Topic clusters for SEO success

It’s every content marketer’s ambition: producing truly valuable content that showcases your brand’s expertise, drives organic traffic and climbs to the top of the Google search rankings.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the good news is: there’s a new content marketing strategy in town, and lots of leading marketers swear that it’s a formula for SEO success.

It’s called the topic cluster (or ‘pillar-and-cluster’) strategy. And in this blog post, we’ll tell you all about what this means and how you can start using this model right away to improve your content marketing strategy and create content that performs even better.

What is the topic cluster strategy?

The topic cluster strategy focuses on creating ‘clusters’ of content about topics that are interesting to your target groups. Within the cluster, you have multiple pieces of content, each focusing on a specific aspect of the larger topic.

You then interconnect all this content on your website using internal links. At the same time, you broadcast the content via other channels, such as social media.

Here are the ingredients that make a topic cluster strategy work:

  1. A pillar page (also known as a ‘landing page’): This page introduces the general topic at the centre of your topic cluster. It’s generally a long-form article (around 3,000 words) that refers to various aspects of the main topic without covering them in great detail.
  2. The cluster pages: The cluster pages are smaller blog posts or articles that cover each aspect of the main topic in much greater detail.
  3. Internal links: Insert internal links which connect the pillar page with the smaller cluster pages, as well as links connecting the cluster pages with each other.
  4. External campaign: Use social media and other channels at your disposal to draw attention to content within your cluster.

Why does the topic cluster model work?

Marketeers consider topic clusters an effective SEO strategy because, instead of trying to ‘trick’ Google by loading your content with keywords, you are actually establishing your website as an authority on the topic.

This is a more sustainable SEO approach for two reasons:

  • Google’s search-ranking algorithms are continually updating to focus more heavily on the quality and authoritativeness of your content.
  • If you focus less on cramming in keywords and focus more on producing informative, high-quality content, you establish your domain as an authority, which raises your SEO ranking.

It is now also widely known that internal linking is an effective way to enhance your authoritativeness. Internal linking is associated with high-quality information sources, such as Wikipedia. When your site’s visitors use your internal links, it helps establish your site as a resource, which is exactly the kind of site that’s likely to rank higher these days.

How to create a topic cluster campaign

To create a topic cluster campaign, follow these steps:

1.      Pick a really interesting topic

Start by doing some research and figuring out which topics your target audiences are really interested in. Choose a topic that’s large enough to be turned into a cluster, but avoid topics that are too broad, so you can still focus specifically on what your target audience cares about.

2. Do some keyword research

Ok, so, above we said that topic clusters are less about focusing on keywords… But don’t get us wrong: keywords still matter. After you’ve picked the main topic, do your keyword research (using Answer the Public, for example). This enables you to identify the various subtopics that you should include in your cluster.

3. Create the content cluster

There are different opinions about how to go about creating your content cluster. Some marketers recommend creating the cluster pages first and then creating the pillar page, which mentions and links to all the different subtopics within the cluster. Others say create the pillar page first, followed by the cluster pages.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. If you’ve done your research, then you already know which topics are going to be included. But if you don’t plan on releasing all the content simultaneously, then having a solid pillar page in place on your site first is probably the best way to start. After that, the cluster pages can be created one by one and added over time. You may also consider recycling existing content to incorporate it into your cluster.

4. Link it up

Remember to link the content together using internal links. These links will drive organic traffic within your domain and boost your authority credentials.

Ready to cluster?

So, now that you know the ins and outs of the topic cluster model, are you ready to start designing smarter content campaigns (and ranking higher in search results)? This powerful strategy is a great way to organise your content, set priorities and create high-quality content that your target audience will appreciate. And best of all, it lets you communicate your expertise in an authentic way that establishes you as an authoritative thought leader in your market.

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