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How Topic Clusters Can Improve Your SEO

When optimizing your website and entire digital ecosystem for search engines, you are constantly at odds with the latest changes and algorithm changes.

Countless site owners have seen their excellent rankings falling rapidly after a major or minor update, leaving them trying to figure out what went wrong and how to remedy the problem – often hysterically.

Or there's the other scenario: you've done everything by the book, optimizing your pages every way you knew existed, but your traffic still needs to be available. You've tried using even less competitive keywords, improved your UX, and decreased loading speeds to the speed of light, but you still need help. Content marketing needs to be improved. 

You must mix things up and focus on topic clusters instead of individual keywords.

Why are topic clusters meaningful, and what are they exactly? 

As you might have guessed, this article will try to explain the “science” behind topic clusters and help you adapt it to your SEO strategy to help you boost your rankings.

What Are Topic Clusters? 

Topic clusters are several pieces of content you group by a shared main topic and several related subtopics. As a whole entity, these pages will offer total coverage of a particular case that lets your visitors satisfy their hunger for knowledge (and search query) while spending more time on your website. 

For the most part, topic clusters consist of three main elements:

1. The Pillar Page with the Core Topic

Pillar pages should cover a broader range of user intents. Pillar pages and topic clusters work together to give readers enough information and value to have them click through the available pieces of content regardless of their position in the buyer's journey. 

2. Supporting Pages or Cluster Pages, Covering Related Subjects More In-Depth

SEO cluster pages usually have a much more detailed focus on specific user questions and intent. These pages and content aren't just about cramming keywords into a wall of text. These pages showcase knowledge and usable information about a specific topic or topic.

3. Appropriate Internal Linking Between The Pages

The links from the cluster to the pillar pages signal to search engines that the pillar is the most crucial page in the entire group. The links from pillar pages with high authority to cluster content pass on the authoritative characteristics to the rest of the pages within the group. On that note, each link should have an anchor text that adequately describes where it will take the reader. Simultaneously, this will help search engines better understand what's linked to the page.

How To Create Topic Clusters – Quick Recap

So, how do you use topic clusters? First, you have your pillar page, the base of your core topic or information architecture. Then, you add your cluster pages covering more specific details about the same issue. 

Still, the cluster model (and the content in it) should always address the customer journey as well. You don't want to create content to create it. That said, content clusters should also focus on answering the questions that may arise during the buyer journey. You must provide valuable insights and position your services and products as the ideal solution. 

On that note, some marketers and site owners typically focus too much on the bottom end of the buyer's funnel, forcing a sale almost at the very beginning. On the other hand, you also have experts who prefer using more or less only top-of-funnel topics that drive traffic but might not lead to successful sales. 

In essence, both of these ideas take you away from pillar pages and topic clusters. It would be best to cover the entire journey (or funnel) with valuable content from start to finish. 

On the other hand, no buyer's journey is linear, so it's essential to cover as many subtopics within a more prominent subject as possible to maximize the potential for conversions. 

Still, you must understand that not everyone consuming your content will also become your customers. It's simply how things are. On that note, you will need to quench the thirst of those looking for information and serve those looking to make a deal. To that end, if you only focus on purchase intent keywords, you will only be able to rank if you have several topics related to your product pages

Why Consider SEO Topic Clusters

Ask any digital marketing agency providing professional SEO services, and they will tell you that since the 2013 Google Hummingbird introduction, the way content marketing functions has changed completely. The emphasis on pages and keywords has subsided, and pillar pages, subtopics, and content clusters have taken center stage. These all force site owners to create sites with high-quality topics and topical authority. 

That said, before the Hummingbird shift, inbound marketing was reasonably straightforward. Content strategies focused on finding prevalent search queries; writers would craft blog articles to match those topics and phrases. Each of these pages was optimized to rank for a particular term, and more focus was dedicated to single pages and less to the website as a whole entity. 

This eventually led to large sites with several pages that almost had identical content, as they were targeting so many phrases and keywords that they lost track, and the content was pretty shallow, without any depth and knowledge to satisfy the needs and search intent of knowledgeable users. 

As search engines are getting more innovative when determining expertise, topic clusters are getting increasingly popular as content strategists know that they are an effective way to build authority. 

Nowadays, not having a content strategy that uses the topic cluster tactic is at a disadvantage. For low authority sites, getting a meaningful ranking is almost impossible, with separate pages covering completely different topics, not linked together. 

WordPress – Using Topic Clusters “Before It Was Cool”

Some people had known about the benefits of topic clusters before they became a trend. The idea isn't exactly news – WordPress has been using a similar concept called “category.”

WP's categories and topic clusters are similar. In WordPress, every category presents a topic cluster, but only some clusters will constitute a category. To make things easier to grasp, a website that sells electronics may choose to have a class called “entertainment” while keeping video game consoles as separate clusters.  

On that note, no rules are written in stone about your site with topic clusters. 

Typically, it is recommended to have a minimum of four pieces of content in a group, but this is merely a guideline. Your content strategy might require several pieces of content within a topic cluster, and you can release them individually as planned.

Even established websites can benefit from the concept of topic clusters. To reorganize an existing website, the initial step involves conducting a content audit. This entails listing all blog posts and categorizing them into relevant topics and subtopics. Over time, this process will result in content clusters you can interlink later.

Why Are Topic Clusters Important for SEO

When done correctly, topic clusters can help you improve your SEO results in two ways. First, you will get an increase in your website's authority; second, the overall page ranking will improve because the clustered pages (topics) are all interlinked.

While experts usually state that this is speculation, it makes sense in practice. Google has already mentioned that they want relevant results matching users' search intent. To that end, topic clusters can thoroughly cover a subject that can lead to higher rankings as the group of topics will have a higher chance of satisfying search intent. 

If nothing else, the internal linking tactics help improve PageRank and, at the same time, boost the SERP performance of even those pages that otherwise underperform.

On the other hand, we can always look at good topic cluster examples or websites that have implemented this content strategy and constantly rank high. Sure, they may also have focused on other optimization aspects of on-page SEO, like improving user experience, but if you also use both, success is guaranteed.

Topic clusters offer benefits no matter the scale of your website. If you're looking for site expansion, it's best to implement topic clusters without delay. It's important to note that the effectiveness of content organization becomes more pronounced as your onsite content volume grows. In principle, having more content increases the potential coverage of a topic, assuming each post is genuinely comprehensive.

Establishing topic clusters is a simple task. While addressing all user intents relevant to your business can be demanding, following the framework we've outlined here is well within the capabilities of a dedicated content marketer.

Topic Cluster Examples

Until This point, we've covered the theoretics regarding topic clusters. Below, I'd like to talk briefly about real-life examples to see how they can be implemented into a content strategy. 

B2C Examples

Most topic cluster examples may stem from the B2B real, but they are just as effective in business-to-client settings. 

Let's take a site that sells gamer PC parts and configurations. All you need to do is create a comprehensive topic cluster around building the ultimate gaming PC. That would serve as your pillar content, covering all the essential aspects like storage, motherboard, GPI, cases, and other components. The pillar page should have robust internal links to related content and guides, such as the best PC games, tips, tricks, and, further, more specific directions for building pro or beginner gamer PC configurations. 

B2B Examples

Regarding business-to-business topic cluster examples, most experts will talk about Gremlin's cluster about chaos engineering. The group used to be more similar to a category page with text, but as time progressed, the pillar page became more text-heavy, with several links to other pages that focus on the given topic more in-depth.

The site isn't bombarding visitors with product pages and forms. They want the user to click on more in-depth topics while conservatively dropping a few links that allow users to join the site's engineering community. 

This is an excellent tactic to introduce users to the topics covered on the pages while slowly introducing them to the products and services that may serve as solutions. 

Don't Underestimate The Power Of Topic Clusters

Creating topic clusters can be demanding, as it requires you to have a well-developed content strategy for placing them on your website, work out a hierarchy, and, last but not least, produce precious, informative, expert content. 

All of this takes time and effort. Unfortunately, most of us in the digital realm want rapid results and overnight increases in our rankings. Using topic clusters isn't a “miracle strategy” that will blast you from anonymity to the first page of Google in a matter of days. It's a long-term investment that has the potential to increase your authority and digital credibility and improve the time users spend on your site and, ultimately, your conversions.

Remember that content is still king.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are topic clusters in SEO?
Topic clusters are interlinked web pages centered around a central topic, ensuring comprehensive coverage and better search visibility.

How do topic clusters benefit SEO?
Topic clusters boost SEO by improving site structure, enhancing user experience, and increasing topical authority.

Why are pillar pages essential in topic clusters?
Pillar pages are the central hub, providing broad topic coverage and linking to related subtopics, ensuring a cohesive content structure.

How do internal links play a role in topic clusters?
Internal links connect the pillar page to related subtopics, signaling search engines about the content hierarchy and boosting page authority.

What's the difference between traditional SEO and topic cluster SEO?
Traditional SEO focuses on individual keywords, while topic cluster SEO emphasizes holistic, interconnected content around core topics.

How do topic clusters enhance user experience?
By providing comprehensive coverage of a topic, users can easily navigate and find relevant information, improving their overall site experience.

Are topic clusters suitable for all websites?
While especially beneficial for content-rich sites, any website aiming for better organization and SEO can benefit from topic clusters.

How often should I update my topic clusters?
Regularly reviewing and updating your topic clusters ensures they remain relevant, comprehensive, and aligned with current SEO best practices.

How do topic clusters relate to the buyer's journey?
Topic clusters address various stages of the buyer's journey, ensuring content caters to users at different locations, from awareness to decision.

What's the future of topic clusters in SEO?
With the increasing emphasis on user intent and holistic content, topic clusters are poised to remain a cornerstone of effective SEO strategies.

How do I start implementing topic clusters on my website?
Begin by identifying core topics relevant to your audience. Create a pillar page for each core topic and produce related subtopic content. Ensure proper internal linking between the pillar and subtopic pages.

Do topic clusters affect website loading speed?
Topic clusters primarily affect site structure and content organization. While they don't directly impact loading speed, a well-organized site can enhance user experience, leading to better engagement.

Can small businesses benefit from topic clusters?
Absolutely! Topic clusters can help small businesses establish authority in their niche by providing comprehensive coverage on relevant topics, making them more competitive in search rankings.

How do topic clusters differ from content silos?
While both aim to organize content, content silos are more about segregating content into distinct categories without much interlinking. Topic clusters, on the other hand, emphasize interconnectivity between related content.

Is there a recommended number of subtopics for each pillar page?
There's no fixed number, but it's essential to ensure comprehensive coverage of the core topic. Depending on the subject's depth, this could range from a handful to dozens of subtopics.

How do I measure the success of my topic clusters?
Monitor metrics like organic traffic, search rankings for core and subtopic keywords, user engagement, and conversion rates. An increase in these metrics can indicate the effectiveness of your topic clusters.

Do topic clusters affect backlinking strategies?
Yes, having a well-structured content approach with topic clusters can make your content more link-worthy, attracting quality backlinks from authoritative sites in your niche.

How often should I review my topic clusters?
Regular reviews, at least annually, are recommended. Please stay updated with industry trends, user needs, and search algorithm changes to ensure your topic clusters remain relevant and practical.

Do you know if I can use existing content to form topic clusters?
Definitely! Conduct a content audit to categorize existing content into relevant topics and subtopics. Then, identify gaps, create pillar pages, and ensure proper internal linking to form topic clusters.

Are there tools to help with topic cluster implementation?
Yes, several SEO and content planning tools, like HubSpot's Content Strategy Tool and SEMrush's Topic Research Tool, can assist in identifying core topics and planning your topic cluster strategy.

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