As digital marketers, for years we’ve focused on keywords. Ranking for keywords, optimizing for keywords, and creating content specifically for keywords.
However, there’s a shift occurring and we need to jump onboard. That shift is from keywords to topic clusters.
Keywords are all about a specific word or phrase. Topic clusters are about covering a theme or subject completely and holistically.
A topic cluster is a collection or grouping of content structured around a main theme or subject. This grouping of content typically has a main page called the pillar page that covers the subject at a high level and links out to specific articles that dive into the subject more specifically. Topic clusters can be as few as 4-5 pages and as many as hundreds of pages.
If you’re trying to attract more traffic to your website, topic clusters make a lot of sense. Google is doing a much better job of connecting users with the right content. If you’re covering a topic completely and connecting that content strategically though a solid linking strategy, topic clusters can help you rank for tough keywords.
Topic clusters cover a subject from many angles, so if you’re trying to attract someone that is doing research about your type of product or service or topic, you’ll want to create lots of different content that talks about the different aspects of that topic. A good place to start is the who, what, when, why, where, and how.
Topic clusters should be built on your website and your blog. For simplicity’s sake, we recommend that you build your pillar page as a core page on your website and create your cluster articles as blog posts. From each blog post, you’ll link back to the pillar page. In addition, you’ll link out from the pillar page to each blog post. This allows the user to keep diving into your website, all while getting them to the information they are trying to find.
Starting a topic cluster can feel overwhelming if you’re just sitting down to think about this, but it doesn’t have to be overly complex. We’ve actually discovered that it makes content strategy and planning easier!
Let’s say you have a personal finance blog. What are some keywords you typically would want to go after? Maybe it’s “personal finance tips”. That’s a pretty competitive keyword and tough to rank for, but now you can build on that. “Personal finance tips” becomes your pillar page. From there, you can add on specific cluster pages such as:
Now you have 6 articles to write. Easy! The best part is that as you start linking your content page to the pillar page “personal finance tips”, Google will start to see that your website has a lot of good information on this topic and will want to point searchers your way.
So, how do you get started? Just think of the broad topics, subjects or themes that your audience cares about and then add specificity to each one! If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, just go to Google for inspiration to see what other people are searching for.
What do these topic clusters actually look like? Here’s a diagram we created that shows you how a cluster looks. You have your pillar page or core topic that links out to each one of those subtopics. Think back to our example above about personal finance tips. Each subtopic here would be a specific article about personal finance tips.
As marketers continue to create helpful content and structure it in a way that is helpful to users, we’ll continue to learn more about the best way to lay out our content and how to link within content. In some cases, your cluster may need to have a different link structure so that users can bounce around from subtopic to subtopic. You might consider a structure like this:
This is a big topic and can feel overwhelming, but if you break it down step by step, you’ll be well on your way to building your first topic cluster.