ‘baseball.’
How Do Themes Help Your Site?
First and most importantly themes can help your visitors find things on your site. On this site I presently have a main navigation link for ‘Services,’ but it’s not immediately evident what those services might be until you look around the site a little. Two of the services offered are for ‘Web Design’ and ‘Search Engine Optimization.’ It might then be better to have navigation links for ‘Web Design’ and ‘SEO’ instead of grouping them together under ‘Services.’ Since visitors to this site might be interested in one more than the other the more specific links could help them find their way around easier. Since people are searching for keywords, organizing your site around those keywords could help your visitors navigate the site quicker and easier.
Theming can also help with optimization. You’ll notice with themes your broadest keywords sit at the top of the pyramid on your home page. These will be the hardest phrases to rank for, but your home page will probably garner the most links. As you move down the pyramid you might get less links, but the phrases become less competitive and so less backlinks are required to rank for those phrases. It also becomes easy to get your entire phrase into your url even while keeping the file and folder names shorter. In the example above one url might be. www.sportsstuff.com/baseball/standings/american-league.html. The entire phrase ‘american league baseball standings’ is right there even if slightly out of order. All of your baseball pages will end up with the word baseball as part of the url. This may not be overly important to the algorithm until you consider that other sites will often link to your using your url as anchor text. Theming then can help increase the keywords in your anchor text.
Another advantage is through your internal links. Typically you’ll link more between the pages in a given section than across sections. On your AL standings page it’s more likely you’ll link to the standings for the National League than to any hockey standings. Since the pages in a given section are built around a given main keyword it can help improve the relevance of the links and improve the rank the pages on both sides of the link.
As you write any page of your site you will naturally use words that also occur on the pages around it, the pages it links to, and the pages it gets links from, which strengthen the theme for that section and ultimately for the site as a whole. Having a strong theme can help your site be seen as an authority site and authority sites get a lot of love from search engines. Authority status is far more than just your site structure, but having a site that is about something does play a part.
As I mentioned above your home page will end up with your most generic keywords, but there’s no reason they need to be the most generic keywords out there. Perhaps when building the site in the example above you decide it’s going to be too difficult or take too long to gain visibility for a term like ‘sports.’ You might instead decide to focus the site on baseball (and possibly create a site for each of the four sports) and be able to start with keywords that are a little more specific on your home page. If you do create all those different sites you could possibly connect them inside a sports network of sites.
Why you don’t see much talk about keyword themes anymore I don’t know. I think in part it’s because they weren’t quite the magic pill many assumed they would be, but more because I think it’s become so ingrained in site development that the topic is often overlooked. Building your site around a pyramid of keyword phrases is a good approach in my opinion. I wouldn’t necessarily redo your site just to theme it more, but with the next site you do start why not structure the information around keywords. Don’t force things into themes if they don’t belong, but keep them in mind. And remember the approach is simple. Start with the most general and most competitive keywords on your home page at the top of the theme pyramid and then as you work your way down each level make the keywords more and more specific so your deepest pages are focused on long tail phrases.