As a business owner, building an online presence that reaches customers where they’re at, is key to success. Getting your blog posts to appear among the top results on influential search engines such as Google is crucial.
You might think, “I already have a robust SEO-keyword and link building system in place.” If that’s the case, great!
There’s a catch, though.
Search engine algorithms now favor topic-based content. A topic-guided structure for content providing many answers to a single topic search would be viewed as higher quality by search engine algorithms and thus rank higher than keyword-stuffed pieces.
To take advantage of this relatively new algorithm, it’s time to explore ways to link content under “topic clusters” that guide search engines straight to your page and give readers a wealth of thorough, in-depth content dedicated to solving the problem or question that drove them to type certain keywords into the search bar in the first place.
Before we take a brief tour of creating an effective, powerful, and useful topic cluster, let’s discuss what a content cluster is.
What is a Content Cluster?
A content cluster comprises a pillar page and subpages dedicated to one key topic. The pillar content takes readers on a detailed yet brief overview of the big picture, while subpages delve into the individual details of that big idea.
A successful content cluster is made up of three main parts:
The Pillar Piece
The core topic should be central to your business or cause, focused enough to form a single pillar page, and broad enough to split naturally into several smaller blog posts.
The pillar page stands as the foundation and introduction to your content cluster. Readers coming across the pillar page should learn enough about the main topic to gain a clear idea of what it’s about and why it’s important, yet be intrigued to learn more about the topic…which leads us to the cluster pages.
The Cluster or Spoke Pieces
Each cluster page is an in-depth article or blog post on a single related topic found within the broad core topic, briefly covered in the pillar page. While the pillar page is more of a general overview, the cluster pages go a step beyond and explain the fine details of the subtopics.
Internal Linking Strategy
Your internal linking strategy holds your clusters together. As you publish cluster pages around the pillar page, make sure to include internal links that direct readers back to the pillar page. These internal links help create a web of connectedness between various pages on your website, making search engines happy to rank your content as topic-focused.
Example of a Content Cluster: What is Content Marketing?
Why You Should Implement a Content Cluster
Compared to a less structured approach to content creation (such as random keyword-driven blog posting without any internal linking), content clustering has impressive benefits that boost site rankings and increase customer engagement.
Here are just a few reasons why your business website could probably use a topic cluster content creation strategy:
- Improve SEO and Page Desirability: Linking topic-related pages together gives your blog more topic authority, increasing the SEO ranking of your site pages.
- Increased Content Creation Ideas: Once you have chosen a specific topic, content cluster subtopics fall into place.
- Prioritize, High-value Content: With cluster planning, you already know that the topic you’re addressing in each post brings value to readers. So start with the foundational pieces as much as you can. This will also eliminate going back in to fix the linking strategy.
Before you know it, you’ll have a full content strategy and schedule ready for the next month or two!
How to Build a Smart Content Cluster
The best part about this content strategy is that it does not require an enterprise-level budget to pull it off. It can be one of the more cost-effective inbound marketing strategies.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Establishing Your Core Strategy
Getting started is a bit tough. Here you want to sit down and develop the main values of your brand and how that translates to your online traffic. Find a significant, valuable, and broad topic directly related to your business as primary to your core strategy.
As you brainstorm possible core topics, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I build from this topic and break it down into smaller topics?
- Would content relating to this topic showcase my company’s values and vision?
Develop Foundational Topics First
You should write your core/pillar pages first because those will best build your domain and topical authority. It also makes it easier for branching topics to be developed.
Depending on your current content marketing setup, you could outsource professional writing teams to develop the core content and then do some of the branching pieces in-house. Or, you can consider writing one long piece for the entire topic and splitting the blog into multiple shorter blogs.
When you at least start with the foundational topics, then you know that you’ll have high-quality content directing traffic to your page.
Identify Keywords for Cluster Topics or Spoke Pieces
Using your pillar topic, research the primary keyword to identify additional topics/keywords and search trends to use as the basis for the cluster content.
When planning cluster topics, the target audience should also be considered. What does your audience care most about, or what do your buyers need to know?
Do appropriate keyword research to identify the most frequently used keywords on the topics that matter to your audience, and build each cluster content piece around them.
Plan for a Long-Term Strategy
Your goal is to create a network of linked topics that is highly useful for your readers, ranks near the top of most search engines, and brings more customers to your business.
This network should continue to grow over time. As more pillar pages and core topics are covered, your website or blog will become a treasure trove of valuable information that customers, old and new, would love to revisit.
Plan long-term, and don’t get carried away with the idea of a content cluster, which may rush you into creating one that isn’t that good. The long-term strategy also helps you identify when the clusters or topics need to be adjusted or optimized based on new information. This way, you can focus on a group of core topics and then update those year-over-year, which is cheaper in the long run.
Provide New Answers in New Ways
Content clusters aim to cover a topic as thoroughly as possible.
As a business blogger, your job is to provide all of the relevant information you can on the core topic and answer each question readers bring with them on said topic. The goal of each cluster page is to keep the visitor reading to find the answers they need, satisfying their search intent—no matter where they are on the buyer’s journey.
As such, the pillar page can be a useful “map” to help readers see how all subtopics relate to each other and easily jump back and forth from different pages thanks to smart internal linking. But be sure not to copy what the top 3 pages have written. Write something new about the subject (while addressing the issue) to expand the reader’s knowledge and awareness of the topic.
How to Build Content Clusters on a Budget
There is typically an expense associated with building content clusters. Whether it is the cost of your time strategizing, optimizing, and developing or the cost of outsourcing, building a content cluster on a budget can sometimes be tricky.
The cost variables are impacted by the team you have, your current content, and the amount of your content, among others. No matter what, here are some cost-effective ways to still leverage content clusters in your content marketing plan.
The infographic shows a few examples of how you can build out a content cluster. Ask yourself first, what is your strategy? That will establish your core foundational pieces (averaging around 4 core foundations). From there, develop your key pillar pieces.
These will differ from company to company, but they can highlight a target service (i.e., Local SEO Services), the brand’s product (i.e., special waterproof shirts), or a demographic (i.e., those who want to learn new recipes).
Figure out the most important information about each foundation, including target audience, important demographics (like location), questions being asked, and so on, and then go through and develop your pieces.
Optimizing Current Content
Optimizing your current content is a very affordable way to get to a content cluster without writing up brand-new content. This strategy works best, of course, when you have existing content that is at least somewhat related to your brand’s topics and goals.
If you already have content available, you can start by assessing what’s on your page to determine if what you have is already “foundational” content. You can also consider organizing the content to pull out unique topics.
An SEO audit can also help determine which topics are critical to your brand; you may be surprised at what you find.
An audit will identify the pages on your website and their performance rankings and help you organize a plan forward for improving the quality of your page. This audit may recommend scrapping some underperforming content, which could improve your domain authority and topical authority.
Either way, you can use this and what you’ve brainstormed about in your strategy session to optimize current content rather than creating all brand-new content.
Planning the Content Clusters From the Start
Most come into the issue of needing a content cluster well into their content marketing strategy. This makes it more difficult financially to achieve.
Start with clusters in mind. You’ll want to pick at least 3-4 core content categories or topics your brand should cover. From there, you can ensure that your strategy meets topical coverage requirements.
Investing in Smart Plugins
Your content management system, like WordPress, will likely contain many plugins capable of helping you with your content cluster follow-through. For the cost of these plugins, they are usually worth it.
The WordPress plugin like Link Whisper can effectively link back to newer posts without needing to expense this tedious part of the strategy.
Planning With AI-Powered Tools
Spending time setting up the strategy right will improve the overall chance of success for your cluster, reducing rewrites, optimization, and failed blogs in the future.
Using an AI-powered tool like MarketMuse can greatly improve your blog linking and topical cluster strategy and improve the effectiveness of your cluster campaign.
Let okwrite Help Develop Your Content Cluster Strategy
What does your content marketing strategy look like?
Does it resemble a haphazard sprinkling of keywords and catchphrases? Or does it look like a thriving forest of content-cluster trees, with concise and powerful pillar pages supporting and feeding the intricate cluster pages that bring your business blog to life?
At okwrite, we’re all about content production that drives profit and conversion while providing readers exactly what they need—solutions to their problems.
We also firmly believe that content marketing should be affordable and results-driven.
Thus, our Content Marketing services are tailored to each individual business, ensuring that your content clusters are relevant and effective for your business.
Visit our contact page and ask about how we can work with you to create game-changing topic clusters for your business in today’s digital world.