How to Create a Topical Map in 6 Steps

How to Create a Topical Map in 6 Steps
A topical map is essentially your website's game plan. So, its importance in shaping your website's content strategy and SEO effectiveness can't be overstated.

Let’s demystify how to create a topical map to boost your SEO efforts!

What is a Topical Map?

A topical map, also known as a 'topical authority map' or 'SEO topical map', is a strategic plan that sketches out how different topics on a website relate to one another. 

It’s like a mind map for your website content, only more focused on how different topics—main topics, subtopics, and related keywords—are intertwined and organized on your website.

A topical map is like the blueprint of a house — it outlines the structure of your content, shows which topics are connected, and how deeply they are related to your overall content theme.

Essentially, it shows the 'big picture' of your website content, helping both the users and search engines navigate through your site with ease.

Why is a Topical Map Useful?

A topical map is like having a trusted trail map whilst journeying through the vast landscape of SEO. When designed and utilized well, this humble navigator complements your SEO journey, propelling your website towards an authoritative, user-friendly, and SEO-optimized power hub.

two circle on a pinboard that describes topical mapping

A well-executed topical map will help you enhance your site's SEO in several ways:

🎯 Improves Visitor Navigation and Engagement: Your site visitors are more likely to stay and explore your site further if they find it easy to navigate and its content well-organized. A comprehensive topical map presents a clean, logical structure to your users. They can quickly find the information they are looking for and even discover additional relevant content, thereby increasing engagement on your website.

🎯 Increases SEO Value: Search engines love content that’s well organized and logically linked. A topical map equips you with a strong structured foundation that is more likely to get noticed by search engine crawlers, thereby boosting your site’s visibility, relevance, and ranking in the search results.

🎯 Improves Content Optimization: Topical maps can help you identify content gaps and prevent content duplication, enabling you to create more comprehensive and relevant content around your primary topic. It efficiently guides your content planning and creation, ensuring a holistic, comprehensive content coverage on your main topic.

🎯 Helps in Gaining Topical Authority: By having well-linked, in-depth content on a particular topic, you increase your chances of being recognized as an authority in that field by Google. 

🎯 Facilitates Efficient Site Management: If you manage a large website with numerous pages, a topical map becomes indispensable. It helps you visualize your website's structure, makes updates and revisions more manageable, and ensures congruity in your content.

How Can You Create a Topical Map?

To start building a dynamic and impactful topical map, you have to put some groundwork in by identifying your main topic and brainstorming relevant subtopics. Afterwards, you should analyze your topics and subtopics to build a robust topical map with your content.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

01) Identify the Main Topic

a tree demonstrates topical map

Your starting point should be identifying your main topic. The main topic acts as the trunk of the tree in your topical map, from which all other branches (subtopics) will stem out. Choosing the right one is, therefore, critical.

Your main topic should be something broad enough to allow you to branch into subtopics, but still focused on your overall website theme and target audience.

Firstly, it’s vital to understand your audience. What is your audience searching for online? What problems are they looking to solve? Answering these will help you pick a topic that meets their needs.

You can use online tools to find out what keywords your potential audience is using. It will provide crucial insights on popular topics in your field. You can easily utilise SEOmator’s Free Keyword Research Tool to find the perfect keyword for your topic. Also, if you want to discover more keyword ideas and other helpful tools, sign up for SEOmator's dashboard.

SEOmator's dashboard

After your research, filter out the topics that are not in line with your brand, message, or business.

02) Find Related Subtopics

Now that you have identified your main topic, the next task is to brainstorm related subtopics. Diving deeper into each of these subtopics gives you the related content pieces that will make up your website.

The subtopics should be directly related to your main topic and revolve around your main subject, either explaining it in greater detail, exploring its different aspects, or providing related information.

Explore variations of your main keyword. For instance, if your topic is 'seo', variations could include 'seo strategies', 'how to measure seo success', and 'seo tools'.

Q&A websites and industry-specific forums are gold mines for spotting what real users are asking or discussing around your main topic.

Also, when you perform a search on Google, scroll down to the 'People also ask' section. This shows related questions that people often ask about your main topic.

google search for seo strategies

Similarly, at the bottom of Google's search results, look at the 'Related searches' section for potential subtopics.

related search section on SERP

03) Organize Subtopics into Categories

Just as a good gardener groups plants with similar needs together, you too need to group your related subtopics together. This helps you keep everything compact, clean, and under control. 

Try to identify overarching themes among your subtopics. If you've picked 'digital marketing' as your main topic, for instance, you might have subtopics like 'social media marketing', 'email marketing', 'content marketing', etc. Notice how each of these subtopics can be classified under a broader category? That is precisely what you need to do.

Once you’ve spotted these themes, group related subtopics into 'buckets' or 'clusters'. If you are using a physical or digital whiteboard, you could use sticky notes for each subtopic and group them.

It’s essential that each of your subtopics fits under one category, and that there’s a clear link between each subtopic and the main topic. Think of your main topic as the 'sun', and your subtopics as the 'planets' in your website's solar system. They must all orbit around the main topic to have a coherent topical map.

These clusters will form the basis for your website’s sections, category pages, or even a series of blog posts. Grouping your subtopics into relevant categories gives your website a logical structure, making it easy for users to find and consume content. 

On the SEO front, this structure makes it easy for crawlers to identify how topics within your site relate to one another, giving your site a boost.

04) Set the Hierarchy of Subtopics


Now that you have logically grouped your subtopics into categories, the next step is determining the hierarchy among them.

This step will help ensure that your broader, more comprehensive subtopics command more strength in your topical map structure, providing a clear path for users to explore deeper, niche subjects. 

This hierarchy will give your website content a pyramid-like structure, with broad content at the top, and more specific, narrow content as users navigate deeper.

Certain subtopics will naturally carry more weight based on their breadth and depth. Identify these as your ‘primary subtopics’. More specific, narrower subtopics become your ‘secondary subtopics’. You can dig even deeper and form a third, or even fourth level in your topical map, depending on the depth of your content.

Primary topics come first, with secondary and tertiary topics following them. Ensure the hierarchy makes logical sense and aids user navigation. Not only does this make it easy for users to explore your site and understand your content, but it also signals to Google your site's depth of knowledge on the topic.

05) Produce a Visual Representation

A topical map isn't only a tool for planning and organizing your content. It can also be a great visual aid to use within your website for your users.

Creating visual representations of your topical map can enhance user experience, engagement and retention. It's also a unique way to stand out and deliver value to your audience.

Take your topical map and convert it to a user-facing sitemap. This can help users understand your website's structure and find what they're looking for much quicker. 

To guide your users on particular topics, consider creating infographics that map out the subtopics. These graphical tools can help users visualize the relationships between topics and deepen their understanding of your content.

By following these steps, you'll have set up content that accurately reflects the breadth and depth of your topical map, thereby fulfilling the promise of a content-rich, well-structured website. You are not only setting up a site that users and search engine crawlers will love, but also paving the way to establish topical authority in your niche.

You may want to read: How to Find the Sitemap of a Website [8 Ways]

06) Review and Revise Frequently

searching on the web

Much like a garden that requires regular tending, your topical map also needs frequent nurturing because previously hot topics may cool down, and new trending ones may sprout up. 

Simultaneously, Google and other search engines constantly update their algorithms, shifting the SEO landscape. An outdated topical map can steer your SEO efforts off course. Hence, it's vital to tend to your topical map and prune it regularly to ensure it stays fresh, relevant, and poised for success.

The first step to successful topical map maintenance involves conducting periodic reviews. These examinations will help you assess the relevance of your current topics and subtopics, fill up content gaps, and redirect your strategies as needed.

Depending on the dynamism of your industry and nature of your topics, establish regular review intervals. This could be quarterly, half-yearly, or annually.

Revisit each of your topics and subtopics. Are they still relevant to your audience? Are they still in tune with your brand's focus? Are they still trending in your industry or has the buzz died? A thorough audit will answer these pressing questions.

Regularly perform keyword analysis to identify any changes in keyword popularity, competition, and relevance. 

Review your analytics to see which topics are performing well and which are not. This can help you spot new subtopic opportunities or identify existing ones that may need to be phased out.

Keep up with your industry trends. Be on the lookout for emerging topics or any evolving aspects within your current topics. This will help you keep your topical map fresh and ahead of the curve.

Once your audit is complete, make the necessary revisions. This could involve adding new topics, removing outdated ones, consolidating overlapping ones, or reorganizing your topical hierarchy.

How Can You Export Your Topical Map?

You've spent countless hours carefully crafting your topical map, but now you want to share it with your team, clients, or even your SEO-averse boss. You need a convenient way to present your hard work. Here is where exporting options can save the day!

Exporting helps you share your topical map outside its native environment onto various platforms - Excel, Powerpoint, PDF, Word or other content management tools.

By exporting your topical map, you can share your vision with your colleagues or clients to gather feedback and fresh insights or maintain a record for future reference.

Different tools offer different exporting options, ranging from simple ones like exporting to an image or plain text format to complex ones like exporting directly to a website's HTML structure. 

Here are some basic ways to export your topical map:

✅ Export as Image: This is perhaps the simplest form of exporting your topical map. Almost all topical mapping tools allow you to export your complete map as an image such as a JPEG or PNG. This feature lets you easily include the image in presentations or documents and is easily shareable.

✅ Export to Word or PDF: Some software allows you to export the topical map into a Word or PDF document. This option is handy when you need to prepare a detailed report or present it in a professional format.

You may want to read: How to Optimize PDFs for SEO in 11 Steps

✅ Export to Excel: If your topical map is complex and contains a large quantity of data, you might want to export it to an Excel sheet. This format gives you a lot of flexibility in manipulating or presenting the data as it allows sorting, filtering, and applying various formulas.

✅ Export to HTML or XML: For those with a bit of tech-savviness, exporting your topical map to an HTML or XML format could be a brilliant option. This way, the data synthesized from your topic map can be directly plugged into your website's sitemap, boosting your SEO efforts.

Bear in mind that the chosen export option should make your topical map easy to understand for your audience. After all, it is crucial that your audience understands your SEO trail map accurately to follow its lead!

Final Thoughts

Topical maps help both search engines and users navigate and understand your website better. 

With a well-defined topical map, you can create a more logical and user-friendly website structure which can lead to higher rankings, increased website traffic, and better overall SEO performance

To create a topical map, you should begin to identify your main topic, brainstorm the allied subtopics, and skillfully chart out your topical map. The next steps are organizing your topics, setting a clear hierarchy, and creating a visual representation of your topical map. Moreover, it’s vital to refine and update your topical map. 

Lastly, it’s important to unravel the mystery behind exporting options for sharing and collaboration—a delightful end to your topical mapping voyage!

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