What Are Topic Clusters and How Can They Help in SEO in 2023?
April 11, 2022
As SEO benchmarking evolves, so does the content model for businesses. Amongst many trends in 2022, one is the steady shift towards topic clusters – a highly organized and powerful content approach to climb search engine rankings efficiently.
Thanks to topic clusters, search engines like Google can index your website easily. On top of that, your audience will also find your content thoroughly navigable. This makes it an essential addition to any modern content marketing strategy to attract online traffic organically.
What are topic clusters, why do topic clusters matter to SEO and how to create a successful topic cluster content strategy to achieve your brand goals in 2022? Let’s dive right into this must-read guide for marketers.
What are Topic Clusters?
Image Source: hubspot.com
As the name suggests, topic clusters comprise a group of related content that is centered around a broad topic or a theme described by a central pillar page. Therefore, a content clustering strategy is essentially a hub-and-spoke structure with three main components:
- A pillar page that acts as a hub for a topic or theme.
- Cluster pages that are the spokes of the pillar page, and answer various questions, queries, etc. regarding the pillar topic in much more depth.
- Robust internal links, which are placed strategically to connect cluster pages to the main pillar page and each other.
The main goal of topic clusters is to:
- Create strategic internal linking
- Enhance contextuality
- Improve SERPs
- Widen your audience
- Boost Conversions
Also Read: Increase Conversion Rate of Your Website
Concept of Topic Clusters
The concept of pillar cluster content strategy, contrary to popular belief, is not completely new. The likes of Hubspot and WordPress began implementing it decades ago. However, it has evolved over the years in line with the changing search behavior of users and Google algorithm tweaks.
Today, one can easily notice that the way Google showcases information in response to people’s queries has changed a lot. Previously, it was based purely on the specificity of the keywords entered, but now it locates the results based on the search intent.
This shows that focusing only on keywords to improve your SERPs is ineffective. You must create high-quality content that increases keyword density while also providing an explanation that can be picked up by different user search queries. This is where topic clusters have proven to be an excellent strategy, as cluster content connects related topics through context and internal linking. That presents the perfect package of holistic, high-quality content to search engines which they can then provide the user.
The Importance and Benefits of Topic Clusters Model: Why It Matters to SEO
Now that you understand the concept behind a pillar cluster content strategy, let’s look at why pillar content and cluster content matter to your SEO efforts:
- Improves internal linking: Thanks to topic clusters and pillar pages, you get ample opportunities to create content and link them as per relevance and context. This is a great exercise to strengthen your internal linking structure and make your content clear PageRank and relevance signals between URLs easily.
- Builds content authority, increases traffic: As we can surmise from the above point, topic clusters are a way to tell search engines like Google that you have all the relevant information, arranged in a highly contextual and organized manner, that your users require. This helps cement your content authority and improves SERPs. Finally, the more topic clusters you establish, the more keywords and user query aims you will rank for, leading to higher website traffic.
- Creates a more structured and comprehensive content strategy: One of the benefits of topic clusters is that they let you elaborate a topic in multiple blog posts. This way, you don’t have to face the challenge of covering all aspects of a topic in one go. Additionally, topic clusters also organize your content and allow you to cover everything relevant, updated or upcoming about a topic.
- Improves UX and conversions: In one of the latest updates by Google, they have claimed that the search engine now understands how users navigate and explore through topics. At the end of the day, topic clusters follow a step-by-step methodology where each topic connects to another seamlessly. Thus, with topic clusters, you can leverage this by creating detailed content that predicts the next steps on a user’s journey and supplies the relevant information on your website. As such, you can engage your users with your content throughout the funnel and solve multiple pain points for them, thus enhancing their experience and driving them to conversion.
- Enhances keyword research: Instead of focusing only on the most popular keywords or obscure long-tail keywords with low competition, you can enhance your keywords via the topic cluster approach. The key here is to research cluster.
- Keywords: an organized list of keywords that are grouped based on search intent around pillar themes, topic clusters and blog categories. This gives more coherence to your keyword strategy and makes the interlinked content much more relatable.
- Increases content production speed: A pillar page acts as a guiding tool for all your content efforts surrounding a particular topic. This makes creating fresh cluster pages much quicker and easier as you need to only build upon your existing content instead of looking for new ideas every day.
Additional Read: What is SEO
How to Create an Effective Pillar Page and Topic Cluster SEO Strategy in Steps
Image Source: BALLENBLOGGER.COM
All said and done, how should you go about creating an effective topic cluster SEO strategy? Let’s check it step by step:
1. Identify a core pillar page topic
First things first. You’ll need a central theme that revolves around your company and its offerings to customers. This is essential as it will position the value of your business favorably to your audiences and directly address their needs. The core topic is what you will broadly write about on the pillar page, with its sub-topics forming your cluster pages.
Some useful tips that will help you zero in on a core topic:
- Should revolve around the value you create through your business
- Should be scalable
- Should directly answer your consumers’ search queries and search intent
2. Chart out the customer journey
As we have mentioned before, cluster content is intent-based content. Its purpose is to provide detailed information about a specific query of a user while also moving them along the customer funnel. As a result, you’ll need to produce cluster content for different stages of the consumer journey. Create a buyer persona and map out the full customer journey to achieve this.
- A persona is essentially a personification of your ideal customer. You can create multiple personas depending upon your target audience demographics, profiles and behaviors. This way, you can tailor unique content and messaging to each persona.
- For each persona, map the customer journey to identify points where relevant information could help the customer move ahead. These points give you clues to your cluster content topics.
3. Research relevant keyword cluster around the topic and search intent
Get into the mind of your customer personas and their search queries to identify search intent.
- For example, queries at the top of the funnel are usually generic.
- In the middle, the search queries tend to be more refined and comparative.
- And right before conversion, the user query would be highly specific – looking for information such as price or reviews.
You can leverage this understanding to your advantage by incorporating intent-based keywords across the funnel into your strategy. Cluster them together as per relevance by identifying head terms and all the cluster keywords around them. Don’t forget to analyze your competition to incorporate keywords where you can climb the rankings quickly.
4. Create diversified content
Now is the time to plan and create your pillar content and cluster content.
- To begin, make a rough outline of your pillar page and its topic clusters. Make sure to keep the pillar content as broad as possible, so that you can expand upon it in various clusters.
- Make sure the topic clusters aren’t out of place and that they connect back to the pillar page.
- Start writing comprehensive pillar page content using quality CTAs and links to drive users to cluster pages. This serves as a strong base for your content strategy in future.
- Then, by writing in detail and cleverly referencing the pillar page as well as other clusters, develop your topic clusters. Play with a variety of content types to keep it interesting and engaging. These include core blog posts with interlinked niche blogs, microsites and landing pages, webpages that fall under a resource center or knowledge hub, a series of videos that continue a topic, etc.
- Try to use topical content that is trending to gain more traction.
- After making an assessment, don’t just rewrite your competitor’s material; try to improve on it to get an edge.
- Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs, and put quality over quantity in your content material..
- Always update your content – be it pillar or topic clusters – from time to time.
5. Augment your cluster content with strategic internal links
Finally, add the right internal links at the right places to derive the most out of your pillar and topic clusters. At the end of the day, it is proper internal linking that will keep the audience on your website and drive them to conversion. It also helps you rank better as pages that garner a lot of backlinks will positively affect the ranking of other cluster pages as well.
Also Read: Best ways to Get Natural Links
Common Topic Cluster Mistakes
Image Source: Toptal.com
As a marketer, you need to avoid the following two critical topic cluster mistakes:
- Content flooding – While a pillar cluster content strategy gives a lot of opportunities to devise content, one must avoid flooding your website with multiple content pieces that target similar keywords. Creating similar content under different topics and pillars results in keyword cannibalization wherein your blogs compete against each other in search. The solution? Use unique search terms to build your cluster pages. Additionally, all these search terms should ideally have varying search intents.
- Content silo-ing – Content silo-ing refers to not interlinking different topic clusters adequately. This is an opportunity lost for your content strategy as connecting various topic clusters, however different, through peripheral topics enables search engines to understand and validate the synergy between your topic clusters. The higher this synergy, the more favorable your content becomes to search engines.
Additional Read: Content Marketing Trends
There is no doubt that topic clusters are paramount if one has to get their content creation right and deliver better SEO results in 2022. Ultimately, a pillar content cluster strategy streamlines the entire content process and enables organizations to win the hearts and minds of their audiences with exactly the kind of information they want – all the right place and the right time. Time to up your content game!
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