If you’ve tried a few things to boost your SEO, but they haven’t quite worked, it’s time to wheel out your new secret weapon: Topic clusters.
Topic clusters combine content marketing with internal linking to fabulous effect. In short, they help to position you as an expert on a particular topic and thus put you right in Google’s good books. Not just this, but they also help to organize your website’s content better, and they drive more traffic.
In this article, we take a look at how to build topic clusters to boost your SEO. But first …
Let’s rewind to 2012. You’ve written an article about how to implement a strong digital marketing strategy because digital marketing is what your business is all about. The article is pretty excellent – it’s 2,000 words of action-packed value that your readership loves.
Once the article is published, you move onto another article about a separate topic.
That’s not topic clustering. Instead what you’re doing is optimizing your content for keywords. Back in 2012, that was fine. In 2019, however, topic clustering is very much the new black.
Topic clustering is when you take the main topic – such as digital marketing – and produce multiple pieces of related content that all tie back to it.
The purpose? To position yourself as the absolute expert on this topic and drive more traffic by covering the subject more comprehensively than your rivals. You don’t cover just one base anymore – you cover several over several articles.
Topic clustering is still a relatively new concept. Its inception went hand-in-hand with the introduction of Google Hummingbird in 2013. Mostly, Google wants to see you create pillar pages and subtopic pages. Your pillage page is your main page – digital marketing – and your subtopics are all the related topics that can tie back to your main page. This creates ample opportunity for internal linking, and it allows you to create more value than ever for your audience. Wikipedia has been doing this for years.
And it’s this focus on the value that Google is on the lookout for. When you create multiple subtopic pages that relate to a single unifying pillar page, Google can see that you’ve covered a particular subject with depth and authority and that you deserve to rank high for particular queries. Awesome.
Choose a Topic
To get started, you need to begin with a topic. Your topic needs to have a strong relation to your brand. For example, if a brand sells vegan food and drink, “vegan food” could quite literally form the backbone of one of its pillar pages.
It’s a good idea to search for your topic idea on your keyword research tool to gauge how popular it is. Ideally, your main topic idea needs to have at least 10,000 monthly queries.
Then, it’s time to create a few subtopics that support your main topic. You can think of ideas yourself – for example, I came up with “best vegan food on a budget” – but it’s much better to use tools to help you.
Answer the Public is a great tool that’s super easy to use. All you have to do is slot your topic into the search bar, hit “Get Questions” and the tool will show you a huge list of related questions people are asking.
You can also use Google’s Related Searches, and Google’s autocomplete feature. Like so:
It’s also a good idea to take a look at your existing content. Without realizing it, you might already have potential pillar pages that need fattening up.
Once you’ve got all your ideas, start to think strategically about how you can plan your posts. Perhaps draw up a spreadsheet whereby you include your pillar page and all related subtopic pages. This way, you’ll have a better view and idea of how to interlink everything, and how each page relates to the others.
Think about the type of traffic you want to draw to your website, too. Topic clusters allow you to drive more traffic because you’ll be using more keywords. For example, if ‘vegan food’ is one of my keywords and ‘vegan food on a budget’ is another of my keywords and one of my subtopics, I’m already drawing in more traffic.
Nail Your Pillar Page
As mentioned, your pillar page is reserved for your main topic. In our case, it’s “vegan food.”
Your pillar page has to be comprehensive, and it needs to offer as much value as possible. Mostly, it needs to act as a guide that walks the end user through their problems and shows them the solutions.
For vegan food that might mean covering what types of vegan food there is, how much it costs, where it can be sourced from, as well as vegan recipe ideas and foods that will need to be avoided from now on.
Whatever your topic is, think about the problems you’re customers are facing. What questions do they need answering? What do they need help with, from beginning to end? You are taking them by the hand here and walking them through a whole process.
For maximum results (conversion opportunities), you should also include a lead magnet on your pillage page. This could be a free eBook, a cheat sheet or a PDF version of the article. Whatever it is, it needs to offer a wealth of value to the end user in exchange for their email address.
Create Your Subtopic Pages
Once you’ve nailed your pillar page, it’s time to create your subtopic pages. This is where you get deeper into the details.
For our vegan food and drink store, our pillage page is “vegan food” while some of our subtopic pages might be “gluten-free food ideas” and, as mentioned earlier, “vegan food on a budget.”
Create separate pages for each subtopic and provide as much value as possible. See, while we might touch on vegan food on a budget in our pillar page, that’s all we’ll do – touch on it. It’s in the subtopic page that we’ll go deeper into this particular topic and offer more value. We’ll cover all the best tips and hacks the end user will find valuable, from checking the value products to stocking up on frozen fruit and veg.
Once again, your subtopic pages must be in-depth and valuable. They needn’t be as long as your pillar page, but always aim to write at least 1,000 words.
There are two key facets to a topic cluster:
You need them both. Fortunately, internal links are super easy to add once you’ve got your subtopic pages all nailed.
Each time you create a subtopic page, link it back to your pillar page. Try not to use the same anchor text each time. Optimize your anchor texts with your main keyword some of the time, but don’t do this all the time. Google might get a bit suspicious, and you don’t want to do anything that might draw a penalty.
Where possible, link out from your pillage page to a subtopic page. You don’t need to link out to every single subtopic page, but if it fits – go for it.
The purpose of internal linking is to organize your content better and show Google that you’re the expert on a particular niche. It also makes it easy for your site visitors to jump from one page to another – and then to another.
This is how to build topic clusters to boost your SEO in 2019. As topic clusters are going to be key to your success from now on, it’s essential that you make a start as soon as possible. Find topics, create subtopics, and interlink. And one final thing – make sure all your content is fantastic.