Topic clusters are an effective way to improve your website’s rankings around its main subjects. With the recent search engine updates, content strategists have found that a strategically developed topic cluster has the potential to improve both user experience and relevant organic traffic. This is because when you write content based on topic clusters you help search engines and users understand the context of your content.
To optimize your pages for search and create the best content marketing strategy around topic clusters, focus on three parts: the pillar page, topic clusters, and internal links.
Pillar pages should present a comprehensive and detailed discussion about broad topics. This long-form content will focus on one keyword for a product or service per page and then shorter blog articles will link to the page with supporting information about the same subject.
Each grouping of blog articles is a cluster of similar content about one topic. The pillar page serves as your topic cluster's primary topic or your core topic. Most businesses will use this to introduce a service or product and provide short answers to important questions. Your website will likely have more than one pillar page.
Learn more about pillar pages here: What are Pillar Pages & How do They Impact Your SEO Strategy?
Topic clusters are the blog posts that expand on the topic the pillar page presents. Each of the articles in a content cluster focuses on one subsection of the pillar article in further detail. The posts also link internally to the pillar article.
Internal links are essential hyperlinks in a topic cluster content strategy because they connect the pillar article to the content clusters and connect others to relevant articles. Internal links add context for search engines and make it easier for users to navigate your site. Additionally linking pages internally may boost your search rankings because it shows Google that you have a lot of information on the same subject which indicates you are an expert on a particular topic.
Now that you know what pages you need to build and the order to create them, it’s time to discuss the best way to choose the content your target audience is looking for.
As you build a content strategy around your core topic, each piece of content will focus on a long-tail keyword that relates to the pillar page core topic.
Here is an example of a topic cluster:
Topic clusters are powerful because they allow you to dominate entire keyword verticals in search engine results pages (SERPS). Volume is important, but it's not the only thing to consider when choosing your long-tail keywords. You need to think about how to serve your target audience best. What are the problems potential customers might want to solve? How do people search for solutions? As your ideal buyers move through the funnel, their questions change. They search with different intents and they're likely to take various actions at each stage.
You will need to create four types of content to meet your audience at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Informational Content - Users search to find an answer to a specific question.
Navigational Content- Users search for a specific page, site, or physical location.
Commercial Content - Users want to investigate brands or services.
Transactional Content - Users want to complete an action (conversion).
You will need a list of keywords to work from as you create content. There are hundreds of strategies to find the best keywords and just as many experts who have opinions on everything from the best search volume ranges to evaluating competitive keywords.
Of course, it’s always great to rank on the first page of Google, but if your website is ranking for terms that aren’t relevant to your business, you aren’t likely to convert your website users to buyers. You need to keep your ideal buyer in mind as you choose keywords. Don’t be afraid to answer the questions asked. If they ask them, others likely have the same questions!
You may discover that your competitors are not writing about a subject that you use to differentiate yourself. As you write the content, make sure you think about search intent and how that blog post will link back to the pillar content.
You can learn more about researching keywords for search intent here: Finding Intent-Based Terms For Your Search Marketing Funnel.
Once you've identified your priority keywords, create a list that helps you organize the keywords. We like to note intent, volume, keyword difficulty, and whether the word is currently trending up, among other factors. These data points help us prioritize the keywords to focus on.
A content audit gives you a detailed list of all the content you've already published on your digital marketing channels. Once you’ve sorted your content by subject, you can group pieces that focus on a particular topic together.
The best way to start seeing tangible results in your organic rankings with the help of topic clusters is by reviewing the pieces of content you have. As you audit each piece, evaluate the monthly search volume, content quality, topical authority, and SEO.
Then match the content around the list you’ve developed through your keyword research. You may find that you can focus on updating content you’ve already published or spend time on search engine optimization by adding a video or updating links and images.
After matching each cluster page to one pillar post, you will uncover the content gaps on your site. Then, start writing content for every long-tailed keyword where there is a gap.
Your goal is to create a blog post for your cluster that answers every question your ideal buyer is searching for in order to establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
Writing content based on topic clusters takes strategic keyword research, creativity, and an understanding of your industry. If you’re looking for a team to partner with to elevate your content marketing strategy, contact SMA Marketing.
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