Looking for a way to unify your blog posts, add structure and purpose to an overly long piece of content, and see massive gains in the search rankings? Incorporating topic clusters could be an ideal way to improve your website’s user experience and refine your content strategy.
Read on to learn how the use of a content cluster can transform a broad topic with disjointed blog posts into a focused strategy that produces significant organic traffic.
What are topic clusters in content marketing?
A topic cluster is a series of articles that covers various aspects of a single broad topic that is selected strategically to achieve content marketing goals. Topic clusters help you organize and structure the content on your website. Considering your marketing goals and target audience, you create a topic cluster of specific, related subtopics. Individually and as a whole, this content satisfies the search intent of potential customers.
Also known as a “content hub,” its structure resembles a bicycle wheel. Your core topic is the wheel itself. The central hub is the pillar page—a longer, wide-ranging article on the cope topic. The spokes are the various content cluster pages, each on a specific subject.
Why do I need topic clusters in content marketing?
Topic clusters make it easier for search engines to understand and rank your website. Creating a more comprehensive and interconnected set of content that covers a wider range of related topics helps establish your authority in your industry or niche. This can lead to higher rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). You may see increased organic traffic to your site and, ultimately, more conversions and sales. One internal linking campaign from Ninja Outreach found a 40% increase in organic traffic to their web pages thanks to implementing a topic cluster model.
In short, topic clusters help you:
- Create content that’s more comprehensive and interconnected, and optimized for search engines.
- Improve user experience on your site.
- Support your overall content marketing strategy.
It can also create content more efficiently. Once you’ve done the bulk of the work creating a pillar page, topic cluster pages are simpler to create since the research will apply to all of that content.
What’s an example of a topic cluster?
For example, let’s say you run a website selling shoes. You have a long-form article that’s the definitive guide to women’s footwear. While the length of your article might promote your “E-A-T”—expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness—the search results show that few people in your shoe-buying target audience want to read 6,000 words on the subject. This article, and your strategy behind it, isn’t working.
Instead of hoping that one massive article with the targeted keyword “women’s footwear” will do the trick, you can use it as the hub of your topic cluster. You then break the topic of “women’s footwear” into smaller, more targeted topics, based on keyword research.
Restructure your original article on “women’s footwear” to be a pillar article that gives an overview of the subject with a focus on shoe-buying. This article is tighter and more concise than the original, but still provides an authoritative review of the subject to establish subject matter expertise. You probably can pull some of the original’s material into your new “spoke” articles. These smaller, supporting articles might cover topics like boots, sandals, sneakers, stilettos, wedges, shoe sizes, summer footwear, and style trends.
Organize your site to clearly show the relationship of these articles and make the effort of internally linking related content. Add internal links from the hub article to the cluster content and from spoke to spoke.
Once you’ve published your articles, see where you’re getting traction so you can sharpen your understanding of user intent. Suppose you notice your audience is loving your page on sneakers but ignoring the one on stilettos. In that case, you might want to gear your future content marketing strategy towards casual footwear versus formal shoes. You might also improve the search engine optimization facets of that underperforming article.
Because your content is relevant, insightful, well-researched, organized, and strategized, you should see substantial gains and more organic traffic.
How do I create a topic cluster?
So how do you get from one meandering article with disappointing search volume to a series of articles that boost each other’s success? A topic cluster consists of a few key components that work together. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Audit your existing content
Before you begin creating content, audit your website and that of your competitors to see what you already have and what you need. At rellify, our experienced experts perform thorough content audits. One of the main focuses of our free content audits is topic coverage or content gap analysis, which sets the foundation of a content strategy. That way, you can produce high-quality content that will outshine your competitors in a search query.
2. Establish your core topic
Based on the audit and additional keyword research, plus your marketing goals, you select a core topic or topics. Some of your subtopics—the spokes from your hub article—will use long-tail keywords to draw in different sets of readers who are on different points of the customer journey. Each article also will have a set of specific keywords meant to improve SEO performance, site authority, and search results. Now the stage is set for producing quality content.
3. Anchor with a pillar article
Write a pillar article to establish a base for the topic. Use the core topic as the focus keyword. However, if your core topic is broad enough, you might have more than one pillar article. One will have the core topic as the focus keyword. Choose the focus keyword for the others based on your research.
4. Create your content cluster pages
These cluster pages, also known as subpages or subtopic pages, will expand on the pillar article and include links to it and each other. These pages can help direct a customer journey from research to purchase. The structure of the pillar article should make it easy to find the section on summer footwear, and a reader interested in flip-flops can click on the link to it. Or, a Google search might take a reader straight to the spoke article.
5. Organize internal linking
If we have not made it clear by now, internal linking is a vital part of this strategy. Organizing internal links is a way of guiding users on the content journey. You want to give your audience the right tools, aka “cluster pages,” that will fully answer any user query. The traffic generated by those links also signals to Google that your site has authority and relevance.
6. Use analytics to track your results
What gets measured gets done, and SEO tools like Google Analytics can give you great insights into the success of this marketing strategy. Track the average user journey. What part of the content do your users like? What aren’t they reading? Use these analytics to guide your content strategy and next steps.
What if I’m not seeing results from my topic clusters?
While several bloggers and companies have successfully transformed long-form content into multiple topic clusters, extraordinary results might not always be the case. If you still lack the traffic boost you’re looking for, go back to your core keyword and ensure your pillar article and cluster pages support it effectively. Here are a few questions to consider.
- Have you identified the appropriate target topics your audience really cares about?
- Are there gaps in supporting pages you need to fill to be the industry authority? So if you’re writing a topic cluster about ice cream, do you only have the basics like chocolate and vanilla? Are there other related keywords like strawberry or caramel that you should pay attention to boost your results?
- Does this particular topic cluster match my company’s overall mission and area of expertise? If not, how can you ensure that what you’re writing about aligns with those objectives?
If you can answer those questions and still aren’t seeing a content boost, be patient. Sometimes it takes a while for your pillar pages and their offshoots to index on Google. You might also want to make sure your technical SEO components are optimized. When you write targeted, well-structured articles your audience cares about, you should soon see the desired search engine results.
Need help creating topic clusters?
While topic clusters can generate big results in your content marketing strategy, they can be difficult to implement effectively on your own. That’s where the experts at rellify come in. Their expert content teams can work with your business to help produce an in-depth content audit. They’ll also help you hone in on your audience and create quality content people want to read. Contact them for a consultation to ensure your new articles and content clusters deliver the value you need.