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How to use Topic Clusters to ignite your SEO

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Last updated on October 22, 2019

How to Use Topic Clusters to Ignite Your SEO

Competition to get found in search engine results has never been more intense and as a consequence SEO practices have evolved to a new model of being driven by content.

The Topic Cluster model is driven by a major change to Google’s algorithm in 2015 called ‘RankBrain” where a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and to each other.

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 and higher for the topic it covers. Essentially, the Topic Cluster model is a way of organising a site’s content pages using a cleaner and more methodical site architecture to reflect the search engines focus on topics rather than keywords.

Here is an example of a Topic Cluster:

When a web crawler visits your site its purpose is to make ‘content’ connections. Topic Clusters signal to Google that there is a semantic (metadata) relationship between the content which in turn generates ‘trust’. This trust creates ‘worthiness’ of a top spot page ranking.

Do Topic Clusters have an impact on Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?

Yes, it would appear they do. Experiments conducted by Annum Hussain found that the greater the number of internal links the higher the placement in SERP.

What does this mean for your website?

Your website structure may look something like this:

The master URL hosts the homepage and links to subdomains or subdirectories. Using this example, you can see the spread of web pages within the blog subdomain. As you produce more content, blog pages proliferate and the structure becomes spread out and complex, with no uniform linking structure in place.

This structure makes it harder for search engines to crawl through all the pages quickly. It also creates opportunities for duplication of page titles and meta descriptions. Eventually, you end up with many web pages that cover similar topic areas and all these pages end up competing with each other to get found by search engines, and ultimately, the user.

In order to meet changes to search engine algorithms a more orderly structure is required. One that tells search engines what page should have priority and displayed for a main topic and then organises all the pages related to that topic in one interlinked cluster.

How do you create a Topic Cluster?

Start by auditing your existing content pages and group them by topic focus. If needed, create a pillar page that captures all the key aspects of the topic in a single page. You might have 20 to 30 topics within that pillar.

Pillar pages need to cover the topic you’re focusing on so that it makes sense to tie to all of the cluster content linking to it. The cluster content you create or optimise should go into depth on just one area mentioned on the pillar page. For example: a pillar page on Digital Marketing would have cluster content page such as ‘SEO Optimisation’ which would detail how to optimise your site architecture for search engines.

Topics are now the umbrella under which your keyword strategy operates. Think of your content in terms of topics you want your business to compete in, rather than just keywords. Set a goal to ‘own’ a subject in your field by researching related topics or long-tail keywords, create content on those subtopics, and then link back to your pillar page to create your cluster. Challenge yourself to create as many variations off a keyword then group them together – using phrases such as ‘…Techniques’, ‘…vs.’, ‘Create a…’, ‘Teach…’ ‘How to…’ and so on…

Once you have a designated pillar page, update the links in the related content pages you’ve identified to form a “cluster” around the pillar page. Every post in the cluster set needs to be linked at least once with the same anchor text (the part that is hyperlinked) so that a search engine knows it’s part of a topic cluster.

Over time, monitor the pillar page’s ranking. When your ranking stabilises and you’ve grown your authority on the topic, you can take the chain of clusters further by linking out to another topic.

Key Takeaways:

  • Changes to Google’s Algorithm in 2015 resulted in search engine ranking being based on topic content rather than just keywords
  • A single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic that link back to the pillar page and to each other
  • Topic Clusters have an impact on SERP
  • Topic Clusters allow for an orderly structure that tells search engines what page should have priority and displayed for a main topic and then organises all the pages related to that topic in one interlinked cluster

Tools

https://answerthepublic.com/ – a great site to gather content ideas. Enter your keywords and the site will return a range of topics based on the keywords.

 

About the Author

Chris is a Client Success Manager at Konnector working with a portfolio of clients to help them achieve their digital marketing and business goals. His specialities include: Search Engine Optimisation, Online Advertising, Inbound Marketing, Growth Strategy Advice and Advertising Performance Improvement Techniques. Chris is certified in Google Ads and holds a Certificate in Digital Marketing from the Marketing Association of New Zealand.

Chris Ogles