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In the dynamic realm of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), staying ahead of the curve is paramount. As search engines evolve, so do the strategies employed by digital marketers to enhance online visibility. One such strategy that has gained prominence in recent years is the concept of Topic Clusters. This comprehensive guide aims to unravel the intricacies of Topic Clusters, offering insights into their definition, benefits, implementation, and their role in shaping the future of SEO.

Table of Contents:

  • Understanding the Foundation: What is a Topic Cluster?
  • The SEO Landscape: Why Topic Clusters Matter
  • The Anatomy of a Topic Cluster: Components and Structure
  • Benefits of Implementing Topic Clusters
  • Identifying Pillar Topics: Research and Selection
  • Crafting Pillar Content: Best Practices and Strategies
  • Creating Cluster Content: Strategies for Success
  • Implementing Topic Clusters: Practical Steps and Considerations
  • Future Trends: The Evolution of Topic Clusters in SEO

Understanding the Foundation: What is a Topic Cluster?

By using topic clusters, you may show your experience and skill by compiling a thorough resource on a specific subject. Additionally, because they can get all the information they require on a certain term on a single page, users are likely to stay on your site longer.

A clever internal linking and content approach called topic clusters brings related pieces of material together around a main topic or theme. Instead of producing a large number of stand-alone content pieces, they assist you in producing more focused and interesting content that provides a thorough overview of the subject.

Although the term “topic clusters” varies, they are essentially groups of related sites that are purposefully arranged to address a particular subject. When discussing the same, you might come across content hubs, pillar pages, and supporting pages.

A pillar page is an extensive resource covering a wide range of subjects. It is linked to auxiliary pages that provide additional in-depth details on particular subtopics that the main page addresses. Think of supporting pillar pages as various sub-branches that bear fruit and flowers, and the pillar page itself as the main branch of the tree.

Put simply, a typical topic cluster will have:

  • A page dedicated to the topic “Pillar page.”
  • A collection/ cluster of pages expounding on the subtopics in great depth.
  • Internal cross-linking structure within all the cluster pages and with the pillar page.

With topic clusters, you build many pages around a core topic. The breadth of helpful in-depth content signifies topical authority and industry expertise to Google, helping you rank better in SERPS.

The Pillar Content Concept

A content pillar is a substantive and informative piece of content on a specific topic or theme that can be broken into many derivative sections, pieces, and materials. Examples of content pillars include eBooks, reports, and long-form webpages.

Basically, it’s a large piece of content that you can turn into many smaller pieces of content to fuel all those channels you’re currently struggling to fill. By focusing your attention on creating a single content pillar, it’s easy to break that finished piece into blog posts, infographics, videos, emails, social media updates, and more, to attract different kinds of buyers through different channels.

It can also help you build strong interlinking within your site that can work wonders for your SEO. This method is an efficient and process-driven way to cover all of your content bases—and deliver the right content to the right buyer at the right time.

Relationship Between Pillar and Cluster Content

A pillar page is a page on a website that explores a topic broadly (yet comprehensively), and is then supported by a cluster of other pages through internal links. These pages, called topic clusters, contain subtopics related to the pillar page. 

For example, if a website’s pillar page is about content marketing, the supporting pages will cover topics such as “does my website need a blog?” or “how to find content ideas”.

Pillar pages differ from landing pages in that they contain navigation and more text. A landing page is designed with a high conversion rate in mind, which dictates its design, copy, and highlighted CTAs. Whereas a pillar page is often designed to be an educational or informative tool.

Topic clusters are the pages that support your pillar page. They target secondary keywords and long-tail keyword subtopics at length. Topic clusters are subtopics that are strong enough to stand on their own (i.e. blog post, video, etc.), but have a common connection with the pillar topic, and can be clustered together with other subtopic content to help tell a story.

Connecting these pages provides a positive experience for website visitors, as they’re easily able to find the similar-themed content they’re looking for – and what pleases users, pleases Google! Making this an extremely valuable strategy from a search engine perspective. 

Search engine bots crawl through content like a human reads it, and recognizes the connections between all of these similarly themed pages.

The SEO Landscape: Why Topic Clusters Matter

A topic cluster content strategy is used to establish your brand as an authority on a given subject to both search engines and your audience. Part of the topic clustering process includes creating in-depth landing pages that cover ideas related to your business or subject matter expertise. This can help you target a wide range of relevant keywords while also organizing website content in a way that makes it easier for site visitors to find and consume.

Using topic clusters as part of your website’s content marketing plan helps showcase your knowledge, organizes your website content, and provides useful information for site visitors. But that’s not all topic clustering can do for your website. Read on to learn more about topic clustering’s positive impacts on SEO, sales efforts, and more.

Better Keyword Optimization

Topic clusters help you improve your website’s keyword optimization. Because topic clusters allow you to break down a subject into focused subtopics, you can target unique keyword clusters.

For example, if your main topic is “catering services” with catering as the main keyword, you can build out cluster pages that cover more specific catering options around keyword variations like event catering, wedding catering, and corporate catering.

Having these keyword variations built around the main keyword in your website optimization strategy strengthens your overall keyword usage, which, in turn, can help your website show up in search engine results while avoiding keyword cannibalization.

Stronger Internal Linking

Internal linking is exactly as it sounds—links that go to pages within your website. By utilizing the hub and spoke content model for your web pages, you can improve internal linking across your website. Connecting top-level pages (those typically found in your website’s main navigation) to deeper pages (those that may not be found in the main navigation) makes it easier for search engines to find your content, understand the hierarchy of these pages, and spread link equity. A strong internal linking framework is more likely to keep site visitors clicking through to more web pages, which is also a positive SEO signal.

Improved Sales Funnel

With comprehensive SEO topic clusters, you can take a customer who lands on your website from an awareness point to a consideration point, and finally to a conversion point. In other words, you introduce information to them, lead them to more specific content, and then drive them to make a purchase, send a message, fill out a form, or call your business.

You can even spread this sales funnel approach out over the course of multiple pages so that the sale lead-up feels natural. Use keyword research to help make sure your content captures interest at the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel.

Richer Content

One big advantage of creating topic clusters for your website is that it allows you to develop high-quality content. Rather than building a single “information dump” webpage, you can break up content into more digestible pieces, which makes for a better user experience and gives you more room to dive deeper into certain subjects. And the better, more detailed your content is, the more likely you’ll earn topical authority, which can help you gain backlinks for your website.

The Anatomy of a Topic Cluster: Components and Structure

You’re not receiving as much traffic as you had anticipated, and your rankings are dropping. You’ve applied every tip in the book to optimize your pages. Even after pursuing less competitive keywords, nothing seems to be working. It seems as though your content marketing plan is mired in muck, its wheels turning but not moving forward.

If your content publication strategy has been focused just on individual keywords, it may be time to consider subject clusters. The semi-secret weapon that content strategists use to claim top ranks in search engine results pages is topic clusters.

A topic cluster consists of three components:

A pillar page on a core topic.

This page should cover a wide range of user intents. That will give readers enough value to make them click through to the appropriate next piece of content for them no matter where they are in their buyer’s journey.

“Cluster” or supporting pages that cover related topics in more depth.

A cluster page tends to have a narrower focus on a specific user intent. This approach isn’t just “find a long-tail keyword and write about it.” It’s about going deep on a particular topic.

Internal linking between all of the pages.

Links from the cluster pages to the pillar pages are a signal to search engines that the pillar page is the most important in the group. Links from an authoritative pillar to cluster content pass authority to the rest of the cluster. Each link should also have an appropriately descriptive anchor text. This description helps search engines better understand what’s “behind” every link.

Here’s an example of a topic cluster on the topic of “Information Architecture”.

Example of a content cluster for the topic "information architecture" showing some possibilities for content clusters.

The pillar page is on that core topic – information architecture. We then have cluster content that dives deeper into specific issues under that pillar topic – topical authority and topic clusters. Of course, there would be a lot more under a cluster on information architecture, but this shows you the basic idea behind topic clusters. 

The topic cluster model also has to take into account the buyer’s journey. You’re not just creating content for the sake of it. You want to produce a content-driven customer journey that answers questions, provides valuable information, and positions your product/service as a solution. 

That’s just one situation. There’s another one that’s just as dangerous.

Some marketers focus on top-of-funnel topics to get traffic, at the expense of lower-volume topics. “We don’t write content for keywords that get low volume,” they say. 

Both approaches take you away from the topic cluster model. You need to cover the entire funnel with content, creating a complete customer journey. The buyer’s journey is nonlinear, so you want to cover as much ground within a topic as possible to ensure that no matter where someone is in their decision process, you have content for them. 

Not everyone who reads your content is going to be a customer, and that’s OK. You want to serve information-seekers as well as people who are ready to buy. In fact, it’s almost impossible to rank for purchase intent keywords unless you have the authority on the topics surrounding your product pages. 

Benefits of Implementing Topic Clusters

Most brands have multiple areas of expertise. Developing a website around these key subject areas and using topic clusters can improve search rankings, attract more traffic, and establish credibility as an expert. Topic clusters help Google understand your content by creating a hierarchy of information within your website that tells Google exactly what your website is about.

Topic clusters help Google see your site as authoritative in specific subject areas and understand the interrelationships between your content. By linking supporting cluster content to the pillar page, you emphasize the relevance, relationship, and importance of the content to search engines.

When you use hyperlinks to reinforce topic clusters, you build a strong connection between your main topic and related topics. And the best part? Google loves it! Hyperlinks help your website show up higher in search results, which means more happy customers, more sales, and more people being aware of your brand.

The primary SEO goals of topic clusters are to:

  • Attract search traffic for long-tail, lower-volume keywords through cluster content.
  • Improve the performance of the pillar content for more competitive keywords.
  • Establish credibility in specific topic areas to gain recognition as an industry expert by Google.

Topic clusters can benefit SEO by improving the structure and organization of your website’s content. By creating topic clusters, you can establish a strong relationship between your main topic and related topics, signaling to search engines that your website is an authority on that subject. This authority can improve search rankings, as search engines usually favor websites with a clear and organized structure.

Additionally, a topic with the potential to unlock supporting topics can ensure a wide range of long- and short-tail keywords to choose from. This can improve your website’s keyword relevancy and help you rank higher in search engine results pages.

Most websites have a lower Domain Authority at their beginning stages, making it challenging to rank for competitive keywords, even if their content is high-quality. However, you can use topic clusters to rank for less competitive keywords and drive traffic in the short term. As the site’s authority grows, it can target bigger and more competitive keywords.

Overall, topic clusters can help improve your website’s SEO by providing a clear and organized structure, improving keyword relevancy, and establishing your website as an authority on a particular subject.

Enhanced User Experience

People usually search for general terms when they want to become familiar with a topic and understand what it is about. When they land on your pillar page, more are likely to become interested in some or all of the subtopics you’ve highlighted.

They can follow the provided links to the pages that elaborate on the subtopics and learn everything they need to know. This leads to a number of benefits for you:

  • If the information is well-written and interesting, the customer may eventually explore the whole cluster. 
  • The customer is more likely to seek out your content again when they need additional information.
  • The customer spends more time on your site browsing, clicks on your links more often.
  • The customer may fill in your opt-in forms, become a qualified lead, and eventually, take advantage of your products and services.

All these contribute to higher engagement and directly benefit your SEO, and, potentially,  your bottom line.

Enhanced Internal Link Building

The benefits of internal link building are, generally, underestimated by website managers. However, creating those links is very important for your SEO, and, as shown in the above section, customer engagement.

Internal links show how your content is connected, and allow search engine bots to better understand your website structure and the meaning of pages. Also, they reduce the chances of pages becoming orphaned, i.e. unrelated to the rest, and more difficult to reach.

They also show the bots which pages on your website are more important than the rest, and provide a certain hierarchy. And through this hierarchy, internal links also distribute link equity.

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A pillar page is an important page. It is informative, content and keyword-rich, and well-structured. It attracts more backlinks and serves as a gateway to other related pages. They in turn back up the authority of the pillar page by providing an in-depth exploration of the main topic and the subtopics.

The pillar page returns the favor by leaking link juice towards the secondary pages, and boosting their authority, and, potentially, ranking. All in all, by hyperlinking the pillar to all the elements of the cluster, you allow the pages to amplify each other’s value.

Lead Generation

The more time people spend on your website, the more opportunities you have to obtain their information and capture them as leads. Furthermore, when potential customers see that you are an expert, they spend a lot of time on your website. As a result, they are more likely to remember your business. And this strongly benefits SEO branding. 

Once they know you, they are prone to identify you as a leader in your industry and click on your links in the SERPs more often. This will not only benefit your overall search engine performance but also keep you at the forefront of the customer’s mind.

Combined with your lead nurturing strategy, when a person is ready to make a purchase, you will be a top candidate for the job.

Identifying Pillar Topics: Research and Selection

The information on your pillar page functions as a central location for several topic clusters, all of which have hyperlinks pointing back to the main overview of the topic you cover. The finest keywords for your firm to target should be determined by your SEO specialists’ keyword analysis, after which you should develop your pillar pages.

One thing to bear in mind is that Google’s primary goal is to enhance the search engine user experience. For this reason, any process for brainstorming content for pillar pages should center on the problems that customers face.

Knowing their issues will enable you to offer pertinent and helpful information that leads to and encourages consumer interaction.

1. Focus on the buyer’s journey

First, you want to understand your customer: their likes, their dislikes, what their typical day consists of, and what would motivate them to purchase your product. Create buyer personas that give you a clear view of each customer segment.

Then, map out the customer journey to understand what each buyer’s pain points are along the way and what solutions they’re searching for at each step of the journey.

What questions or terms are they searching for? What information do they need to make the decision to purchase your product or service?

You can use pillar pages to address pain points at every step of the buyer’s journey. From brand awareness to conversion, think about what blog topics are most likely to engage your target leads and customers based on what their needs are.

2. Identify broad topics

Pillar pages focus on a broad topic versus a specific topic/keyword, so the pillar page can link out to pieces of content that address more specific topics. Avoid choosing a pillar page topic that could be answered like a “yes” or “no” question. You’ll want a topic that has legs – in this case, those legs are your cluster topics.

However, don’t make your pillar page topics too broad. You want to address actual search queries, so a little bit of specificity will help.

For example, instead of choosing a pillar page to be about “pet food,” it would be better to make it about “how to choose the right food for your dog”. Topic clusters from that pillar page could be on topics like “vegetarian dog food,” “fresh vs. dry dog food” and “best dog food ingredients”.

3. Test your topic

Any good content strategy relies on keyword research. Start by exploring what pillar page topics you want to rank for in a search engine, based on which keywords are most likely to engage your target audience.

You should also be mindful of conversational search queries, as Google reports that 27% of the global online population uses voice search on mobile. Your keyword research should account for both keywords that are typed in on a computer or mobile device, as well as keywords that are likely to be spoken into devices like smartwatches and phones.

For pillar page topics, you can type the exact topic you’re thinking of into Google’s search engine to see if there’s interest.

Using the pillar page topic example of “how to choose the right food for your dog,” you’ll find articles published by both major newspapers like “USA Today,” as well as reputable pet organizations like the American Kennel Club.

pillar page topic example - pet food

Pay attention to the “People also ask” section, which can give you ideas for subheads on your pillar page or standalone cluster topics. Using the above example, questions like, “What’s the healthiest food to feed your dog?” and “What type of food do vets recommend for dogs?” pop up.

People also ask section

You can also look at Google’s auto-populating keywords as you type an idea in. You’ll find “how to choose the right food for your puppy” is a suggested query when you type in “how to choose the right food for your dog”. The puppy topic could work as a subtopic for your pillar page.

4. Analyze your current content

As you develop your pillar page blog architecture, you’ll want to take an inventory of the content you’re already working with. You will want to avoid duplicate content in your pillar page strategy, so it’s helpful to do a content audit to see:

  • What content you already have that relates to a pillar page topic
  • Which high-performing content might make sense to convert to a pillar page
  • What content you can incorporate into or link out to from a new pillar page topic
  • What content you should consolidate into a pillar page and remove altogether

Your content audit will help you understand what your best-performing content is, so you know what topics you may want to create new pillar pages for. Evaluate which of your existing content is most likely to generate leads or convert customers. Those topics may be worth focusing on in a more in-depth pillar page strategy.

If one of your existing pieces of content is already performing well for you, you can turn it into skyscraper content. This process involves “10x”-ing your content, which is to make the edited content piece 10 times better than any other content on the topic on the web.

How can you turn existing content into skyscraper content? An existing post can become a pillar page when you:

  • Add content to it to make it longer than it already is, up to several thousand words per pillar page.
  • Create a table of contents that features related hyperlinks to cluster topics in the beginning of the content.
  • Update the content to ensure it’s accurate and provides even more value to your target leads and customer.
  • Optimize existing content through keyword optimization, creative writing, or adding a free downloadable guide/tool to it.

You might be able to combine several of your existing posts into a single pillar page. Look for posts that are shorter and closely related that you could combine together.

5. Create goals for your pillar pages

To optimize your pillar page strategy going forward, you’ll want to set goals and measure key KPIs. Think about what specific business goals you want each pillar page to achieve, both short-term and long-term.

Involve teams beyond marketing in your pillar page strategies, such as your sales team or customer service team. These team members can provide you with topic ideas to research and content suggestions to build out for your pillar pages.

Continue to pay attention to what your customers are asking you and what they’re saying online. They can also help provide ideas for cluster topics for your existing pillar pages and for new pillar page ideas.

6. Measure, analyze, and add to your pillar pages

As you monitor your pillar page results, pay attention to which cluster topics are performing well. Is there content you can create that gets even more granular on those topics?

Continue to add new related links to your pillar pages. Since your pillar page has a lot of useful information and content linked within it, promote the pillar page link on sites like social media and in channels like email marketing. Make the cluster topic links prominent, so visitors can find the exact info they’re looking for from the pillar page.

Crafting Pillar Content: Best Practices and Strategies

You can build topical authority for subjects that interest your target audiences by using pillar pages. It is the most search engine optimization-friendly approach to building a community of prospective buyers around your business.

You understand how challenging it may be to link content production efforts to quantifiable outcomes as an SEO expert. It is ineffective to publish content on various subjects in silos. You must come up with interesting strategies for demonstrating the connections between the different content sections on your website.

One excellent approach to achieving that is to create content pillars. Below are some of the best practices.

1. Ease of access 

If you’re creating a pillar page, it is crucial that you make it easily accessible. It could be in the navigation menu on your homepage or any other high-traffic web page. Make sure that the title of the pillar page is clearly visible and clickable. 

 2. Setting the right expectations 

Visitors generally do not have the time or the patience to scroll through the entire document only to find it was not meant for them. 

A good way to maximize user experience is to set the right expectations by starting your pillar page with sections such as “Who is this for?”, “What is covered in this guide?” or “How to use this guide?” The goal is to help your visitors understand the utility of the information that lies ahead. 

 3. Sharing author credentials 

If you’re reading something, you will want to know who has written it. Therefore, if possible, always share the author’s credentials on your pillar page. It establishes trust and assures the readers of the credibility of the information on your pillar page. 

4. Update the content regularly 

The good thing about pillar pages is that they are a one-stop shop for every kind of information about a topic. To ensure that your pillar page is as comprehensive as possible, regularly update your pillar page with the latest content. 

Additionally, include a “Last Updated” line on your pillar page to show the readers they are referring to the latest information. 

 5. Giving quick access to the table of contents 

Just as you ensure quick access to the navigation menu of your homepage, pay equal attention to the accessibility of your table of contents (TOC). 

A pillar page is a long document. Your visitors should be able to skip the parts they already know and get to the most important information for them. 

There are many ways to do this. You can place the TOC at the top, or any of the sides, in a pop-up menu or simply include it in your content with a ‘back to top’ hovering button on the side. 

 6. Starting with the basics 

Kickstart your reader’s journey by sharing important definitions right at the start. This will increase the chances of social sharing and becoming a featured snippet in the Google SERP for the target keyword. 

 7. Include videos 

Videos are the most engaging form of content. Users love to watch videos instead of reading long paragraphs of text. Wherever possible, include videos about sub-topics or complex ideas on your pillar pages. 

If you cannot find a video-worthy topic, simply create an introductory video explaining what you’ll cover and who this pillar page is for. 

 8. Create shareable infographics 

One goal of pillar pages is to get as many backlinks as possible, and infographics are a great way to do that. Create infographics for sections of your pillar page and make them shareable. This way, whenever somebody is thinking of discussing the ideas you talked about on your pillar page, they can easily share your infographic. 

Alternatively, people writing about something related to your broad topic can use the infographic in their content and link back to yours as a source.

 9. Using short paragraphs 

Long blocks of text are tough to read, and visitors lose interest. To keep your readers engaged, break your content into small paragraphs of text, no more than 5-6 sentences long. This increases the readability of your pillar content and motivates visitors to read till the end. 

 10. Include a progress bar 

Another way to keep your readers engaged is by including a progress bar in your UI/UX. It will help visitors keep track of the progress they have made and how much more information your pillar page has to offer.

Creating Cluster Content: Strategies for Success

Topic clusters help both search engines and users better understand the organization of your content and your website hierarchy. When done right, they help increase your organic search rankings quickly. It’s because you’re not just targeting one or two words with each piece. You’re not focusing all your efforts on one tiny area. Instead, you’re targeting an entire topic and spreading your knowledge and resources across the whole thing to reach a wider search audience.

Use these steps to create content clusters on your blog or website:

1. Audit Your Existing Content

Even if you have ideas for new topic clusters, start with the content you already have. This helps you understand the organizational structure with pieces you’ve already created. You can use that structure as a template for any future topic clusters.

Review all your pieces and look for themes. Make a spreadsheet or list where you can group content that fits together. Through a content audit, you may find duplicate pieces, which actually hurt your SEO. These copies fight for the same keywords and search engine positioning, making you your own competition. During this phase, you can optimize or update any content in need of a refresh to get it ready to add to a topic cluster.

If you’re starting from scratch and you don’t have any previous content to audit, there’s still a way to discover what types of content to add. Request your free content marketing analysis report from CopyPress. This document reveals how your current content stacks up against competitors, if you have any. But it also gives you a list of keywords that function as content gaps, or the best areas to create content to fill the need of what your audience is searching for online.

2. Identify Topics and Subtopics

Whether you run a content audit or rely on your content analysis gap report, look for patterns and key themes when you group content or keywords. The overreaching themes serve as your pillar content. They’re broad and can include several subtopics beneath each one. They also have a cohesive focus so you can discuss all the main points in one pillar article.

Keyword and SERP research can help you group content if you’re trying to decide whether a theme is a topic or subtopic. Look at the data and what the competition is doing to determine if a keyword is a top-level or sub-level subject.

screenshot of the keyword metrics for seo marketing

When using keyword research tools, pillar content often has a high search volume and high competition, like the term “SEO marketing,” shown in the screenshot from Ahrefs above. That’s because these topics are broad terms that many people look for online.

screenshot of yahoo search engine for how to find a good keyword

Subtopics can have search volume and competition all over the map. High search volume and low competition keywords and topics are the ones that may get you the most traction in SERPs. Look at the example keyword, “why does my search engine keep changing to Yahoo?,” in the screenshot above. It has a lot of searches, but you only need about 23 backlinks to rank for this keyword on the first page. Tech companies may find this subtopic keyword worth optimizing and promoting if it’s part of their service coverage. It could lead to better positioning and more organic traffic.

3. Organize Your Subtopics by Intent

Once you’ve discovered your structure, think about a user’s search intent when looking for content online. What questions do they have about the topic? Do you have pieces that meet that need? Do you need to create new ones to better target what the audience wants?

You can find user and search intent in many ways. Talk to your customer service and sales department representatives. What are the most common questions they get from leads and customers? Search SERPs to see what competitor articles are ranking for your various subtopic keywords. Ask your audience outright—through polls, email marketing, and social media—what they’re looking for.

When you know the search intent of each piece, you can then decide which area of the marketing funnel it targets. Knowing which part of the funnel the audience is in when they find a piece of content lets you create better calls to action and conversion points to nudge them into the next stage. This ultimately gets them to make a partnership or sale with your company.

4. Conduct Keyword Research

You may have done some keyword research already in earlier steps to determine your topics and subtopics. Now it’s time to use that research to help you create more content and flesh out your topic clusters. Look for long-tail keywords when creating content for your subtopics. Why? Because these are the queries more people use when looking for information, products, or services. They’re typically questions or adjectives and adverbs to get more specific about the topic.

screenshot of cluster content predictive search results in google

While there are plenty of keyword research tools available, both free and paid, you don’t even have to go that far to start your search. Simply type your pillar topic into the search bar and let the predictive search give you a list of the most popular subtopics for that keyword. For example, if we search for the keyword “cluster content” predictive search gives us results like “what are topic clusters,” a long-tail keyword question. It also gives multiple results for examples and models, meaning people may want to see a visual of good content clusters.

screenshot of people also ask in google for the term cluster content

You can also use Google’s “People Also Ask” featured snippet to get predictions of more questions and long-tail keywords that can serve as your cluster topics. Check out some of the sample questions from the same term, “cluster content.” Make a list from that research and compare the topics to content you already have. Maybe you answer the question “what are cluster topics” in your pillar content, but something like ” how long is cluster content” could serve as a cluster topic.

screenshot from ahrefs for search volume and difficulty for the term how long is cluster content

For topics you haven’t covered, check the search volume and competition within your keyword research tools for each one to determine if it’s a worthwhile cluster topic. After more research, the long-tail keyword “how long is cluster content” would not be a good cluster topic because nobody is searching for this question, even though it appears in Google’s “People Also Ask.” If you’re trying to target that snippet, you may instead add a line answering this question in your pillar post.

5. Make the Links

Once you’ve got your topics organized and you’ve filled in any gaps, now it’s time to go through and make all the hyperlink connections. That’s how both users and search engine bots and crawlers can work through your topic clusters. Go through each subsection of your clusters and make sure they link back to the pillar content. Choose from in-text hyperlinks, related hyperlinks, or a table of content.

When adding hyperlinks, remember to think about the words you choose for your anchor text. These are further signals for your users and search engines to understand what you’re linking. It also tells people where you’re sending them as they move throughout a topic cluster.

6. Check Your Other SEO Factors

SEO strategy uses many interlocking and moving parts. You can’t just do keyword research and call it a day. You can’t only build a backlink profile and think that’s enough. The writing, technical, on-page, and off-site SEO all have to work together to make your content the best it can be.

Make sure when you’re working on your internal linking and structure you’re also still following other SEO best practices. Structure your content with headings and bulleted lists for readability. Write in easy-to-understand terms and share your content on the appropriate channels. These efforts supplement all your work on creating topic clusters. When pieces are easier to read and browse, and easy to find, people are more likely to spend time on the page and complete other actions that signal to search engines that your content is relevant to the topic.

Have calls to actions in your content? How do you think people will see them so they can take action if they never make it to your content in the first place or if your article is hard to read?

7. Review the Data

How can you tell if your topic clusters are working if you don’t track any metrics? Make sure you look at your data before you organize your content into topic clusters. This helps set a baseline or a control group for comparison to see if your efforts made a difference. Then, when your clusters are ready, track the metrics over time.

The data each company tracks may differ depending on goals. Some may be more concerned with things like bounce rates, while others focus on the time people spend on the page. No matter which metrics you track, they should let you see if your topic clusters are making a difference. They can also tell you if you need to reevaluate and restructure everything again.

Implementing Topic Clusters: Practical Steps and Considerations

Let’s get down to business and figure out how you can build topic clusters yourself.

Step 1: Select Topics

The first step is to identify topics relevant to your brand and audience. These could include:

  • Problems your audience faces. What do your potential customers need help getting done?
  • What you want to be known for. What topics do you want to be the Internet’s top authority on?
  • Things people use your products for. What do customers buy your product to accomplish?

Step 2: Research Keywords

If we’re targeting topics, does that mean keywords no longer matter?

Not at all.

Keywords remain as crucial as ever. When building out topic clusters though, the key is to create multiple pieces of content with different keyword phrases that all revolve around one central theme.

To do that, we’ll need to select a core keyword topic for our pillar content and several related terms for other pieces of supporting content.

Ahrefs is our favorite keyword tool here at CoSchedule. For the purposes of this article, there’s one specific feature that’s super helpful, too. That’s the ability to identify parent topics related to specific keywords.

If you have a paid Ahrefs account, find the Keyword Explorer, enter a topic, and click the magnifying glass button.

You can dig in even further to find more related keyword ideas:

Based on this quick research, we now have:

  • A primary topic (identified as the parent topic in Ahrefs). This could be something we’d consider building a piece of pillar content around.
  • Tons of related keywords. These are all more narrowly targeted subtopics we could create related pages for and internally link them together around our pillar content.

Powerful stuff.

Step 3: Research Google Knowledge Graph

Google Knowledge Graph is an enormous database of information, providing immediate and factual answers to search queries.

Let’s look at Google’s search result for the query “social media calendar.” A highlighted part of a website on google explaining what a social media calendar is and how to create one.

Without a second click, Google Knowledge Graph summarizes basic information and shares frequently asked questions.

SERPs visibility and brand exposure will greatly increase by optimizing a website for Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Step 4: Create A Topical Map

At its finest, a topical map is a content blueprint. It breaks down primary topics into subcategories, creating a structural hierarchy and defining the content needed to achieve topical authority.

Follow these steps to create a robust topical map to dominant SEO:

  • Identify a core topic: After conducting keyword research, as done in step two, identify a keyword to stand as the main theme. Choosing a keyword is the first critical step to creating successful content.
  • Create a list of related queries: When creating content designed to help users, it’s helpful to first understand popular search queries related to your keyword.

Use the following SERP features to see what people are searching for:

  • Knowledge Panels
  • People Also Ask boxes
  • Auto Suggest
  • Identify subtopics related to the main theme: Use the list of related queries to identify popular subtopics and cover the fine details of the core topic.
  • Create the hierarchy: Connect the subtopics to the main topic using semantic language (i.e., interlinking).
  • Produce Content: After creating the hierarchy, use your topical map to start producing quality content.
  • Review and revise: As new content is created and published, add or remove subtopics to ensure your map reflects the current focus and structure of content.

Step 5: Plan Topically-Themed Content

Now you know what topic you’ll be creating content around. Congrats! You’re on your way to outranking your competition and being known as the topical authority in your industry.

But first, you’ll need to actually create that content.

So, we’ll start by determining which types of content you’ll produce. This could include:

  • Website pages. These might include articles within a resource hub or learning center.
  • Blog posts. Commonly, this means one core post with several interlinked posts.
  • Microsites. An entire mini-site dedicated to one topic could be successful (if microsites are a part of your strategy).
  • Videos. This could potentially be a series of videos tackling all aspects of a topic.

Challenges and Common Pitfalls in Topic Cluster Implementation

Data quality and preprocessing

Before you apply any topic modeling or clustering algorithm, you need to make sure that your data is clean, consistent, and relevant. This means removing noise, outliers, duplicates, and irrelevant features that could distort or bias your results. You also need to preprocess your data according to the specific requirements of your chosen method.

For example, for text data, you may need to perform tokenization, lemmatization, stopword removal, and vectorization. For numerical data, you may need to perform scaling, normalization, and dimensionality reduction. Data quality and preprocessing are essential steps for ensuring the validity and reliability of your topic modeling and clustering outcomes.

Algorithm selection and evaluation

Another challenge is to select the most appropriate algorithm and parameters for your topic modeling or clustering task. There are many different methods available, each with its own assumptions, advantages, and limitations. You need to understand the underlying logic and mathematics of each method, as well as the trade-offs between complexity, speed, and accuracy. You also need to evaluate the performance and quality of your algorithm using suitable metrics and criteria.

For example, for topic modeling, you may use perplexity, coherence, or human judgment. For clustering, you may use silhouette score, Davies-Bouldin index, or external validation. Algorithm selection and evaluation are crucial steps for ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of your topic modeling and clustering solutions.

Interpretation and communication

A final challenge is to interpret and communicate your topic modeling and clustering results in a meaningful and actionable way. You need to be able to explain the logic and rationale behind your choices and findings, as well as the implications and limitations of your analysis.

You also need to be able to present your results in a clear and concise way, using appropriate visualizations, summaries, and narratives. You should avoid overfitting, oversimplifying, or overgeneralizing your results, and acknowledge the uncertainty and variability inherent in your methods. Interpretation and communication are vital steps for ensuring the relevance and value of your topic modeling and clustering insights.

Future Trends: The Evolution of Topic Clusters in SEO

Influential search engines like Google have changed their algorithm to favor topic-based content. As a result, websites are exploring a new way of linking related content under a “topic clusters” model.

While you cheerfully (or apathetically) browse the web, many companies are quietly reconfiguring their web pages in the background. Why?

Because the competition to rank in search engine results is intense. As a result, content-focused websites have adopted new best practices. SEO is now shifting to a topic cluster model.

In this model, a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content for an overarching topic. Multiple content pages that are related to that topic link back to the pillar page. This linking action signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic, and over time, the page may rank higher for the topic it covers.

The topic cluster model, at its core, is a way of organizing a site’s content pages using a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture.

Marketers and SEO experts are not going through the tedious process of overhauling their site structure just to get ahead of consumer behavior. They’re being forced to because search engines have changed their algorithms in response to consumers’ behavioral changes.

Years ago, people posed fragmented keyword queries to search engines to find answers to their questions. Nowadays, people are asking search engines more complex questions, and they expect an accurate and timely answer.

Searchers who want a specific answer also use many different phrases in their queries. Search engines are now smart enough to recognize the connections across these queries. Algorithms have evolved to the point where they can understand the topical context behind the search intent, tie it back to similar searches they have encountered in the past, and deliver web pages that best answer the query.

The first big shake-up related to this change occurred with Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013. The search algorithm began parsing out phrases rather than focusing solely on keywords. Many SEO professionals see Hummingbird as Google’s official switch from a keyword to a topic focus.

The next major step toward reliance on topics was Google’s RankBrain update. Launched in 2015, RankBrain is Google’s machine learning algorithm designed to understand the context of people’s search queries. It associates past searches with similar themes and pulls multiple keywords and phrases that are associated with the search query to find the best results.


In the ever-evolving landscape of SEO, the strategic implementation of Topic Clusters has emerged as a game-changer. This guide serves as a comprehensive resource for digital marketers, SEO professionals, and content creators, offering an in-depth understanding of what Topic Clusters are, why they matter, and how to effectively integrate them into a robust SEO strategy. By mastering the art of Topic Clusters, businesses and individuals can navigate the digital terrain with finesse, ensuring their online presence not only survives but thrives in the competitive world of search engine rankings.

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