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Creating Content Clusters And How To Use Topic-Based Content For SEO

by Josh Koop | Last Updated:  July 18, 2020
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Most first time bloggers and those looking at niche sites and authority sites have more than likely never heard many of these terms outside of some random YouTube videos. Content clusters is a method of managing your information within your website that helps the guest find what they are looking for by designing your content build.

One of the most popular methods over the last year or so to rank difficult keywords. Using content clusters allows guests to find information in a more streamlined manner as each piece of content is tied into the other portions of the cluster.

Let’s jump in and explain what clusters are and how they impact overall site SEO for a website. We will also cover how to design, plan and build your clusters from the start making it a process that can be easily duplicated.

What is a Topic-Based Cluster?

What a topic-based cluster is built around is the organization of the content into well-formed, concise clusters of similar topics within your blog. The main objective is for each cluster to have a primary post which goes by many names like pillar, cornerstone or skyscraper.

Typically when bloggers write there is no method behind the writing, which includes no attempt or very limited attempts at quality interlinking of posts. This is the opposite of your intent when building a Topic-Cluster.

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What drives this method is to have your one primary pillar post have many supportive posts that link into it which covers more informative sub-topics or longer tailed keywords. The result of this building strategy is to power up your pillar page and get more visitors into the pillar article.

How Does Clustering Impact Website SEO?

The driving force in getting your blog noticed and located higher in the SERP rankings will come from better search engine optimization. Helping users to more efficiently locate your relevant posts around a very strongly covered topic.

This allows the bots who crawl your website from Google, Bing and more to organize and find all your information on the topic and assist in determining the rank of your topic and supporting information, these both are what help determine your niche authority and your SERP rankings.

Driving home a cluster efficiently and with proper planning helps the search engines recognize that your pillar and supporting posts offer comprehensive understanding around a topic, and hence that you are a valid authority on said topic and should be provided more quality organic traffic.

Why Should You Cluster Topics?

The overall benefits are to help your website posts work in tandem with each other providing internal link power from your posts to your pillars and from your pillars to your supporting posts. In a perfect world, you would expect a pillar and the short-tailed keyword to rank better along with the posts with long-tailed ranking better.

Where this can come into its own and help you tremendously is when competition runs with cluster content where you won’t be able to outrank them without building your own, equal powerhouse. To beat the bigger sites you will want, more than likely need, to become an expert at building tightly-knit cluster topics.

How To Build A Cluster For Blogging And SEO

Now we will dive into the process to build out the cluster to be the most effective in building you quality links and to gain and engage traffic. Please note this isn’t a fast process and you should expect at first it may take you a few hours to do it well with your topics, don’t get discouraged as you will get better with practice!

Plan Your Topic Clusters

Decide on the topic you plan to use for your pillar post. This can be a more competitive shorter keyword then you would normally target but if you are a newer site be conservative in this choice.

Ensure the choice of keyword has plenty of sub-topics available to write multiple extra posts about. If the topic is too narrow then possibly look at a single skyscraper or pillar post instead aiming for a large, succinct, copy over multiple posts.

Gauge Topics Using The Following Criteria:

Now you will want to start a spreadsheet or other documentation method that you favor as you will want to research keywords for your pillar and for all legs of support posts and their topics. I typically will use Google Spreadsheets as I can access it from almost anywhere, even on the go and keep working.

Perform Search Analysis

Now you want to start investigating each of your sub-topics and main topic to find the cracks that you want to exploit. This is more necessary for your long-tailed keyphrases as these you want to make sure will rank well on their own, take your time as this is your key to having an excellent cluster that works for you and not against you!

There are many methods which people will use to research and each has their benefits or merits and their flaws or drawbacks. This is down to more personal preference and style. I prefer to use google to help me find interesting and viable phrases to use for my posts.

If you have the tools or access to powerful tools like SEMrush and/or AHREFS then it would help you to use their power to structure your searches. They have the ability to give you keywords by volume of search and by the difficulty to rank which could provide you a solid leg up in competing against larger competition.

As you find these terms you want to add them to the tracker you built above which helps to keep you tracking what articles to write and what you think the best way they correlate into the main topic will be, all to help you assemble the information later.

Identify The Readers Persona

Focus your decisions on the information a reader needs or is interested in searching for instead of the topic your business wants to talk about. Your visitors will be coming from a search engine in most cases and you will fail to find traffic if you haven’t identified properly what your reader is looking for.

You need to also understand what your buyer is searching for, is it for technical information or is it someone who needs a concise quick-hitting resource to make a decision.

These are what will become your supporting posts which are the support of your pillar. When searching for these you need to try and maintain the headspace of your reader and ensure they are topics they would search for, remember your aim is for organic traffic from search engines not for paid traffic.

The best way to entertain building this list of questions is to keep this thought from Pepperland Marketing. This will ensure you keep your head in the right space to ensure you are choosing the right content for your reader and not for yourself or your business.

As a [PERSONA]I need to [GOAL], so that I can [BENEFIT].

Look For Underserved Sub-Topics

When looking to write on sub-topics you would like for them to be already open for your excellent content, underserved content means when you search you don’t find the competition to be answering the question or not fully answering the question posed by the searcher.

These topics are able to be won by strongly written, quality researched, content which is what you should be aiming to create. You should create content that when the reader is done they should be able to speak very well to the topic with someone else.

Additional Food For Thought

You need to ask yourself about your posts which are important to get social sharing moving in promotion of your content.

Write Your Supporting Articles

Since most of the people reading this will be starting from newer sites without the higher authority of a well-established site you will want to build out your sub-topic posts first to start building your rankings. This will help later when you start to interlink this content into your pillar page as they will have more benefits to you.

This process should result in each post being at a minimum of 1000 words, I would suggest making sure you cover the topic in-depth and with multiple angles as necessary. You are wanting to be acknowledged as a leader and authority in the space, the best way to do this is in writing quality content that adds to your brand.

Create Your Main Page

There are many ways to create this main topic page on your site, the most common for blogs to build is a standard pillar post which is typically a large long-form post of 3000+ words which is a comprehensive overall covering of the topic. This allows you to make each sub-topic a header and cover the content in context to your primary topic and to link out to you other content for “in detail” reading.

Another form of the main posts I have seen is the wheel or “hub” style post which is almost like a long post full of paragraphs which are all similar to a call to action to read the sub-topic post. These to me are less successful but maybe viable depending on the content in your sub-topics and will be something you will have to evaluate with your content.

This stage is very important and is the one where most bloggers will tend to spend the least amount of their time. This interlinking of your content is what will help drive the content to a much higher ranking then normally possible if each post was to just stand on its own.

This interlinking should be in the main to the sub-topics along with from each sub-topic to the main topic. As part of this process, you should evaluate additional linking from sub-topic to sub-topic if they are of value to the discussion between both topics.

Measuring Results Of A Content Cluster

This can be very difficult to measure unless you align the title prior to the publishing of your content. There are ways to use Google to look at how a keyword is doing and if you were to align your content by ensuring each post shared a word within the title you could use this to see the data of all posts with that keyword.

Filters exist in Google Analytics especially to help you track by specific criteria, you can align this prior to publishing to allow the search in this method for later evaluation for whether it was successful for your website.

Tracking Via Filter In GA

Final Thoughts on Creating Content Clusters

When building content for your website building single posts and aiming to become an authority is highly unlikely. Many of the largest sites use content clustering to ensure they stay high in the rankings of the search engines.

Many new sites would benefit highly in a structured approach to managing creation of posts in a way which powers up their website against the competition and since links and outreach take time and effort that many new sites can;t waste their time on building your content in ways which cause it to support itself can be useful leverage.

Please share this if it has been valuable in growing your understanding of content clusters and let me know in the comments if you have had success or are now going to start building out some content cluster ideas!

I love technology, I have plenty of technical side experience but never really thought of blogging as a way to earn an income. With everything that has gone on in the last couple years and the instability of the job markets I started to learn how to blog and build affiliate niche sites to add more income channels to give me the chance to break free from the financial chains that bind me and find real freedom!