Is topic clustering the next big thing?

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Date: 23 January 2020

A digital marketing specialist works on a laptop to organise her site’s content.

As marketers, our challenge is to constantly find new ways to improve our content and drive traffic to it. And the rate at which search engines change their algorithms only increases that challenge.

If you're struggling with staying ahead of the curve, worry not. We can help you fine-tune your digital marketing strategies based on what's going on right now.

Here we explore how to ensure your content is reaching its intended audiences, by looking at the question: is topic clustering the new thing in SEO?

A change in search behaviour

How people search the internet has evolved since the dawn of Google. Back then, a series of slow manual clicks from "Life Drawing" to "Life Drawing London" to "Art Classes London" to "Life Drawing Classes London" was the way to navigate the great plains of the internet.

Now, 64% of people use at least four words when searching online. This makes sense, since voice search is increasing in popularity. A typical voice search would be: "Hey *internet assistant of choice*, are there any life drawing classes happening in London this week?"

But what does this mean for content marketing?

The movement away from manual searching means that searches themselves are far more specific, but less applicable to long-tail keywords. Because of this movement, search engine algorithms are being altered to work in favour of topic-based, broad content rather than keywords.

The new challenge then, for marketers, is to organise our content in a way that favours topic-based searches. Cue our friend, the topic cluster model.

What is the topic cluster model?

Simply put, topic clusters are a collection of interlinked pages or articles that all relate to one umbrella topic. The end goal is to provide maximum visibility for your content, so it can be understood and indexed by search engines.

The three key components of a topic cluster

1. The pillar page

The pillar page is a single page which acts as the main hub for content on a given topic.

You want to make this topic broad enough that numerous other sub-topics and related pages can link back to it, but specific enough that you can write about the whole topic in one article on your pillar page.

For example, 'inbound marketing' is a monolith of a topic, and far too broad to be comprehensively explained in one article.

On the other hand, 'low budget marketing' gives you enough space to touch on the different areas surrounding it, but is also a relatively contained topic in its own right.

2. Cluster content

Content clusters are the interlinked pages or articles that relate to one another, as well as back to your pillar page topic.

Let's say you search 'low budget marketing'. As your search expands, specific questions come to light. The role of your content cluster is to provide answers to all the possible questions.

For example, questions that relate to low budget marketing might be "what's the most cost-effective social media marketing platform?", or "what should my marketing budget be?" You would want the answers to these questions to be in your cluster content.

3. Hyperlinks

The final step of the content clustering is to ensure that all your content is linked together and to your pillar page. This is where we use hyperlinks.

Essentially, hyperlinks ensure that all your subtopics are linking back to your pillar page. This tells search engines that your pages are a source of authority when it comes to that topic and, thus, can improve your domain authority and your ranking.

What are the benefits of topic clustering?

In terms of SEO, content or topic clustering increases search traffic with decreased search volume. For a given search topic, the idea is that the user revisits your pages over and over, giving your domain an authority recognised by search engines. The result? Your ranking goes up!

Your pillar page should be an exhaustive exploration of your main topic, so when users are driven to your page, they know exactly what you're about. Your clustered content should be expansive, and show users that you really know your stuff.

Make sure you keep updating content so you keep your rankings up; don't let your content become stagnant, as this will weaken the user experience and lower your ranking.

How to create a topic cluster

Luckily, topic clusters are easier to create than they are to explain. Here are the simple steps to follow:

  1. Take a look through your existing content: If you've done any keyword research in the past (and chances are that you have), you will already be in a position to decide on your topic cluster.
  2. Pick your pillar page: Look at your content and assess its performance - a high traffic page will make the ideal pillar page.
  3. Locate your subtopics: As you are sorting through your content, you can locate complementary sources that will make great internal links. We recommend aiming for between five and ten subtopics for each pillar page.
  4. Interlink your content: It is critical that you link all your subtopics back to your pillar page, and that your pillar page links out to all your subtopics. Without the links, search engines won't know that all your pages are linked to one another, and your ranking won't be impacted.

Copyright 2019. Featured post made possible by Tom Welbourne of The Good Marketer, a marketing agency in London which drives more traffic, generates conversions and increases sales for small- to medium-sized businesses

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