What Are Topic Clusters and 6 Steps to Start Improving Your Content

Looking for a way to unify your blog posts, add structure 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 a content cluster can transform a broad topic with disjointed blog posts into one focused article that enjoys significant organic traffic.  

What are topic clusters in content marketing?

Topic clusters help you organize and structure the content on your website. Instead of writing a long-form article with a broad focus, a topic cluster provides related highly specific and extensively linked subtopics. That way, you can organize your content more succinctly, and also better understand your audience’s search intent.

Also known as a “content hub,” it functions similarly to a bicycle wheel. You have your core topic as the wheel, pillar article as the central hub, with spokes containing various content cluster pages. Since they’re all connected to the main hub, it’s easy to see which one of the spokes gets the most traffic and interest. 

Rather than having one massive article with unlimited supporting points, a topic cluster lets you clearly understand your target audience’s search intent. As a bonus, it will often rise in the search rankings, since the additional structure and support from similar articles helps to support your main point. In one internal linking campaign from Ninja Outreach, they found a 40% increase in organic traffic thanks to implementing a topic cluster model. 

What’s an example of a topic cluster? 

For example, say you run a website selling shoes, and you have a long-form article that’s the definitive guide to women’s footwear. While the length of your article might make it a dominant force when it comes to search engine optimization, very few people in this shoe-buying target audience would want to read 6,000 words on buying shoes. So chances are, this article isn’t getting the traction you’d like. 

That’s where a topic cluster comes in handy for crafting your content marketing strategy. Rather than one massive article on women’s footwear, you can break this topic into smaller, more targeted topics. So you would have several articles on topics including boots, sandals, sneakers, stilettos, wedges, etc.

Restructure your article, so your topic is in a pillar article on shoe-buying. Here you can provide a strong topic overview establishing your subject matter expertise. But you can repurpose a lot of the topics in the initial article into smaller, supporting articles.

topic clusters
Topic clusters help you organize complex subjects.

Spin them out into separate cluster content pages, including several internal links that connect them all. Be sure to link any similar articles on your site to this main cluster. If you notice any gaps in your content, make sure you fill those in as well. 

Once you’ve published your articles, see where you’re getting traction so you can identify user intent. If you notice your audience is loving your page on sneakers but ignoring the one on stilettos, you might want to gear your future content marketing strategy more towards casual footwear versus formal shoes.

Because your content is both insightful, well-researched, and organized, you should see substantial gains in your search engine results as a result of incorporating this strategy.

How do I create a topic cluster?

So how do you get from one meandering article with low monthly search volume to become a content hub with extraordinary thought leadership? A topic cluster consists of a few key components that shape and define a specific topic. This combination will help establish you as an authority on your topic in a way that both search engines and readers will recognize. Here are a few guidelines to get you started with those initial content topics.

1. Audit your content.

Often the initial content creation process can be the most difficult part of your content marketing strategy. But before you get going on establishing your core topic and doing keyword research, a content plan can help you see what type of content you need, and what you already have. That way, you’ll be able to produce high-quality content that will outshine your competitors in a search query. But when you do the initial content audit and that lines up with your overarching goal for your content, you’ll be sure to create strategic content for your audience.

2. Establish your core topic. 

What will you be writing about? Have a clearly defined focus keyword for your equally clearly defined target audience. Include basics like a list of keywords and other types of content to shape your topic. Setting the stage in this way will ensure your message resonates with the appropriate target customers. 

3. Anchor with a pillar article

A pillar article sets the stage for the topic and is usually a broad overview of what you’ll discuss. It delves deeper into your core topic, where you get an overview. Instead, it will include insights including the scope of your overall topic cluster. So in the shoe example, your core pillar topic would be the shoe overview.

4. Create your content cluster pages. 

These cluster pages, also known as subpages or subtopic pages, will link back to the main topic, and supplement your main topic. These pages can be extremely helpful for augmenting a user journey. So if you’re reading that fabulous shoe article, you can easily find the clear link to the flip flop page if you want better insight into summer footwear. You won’t have to read a long, bloated article in order to find your intended search terms.

5. Organize internal linking. 

Continue guiding users on this content journey by organizing internal links. You want to make sure your audience has the right tools, aka “cluster pages,” it needs to fully answer any user query. Rather than looking at all shoes, organized internal links can send you directly to what you’re looking for. 

6. Use analytics to track your results

google-analytics

What gets measured gets done, and using SEO tools like Google Analytics can give you great insights as to the success of your topic cluster. 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. 

How do topic clusters help your SEO?

The ability to organize your content ideas into pillar pages, identify core topics and core pillars can be a key component of your digital marketing strategy both from a user experience perspective, but also when it comes to SEO. Both the Google algorithm and average readers like to read well-structured. For SERPs, semantic keywords are a plus, but even a casual reader will often gravitate towards cohesive articles with clear objectives.

So it makes sense that a cluster strategy would benefit most websites, from massive B2B industries to small bloggers who need a boost in search engines. When you can synthesize your key points succinctly and clearly, people and even machines want to read what you have to say. 

What if I’m not seeing results from my topic clusters? 

While several bloggers and companies have had tremendous success transforming long-form content into topic clusters, extraordinary results might not always be the case. If you’re still lacking the traffic boost you’re looking for, go back to your core keyword and make sure your pillar article and cluster pages are supporting 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 in order 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 keywords like strawberry or caramel that you should pay attention to in order to boost your results?
  • Does this topic cluster match my company’s overall mission and area of expertise? If not, how can you make sure that what you’re writing about lines up 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 article to index on Google. You might also want to make sure your technical SEO components are optimized. When you write targeted, well-structured articles that your audience cares about, you should soon see the results you want.

Need help creating topic clusters?

While topic clusters can generate big results in your content marketing strategy, it can be difficult to implement this strategy alone. That’s where the experts at rellify come in. Their expert content teams can work with your business to help audit your content. They’ll also help you hone in on your audience, and create quality articles people want to read. Contact them for a consultation so you can make sure your new articles and content clusters are delivering the value you need.