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Topic Clusters: The Next Evolution in Search

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Are keywords still the backbone of your SEO content strategy? If you want to improve your search engine ranking, you need to get ahead of the competition and organize your content using topic clusters instead. Recent algorithm updates, like Google Hummingbird, mean that search engines now favor sites that use clusters to link related pieces of content together.

Keep reading to find out exactly what topic clusters are and how you can start using them in your content strategy.

What Are Topic Clusters?

Topic clusters are made up of main pieces of "pillar" content, supported by multiple pieces of "cluster" content. Rather than keeping all the content on your site separate, topic clusters offer a way to create one resource that covers an entire topic — something that is popular with search engines and their users.

For example, on a dentistry website, a pillar page could cover a broad topic like "Dental Phobia," and linked cluster content could cover a range of topics like "Dental Phobia in Children," "Ways to Treat Dental Phobia" and "Causes of Dental Phobia."

Instead of treating each piece of content on your site as a discrete entity, topic clusters allow you to organize content into groups that cover a broad topic in its entirety.

How to Organize Your Content into Topic Clusters

Reorganizing the entire structure of your site can feel overwhelming, particularly if you have a lot of existing content.

Start by identifying several problems commonly faced by visitors to your site; then brainstorm topics based on these issues. Topics should be broad enough to allow you to link to other pieces of content but not so broad that you can't cover them completely. For example, the topic "Shoes" might be too broad, but "Women's Tennis Shoes" could work well.

Once you have a list of five to 10 potential topics, perform an audit of your existing content. Look for topics that you already have plenty of content to support, and create your first clusters around these.

How to Identify New Topics to Cover

Once you've arranged your existing content into topic clusters, you should start looking at new topics you'd like to cover. Get out of the habit of thinking in terms of keywords, and start thinking about topics that you want to be an authority on instead.

For example, where you might once have targeted the key phrase "cheap shopping tips," you'll now choose an entire topic like "Frugal Shopping" and create a cluster around one core piece of pillar content.

This strategy positions you as an expert, helps readers navigate your site easily and boosts your SEO.

How to Track the Success of Your Topic Clusters

Tracking the success of your topic clusters is similar to analyzing any other part of your content strategy. Before you create a new cluster, you should set a clear goal, such as "increase traffic by X percent" or "get X new qualified leads this quarter." Then, track your website and lead generation analytics to see how well each topic cluster has performed. Use the results to improve low-performing clusters and focus more heavily on the topics that get the best results.

Keywords aren't the most important part of your SEO content strategy any longer — topic clusters are. Take the guesswork out of your content strategy and start organizing your content into topic clusters today.

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Vera Fischer

By Vera Fischer

The visionary of 97 Degrees West for more than thirteen years, Vera has served as the CEO and President since 2004. During Vera’s tenure, the agency has achieved steady growth while surviving both economic recessions in Austin, Texas. Vera began her advertising career at GSD&M where she worked on accounts: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Houston Rockets, Dollar Rent-A-Car, Pearl Vision, SeaWorld and DoubleTree Hotels. Her next stop was the nationally recognized T3 known as “The Think Tank.” While at T3, Vera spearheaded the Dell Computers launch of the Preferred Accounts Division and lead national projects for the ESL and Enterprise Divisions. Other notable accounts included Quintiles Oncology, Austin Lyric Opera and St. David’s Hospital. In 2001, Vera left the agency world to embark on the client side as Director of Marketing for Forgent Networks, the software spin-off of VTEL video conferencing. Vera managed an annual multi-million dollar marketing budget, developed online lead generation programs, managed the inside sales team and consistently delivered high-quality MQLs to the sales team. In 2004, after a company wide re-org, Vera was laid off while on maternity leave. Within the day, she founded her agency, 97 Degrees West. Vera’s weekly podcast entitled, “System Execution”, launched in mid-2016 with notable guests like Ari Weinzweig, Jeff Smith, Gary Bizzo, Dr. Alan Pitt, and other business and thought leaders. Vera is the first woman to host a podcast devoted to systems and processes of successful companies. She is quickly becoming one of the country’s leading authorities on the topic of execution Vera is a member of the Austin University Area Rotary Club, an advisory board member for the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Texas State University and a Mentor at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas. Vera is completing her Master’s in Strategic Communications at Texas State University in May 2018.