When users search in Google, they simply want to find answers to their queries in the shortest time possible. On the other hand, Google wants to provide them with the most relevant answers. If you want Google to rank your content higher in search results and also increase your website’s authority, topic clusters are one of the best ways to do it.
In this comprehensive guide, let’s discuss more about topic clusters, how they work, their significance for SEO, and how to build proper topic clusters.
What Are Topic Clusters?
Topic clusters are a common strategy for organizing content into subtopics. Topic clusters are groups of content that support or provide in-depth coverage around a particular topic or pillar page. A pillar page provides a general overview of a topic, while the topic clusters cover the associated subtopics.
Each topic cluster links back to the pillar page. When linked together, the pillar page and topic clusters show that your website has authority on that particular topic and can help your content rank high for relevant search results.
For instance, consider an SEO website with a pillar page around “Best Practices for SEO”. The topic clusters should explore less competitive subtopics related to that specific topic area. They should link back to the pillar page and interlink with each other.
How Do They Work?
The concept of topic cluster revolves around three components, including:
1. Pillar page
This is the primary page that covers a general overview of a particular topic. It links to and is linked from more specialized subtopics or cluster pages, creating a network of content that’s easy to understand and navigate for users and search engines.
2. Cluster page
Cluster pages provide in-depth content coverage of the subtopics of the pillar page. They help users and search engine crawlers understand your pillar content comprehensively and discover related content. This establishes your website’s authority on the topic and helps you rank higher for long-tail keywords. They also help visitors easily navigate and find relevant information on your website.
3. Internal linking
Internal linking between the pillar and cluster pages helps to connect all related content within a topic or subject. Links from the content cluster to the pillar page signal to the search engines that the pillar page is the primary page of your content. On the other hand, links from the pillar page to the cluster pages demonstrate your authority on a topic or subject.
Why Do Topic Clusters Matter to SEO?
Topic clusters matter for SEO for several reasons:
1. Increases authority on a subject
Most people prefer and trust content from brands with authority in a specific niche or field. For instance, if you’re interested in optimizing your website for SEO, you’re more likely to trust and take recommendations from a website that specializes in SEO than one that provides general information in various niches.
Topic clusters allow you to create high-quality and comprehensive content around topics, which shows your broad knowledge or authority in these subjects. In the eyes of search engines, a website with 5 related, interlinked pages will have more authority than a website with one piece of content on a certain subject. Ultimately, higher authority translates to higher rankings and conversions.
2. Enhances user experience
Poor content organizations can confuse your users and increase bounce rates. Topic clusters help you easily organize and link related web pages to each other, helping users browse your website and find what they’re looking for faster.
3. Improves UX & Conversions
By enhancing user experience, your visitors feel more enlightened and are likely to engage with your website for longer. This leads to lower bounce rates and higher conversions.
4. Improves crawlability
Search engines examine certain elements of your website and web pages to rank your content. Topic clusters help organize and link related topics within a specific subject, allowing search engines to crawl and index your content efficiently.
Topic Cluster Example
Let’s consider a website about SEO. Assume one of your pillars or main topic is “What is SEO in Digital Marketing”. Your topic clusters should explore subtopics within this core topic and should link back to the pillar page and each other. Possible examples of topic clusters on this topic can include:
- What is SEO writing?
- Why is SEO important?
- What is an SEO audit?
- What are SEO tags?
- What is SEO description?
Here is an example of a live website. If we visit, RunRepeat website then we can a clear picture of the topic cluster of Running shoes.
How to Build a Topic Cluster?
Use the following tips to build your topic clusters effectively:
1. Choose a Topic
The first step is to pick a specific topic that you’ll use for your pillar content. The topic should be relevant to your industry or niche and broad enough to allow you to create a number of SEO topic clusters around it. Still, ensure the topic isn’t so broad that the cluster topics are diluted and unfocused.
If you’re struggling with content ideas, start thinking about topics that:
- Are relevant for your brand
- Your competitors are writing about
- Your audience or users care about
- You have not covered your industry
- Many SEO professionals are recommending
Online tools like SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, and Ahrefs can also help you find topics and keywords around your industry or niche.
Now here we are going to discover how we can find keywords or topics using SEMrush.
First of all, we will open the “Keyword Overview” box which is under the “KEYWORD RESEARCH” section.
Now, as an example, we are going to find some keywords as well as topic ideas on “Digital Marketing” with our targeted location “US”.
Within few seconds we can see a clear picture of this keyword. Like it’s search volume, KD, CPC, Intent, etc. But we are going to scroll down to get more keyword ideas.
As we can see that there has more than 180K keywords which is related to “Digital Marketing”. And we are going to discover those keywords to create cluster.
2. Do Topical Keyword Research
We have to find top keywords that we can cover on your web pages.
Here you can see we are on ‘Broad Match’ and the left side has some good categories.
3. Find more subtopics
Now we are going to narrow our niche by focusing on a particular subcategory. For example, we are taking “Strategy” as a subcategory. So, this might be a good cluster for us.
On the right side, we can see some quality topics that we can cover under the “Strategy” cluster.
Once you’ve identified your core topic and keywords, you should strive to cover all possible subtopics or clusters your target audience may be interested in.
Finally, we have found a list of good keywords on the topic. Now we will move to another tool which is a free keyword clustering tool.
To generate clusters effortlessly, simply enter the main topic and paste the SEMrush keywords. Then, just click on the ‘Create clusters’ button and see the magic!
This is a clear picture of the cluster of Digital Marketing. There are a lot of clusters for that particular topic “Digital Marketing”. Have a look at the image below.
To make it clear, let’s take the “Digital Marketing Specialists” topic. This will be our pillar page and the topic cluster will be like this:
Digital marketing strategy consultant
What is a digital marketing specialist?
What does a digital marketing manager do?
Digital marketing analyst
And once we cover all those clusters, we will interlink with each other.
4. Create Quality Content
Once you have established your topic clusters, the next step is to create high-quality content. Develop in-depth, easy-to-read, engaging, and well-researched content for every topic cluster.
The content should also be well-structured and formatted to make it easy to navigate and digest. Using relevant keywords and interlinking to other subtopics can help optimize your content for search engines.
5. Write Your Pillar Page
Once you’ve created content for all your subtopics, write a comprehensive pillar page (Digital Marketing Specialists) that should serve as the main hub for your subtopics or content clusters. The pillar page should provide a broad overview of the core topic and touch on all the cluster topics. Thus, it should typically be longer than the cluster pages, at least 2,000 words long.
Still, keep your content relevant, educational, engaging, and search-friendly. Also, incorporate relevant keywords naturally in the content to attract your target audience. The pillar page should link to all related cluster pages to easily redirect users to relevant content.
6. Strategically Add Internal Links
Now that you have your pillar content and topic clusters ready, the next step is to interlink your pillar page with subtopics and vice versa. The cluster content should also link with each other for related content. The most important thing is to add internal links strategically where they’re most relevant in order to redirect users to the information they seek. Internal links help Google understand the relationship of all your content pages and improve crawlability and user experience.
Topic Cluster Mistakes
While topic clusters are excellent SEO strategies to improve your website’s rankings and authority, there are some mistakes you must avoid:
1. Poor Linking
Topic clusters help organize your content for easy navigation by users and search engines. If you don’t link between different topic clusters or don’t link strategically, you can miss out on valuable internal linking opportunities, hurting your search engine rankings. It can also contribute to poor user experience and increased bounce rates. To prevent this, ensure you build as many internal links as possible and add them where they are most relevant.
2. Content Cannibalization
Another mistake is creating too many pages that target similar keywords or talk about the same thing, causing cannibalization. This means that your pages compete against each other, and Google can mistake them for duplicate content, potentially hurting your SEO. To avoid this, build topic clusters with unique keywords and focus theme.
3. Neglecting Quality Content
While cluster pages can improve your website’s SEO and authority, the relevance and quality of your content also matter. Low-quality and unhelpful content around your cluster pages can lead to low rankings and poor user experience, hurting your SEO. Create valuable, in-depth, relevant content around your cluster and pillar pages. This will not only help Google rank your pages higher, but it also improves user experience.
4. Relying Too Much on Keyword Research
You shouldn’t create cluster content purely based on keyword research without considering your audience’s needs. This can cause poor user experience and increase bounce rates. When building topic cluster content, add relevant keywords naturally in the content, but also make sure the content offers valuable information that your audience may be interested in.
The Role of Internal Links in Topic Clusters
Internal linking is a valuable content strategy tool that connects related cluster topics to the pillar page and each other. Links within a topic cluster help Google to understand the structure and relevance of your cluster pages, establishing your authority on that topic, which can be beneficial for search engine optimization.
Similarly, internal links enable users to navigate and find related cluster pages easily, improving their user experience. This can keep them engaged on your website for longer periods, leading to more conversions.
Topic Clusters & Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword planning within topic clusters can positively or negatively impact your website’s search engine optimization. While topic clusters are essential for demonstrating authority on a specific topic, poorly optimized cluster content can lead to keyword cannibalization.
Keyword cannibalization can happen when multiple content pages target the same or very similar keywords. This can confuse the search engines and can cause them to translate your pages as duplicate content. These pages may compete to rank for the same keywords, diluting your overall ranking and traffic.
To avoid keyword cannibalization, ensure each cluster topic focuses on unique but relevant keywords. This way, each page can rank for specific search engine results, enhancing your website’s SEO performance.
Here are some questions that people ask on Google:
How Do Topic Clusters Help Google Understand Your Site?
Topic cluster strategy helps organize existing content on your website. Cluster pages provide in-depth coverage of a topic, demonstrating to Google your authority or knowledge around that topic.
Similarly, interlinking between the cluster and pillar pages creates a network of related content, helping Google crawlers to navigate and understand the relationship and relevance of your content with ease.
Why are Topic Clusters Important to Your Content Strategy?
Content or topic cluster strategy is important for content marketing. They allow you to create comprehensive, organized, and keyword-optimized topic-based content. This demonstrates your website’s authority and relevance on a specific subject, which can improve your rankings, user experience, and on-site engagement.
Do Topic Clusters Actually Impact SERPs?
Yes. Topic clusters on your website can influence search engine results pages (SERPs). Topic clusters provide comprehensive coverage around a specific pillar topic, signalling your knowledge or authority on that topic to search engines. This improves your chances of ranking higher for relevant search queries.
Well-structured cluster content also mitigates the risk of keyword cannibalization, allowing your web pages to rank optimally in SERPs. Similarly, internal linking between pillar pages and topic clusters can help Google crawl and understand your content faster, improving your visibility on search engine results pages.
Using the topic cluster model is a powerful digital marketing strategy that can greatly benefit your website’s SEO performance. When incorporated and interlinked correctly, topic clusters can significantly improve your website’s authority, search engine rankings, and user experience. For maximum impact, choose your topic clusters wisely and create valuable, high-quality, and optimized content around them.