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Everything you need to know about topic clusters

Posted by Simon Collins
Picture of Simon Collins
on 1 October 2020
SEO inbound marketing

Sixty-one percent of marketers say improving SEO and their organic presence is a top priority.

Unfortunately, it’s a challenge that many businesses fail to overcome. This means their beautifully designed website remains unfound in the vast murky depths of the internet.

Using proven strategies (like topic clusters) to drive SEO is key to turning this around. When you get it right, Google will understand your content and rank it more highly. Yay!

Let’s explore topic clusters in more detail so you have the blueprint you need to build content that Google adores.

What is a topic cluster?

Before we go any further, it would be rude not to define our terms. Here’s a definition of ‘topic cluster’:

A topic cluster is a group of articles and webpages that share the same topic and related subtopics. With one longer ‘pillar page’ acting as the focal point, collectively, they cover a topic in depth and link to each other strategically.

Why are topic clusters important?

For a few years now, topics clusters have been part of how the Google algorithm analyses and ranks web pages. That means that if you want your content to rank highly on Google, you need to incorporate topic clusters into your SEO (and wider content marketing) strategy.

When done well, you can use topic clusters to dominate in your niche and ensure your business comes up on the first page of Google search results. Naturally, achieving this is good for your business and a great opportunity to celebrate with cake.

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Understanding pillar pages and supporting content

The pillar page is the beating heart (OK, not literally) of each topic cluster. It’s the central focus of a topic cluster and acts as an overarching title page for all the other web pages. Supporting content adds detail to the topic and links back to the pillar page.

Let’s look at an example.

If your topic cluster is about sales training, the pillar page should be a central theme for this topic. For example, a long blog post titled ‘The 10 essential steps to successful sales training’. Then, other content in the topic cluster should link to this pillar page and add depth to the topic. For our example, this might include blogs like ‘Why sales training is important’ and ‘3 Tips for sales beginners’.

From a keyword perspective, the pillar page should focus on a broader keyword with a high search volume. Then, the supporting content that links to the pillar page should focus on longer keywords with smaller search volumes.

How do you create a topic cluster?

Typically, businesses have at least some content (even if it’s in the attic and covered in dust).

With this in mind, let’s consider the process for re-organising existing content into topic clusters:

  1. Conduct an audit of your existing content and group them as best you can into topics.
  2. Choose content that can function as pillar pages for each topic (or make a note of pillar pages to be written).
  3. Input your content into a spreadsheet to ensure everything is organised. Also, consider drawing out your clusters so you can map out how content connects with each other.

You then have the task of re-organising your content and creating the internal links to ensure all your content connects with each other in the appropriate way. If you’re using a CRM, such as HubSpot, you can assign topics and subtopics to your blog posts. This makes it easier to keep track of your topic clusters.

How to create supporting content?

Once you’ve organised your topic clusters and designated (or written) pillar pages, you’re ongoing content marketing efforts will involve building out your topic clusters with more supporting content.

This supporting content will all link to your pillar page and add depth to the topic. It needs to target specific keywords around your main topic. Building this out over time, (and adding new topic clusters) is crucial for organic growth (we’re talking about the good kind of organic growth, not the kind you need to see the doctor about).

To build a list of what your supporting content should focus on, use tools such as Ahrefs or Moz to create a list of keywords that have enough traffic volume, AND that you can also realistically rank for. As you add more supporting content that links to the topic page, you’ll naturally have to focus on longer keywords, and get more into the details of your topic.

Keeping things user-focused and relevant to your business

As you build out your topic clusters, it’s important not to get lost in the exciting adventure-land of SEO and end up forgetting about the fundamentals of marketing.

Don’t forget that all your content needs to:

  • Provide value to the user and fulfil (or exceed) their expectations.
  • Contribute to your business goals and help your personas solve one of their problems.

If the topic clusters you build aren’t on subjects that are important to your prospects, you’ll waste your time and rank for things that won’t make you money. To ensure your content is well-aligned with what prospective customers for your business might like to read, create and consistently refer to buyer-personas.

Is your business struggling with SEO?

Topic clusters are an important part of a successful SEO strategy.

We’ve covered everything you need to know to make the most of your topic clusters, but topic clusters are only part of a world-beating SEO strategy that your Nan would be proud of.

To learn more about SEO, head over to our pillar page (you know how it works now). Or, if you’d like a more in-depth snapshot of your marketing, download our free marketing maturity matrix and get real insights into where you’re at.

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See also: seo guide

Related service: SEO