Google has confirmed that they launched their new subtopic rankings for certain queries. Last fall, Google had let marketers know that the change was coming, and they confirmed this winter that the change went live in November 2020.
NB: This is an article from Milestone
Google said this about the introduction of the subtopic rankings last October:
“We’ve applied neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad. As an example, if you search for “home exercise equipment,” we can now understand relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content for you on the search results page. We’ll start rolling this out by the end of this year .”
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With this change officially live on the SERPs, it has caused some adjustments in how content is organized and ranked for certain types of keywords and queries–particularly those that are broad and open to different types of interests that users might have when making the query.
Although it will only impact a subset of searches, we wanted to explore this change and the potential it holds– particularly for small businesses.
What are subtopics?
Google describes subtopics as specific topics and types of content within a broader category. In the example the search engine gave, that we quoted above, ‘home exercise equipment’ might have subtopics related to budgets or small spaces.
The core of the issue comes down to the ability of the search engine to understand how different topics are related and the subordinate topics that fall under a broader category. The idea behind ranking the subtopics lies in the ability of Google to create diversity within the search results. By making sure the different options are represented on the SERP, it will be easier for customers to find the content that appeals to them and thus lead them down the subtopic that they initially wanted.
What does this mean for marketers?
For marketers, this change can present a window of opportunity for those who face stiff competition on the SERP for popular, broad queries that relate to their industry. While formerly they may have had to compete directly with the larger, established sites and brands to earn a place on the front page of the SERP, the subtopic rankings may now enhance their ability to improve their rankings. Instead of trying to rank directly for the head term overall, the business might now be able to secure a higher position based on their targeting of a particular subtopic within the broader query.
How can I use subtopics to rank higher on the SERP?
Brands that want to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the new SERP will find that they have a few different strategies and techniques to help them secure real estate. Although smaller businesses have long struggled to gain rankings against larger, more established companies- particularly for valuable yet broad keywords–this will provide openings.