The rules of search engine optimization (SEO) are forever changing. Gone are the days when you could climb to the top of relevant search engine results by stuffing your content with a plethora of keywords. Today, search engine algorithms are smart enough to detect and penalize such unfair practices and effective content marketing strategies, such as topic clusters, are the way to improve your search rank and increase your ROI.
Instead of using “black hat” SEO strategies to improve rank, search engines, including the biggest of them all, Google, now focus on parameters, such as expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), to determine a website’s search engine ranking for a relevant keyword. Also, search engines learned to prioritize search intent and topical relevance over simple keyword matches.
This, in turn, compelled content marketers and website owners to look for credible and innovative ways to boost their search engine rank within the algorithm used by a specific search engine. One of the recent yet most powerful developments in this regard is the introduction of topic clusters and a content marketing strategy.
Why use topic clusters?
Although a relatively new concept, topic clusters go a long way toward streamlining your content strategy and help position your website as an authority in your particular niche. They even help you create a repository of evergreen content that’ll continue to attract traffic over the long run.
Whether you’re outlining an evergreen content strategy or want to optimize your website’s internal linking, topic clusters are the way to go. But what exactly are topic clusters and how are you supposed to use them? Are they even worth the hype? In this blog, we’ll delve deeper to answer these questions and more. Let’s get started.
Topic Clusters: Decoding the Concept
Let’s begin by reviewing the concepts critical in forming a productive content marketing strategy. Starting a few years ago, Google prioritized the value of fresh, valuable content produced on a consistent basis as the most critical factor underpinning its search algorithm and marketers turned their attention to crafting more content to improve their ranking. Content marketers used keywords to identify their content to allow Google to match user intent with the right content. However, using the same keyword across multiple posts and pages results in cannibalization of your keyword and reduces the effectiveness of your keyword strategy.
So, what’s a content marketer to do? Enter the concept of topic clusters.
Introduced by HubSpot in 2017, the term “topic cluster” refers to a bunch of web pages, blog posts, and other content assets on your website linked to a common pillar page. In other words, it’s a content creation model in which you create multiple web content assets centered around a core theme and link them to a pillar page.
Typically, the pillar page touches upon various facets of an overarching topic without digging into the details. On the other hand, each cluster page focuses on an individual subtopic of the pillar content and covers it in extensive detail. Multiple cluster pages are linked to the pillar page and vice versa to create a topic cluster.
How to Create a Topic Cluster on Your Website
Let’s say you run a digital marketing agency. One of the core terms that are always relevant to your target audience is “content marketing”. Within the umbrella of content marketing, you can choose a wide array of subtopics, such as:
- How to do keyword research for your content strategy
- Take steps to create a content calendar
- Content creation best practices
- Top content marketing tools you must use
- How to measure content marketing ROI
If you were to create a “content marketing” cluster on your website, you could start by publishing individual blog posts on the aforementioned subtopics. Next, you create a pillar page on the following topic: “The Beginner’s Guide to Excelling in Content Marketing”.
On the pillar page, you add internal links to the cluster pages in the pillar content. Also, you need to include internal links to the pillar page in the cluster content. Ensure you use relevant and keyword-optimized anchor text for each internal link to get the most benefit from this strategy.
Topic Clusters & Keyword Research
It’s natural to wonder whether there’s any point in investing your time and effort into keyword research when you’re working on building topic clusters. While keyword density is no longer considered a ranking signal, keywords continue to play a key role in your content strategy.
To begin with, extensive keyword research helps you identify relevant core topics for pillar content. Also, such research helps you optimize the content and anchor text of individual cluster pages. However, instead of flooding your content with a keyword, you should focus on satisfying the search intent associated with it.
Topic Cluster Best Practices
Here are a few things you should keep in mind when creating topic clusters for your website:
- Select a relevant, evergreen topic for pillar content that represents what your website/blog is all about
- Invest time in audience research and identify their pain points and preferences before choosing meaningful subtopics for cluster content
- Identify relevant LSI keywords for more cluster content ideas
- Ensure every cluster page includes detailed content about a specific subtopic
- The pillar content should cover every subtopic without getting caught up in the details
- Strategically place your internal links using meaningful and context-driven anchor texts
Benefits of Topic Clusters
Many leading brands, including HubSpot and Moz, leveraged topic clusters to establish authority and skyrocket organic website traffic. But why should you use topic clusters when you can simply find high-volume keywords and create content using them?
To begin with, creating topic clusters on your website helps organize your site architecture. This, in turn, lets search engine spiders efficiently crawl your website and understand what individual web pages are about. Also, this content strategy helps position the pillar page as a trusted and authoritative source of information. It even helps engage readers for a longer duration, thus improving the time on-site stats.
Moreover, when you work on topic clusters, you can target a bunch of keywords with similar intent using a single content asset. It saves you from the hassle of creating individual blog posts to rank for each keyword. Moreover, it helps you generate a plethora of content ideas, thereby streamlining your content strategy.
The ultimate goal of using topic clusters is to improve your website’s search engine ranking by increasing organic traffic and engaging website visitors. Make sure you have a deep understanding of your target audience to identify relevant core topics and subtopics for various clusters.
Need marketing help to support business growth?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get our FREE guide to creating an awesome website, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.