As part of your digital marketing strategy, you've probably thought long and hard about your online content. Your blog posts, articles and static web pages position you as a thought leader and earn you social media followers. But search engines continue to tweak algorithms, changing how you need to structure content in order to rank. That's where the topic cluster, a new way of organizing your content, comes in.
What Are Topic Clusters?
If you've done any work with SEO, you know links coming into your site boost your authority with the search engines. Having a great deal of content on a particular topic also helps establish you as an expert. As a result, many marketers have focused on frequent, sharable blog posts on newsworthy or timely topics.
Topic clusters, however, focus on structuring content around a central idea. Google favors this approach because it provides better results for users who now commonly type in a full question or phrase, when in the past search has been reduced to fragmented keywords.
How Do You Create Topic Clusters?
Topic clusters are made up of one core piece of content, a.k.a. a pillar, and several pieces of cluster content that link back to the pillar content and to each other. This gives the search engine the linking structure it wants to see, while also allowing for a cleaner organizational structure.
The pillar piece is a general piece of content you may think of as an overview. It demonstrates authority but spares the detail. Each piece of cluster content focuses on a subtopic of the pillar subject matter. By linking back to the core piece and to the other clusters, it tells the search engine your website gives information not only on your website's central idea, but closely related ideas as well.
Since people tend to naturally follow up one piece of online reading with another and another, the topic cluster methodology tells the search engine the user won't need to go to several websites to find what they need. It's all there, linked from one piece to another.
Example from Hubspot's Marketing Blog - Content in the orange box shows inter-website links to other Hubspot content or marketing assets
that relate to the same overarching topic.
How Do You Optimize Your Pages?
Fortunately, rearranging your website to create topic clusters does not necessarily mean you have to rewrite all of your content. HubSpot did extensive analysis on its own web pages and discovered that it had multiple posts on similar subject matter, all competing for space on search engine results pages.
Instead of deleting this content, HubSpot focused on a thoughtful linking structure that lifted the importance of the pillar page while demonstrating a clear semantic relationship between the subpages. That way, each page has its place, but none is trying to compete within its own family of web content.
How Do You Plan Future Content?
As a general strategy, you probably try to create content that will garner interest and increase your authority with potential customers and industry leaders. Through topic clusters, you should also develop content that speaks to the search engines. One strategy is to start with one pillar topic and plan seven to eight subtopics that will link back to the pillar and to the other pages within that pillar. In reality, you probably won't be changing what you write about too much; you'll just be making it clear that you have a general area of expertise and can go in-depth about the subject matter.
It may always seem like a game of catch-up when you're trying to create online content that people will find and want to read. The good news is that topic clustering makes sense from both an organizational standpoint and for SEO. When people find your site, they'll want to stay there because of the value of what you have to say.