Why Topic Clusters Belong in Your Content Strategy

Do you feel like you’ve been writing content for your website for years, never getting the traction you need? Is your content strategy less of a strategy and more like throwing darts at the wall, hoping something will stick? If so, then you’re going to love the idea of topic clusters—and especially, what they can do for your content.

What are Topic Clusters?

Basically, topic clusters are a way of organizing your content into topics, specifically core topics and subtopics. Each core topic is supported by several subtopics, and every subtopic links back to its respective core topic. Everything is connected.

In the marketing world, core topics are known as “pillar content” and subtopics are known as “cluster content” because they cluster around the pillar—or core—topic.

Here’s how Hubspot illustrates the idea of topic clusters:

Source: Hubspot 

Why Are Topic Clusters a Good Thing?

Since the organization is a key component of topic clusters, you’re forced to put your content in its place, so to speak. You narrow down content into just a handful or fewer pieces of pillar content. Then, you can assign other, more specific pieces to it, known as cluster content.
 
Here’s an example of how you might organize your content:
 
Pillar Content: Content Marketing 

  • Cluster Content:
  • Blogs
  • Social Media
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Case Studies
  • White Papers

For marketers, this is incredibly helpful because it forces you to keep content focused and relevant, which increases the value for your readers. Hopefully, this also helps you retain your readers, eventually turning them into customers.

Second, the organization helps search engines scan your content more quickly and understand the connections between related content. Once you have cluster content pointing back to the pillar content, it signals to search engines your pillar page is an authority on the topic.

Over time, your pillar content ranks higher and higher, until you own a sphere of influence on the internet.

Of course, the higher your content ranks, the more likely it is to be visited and help you increase conversions.

SEO is Changing

Perhaps the most compelling reason to start using topic clusters is due to the changes in how people search for information.
 
Instead of typing keyword phrases into a search bar, consumers are using their own voices to call up information. Rather than using keyword fragments (like “pizza in Chicago”), users are asking complex questions right on their mobile devices or personal assistants, i.e. “Where is the closest pizza restaurant near me?”

Without a doubt, the search environment has changed, and search engines have adapted to accommodate what consumers want and expect.

This is why Google’s RankBrain was introduced a few years ago, to help Google understand the context of what people are asking when they go to the search engine for help.

Now that it’s a few years later, Google relies on RankBrain and other intelligence programs to help it serve up the very best content.

By organizing your content into topic clusters, you give search engines a cleaner, more deliberate site architecture from which to:

  • Scan information
  • Determine the authority
  • Rank content appropriately

If you’ve been writing content that seems to “go nowhere,” then consider reorganizing it into topic clusters. You’ll not only be more organized internally, but you’ll likely give your content a boost and win customers in the process.

About the Author

Rob SandersRob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience. During that time, Rob has helped a wide range of companies utilize new and emerging technologies to increase sales and profitability. As founder of RSO Consulting, Rob helps clients maximize their digital marketing efforts via SEO, SEM, SMO, and Web Analytics. He is responsible for many facets of the web analytics value chain, from identifying business goals and objectives to developing strategies and translating those into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rob also teaches digital marketing and analytics classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. As a contributor for Simplilearn, Rob creates expert thought leadership content on a variety of digital marketing and analytics topics.

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