Transform your content strategy

What is a Topic Cluster, and how does it relate to SEO and Content Strategy?

It’s a method for organizing content within your blog and categorizing information so that your users can quickly and effectively find answers to their questions. It’s becoming increasingly challenging to rank content in Google’s SERP, so you should find new ways to connect your site’s content.

In the next paragraphs, I will explain how to use the Topic Cluster and how it can help you provide excellent content for your target audience.

Definition of Topic Cluster

This content organization model is a method of hierarchical classification of site content and pages with a slim and consistent architecture.

how to create topic cluster

In other words, it’s an SEO strategy that focuses on topics rather than keywords to improve your website’s architecture, allowing Google to discover related content more easily and boost your visibility.

A Topic Cluster consists of 3 components:

  • a pillar page that covers a central topic broadly and not in detail. This type of page should cover a wide range of search intents;
  • cluster content that covers related topics in more depth. A cluster page has a more detailed focus on a specific search intent;
  • internal links between all pages. Links from cluster pages to the pillar page signal to search engines that the pillar page is the most important in the group. Links from an authoritative pillar page to cluster pages pass authority to the rest of the cluster pages.

When a page performs well, the entire linked cluster receives a boost. Therefore, it’s about helping crawlers understand the hierarchical connections between content.

Content classifications made through clusters signal to Google that there’s a semantic relationship between the resources on the site, allowing you to gain more authority on the topic.

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Topic Cluster and Pillar Page

While cluster pages delve into specific aspects of a topic, pillar pages provide the user with a comprehensive overview of the same topic. Browsing the pillar page, the user finds a general answer to the question they entered in the browser’s search bar.

This structure ensures that the user doesn’t stop at the overview provided by the pillar page but explores cluster pages in search of the exact answer they were looking for. Typically, the depth of the pillar page’s content doesn’t address all the visitor’s doubts.

In terms of SEO, creating pillar pages that answer users’ questions signals to search engines that your content is informative and relevant, making it worth ranking higher in the SERP.

As mentioned earlier, the Topic Cluster strategy involves grouping content under the same topic. So, the pillar page represents the backbone of cluster content, and its authority is partly determined by the number of links pointing to it.

There are three questions you should ask to find the right topic for a pillar page:

  1. is the topic broad enough to encompass another 20-30 related posts?
  2. can you provide concise and quick answers to whom, what, where, when, and why?
  3. does your target market ask enough questions on this topic to justify creating a pillar page?

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An effective strategy in SEO

A few years ago, people used to type short keywords into Google to find solutions to their problems. Today, most users perform more complex online searches, thanks to voice searches on search engines, expecting accurate and fast answers.

The first change occurred when Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 started processing entire phrases instead of focusing on individual keywords. Similarly, alternative search engines have developed unique algorithms to better understand user intent. This demonstrates the importance of optimizing content not just for Google but for other search platforms that people might use

The second significant step toward the relevance of Topic Clusters happened with Rankbrain, an update from 2015. Google introduced machine learning into its algorithm, designed to understand the context of people’s searches on search engines. In terms of SEO, writing content with a Topic Cluster structure allows you to focus on the customer journey.

As the customer journey is non-linear, you’ll want to cover as much ground as possible on a specific topic to provide relevant content throughout the customer’s buying process. It’s ideal to create a content-driven customer journey, answering questions, providing valuable information, and positioning your product/service as a solution.

I want to share with you a very significant quote related to what I’m telling you:

One of the biggest mistakes we see people make with their content is focusing too much on one part of the funnel. Typically, the bottom of the funnel. We want people to visit our site to buy something. It’s a store, not a library…

This is one scenario. Here’s another equally dangerous one.

Some marketing professionals focus only on the top of the funnel to get traffic, at the expense of low search volume topics. We don’t write content with keywords that have low volume.

This philosophy was valid a few years ago, but today, internet users are more demanding, and this strategy model can no longer work. You need to categorize content more specifically.

SEO benefits of the Topic Cluster model

The benefits of adopting the Cluster structure can be summarized in these points:

  • benefits for the user: your regular user who lands on the Pillar Page finds general information on the Pillar Page and has the opportunity to explore specific aspects by clicking on the internal link that takes them to the Vertical Cluster Content.
  • benefits for the search engine: thanks to the dense network of internal links created between individual web pages, Google’s spider more easily understands the importance of individual pages and immediately grasps the semantic relationship between them.
  • benefits for the website: the blog and site architecture become more organized and organic, thanks to a proper connection between individual pages, allowing for optimal distribution of link juice.

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Create a content strategy based on Clusters

Before the shift to Topic Clusters, those who created a series of content found themselves with dozens of pages discussing similar topics that competed with each other to be indexed in search engines.

A new method was needed to organize content that clearly and simply indicated to search engines which pages should have priority in indexing for a specific topic and which were supporting this topic to delve into different aspects.

How to use the Topic Cluster technique? In your Content Strategy, create a pillar page on a topic in a general way, with limited details, so it makes sense to then connect it with specific content that delves into more detailed aspects and generates a branching of content.

When planning your content strategy, every topic you select and optimize for SEO should delve into one aspect related to the main topic. For example, if you have a pillar page on the topic “men’s suits,” a linked page could explain in detail the criteria for choosing the suit fabric.

A good approach is to think of your content in terms of topics in which you believe your company should compete online. Keywords still play an important role in the strategy, but the central topic serves as the backbone for the various related keywords you’ll subsequently choose.

The formula, therefore, is to start thinking in terms of topics you want to establish authority on, not just individual keywords.

Examples of Topic Cluster

To understand how it works, you need a practical example of how you could strategically organize the themes of your article or blog post.

Let’s say you have a blog about men’s fashion: you could create a pillar page that deals with the topic in a general way, and then a series of cluster pages that dive into the topic in more detail.

As cluster content, you could use these related topics:

  • what to wear in the evening?
  • how to match a tie with a suit
  • shirt and collar types
  • lined, semi-lined, and unlined jackets
  • guide to fabrics.

Conclusion and practical tips for building your Topic Clusters

To start building and organizing your Topic Clusters, you can use the following scheme:

  1. make a list of the main issues your Buyer Persona faces. To help with this, listen to what your users write and search for through monitoring tools; identify their most recurring problems and the questions they ask most often to search engines, and consider how you can help them find the answer.
  2. group each problem by topic.
  3. connect to each topic, you’ve identified some sub-topics, which become the pillar page and cluster content of the cluster.
  4. create a map of all content ideas that align with each main topic and their respective subtopics.
  5. create the content, measure its impact, and continuously improve it.

Now you have all the tools to create a Topic Cluster. What are you waiting for? Start clustering your content!

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