Presently, there is fierce competition among businesses to rank top in the search engine results. For this reason, there is a continuous evolution of SEO practices. The newest trend or shift in SEO is now topic clusters.
In this post, we will discuss the topic cluster and how you can use it to increase your search engine rankings.
What are Topic Clusters?
A topic cluster is a model where the main page is the ‘pillar’ page, which acts as the main content hub for a specific topic. The main page is connected to numerous content pages, which are related to the same topic linking back to the pillar page and to each other.
This connecting action signals search engines that the main page is an authority page on the topic. Over time, this page may rank higher for the topic it covers.
With the help of the topic cluster, it is possible to easily organize the content pages of a website using well-planned and cleaner website architecture.
Do Topic Clusters Really Impact SERPs?
With changing algorithms, Cambria Davies and Anum Hussain from HubSpot introduced the topic cluster experiments for a selected group of topics in 2016. The comprehensive findings from the initial topic cluster experiment revealed that the more interlinking they practiced, the better placement in SERPs. Also, views or impressions increase with the increase in the number of links created.
Before the introduction of the topic cluster, the structure of the website was simple. Only the main URL hosts the homepage and links to sub-directories or sub-domains. As HubSpot generates more content, the structure becomes spread out and intricate, with no uniform linking structure in place.
The entire setup makes it difficult for search engines to crawl through the pages fast. Moreover, numerous similar businesses investing in content, find themselves with multiple webpages based on similar topic areas.
All such pages end up competing with each other to get identified by search engines, and eventually by the searcher. It requires a more thoughtful arrangement, one that informs search engines about the page priority and displays results for the main page and then organizes them related to that topic in a single interlinked cluster.
The architecture of a page is rearranged by topic clusters where content cluster covers a specific topic area link to a particular pillar page, which definitively outlines the topic.
By linking completely the internal content within the topic to a pillar page, search engines like Bing, Google, and others can conveniently scan the entire content and know that there exists a semantic relationship between these content pages.
Also, topic clusters signal search engines about the real depth and breadth in the content that provides pillar pages high authority on the topic. Algorithms such as Google’s RankBrain consider this orderly linking with the greater search placement.
Now, you know that actually topic clusters influence the search engine rankings, so it is best to understand it in detail.
Understanding Pillar Pages and Satellite Pages in Topic Clusters
The ‘pillar’ page or pillar post is the main center content.
It is known as pillar post because it is one of the 5-10 key pages of content, which defines the focus of a site.
Usually, pillar pages are long-form content, which typically delivers a broad overview of a specific topic. Pillar posts have titles like:
- Guest Posting – The Comprehensive Guide
- Email Marketing – Everything You Want to Know
- The Complete Guide to Blogging
Along with pillar pages, the other important page content in the topic cluster is the satellite pages.
The satellite pages surround a pillar post and go into specific sub-topics in more detail.
For instance, the satellite page for a pillar page about email marketing can be:
- 15 Best Email Marketing Strategies,
- How to Design the Perfect Email Marketing Funnel and more.
The pillar page on a topic together with the sub-topics together creates a topic cluster.
One main trait of a pillar page is that it extensively covers a specific topic. In that case, it functions as a gateway to the pages, which cluster around the topic.
Such satellite pages deal with sub-topics or sub-headings of the main topic. They cover such sub-topics in more detail than it was possible in the pillar page.
A pillar page with numerous sub-topic pages connected to it has a higher chance of ranking on the first page of Google.
It is because the pillar page lies at the center of a topic cluster, which means it possesses high topical authority.
Understanding Topical Authority:
In the year 2013, the semantic analysis and Hummingbird algorithm were introduced by Google.
This algorithm enables Google to determine that specific keywords group together in a predictable pattern.
This, in turn, enables Google to map out the sub-topics, which create any topic.
It implies that Google can now measure the topical authority of a content piece.
In simple words, Google can now measure how efficiently a content piece covers a specific topic.
This is what brings topic clusters into the role.
It is difficult for one piece of content to cover all details about a topic.
By creating a series of different articles, it is possible to cover a distinct aspect of a particular topic. The main page that is connected to numerous different pages will have the highest topical authority. This makes topical authority an important ranking factor.
This way, the pillar page, which is at the center of the topic cluster, will rank high in Google.
Is Topic Clusters Replacing Keywords?
Topic clusters have started to replace keywords. Years ago, searchers were focused only on specific, individual keywords.
However, with the introduction of Google’s RankBrain and Hummingbird algorithm, it is now more about content and not isolated keywords.
Moreover, Google is now trying to comprehend the search intent. It means that algorithms are trying to understand the meaning and context.
Hence, it is no more about optimizing the page for only one keyword.
Ways to Create Topic Clusters from Scratch
In order to create a topic cluster from scratch, you may follow the following ways.
Consider the head keyword for the main topic, which can be SEO, email marketing, or anything else and enter the same into Google. Scan through the initial 10 articles appearing in the search results.
Consider the sub-headings and headings and create a list of sub-topics that divides your main topic into various categories. Now enter the main keyword into Google. Check the auto-suggested topics.
Check for additional things that can be added to the list of sub-topics.
Scroll down to the footer and consider ‘related searches’ from Google. Check to see if there are other sub-topics that can be added to the list.
You will now have a long list of sub-topics. Write up to 300 words on each sub-topic. You will have long-form posts of 2500 to 5000 words.
Since 300 words are not enough to cover any sub-topic so it brings satellite pages into the role. With the help of a unique satellite page, you can easily address each issue of the sub-topics.
This is how you create a content cluster.
Ways to Create Topic Clusters from Current or Existing Content
Luckily, you can create topic clusters from your current blog posts and articles as well. For this, you first have to practice content audit.
In particular, you require a spreadsheet of articles so that you can assess the titles and check which articles properly fit into a topic cluster.
For this, you can even use a plugin known as ‘Export Post Info.’
Once the plugin is activated, enter the name of your download file. Save the changes and then click on the download link.
The plugin generates a CSV file for the following domains:
- Number of Words
Next, open the CSV file in Excel and design a new column named topic clusters.
In the newly created column, make note of the extensive topics of the article. Next, sort the sheet by column titled topic clusters.
There you will see small groups of articles that share the broad topic information. They are topic clusters.
Within the topic cluster, there may be one article that will cater as the pillar post for that particular cluster. Even, you can conveniently create it using the process designed in the previous section.
When you create topic clusters from the current content, try removing the previous internal links completely that lead to other pages on your site.
This is important so that search engines can clearly identify that this topic cluster is self-contained. It means that internal linking must be done within the cluster itself.
Internal Linking in a Topic Cluster:
You can internally link pages in a topic cluster in the following way.
Create a Table of Content at the top of the cluster pages. Provide a link to the previous page at the foot of each page and link to the next page.
This way, it becomes easier to navigate and ensure that every cluster page links to the other page. Top navigation offers the reader an overview of elements that the topic cluster comprises of. Having bottom navigation encourages readers to follow a proper sequence of the pages.
According to Moz, this is good from the SEO aspect as the table of content signals the search engines about everything mentioned in a topic cluster. Moreover, if one page in the cluster gains a ranking boost, the advantage will be passed to the other pages in the topic cluster.
Creating Topic Clusters by Using ‘Related Articles’
As we have already mentioned, Google now uses clusters or groups of semantically related content to identify how relevant your content is for a specific search query.
In order to gain results and to keep the content organized, it is best to place a block of ‘related article’ in your post. This block can be positioned at the foot of your webpage. Such blocks contain links to 3 to 5 articles that are semantically related.
However, it needs a way to group the numerous odd published posts into semantically related topic clusters. In brief, you can use software that would help you rank the online content into related groups.
The best way to go about it was to consider content or topics, which Google has already indexed.
For this, you can consider any article, which you have previously optimized for a specific keyword. Now, visit Google and check the main URL that includes keyword and domain. The keyword is the main word that you optimize the article for.
Google lists the blog posts on your site that shares the most relevant topic for that particular keyword.
Finally, create a box at your article’s foot and name it as ‘related article.’ You can even copy and paste the title of the related articles. Insert adequate links to such articles and you will have the topic cluster.
Bonus Tips to Create Topic Clusters:
It might be quite difficult to identify a topic and build a topic cluster, particularly if your business holds an extensive archive. However, with these bonus tips, you can easily create a topic cluster.
- Identify and list 7-10 core issues of your buyer’s persona. Conduct interviews, surveys, and do research to gather relevant data.
- Categorize each problem into a broad topic area.
- Build core topics with sub-topics after proper keyword research.
- Identify content ideas that align with the core topics and associated subtopics.
- Validate the idea with competitive and industry research.
- Measure the impact of your content and refine results to offer your audience the best.
By organizing your content into a rich topic cluster, it is possible to rank your posts higher in the search results. It is because search engines now focus on the topical authority and context and not on one keyword.
After reading this post, you now know the best ways to create topic clusters from existing content and from scratch. Even, you know about the most important aspect of topic clusters, which is internal linking.
So, if you are searching for one SEO strategy that perfectly fits in your SEO campaign and helps your webpage rank higher in the search engines, then this is the one!