SEO is evolving fast, and Google has been changing its algorithms very often hence making it vital to understand how to keep up. Topic clusters are one of the significant ways that you can now use in 2020 to help you rank higher. However, not many people use topic clusters simply because they don’t think they are very efficient or do not even know about them. Using topic clusters is a great marketing technique that allows you to show your proficiency in a specific niche hence enabling you to stand out. That way, you can show your mastery to Google through your content, thus ranking high. Here, we look at the different ways of how using topic clusters can help to optimize your content and rank higher. These tips are among the best that I also use, which is why I am sharing them with you. So, read on to see the secret.
So, what are topic clusters?
A topic cluster is a collection of content pieces that are somehow related to other pieces of content. For instance, if the major topic is link building, then the subtopics might be guest posting, prospecting, outreach and broken link building. From this example, you can see that all these topics are closely related, which makes them fall under the same topic cluster.
What is the point of all of this?
After conducting my research for some time, I noticed that Google and other search engines love well researched and topic-based content more compared to substandard articles stuffed with keywords. Understanding this is what helps to use topic clusters in the best way to get effective and fast results. I also learned that Google wants more expertise, consistency, and value from you. So, using topic clusters helps to craft quality content and organize it professionally to meet Google’s standards. Google loves crawling sites that are easy to navigate. So, having a well-organized website and content will enable you to rank higher.
The Anatomy of a Topic Cluster
So, you now know what a topic cluster is but still can’t picture how it really looks like? Let me break it down for you. A topic cluster contains the following parts:
- Pillar page- Every topic cluster starts with the main topic, which is what’s called a pillar page. This is usually a page that contains content about a general subject such as link building. So, the content on this page should be long-form, detailed, and easy to read. Also, the pillar page must be well structured, and include some sub-headings and links to other authoritative related pages.
- Content clusters- Content clusters refer to supporting articles of the pillar page. The cluster must not always be long form but should be organized and comprehensive. Let’s say that a pillar is- Everything you need to know about link building, then the content cluster can be effective guest posting tips that you can use in 2020.
- Hyperlinks- Hyperlinks are the major and final element that you use to tie your topic clusters together. Therefore, you need to include some internal links in all content clusters to the pillar page to help Google know that they are related. Doing so shows Google that you are an expert in that particular topic, and they might rank your site higher.
How do content clusters affect your search position?
Topic clusters usually enable Google to understand the content on your website. So, Google does not focus on keywords only nowadays, but also checks your level of expertise. Creating topic clusters allows you to build more authority and prove to Google that your content is valuable and what readers are looking for. That way, Google sees that your content can be trusted hence ranking you accordingly. Also, you must ensure your content structure is understandable and incredibly clean to help Google index your site faster. Moreover, topic clusters enable you to perform a perfect internal linking hence driving tons of traffic to your website. Having more traffic is great as it also shows Google that people trust you and your content, thus increasing the chances of you being ranked higher.
How to Create Topic Clusters
Creating topic clusters might seem very tricky to some people, but it does not have to be. To help you understand how to do it accurately to get fast results, let me take you through the entire process, step by step.
Review Your Content
It is highly likely that you already have some content that you can use to turn into a topic cluster. For me, I thought it was a great idea first to take a close look at some keywords that I had targeted in the past and my articles that’d ranked highest on Google. I examined them for a while then asked myself what I could do to get more results from them. What subtopics could I create? What questions do people have about these topics? I realized that I could easily export all this information from my Google Analytics account since it’s connected to the Google Search Console. However, it’s vital to note that Google does not send historical data from the console to your analytics. So, you will only receive data from the date you connected the two. Since I had connected mine some time back, I took a custom report to see which pages and search queries were bringing users to my site.
Determine the Pillar Topics and Subtopics That You Want to Rank For
After going through my existing content, I decided to take some time to come up with fresh and unique pillar topics. Since I understood that a pillar topic should be something that my audience needs great help with, I had to ensure I came up with a generalized and relevant niche. First, I had to try and understand why people were searching for the generalized topic I wanted to write on, and what their expectations were. Therefore, I spent time checking Google search results to see the pages that were ranking high and how their content was crafted. I then brainstormed some ideas and did thorough keyword research using the SEMrush keyword magic tool. Using this tool also enabled me to determine the unique terms that most people search for within the topic. Another major advantage of using the SEMrush tool is that it helped me to determine the popularity of certain keywords and the difficulty of ranking for them (keyword difficulty column). Doing so enabled me to see that I had to focus on specific and unique keywords first, then move to the broad ones later. Another tool I used that I’d highly recommend is Answer the Public. For this tool, all I had to do was type a keyword in the search bar, and it produced the exact questions that people use when Googling for related items and keywords. Answer the Public also uses data from Google auto-suggest features and inspires to help answer the questions that people have on the pillar topic. That way, I could choose my keywords more wisely to get effective results.
Interlink Your Content
The thread that usually binds the topic clusters together is what’s called the internal link. After creating my pillar and subtopic pages, I had to make sure all my content was interlinked. So, I linked every subtopic page to my pillar page, but you can also connect one subtopic to another. Another great idea that huge blogs use nowadays is having a table of contents containing some links to every content cluster or subtopic page. So, clicking on one chapter leads the reader to more links at the bottom of my page, which is excellent for SEO. However, you must avoid using the same anchor text every time you link to the pillar page as that can cause Google to penalize your site. To help me avoid any penalization, I tried mixing things up and combine using both optimized and non-optimized text. That way, my content appeared unique and valuable, thus allowing me to stand out.
Track, Measure, And Edit
It will take some time before you notice significant results from your topic clusters, which is where being patient comes in. I waited for about two weeks before I started seeing results, then looked for an SEO tool to help me track, measure, and tweak some things. The SEO tool that I used is Google Analytics. This tool has a Content Groupings feature that helps to put a large logical structure around your blogs. There are so many SEO tools that can be used out there. However, ensure that the one you use has a traffic analysis feature. Using traffic analysis helped me to get deeper inside my clusters and evaluate their performance in terms of customer acquisition, sessions, conversions, and so on. I also ensured I keep a close eye on the bounce rate to enable me to see how useful my topic clusters are to the users. I also saw it as a great idea to have a position tracking campaign. Doing this helped me to see how my rankings were growing even before my site started receiving some traffic. This is helpful as it enables you to evaluate what you should expect after you drive traffic to your site.
The Benefits of Pillar Pages
Pillar pages help you to provide content with all the information that users need. As a website owner, here are some of the best benefits that I have received from my pillar pages that you can also look out for:
- Pillar pages allow users to spend more time on my site. I made sure that there was more than enough valuable content for people to consume. So, that makes them spend a lot of time on my pages, thus boosting my SEO effectively.
- These pages help you to get backlinks and many social media shares. Pillar pages are usually shared a lot on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram hence allowing you to reach thousands of people. That way, you get many visitors on your content, showing search engines that you’re providing valuable information thus ranking you higher.
- The content on pillar pages is evergreen. So, the value of it does not decrease, thus allowing you to receive lifetime benefits from it. That way, your site continues to rank high on Google search results with little or no effort.
When generating ideas for some pillar content, especially for my clients, I always want to make sure that they have the necessary permission to talk about those topics on their sites. Why? Google always ensures that it only ranks content that is created by professionals. Doing so allows them to make sure that users get information from experts alone who have dedicated their time to deliver in-depth content. So, Google believes that you should not create any content if you are not an expert in that niche. Doing that would mean that you are only publishing content to drive traffic to your website without considering if it is of excellent quality. Therefore, I always enquire from clients what their websites are about to see whether I am an expert in that niche, and if their site is related to it too. That way, I can craft high-quality content that will drive traffic and also impress Google to help rank the website higher according to the client’s expectations. While it might take me quite long to create some pillar content posts compared to writing short blogs, the results are always great and worth it. Also, using topic clusters is a fantastic way to boost your content marketing while positioning yourself as a master in your niche. Doing all this might seem like a lengthy and confusing process, but with the above guidance, you can get it right. So, you must use topic clusters efficiently and accurately to help you get the desired results.