The idea of topic clusters have been around for a while, but only fairly recently have they been essential for your website's SEO. In this blog, we explore how you can build on your website's SEO strategy with topic clusters.
So, what are topic clusters?
Well, topic clusters are a content strategy that helps you plan and organise content in a way both humans and search engines appreciate. It's based on a hub-and-spoke model that improves how visitors navigate your content by building a web-like structure around any given topic. Basically, when a visitor enters your web, they won't want to leave, because you are leading them to even more content on that topic! Also: it looks a bit like a web when you visualise it:
As you can see, you'll be linking all of your content around a specific topic. That means that Google knows that all of this content is related, and assumes you must be an expert on this topic, seeing as you're producing so much content on it.
That results in your content (especially that middle one that is marked "pillar page") being considered very relevant when someone searches for that topic and it's more likely to rank well. There is, of course, the caveat that your content needs to be of good-quality and search engine optimised.
With this model, your main pillar page will be optimised for your central theme and each cluster content piece will be optimised for a specific aspect of that topic. With the vast vast majority of searchers today typing in long search phrases (according to Ahrefs, 64% of search queries contain four or more words), the cluster content that you produce will be more specific and be more relevant to these searches.
The benefits of a topic cluster strategy is clear and well-touted around the marketing community. But if you consider that this strategy will not only result in more content, but more thorough content, you would be forgiven for hesitating to dive in head first.
This content creation could cost you a absolute fortune for a marketing agency to produce. I firmly believe in Marcus Sheridan's They Ask, You Answer methodology and I highly recommend you check out his book (I know, I know - he's a competitor and I shouldn't be sending you there. The book explains the concepts that I simply don't have the space and time to cover as in-depth here, so please forgive me.)
To be brief, the main take-away is this:
Your business employ experts to deliver on the service/products/solutions that your business is built around. So why not use that expertise to gain some new customers? Bring your writing and filming in-house and answer the questions that they get asked every day. I promise you this: they know the answers.
Get your whole team involved, so as to not overwhelm one or two people and instill a culture of:
- Everyone in your business is a sales-person
- Everyone should be aiming to help and solve for the customer (and prospect!)
This will get you the expert, in-depth content you need. Assign someone in your business to taking ownership of the content (marketing would be a good choice here) to get the strategy in place and the ball rolling beyond just content creation, into actually editing, publishing and promoting.
Now, let's get on to how to actually get going with these topic clusters.
How to get started with topic clusters
Start with your website redesign
Implementing topic clusters will only prove fruitful when you add it on top of an already optimised website. That means you need to start thinking about your topic cluster strategy when you are redesigning your website. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Is your website responsive?
Google indexes pages on a mobile-first approach. That means it takes your mobile website into consideration before desktop and tablets. When I say mobile website, that doesn't mean you need a mobi.yoursite.com - that's luckily in the past. What I mean is, your website needs to scale between the different screen sizes, but you should focus the most on how it looks and behaves on mobile. Of course, you need to take into account your own website stats: if the majority of visitors to your site are browsing on a desktop, then you need to focus on both. But for search engines, mobile is your priority.
- Is your on-page SEO taken care of? Do you have an on-page optimisation strategy in place going forward?
On-page SEO includes page elements like your page title, header tags, meta description and image alt text are all optimised and targeting a specific keyword. These will need to set up before your website is launched and be kept up-to-date. I highly recommend getting a tool that helps you identify potential issues. We use the HubSpot SEO tool and we get easy-to-action recommendations like this:
- Where will you put your pillar pages?
The pillar pages that you'll be building out and adding to your website as part of your ongoing content strategy, needs to be put somewhere that is easy to find. Do you want to add them to your website's navigation? On a resources page? Are you going to be publishing them as blogs? These are things you need to plan from the get-go.
Get the right tools in place
What CMS are you using? Do you have a tool that helps you visualise, plan and build out topic clusters? Again, we use HubSpot's CMS and the HubSpot Topic clusters and SEO tool, and I highly recommend it. The CMS Hub is easy to use and because it's connected to your CRM, you're able to add personalisation aspects. If someone has already viewed a specific blog, you could use that data to lead them to a different blog. For everyone else, you can still use the original blog. It's one of the best benefits of the HubSpot CMS Hub.
The SEO tool not only helps you with visualising the topic cluster but also with researching keywords and analysing if it's a good choice of topic/keyword.
I made a quick video to show you how the tool looks and works.
Learn from experience
Once you've planned your topic cluster and sub-topic content, you need to get down to creating it. But wait: your team doesn't know how to write great blogs or make charming videos! My suggestions here is to dive right in. Don't prioritise perfection at the expense of progress and implementation.
Rather, start implementing and learning and ,pretty soon, your content will be at the standard that you deem perfect. After all, practice makes perfect!
Never stop optimising
Your website, pillar pages, blogs and videos need to be kept up to date continuously. Keep an eye on your statistics and make changes to get to where you wnat to be. This can be by adding more webpages, pillar pages or blogs, or by updating or improving existing blogs. Whatever the case, let your source of truth be your data: bounce rate, conversion rate, time spent on page etc. Let these guide where and when you need to action changes.