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When you’re looking for ways to improve your SEO, whether it’s local SEO targeting clients in a geographic area or without any geographic considerations, one good option is to use a topic cluster. Learn how to improve content marketing with topic clusters today.

Topic clusters help you show Google your pages are relevant to specific keywords and more authoritative than your competitors. Considering topic clusters in your content marketing is especially important as Google looks well-beyond keywords on your pages to determine rankings. 

The following is a guide to improving content marketing with topic clusters. 

What Is A Topic Cluster?

A topic cluster is a set of content that revolves around one key topic. You develop a pillar page first. Then, you also add subpages that involve related topics to that pillar page. 

What is a topic cluster. Post it notes with strategy and other marketing terms written on it.

When you follow the page of the pillar page with topic clusters, it’s good from the standpoint of positioning yourself as an authority, attracting organic traffic, and it helps you organize your overall approach to content creation. 

Other Benefits Of A Cluster Approach Include:

  • You can improve your EO because you’re building your authority in a subject area. 
  • It’s easier to create content quickly once you’ve done the pillar page. Cluster pages are faster and simpler to create in most cases because you can rely on the research you did to create the pillar. 
  • You’re avoiding content gaps with this approach, but you’re also able to eliminate some overlaps that you don’t need. 
  • Using clusters improves the overall user experience on your site. 

The core concept here is strategic internal linking. You have a pillar page to link to and from, so you’re able to utilize these linking opportunities to keep readers on your site for longer. 

A Content Cluster Looks Like The Following:

  • You have your pillage page, as mentioned. This is your central hub for the topic. You can keep a topic page broad. 
  • The topic clusters break down into more in-depth subjects that might answer a specific question about the broader topic, with links back to your pillar. 
  • Your cluster pages will have a narrower focus, driven by user intent, while the pillar page may cover a broader range of user intents. 
  • The idea of a content cluster became especially relevant in 2013, with the Google Hummingbird algorithm change. Before Hummingbird, the goal for most content creators was to cover lots of specific keywords. There was more of a page-level focus, and very little attention was given to the entire site. That led to large sites with many pages of similar content, and they were unable even to keep track of the keywords they were targeting. That then meant they didn’t have the depth needed to truly satisfy search intent. We can sum the issue up with the commonly used term—thin content. 
  • Without using the cluster approach, it will be hard to achieve meaningful rankings because your site will continue to be seen as low authority by Google.

Choose Your Topic

When you’re working on content clusters, your first step will be choosing the topic you want to rank. Your topic should be specific enough that a pillar page will allow you to cover the different aspects sufficiently, but you want it broad enough that you’re going to be able to build out several other pieces of content from that pillar. 

Trending topic written inside of puzzle pieces.

Once you have a topic, you can start thinking about your clusters. Five to 10 clusters is a good target zone to aim for. 

If you have no idea where to start as far as your topic, brainstorm. Ask people on your team to share ideas. Look at what your competitors are doing or other people in your industry. 

Ask yourself what your audience truly wants to know and how your content will create value for them. You also want to think about whether you’re going to break a topic into smaller topics reasonably and whether there are variations you can use to develop other posts. 

Conduct Keyword Research

You need to research keywords for your topic to ensure there’s even enough interest for what you’ve come up with to make sure it’s valuable. 

This is a place where using something like a content gap tool can be handy. You can analyze what your competitor isn’t doing well, and this will be where you might be able to step in and fill the void. 

Once you’ve gathered your keyword research, you can start developing outlines. 

You want to outline your pillar page first since this is what your clusters will link back to. 

If you’re going to have other people on your team write the content, you want to make sure your outlines serve as a blueprint for them. Your outlines should include headings, subheadings, and targeted word counts. You should also include your list of keywords, including related keywords and references to competitors with content that’s currently high-ranking. 

Creating Content

Whether you’re writing the content or someone else is, you want it to be engaging, targeted to your particular audience, and it needs to be relevant. 

You don’t need to try and stuff keywords, and when you’re using the topic cluster approach, you don’t need to anyway because you’re going in-depth on the topic. Don’t write content just to get to a specific word count. Instead, focus on quality. 

Before you do any of the above steps, if you haven’t already, you need to create buyer personas. You may already have this done for your other marketing strategies, but if not, do it before you invest time in cluster creation. 

A persona is going to help you drive your content and gain more insight into user intent. Without personas, you’re not going to be able to speak to the unique needs and challenges of your audience. Customer journey mapping is one specific approach to creating personas.

Overall, if you’re looking for a way to improve your content strategy for the rest of 2021 and into 2022, it’s probably time to explore the viability of content clusters. 

About the Author

James McMinn

Senior Digital Strategist

James is a savvy digital marketing specialist with a Masters of Science in Internet Marketing. For the past fourteen years, he has been specializing in SEO, PPC & Marketing Strategy. He has a super sharp analytical mind and a finely tuned creative eye for marketing initiatives that optimize brands.

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