Pssst! Wanna hear a secret?
One that your competition likely hasn’t heard of or started using yet?
A secret that could help your brand or business’ website see more traffic, get more conversions, rank higher with Google and achieve greater authority in the market?
They’re called topic clusters. And they’re your secret weapon when it comes to creating SEO-optimised subtopic content for the modern search engine.
What are topic clusters
In the past, search engines had to rely on keywords and keyphrases to find relevant content for their users.
So the more keywords you included on a page or in a piece of content, the higher it was likely to rank in search engine results. And if you had multiple, interlinked articles featuring those same keywords in abundance, the results would be even better.
But modern search engine algorithms have outgrown such simple strategies. So much so that using too many keywords can actually work against your ranking now.
Today’s more advanced algorithms are looking much deeper than just keywords. And breakthroughs like “voice search” have changed the way search engines like Google determine Search Engine Page Results (SERPs).
As search engine algorithms started to get more sophisticated, and favour more topic-based content over the last couple of years, new and more complex ranking factors emerged.
And some concepts that had been there all along were suddenly given new importance.
Like topic clusters.
A topic cluster starts with a single piece of high quality, broad topic content called pillar content.
From there, a series of related content pieces are built around the content pillar. Where pillar content should be comprehensive and in-depth, related articles or pages are free to focus more narrowly on sub-topics and specifics.
Interlinking all these pages and connecting them to the pillar content is what creates a topic cluster. And gives it its power.
Topic clusters organise your content; first by determining a core topic, then by producing multiple, relevant content pieces on subtopics around it.
And right now, they’re the new big thing in next-level SEO.
How to effectively use topic clusters
Like we said in the intro, your pillar content is the foundation for the entire topic cluster. If it’s strong, then you’re building from a good base.
Strong pillar content ought to evergreen. It should be as helpful and relevant five years from now as it is today. That’s why it’s good to revisit pillar content regularly. And update it as needed.
Think of pillar content as a hub for the rest of your content. Where the information is more broad based than encyclopedic. Let subsequent pieces of content dive into details or veer off on tangents. Pillar content deals in big picture stuff.
This subtopic content can come in just about any form you like. And search engines appreciate it when you mix things up. So don’t be afraid to interlink infographics, social media updates and videos in addition to blog posts, articles and new pages.
You know you’re audience best. So run with what works for them.
Clearly define what your primary goal is. And start with that as your main topic.
Maybe there’s a particular product or service you’re looking to promote. Or something new you want to introduce to potential customers.
How you proceed will depend on your business goals. And might depend on whether you already have a developed business and website.
Free online tools like Google Analytics can tell you where people are clicking on your site, which pages are being visited most often and where users spend most of their time. So if you’re starting from scratch, data like this might help give the best idea of where to begin.
Once your pillar content in place, it’s time to begin creating the network of related content that, once interlinked, will form your new topic cluster. These are the more focused pieces of subtopic content that you will use to attract new readers, and hopefully new customers, to your business.
Content should always be tailored to your target audience. So think about subjects relevant to your key topic that might be of interest to them.
If you’re struggling to find ideas, resources like Keyword.io and Answerthepublic.com are great for helping with subtopic content. Keep in mind – this related content is what can really generate lots of new traffic for you. So it’s every bit as important to the larger topic cluster as the pillar content at the centre of it all.
Like everything else you publish for SEO, these articles need to be meaningful, informative, and enjoyable to read. Quality means the most to search engines. So make every word count.
Because you never can tell which article is going to stick. And be the “gateway” piece of content that attracts readers to your site, compelling them to stick around and sample more of what you’ve got to offer.
By linking content clusters together, you create a network of related content that pulls relevant readers in. Because you’ve written about topics that interest them. So you get new leads that may later be converted into regular customers.
They’re also a great way to retain more of the customers you already have. And rank better on search engines.
How topic clusters boost your rankings
The secret behind getting topic clusters to work for SEO is in organising your content around main topics and then linking them.
Because search engines use the combined strength of your assembled articles to rank your website instead of individual keywords. They also look at backlinks. And consider social media shares; anything that helps pull in organic traffic.
And the higher you rank with search engines, the better your visibility is going be. Your website authority goes up too.
Keep in mind, that when you write numerous articles on similar topics, some are going to get more visitors than others. But since authority is shared with other linked articles in the cluster, you’ll reap SEO benefits by association anyway.
It’s all about high rankings through topic clusters – your website is ranked by the whole cluster on one main topic. So if you have a bunch of connected topic clusters, your chances for better rankings go up a lot.
Since modern search engine algorithms use semantic understanding, it’s more important than ever to write for humans.
Don’t exclude keywords. Just use them naturally inside of well-written content that can be linked together to form topic clusters, and you’ve got a brand new weapon at your disposal in the neverending battle for SEO supremacy.