You’ve heard that you need to create topic clusters, but you’re unsure why or how.
It can be hard to keep up with all the changes that Google makes to their algorithm. And if you don’t structure your content correctly, you could lose traffic and rankings.
Topic clusters are important because they help you demonstrate your authority on a topic to Google.
And the best way to do this is by creating pillar pages with relevant topic clusters.
This will help to both improve your SEO efforts and bring more qualified traffic to your website.
It can be hard to keep track of all the steps in a process like this one, but thankfully we’ve put together an easy-to-read guide.
Let’s get started!
What is a Pillar Page?
A pillar page provides an overview of a broad topic, and topic clusters are created, narrowing down the topic.
What Are Topic Clusters?
A topic cluster is a group of related subtopics that link to a pillar page. Essentially a topic cluster deep dives into a specific topic.
If you were to liken your website to a book, then the pillar page would be the table of contents and the topic clusters would be separate chapters.
Topic clusters help both Google’s algorithm determine your authority status on various topics and users to have a better experience of your website.
Why Are Topic Clusters Important?
Topic clusters can help you to organise the structure of your site and its contents.
By using topic clusters, algorithms can easily understand the connection between different pieces of content that are linked to one another and thus assign authority and expertise to a specific topic.
So, for instance, when one topic cluster does well, the other related topic clusters also get a boost in their rankings.
Let’s say you have a topic cluster that begins to do well in search engines, this helps the other topic clusters that are connected to that one gain authority as well.
Historically people used to search for answers by typing in simple keywords. However, that trend has changed due to overall user behaviour and the trend towards more specific search requests. In response, Google’s algorithm has evolved.
Algorithms have adapted to this and can understand what you’re trying to say and provide the perfect results for your query.
According to Hubspot “many SEO professionals see Hummingbird as Google’s official switch from a keyword to a topic focus.”
Hummingbird is the name of one of Google’s search algorithms.
The best way to create high-quality content is by focusing on what your audience cares about and providing answers to their questions.
With the focus increasingly shifting towards topic clusters, keywords can now be used more efficiently.
However, the problem with a keyword-focused approach is that it makes it possible for keyword cannibalisation.
Keyword cannibalisation is when the same, or similar, keywords compete for the same ranking.
Topic clusters help you organise your keywords so that they work harmoniously.
This is because without a clear site structure using topic clusters, you are likely to use the same keyword over and over again. They then start to compete with each other; in other words, they cannibalise each other.
So when you focus on topic clusters, you are able to categorise your keywords accordingly so that they easily communicate to the algorithm what topic you have authority and expertise in.
Essentially this makes it simple for the algorithm to understand what your content is about.
How to Create Topic Clusters?
Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience.
Businesses are problem solvers, which is why understanding your ideal client’s wants, needs, and desired outcomes will allow you to attract them and hopefully convert them to paying customers.
In order to satisfy your target audience, it’s important to have a deep understanding of who they are and what makes them tick.
By creating a client persona framework, you are able to hone in on:
- Who they are? (Ideal client)
- What they want? (Goal)
- How are they struggling to get what they want? (Problem)
- How you can help them get what they want? (Solution)
Hubspot has a tool where you can create a buyer persona.
Now to incorporate that with SEO, it helps to understand how users make use of search engines.
What is your ideal client searching for?
- The best way to get into the minds of your ideal client is by asking them
- A risky option is to make an assumption without research to back it up
- You could type into Google what you think they are searching for and struggling with and see what comes up (related searches) to validate your assumptions
Step 2: Pick the Topics That You Want To Be Known For.
These are the core topics you will become known for and will be part of your pillar page.
Here are a few questions that can help you brainstorm pillar page topics:
- What do you sell? Would the pillar page on this product/service mesh well with your existing products or services?
- What do you currently have expertise and authority on?
- What can you write content on?
- Is this term or phrase being searched for by your ideal client? Meaning is there search volume on this topic and is the right words being used. The right keyword to use really depends on your goals. If you are just starting out, maybe it’s better to use keywords with a low search volume.
Let’s say you run a marketing agency; you could have a pillar page on email marketing.
In the next step, we are going to discuss how you can identify those topic clusters.
Step 3: Determine Topic Clusters Through Keyword Research
Now that you have identified what your pillar page should be, you can now create topic clusters around it.
While there are many ways to conduct keyword research, we are going to go over just one of them here to make the process simple.
The keyword research tool that we are going to use is Semrush’s
1. Head over to Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool, and with the topic that you chose in step 2, type it into the search bar.
For this example, we are going to use ‘Instagram Marketing’ and see how it differs from what Hubspot has created.
2. A lot of information is going to pop up once you press search. So for now we are going to focus on keyword variations, questions, and related keywords.
Keyword variations show different variations of the keyword you typed in. While questions show how people are searching for that term in the form of a question, related keywords show keywords that are similar to yours.
This can help you find sub-topics or the topic clusters that will make up the pillar page.
Take a look at the keywords and determine what you think your ideal client is likely to search for.
Keywords with high search volumes and significant competition can be hard to rank for. If you want your website or blog post to appear on the first page of Google, it would be best to not to start out with these words at the beginning since they’ll just make things more difficult than necessary!
We would recommend choosing some low-volume but relevant keywords in order to achieve success when blogging about different topics online.
3. Find around 15 relevant keywords for this topic and then allocate them to topic clusters.
So for example, if your pillar page was email marketing, some of the topic clusters could include:
- Intro to email marketing
- Email deliverability basics
- Intro to email automation
- Different types of emails
- Email list building
- What is email copywriting
Another example is Hubspot’s pillar page on, ‘Instagram Marketing.’
They have 6 topic clusters under that pillar page:
- Why Market on Instagram?
- Build Your Instagram Marketing Strategy
- How to Create an Instagram Business Account
- Types of Instagram Posts
- Instagram Hacks & Best Practices
- Instagram Analytics
Each topic builds on the last like a chapter from a book. This helps you (and Google!) to form a connection and interlink to the relevant cluster topics and the pillar page.
In the next step, we will go over internal linking.
Here are a few other keyword tools that you can use:
Each tool has different features and benefits, but can help you identify keywords, alternative keywords, what their search volume is, their search intent is and how difficult it is to rank for that keyword.
- Google Related Searches (and autosuggestion)
- Google Keyword Planner
- Answer the Public
- Alo Asked
- Keyword Surfer (Chrome extension)
- Keywords Everywhere (Chrome extension)
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Step 4: Link Cluster Topics and Pillar Page
The final step is linking between each topic cluster and the pillar page.
Hyperlinking is essential as topic clusters assist search engine algorithms to understand what your content is about so that they can determine your authority and expertise.
So, for example, each article that forms part of the pillar page on “email marketing” or “instagram marketing” should have a link back to it. This creates the connection.
This also makes it easier for users who want to learn more information on a particular topic to not have to go searching for it unnecessarily.
The graphic below depicts that the more internal links you have, the greater your chances are of ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be strategic when placing internal links.
Links need to be relevant to the content. If a user clicks the link from the anchor text (clickable text), do they know what to expect?
For example, the anchor text Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool lets you know that if you click that link, you will be sent to a keyword tool. If you end up anywhere else there’s clearly a problem.
Remember, your ideal client is the end goal, and search engine optimisation is there to help you get closer to them through increased visibility, higher ranking scores and greater organic traffic to your site.
How to Measure Topic Clusters
The key to measuring the success of a topic cluster is finding an effective way to determine how many people were interested in what was shared.
Data can help you improve your authority, ranking, and content quality.
With these insights, you can make sure your content is optimised.
After uncovering which clusters have gained traction and resonated with your audience through the number of visits and pages visited, you can potentially produce more content on that topic.
Here are a few metrics that you can track:
- Organic traffic: The number of people that found your website through a Google search
- Keyword rankings: Your position on search engine results pages (SERPs) for a specific keyword
- Search engine visibility: How many users see your website in their search results
- Click-through-rate: How many searchers clicked on your website when it came up in their search results
- Backlinks: Number of links being directed to your site
- Conversion rate: The percentage of users who completed your call to action
- Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who left your website without clicking on additional pages
- Pages per visit: The number of pages visited in a session
- Time spent on page: How long a visitor spends on your page
- Scroll depth: How far a visitor has scrolled down a page on your website
By creating pillar pages on your site and using related keywords and key phrases for your topic clusters, you can help Google understand that your website is an authority on the given topic.
This will help improve your website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs), which means more people will see your content when they conduct relevant searches, which will likely increase your website’s traffic and lead to more conversions.
Have you tried this strategy on your website? Let us know how it goes!
Now that you know how why topic clusters are important, you can start to implement them into your SEO strategy. Proceed to the next section of the KAMG SEO Content Hub to begin to learn what keywords are and how to choose them.
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