There was a time when we would just add topics (as pages) on a website. We didn’t mind if that topic was related to a broader topic already posted or not. This was before the evolution of search engines.
A few years back, search engines just used keywords to search people’s queries. Do you remember when search engines still struggled to return an “accurate” answer despite adding multiple keywords? Now, algorithms have evolved to the extent where they can understand the topical context behind the search intent, relate it to similar searches encountered in the past, and voila! They show web pages that best answer the query.
You can just go to any search engine now, key in even the most complex questions, and still get an accurate and timely result. Search engines are now smart enough to recognize the connections across queries.
This evolution of the search engine has caused marketers and SEO experts to rethink their respective strategies when structuring various websites. To get ahead, they’re “forced” to explore more effective ways to get on top of search results and eventually to be a step ahead of understanding customer behavior.
Among the many strategies, one proved to be effective — using topic clusters.
What is a topic cluster?
Topic clusters may sound foreign to some, but it simply refers to having a single “pillar” page that acts as the main content hub. This hub most often contains an overarching topic that allows multiple content pages related to that same topic to link back to the pillar page and each other.
The significance of this linking action tells search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic because of the number of other content pages referencing it. Because of this recognition, the “pillar” page may eventually rank higher and higher for the topic it covers.
The topic cluster model, at its core, is not just a way to improve the “trustworthiness” of a page as far as its content is concerned. It also provides a chance to organize your site’s content pages using a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture.
I’m content with my site. Why do I have to overhaul it to have topic clusters?
As mentioned earlier, topic clusters are not just to improve your site’s rankings in search engines but also offer other benefits, such as:
1. More organized content
Having pillar pages gives you a chance to organize your content more deliberately. Gone are the days when you could just add random content to your site. Pillar pages are designed to organize your blog around topic cluster pages. It makes your site structure cleaner, and in some ways, your site is indeed a step closer to becoming an authority on certain niche topics.
2. Improved SEO
The primary benefit of using topic clusters (and backlinking) is that pillar pages will eventually improve your SEO by giving your blog authority over a particular topic.
3. Increased content production speed
Once you’ve created a pillar page, planning what content to write is relatively simpler to do since you already have an idea of what to write about.
4. More comprehensive content
Closely related to the previous benefit, having a pillar page and eventually, a topic cluster will help avoid overlap or gaps in your content. Let’s say you’re writing about mortgage loans and mentioned the various mortgage loans on your pillar page. The cluster pages can include topics about loan types. This way, your pillar page won’t have to be that long because other topics can be better explained on other related content pages.
How do I set up topic clusters?
Setting up and creating topic clusters is quite challenging initially, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it later on. Here are steps you can follow to get started:
Step 1: Decide On Your Core Topic
The key to having a well-curated topic cluster is to have a broad-enough core topic. Whether your blogs are about market trend reports or a new local development, you can use this strategy to create a curated topic plan. The topics you choose should fit into topics that are core to your business. In doing so, you present yourself as someone reliable and that your business indeed gives value to your potential clients.
Deciding on a core topic is better done with the help of the team. After all, multiple heads are better than one. Working with team members to generate ideas for your content can be an effective way to develop relevant topic ideas.
This step requires a lot of brainstorming. Start by thinking about which topic cluster ideas fit into your business. From there, list all of your ideas as they start popping into your head. An excellent free tool for this is Trello.
When thinking about core topic ideas, answering the following questions might bring you closer to realizing what your core topic should be: What do my viewers want to know? Is this topic broad enough? Can this topic be broken further into smaller topics? Can I build something around it? Does this topic have any variation that I can use to develop more posts?
Step 2: Use Keywords On Your Core Topic
The next step involves researching keywords for your topic. Before you begin researching your topics and writing them, you will need to make sure that you’re on the right track with your topics.
This is a critical step to ensure that you’re not wasting your time and reap the rewards of creating quality content.
Learn to identify the strength of keywords you’re using, whether they’re “missing”, “weak”, or “strong”. Ideally, you’d want to identify which ones are missing and weak and replace them with strong keywords to improve your SEO rankings.
An excellent free tool for keyword research is UberSuggest.
Step 3: Organize Pillar and Topic Cluster Structure for Core Topic
Once you have identified your core topic and keywords relative to that core topic, then it’s now time to organize your topic cluster. In this step, you should consider your pillar page, as the topic clusters will link back to it.
When outlining the pillar page, it’s better to attempt to cover a broad range of topics while also leaving room for in-depth subtopics. Again, the purpose of doing this is for the “sub” pages to link back to the pillar page, giving it more credence and authority as far as SEO engines are concerned.
Step 4: Produce Content
Now that you’re done with the preparations, it’s high time you should be doing what you do best — produce content. When producing content, we have the following tips for you:
Write naturally: Since you have already identified the keywords needed, you no longer have to stuff the content with unnecessary ones. The content doesn’t have to be as comprehensive because that’s what the subpages are for.
Focus on quality: All of this — using topic clusters — is just an accessory to increasing your SEO rankings. One of the best ways to gain authority is still producing high-quality content that provides value to your visitors. So do not take your focus off of that.
Provide value: When it comes to the topic you’re writing about, make it a goal to write the very “best” article for your audience — one that provides value. If you have time, check out what your competitors are writing about, and if you see any relevant topic that’s missing, include that on your page.
Be clear and concise: Remember that providing value to your viewers doesn’t mean you have to write a long article. There is beauty in being able to articulate your ideas using clear and concise words. After all, some of your viewers may not have the time to go through everything, so, again, value > length of content.
After producing and publishing your content, the only thing left to do is to add internal links to the supporting topic clusters continually. Do this repeatedly for every new content published, and you’re on track to rank better in SEO rankings.
Always be on the lookout for ways to improve your ranking. There is always room for improvement. One way to be ahead of your competitors and boost your content’s relevance in your industry is to update & repurpose content regularly.