Blogging used to be so easy. You’d come up with a topic idea, toss in a few relevant keywords, and hit “publish.”
Then, you’d spend a bit of time promoting it online before moving onto the next blog post.
Nowadays, it’s all a bit more complex. As well as being an ace blogger, you also need to be pretty damn good at SEO. And if you really want to stay one step ahead of your rivals in the search engines, you need to keep up-to-date with all the latest and greatest SEO tactics.
Such as, for example, topic clustering. If you’re entirely new to this concept, join us as we take a look at exactly what topic clustering is, why you need it and how you can implement it in your SEO strategy.
Topic Clustering Explained
Let’s say digital marketing is your umbrella topic. You’ve also got a group of interlinked pages or articles centered around this topic. Think of them as offshoots – or topic clusters. One of them could be digital marketing for small businesses.
Their aim? To provide your website with better visibility for Google to identify your content.
Set Up Pillar Pages
Topic clusters begin with a pillar page. In our example, this pillar page will explain what digital marketing is. It’s a generalized subject and “digital marketing” is our high-volume main keyword. For this subject, we can then create many more hyper-focused pages that all link back to our primary pillar page.
For example, we could have a page dedicated to digital marketing for small businesses and another dedicated to digital marketing in 2019. Because they all link back to our pillar page, they’re telling Google that our pillar page is an authority on this topic.
The overall goal here is to use topic clusters to organize our content for Google better. See, all websites have a hierarchy and it generally looks like this:
- Top level categories
- Detail pages
Search engines need to determine the hierarchy of your website so they can assign importance to the right content. Because their crawlers lose interest as they get deeper into your site’s architecture, it’s really important that you create topic clusters that all link back to your main pillar page. It’s good for the organization, it’s good for internal linking – and it’s great for ranking.
Topic clustering is actually really simple stuff. The biggest problem is that creating lots of new content takes time. To make your life a bit easier, let’s take a look at how to create a topic cluster:
Take a Look at Your Current Content
Instead of creating lots of brand new pillar pages from scratch, take a look at what you’ve already got. Chances are, you’ve already got a few pillar pages that you can use as a foundation.
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It may be that you’ll have to make a few tweaks to the content, but if you’re already ranking decently for a few high volume keywords, consider using these as your pillar pages. Take a close look at your analytics. If you spot high traffic, high ranking pages, it’s very possible that you’ve got a few pillar pages on your hands.
Creating subtopics should – in theory at least – be really easy. Take a look at your pillar page and its content. Then, have a think about any and every subtopic that is relevant, and which can easily link back to this page.
For example, let’s say my pillage page is about a BMW sedan. My subtopics might include “pros and cons of buying a BMW,” “BMW vs Mercedes,” “BMW vs Audi,” “Are BMW reliable?” “Costs of a BMW,” “Brief history of BMW” and so on.
Your aim should be to come up with at least 10 subtopics, and they each need to go deeper into your main content. They should also include long tail keywords.
What’s great about your subtopic pages is that, when one of your blog posts starts to perform well, they all do.
Look For New Questions
As you look to create new pillar pages and subtopics, you might be a bit stuck for topics. If so, you can use a tool like Answer the Public to find the questions your audience is asking.
All you have to do is slot your main keyword into the tool and take a look at the results. Answer the Public will bring up a wealth of related questions that the people who are querying your main keyword are also asking.
Add a few of these questions to a spreadsheet, before inputting them into Google’s Keyword Planner to check their search volume. You might find that some are so high volume that they can work as pillar pages, while others will work better as subtopics.
Either way, your aim is to use topic clustering to solve as many problems as you can.
To this end, you should also use Quora to find out what questions your audience are asking. Take your keyword ideas, enter them into Quora and check the results. For example, when you do the search for ‘social media advertising’ you get the following results:
And now you’ve got lots of new ideas for pillar pages and/or subtopics.
You can use Google’s “People also ask” feature, as well. As you can see from the image below, you get new suggestions for query “long tail SEO.” If you haven’t previously created content around these questions, you can add them to your subtopics – or create a brand new pillar page first and then create lots of new subtopics.
Interlink Your Pages
Last – but definitely not least – you need to make sure that all your subtopic pages link back to your pillar page. Otherwise, your topic clustering endeavors will fail. Interlinking is the only way to show Google that your pages are all related.
Try to avoid using the same anchor link each time, as Google might get suspicious and penalize you. Mix your anchor link text up. This can be tricky because you’re linking to the same page each time, but you’ll just need to be creative. Make sure to use keywords sometimes but don’t use keywords all the time. Try branded keywords now and then, too.
As you can see, topic clustering is a fairly simple concept. If creating lots of content sounds daunting, just make sure you’ve got an ace content creation team behind you. Other than that, patience and determination are two skills you’ll need the most. It takes time for topic clustering to work its magic. Have patience, keep creating content and as long as you stick to the tips in this article you should start to see definite results from your efforts.
About the author: Kas Szatylowicz is a social media manager and outreach coordinator at Nightwatch — a search visibility tool of the next generation. Check out Nightwatch blog and connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter: @KasSzatylowicz