How to use topic clusters

Topic Clusters – What Are They and How They’re the Secret to Your Content Marketing Success

So, you’ve created a stunning website and started publishing insightful keyword-rich content. Now, you’re just waiting for it to show up at the top of relevant search engine results pages (SERPs). But your efforts are yet to show any results and you wonder why nothing is happening.

Search engine algorithms are constantly being tweaked to deliver the best search experience to users. They’ve come a long way from focusing on keywords to prioritizing search intent. Moreover, they consider other parameters such as E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) of a web page.

Consequently, website owners and digital marketers have shifted their focus from keywords to topic clusters. Let’s delve deeper to find out what is a topic cluster and how it can strengthen your content marketing strategy.

Understanding Topic Clusters

The term “topic clusters” was introduced by HubSpot in 2017. It simply refers to a group of content assets (like blog posts and web pages) on your website linked to a common pillar page or Ultimate Guide that features a deep overview of a particular topic that is relevant to your business. While the pillar page covers an overarching topic, the cluster pages dig deeper into different subtopics related to the pillar content. Each cluster page is linked to the pillar content and vice versa.

Here’s what a topic cluster would look like on your website/blog:

Topic Clusters Diagram
Topic Cluster Overview Diagram

Image via HubSpot

Let’s check out an example to understand topic clusters in greater detail. The following blog post, published by HubSpot, acts as pillar content:

Exampe of an Ultimate Guide
Pillar Content Example

Image via HubSpot

It’s worth noting how the pillar page covers a broad topic but doesn’t address each subtopic in much detail.

Table of Contents for Topic Clusters
Pillar Content for a Topic

Image via HubSpot

Instead, it is linked to various other blog posts that cover these topics more comprehensively. These other blog posts form the topic clusters. Take a look at the screenshots below:

Simplify your content marketing with Topic Clusters
Topic Cluster Example

Image via HubSpot

Get performance from your content marketing with Topic Clusters
Pillar Content Example

Image via HubSpot

It’s natural to wonder why you must work on topic clusters when you can simply optimize your content for the right keywords. Let’s find out.

Topic Clusters vs. Keywords

When you optimize a blog post for a particular keyword, your content will only rank for that keyword. On the other hand, when you target a particular topic using a cluster, your content will likely rank for various keywords related to it. Thus, focusing on topic clusters is a quicker and more efficient way of improving your website’s search engine ranking. However, the prerequisite is that you must invest plenty of time and effort to identify and implement the topic cluster.

Let’s say, you’re running a blog on digital marketing. Some of the keywords that you might want to rank for include:

  • Facebook marketing strategy
  • How to start Facebook marketing
  • What is Facebook Marketing
  • How to execute a Facebook marketing campaign
  • Facebook marketing basic

It is, however, worth mentioning that all these keywords convey the same search intent. The user wants to learn more about Facebook marketing. You can group all these keywords and create the following cluster content: “7 Simple Yet Effective Facebook Marketing Tips for Beginners”.

Here’s another example:

Example of how Topic Clusters and Keywords work together
Topics and Keywords

Image via HubSpot

This doesn’t mean you should ignore keywords altogether. Keyword research is still important and will help you identify relevant subtopics for cluster content. However, you can improve your content marketing strategy by focusing on topic clusters instead of solely working with keywords.

Now that we know topic clusters are important, it’s crucial to understand why they work for search engine optimization (SEO).

How Topic Clusters Help SEO

The biggest advantage of topic clusters is that they help organize your site architecture. Here’s what your site architecture would look like in the absence of topic clusters:

Example of how most content marketing blogs are organized
Absence of Topic Clustering

Image via HubSpot

It is just a random collection of various blog posts under different categories spread across a subdomain. On the other hand, implementing topic clusters results in a site architecture like this:

Example of organizing your content marketing efforts with topic clusters
Topic Cluster Implementation

Image via HubSpot

Such an orderly Topic Cluster arrangement helps search engine spiders easily crawl from one page to another. This, in turn, means they can find and index web pages faster and more effectively. This type of organization of your content helps search engines easily find and index new/updated content. It also lets them understand the semantic relationship between various web pages.

When plenty of cluster content links to pillar content, the pillar page stands out as an authority. It indicates that the page is perceived as a source of extensive valuable information. It also helps search engine spiders understand what the page is all about. This, in turn, lets the pillar page rank higher for relevant keywords.

Topic clusters strengthen and streamline your content strategy. They save you the trouble of creating individual blog posts targeting each focus keyword. Instead, you can group keywords with the same search intent into one cluster. Additionally, when your content fulfills a user’s search intent, search engine spiders are more likely to include it in relevant search results.

Another benefit of using topic clusters is that they let you provide more relevant and valuable information to readers. This, in turn, encourages them to spend more time on your website. It improves the bounce rate and ultimately, indicates that your website offers engaging content. This, in turn, positively impacts its search engine ranking.

Topic Cluster: Best Practices

Here are a few useful tips to effectively execute your topic cluster strategy:

  • Identify an overarching topic that represents what your website is about
  • Outline your target audience’s pain points to derive suggestions for subtopics under the pillar topic
  • Find LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords related to the pillar topics
  • Group keywords with similar search intent into one cluster
  • Create detailed content for each cluster page; make sure it directly digs deeper into the subtopic instead of providing generic information
  • Create the pillar content only after you’ve complete all the cluster content; make sure it covers all the subtopics but offer too many details
  • Lastly, add internal links to the pillar page as well as cluster pages

Conclusion

Your content marketing strategy won’t yield the desired results unless it drives organic traffic to your website. The topic cluster approach helps your website build authority and ensures that all key web pages are indexed. This strategy improves its search engine ranking and drives more qualified website visitors.

Have you implemented the topic cluster approach in your content strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Erika Steuer

Erika Steuer keeps WriteForMe running smoothly as the Operations Manager. With previous experience managing the marketing efforts of businesses in the for- and not-for-profit sectors, she understands how busy a company’s marketing team often is even though it’s crucial to stay in front of the right audiences online for continued success. » More blog posts by Erika Steuer

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