Horizontal SEO: focus on topics, instead of keywords

At number 1 in Google. We all want it, but it’s cheap. If you already know that you will not reach that number 1 position, how do you use SEO to achieve something with it?

15% of monthly searches in Google are new

Chantal Smink advocates horizontal SEO. She explains in detail why this can be a smart SEO strategy in ‘The SEO and Content Strategy Handbook’.

But let’s start at the beginning: what is horizontal SEO? This involves ranking as broadly as possible on as many different searches as possible. After all, there is much more searched for in Google than keyword tools tell us. For example, did you know that 15% of searches are new to Google every month?

That is interesting for you to know, because…

  1. so we all manage to keep entering new search queries into Google. the ability short tail-searches
    are made up of one or a few words, but Google should know them all by now, right? There is a good chance that it is mainly about
    searches that are longer and more specific.
  2. these new searches cannot be found beforehand in keyword tools.
  3. we may never reach a point where we only see familiar searches passing by. In 2007 . reported
    Google that 25% of monthly searches were new. In 2013, this figure was adjusted to 15%. Confirmed in 2017 and 2018
    Google this 15% and now in 2022 it is still 15%.

Google seems to handle about 5.6 billion searches a day, Smink says in her book. If 15% of that is new, that means 840 million searches per day. Suppose the Netherlands had a 1% share in this, then that would still be 8.4 million searches per day about which Google has little or no information. There are opportunities!

No keywords as a starting point, but topics

Tools such as the Keyword Planner are mainly developed for SEA campaigns: on which keywords can companies buy advertisements? SEO specialists often also use the tool, but Smink questions its reliability. She gives an example of the tastiest French white wine. According to the Google Keyword Planner, there is no search volume. You will only know for sure if this is really correct if you make a content item about it. Most likely there will be traffic coming in. Not via the search term ‘tastiest French white wine’, but on all kinds of combinations thereof. Think of specific French wines, grape varieties, regions or châteaus. In an article about the tastiest French wine, it makes sense that you tell about it. In horizontal SEO, keywords are not the starting point, but topics. Within those subjects you create content about everything that logically belongs to.

Within SEO, you still have to write about what you want to be found on, but the reverse is also true. You can be found on everything you write about. If you allow yourself to be limited in this by the information from keyword tools, you may miss a lot of opportunities for findability.

Within the vision of horizontal SEO, you create content about anything that you think your potential customer might find interesting. A point of attention here is the distribution of the information per page. What information do you bundle on one web page and which information do you spread over several pages? SEO is all about the relevance of every single page. By making a good page about a specific topic, it can be found on countless searches. Often also on searches that you had not thought of in advance.

Long-tail versus horizontale SEO

You have probably heard of within SEO de term long tail. These are specific searches with less search volume. You might think that a horizontal SEO strategy is the same as a long tail strategy. That is only partly true. Long tail is certainly a way to become discoverable, but horizontal SEO goes beyond just long tail. This way you will also look at the interests of your target group and the customer journey that is taken. You often come up with ideas other than long tail search terms.


Short tail: food bowl cat
Long tail: food bowl cat with chip

Horizontale SEO:

  • How do I feed multiple cats separately?
  • How can I keep track of how much each cat eats?
  • Feed cat with diet food separately
  • Cat eats chunks of other cat
  • Cats fight over food

Advantages and disadvantages of horizontal SEO

Every SEO strategy has its pros and cons, including horizontal SEO.

(-) No search volumes

You don’t know how big the search volume is, so it’s difficult to prioritize.

(-) Not always direct turnover

If you create content based on a horizontal SEO strategy, for keywords with a low search volume or content that mainly provides information, it can be difficult to measure what your content delivers. This means that you have to come up with a different approach to measuring the results. Think of offering a free magazine, requesting a sample package or requesting advice by telephone. If someone converts in that way, you can measure that and assign a value to it. You then have no turnover or a transaction, but you do have a soft conversion or micro conversion.

(+) The market is open

You can often become findable by making a good page, which means that the threshold to try horizontal SEO is very low. Especially for smaller companies that cannot compete with the marketing teams and associated budgets of the big boys.

(+) The content strategy is your strategy

Since you’ve thought about your topics and your customer’s needs yourself, you have access to information that your competitors don’t. This means you can build a head start.

About the book

It SEO and Content Strategy Handbook is a practical guide for anyone wanting to get started with SEO. Smink explains clearly and honestly how SEO works. The book is interesting for junior marketers and entrepreneurs who want to get started with SEO, but I have also learned something from it as an experienced marketer. She got me thinking. I’m all for data, but we shouldn’t focus on it.

This article has been checked by the SEO panel.

Source: Frankwatching by www.frankwatching.com.

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