Marketers who are responsible for keeping their finger on the pulse of SEO strategies know it’s a delicate art that is undergoing constant evolution. For every new trick up a sleeve, the algorithm is able to adapt and filter. What reigns king? Authoritative, high-quality content which is well organized and thoroughly readable for the average viewer. Topic clusters, sometimes also referred to as content clusters, are a phenomenal organizational tool for your website and are sure to keep Google’s algorithm tickled. It’s a methodology that’s also great for keeping your website organized and readable. Your readers will be able to navigate with ease and utilize your website to the fullest.
It can be easy to create content on a whim and link to any other page on your site, but as always, the devil is in the details. To create a well-structured topic cluster, you’ll want a central pillar page for each topic that is separate from your main landing page. This pillar page is a somewhat general overview of the topic, and more detailed content or deep dives on related media will be subtopics that link back to this central pillar page. These subtopics can also link to each other whenever appropriate, but a link to the pillar is non-negotiable. The stronger your link structure, the stronger your cluster!
This process gets repeated for each topic that your webpage covers. For example, if your webpage is for a business that has several service areas, each area could be its own pillar page. If you are a writer, your pillars could each center around your individual niches or types of writing (email marketing, content strategy, white pages, blogging, etc.) that you create for your clients. The key here is to think a bit more broadly than just keywords. What is your sphere of influence on the internet? Create a mind map if that helps you better visualize your content structure.
If this strategy isn’t something that you’ve already implemented for your site, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to get each of your pages up to snuff. You’ve most likely already zeroed in on your ideal customer in your market research. If you haven’t, that’s first! What are 5-10 pain points for your customer? What problems are you solving for them? Those problems or paint points can become your pillar pages, and all of your solutions for them can be your individual subtopics that link back to your pillars. When auditing your existing content to recategorize, or when creating new content for your site, you don’t have to do all the analytics completely by yourself. There are great tools available online:
- MarketMuse helps to identify content gaps
- HubSpot’s Content Strategy Tool to help you create and manage content
- SeoScout’s Clustering Tool to build your groups
Clusters and SERPs
Educational powerhouses like HubSpot have spent years experimenting with different SEO methods to fine tune the techniques which produce the highest return. While some may claim that topic clusters don’t have an impact on results, the data doesn’t lie! Webpages that have more thorough and thoughtful interlinking rank much higher in results. Impressions (page views!) also increased correspondingly with every uptick in the number of links created. Moreover, this thoughtful and curated technique means your own webpages aren’t needlessly competing against each other in keyword searches. Work smarter not harder.
Topic clusters aren’t a new methodology. In fact, they were first shown as having positive effects as far back as 2016. That doesn’t mean that their place within the SEO world is static, however, so let’s go over the ways to fine tune this for current algorithms. This will keep your content robust and high ranking in search engines for your keywords.
If you have a website with a lot of history, and thus a lot of posts, it is probably time to do some housekeeping. Dust off the cobwebs of some old and underutilized pages. Does the content contradict current trends? Has it gotten stale and thus is dead in the water? Just not ranking? Then it is time for that page to either come down completely or be reworked and freshened up for current readers and new visitors to your site. How does the page add value to your website and to your readers? Keep this question at the forefront of your strategy for self-auditing.
Boost your own links
Backlinks are a huge part of the SEO equation, but that doesn’t mean interlinking on your own site is to be looked over. As you add new content to your website, linking to previous posts helps solidify your cluster. Periodically go through your older content and see where it can link to your newer posts too. The more thoughtfully curated your link strategy is for each cluster, the better it will perform in each search.
Keywords are cyclical just like every other trend. Your content might be perfectly on topic for something highly searchable, but are you including the right keywords? What long-tail keywords are hot for your niche? Are you targeting them adequately? Go through and do a sweep of relevant pages to ensure maximum keyword utilization. This will keep you ranking high consistently. One of the benefits of topic clusters is that each of your subtopic pages can better target unique long-tail keywords for your pillar page. This gives you more shots to connect with your audience to meet their needs.
SEO is tricky business and can seem daunting if it’s new to you. No one, and thus no website, is perfectly navigating these ever-changing waters. Your first step always comes back to targeting your ideal client and the way that you best serve them to solve their problems. Each page of your website can then be combed through for value and accuracy. Keep producing content consistently, keep it on the mark for your niche, and keep leveling up your abilities to further your rankings.