I used to be the drummer in a band. We were signed to a label, we had a manager, and we'd just signed to a booking agent. I was in this band for several years, and three months before I decided to leave, we played a sold-out show to 350 people.
Two and a half years prior, when I first joined, we were only playing a few songs at the local pub to a crowd of less than 20.
I tell you this story because it aptly describes the process of search engine optimisation (SEO). Here’s why.
Good to know first: What are topic clusters?
When we're writing about SEO at Articulate, we might, and do, produce articles around some niche topics:
- LSI Keywords;
- technical SEO auditing;
- Keywords and keyword tracking;
- on-site SEO;
- and yes, topic clusters!
To improve our relevancy scores on Google, this supporting ‘cluster’ content about the ‘topic’ of SEO needs to be connected together through hyperlinks. That way, a crawler can follow the hyperlinks and connect the dots.
At its core, connecting all of this cluster content together, is a pillar page.
A pillar page is a long, in-depth blog that gives a comprehensive overview of the topic at hand. Alternatively, you could create something that looks more like a resource bank of internal and third-party links. Usually, you’d target broader, more competitive keywords for this piece than you would for your supporting content.
For example, here’s our pillar page on everything you need to know about B2B SEO. We targeted the keywords ‘B2B SEO’ and ‘SEO for technology companies’.
There's method to this madness. By tying all your content together through hyperlinks, if one piece of content performs particularly well, the entire cluster will be benefit from that 'SEO juice'.
For more information about topic clusters, watch this HubSpot video:
You can’t sell out stadiums until you play pub gigs
Back to the metaphor at hand…
Building site authority and organic traffic from search engines like Google is a slow process, and it requires ample time and a consistent output of valuable content.
Of course, we all want to index on the first page of Google, but despite your keyword strategy, you can’t just write a blog post targeted for the keyword ‘SEO’ and expect to magically appear as the number one spot.
So, what can you do?
Well, supporting content is a great way to target smaller, less competitive and niche keywords. These are your pub gigs.
Let’s take the example of ‘cloud computing’ as our main topic. By writing supporting content about areas like ‘cloud backups’ and ‘IT security’, you can begin indexing in smaller spaces and begin building domain authority across your site. These might hyperlink to a pillar page titled ‘Everything you need to know about cloud computing in 2019’.
Perhaps your blog post on IT security ends up ranking at number three for the long-tail keyword ‘what is IT security?’. By proving to Google, or any other robots that might be watching, that you have a popular answer on this subject, you can establish yourself as an authoritative source of information on cloud computing more generally.
And, because you’ve linked it all together in a topic cluster, your entire topic will reap the rewards of that one blog post’s SEO juice.
How to sell out stadiums: Go on tour
My old band and I went on tour almost non-stop for two years. As time went by, the crowds would get a little bigger and we’d gain a little more attention in the press.
It was by touring at smaller venues for an extended period of time that we were able to build our audience, outcompete other bands for headline slots, and ultimately, to sell out a 350-capacity venue and play at Glastonbury.
To index highly for competitive and highly visible keywords like ‘cloud computing’ (i.e. to sell out stadium shows), you need to consistently produce high quality, valuable and informative pieces of supporting content that relate to your target topic.
That way, you can begin to own a ‘sphere of influence’ and become an authority figure (or a rock & roll star).