BLOG

Topic Clusters: What You Need to Know About the Latest SEO Strategy

Posted by Mary Ann Hegvold on May 18, 2017

content-authority-seo.jpeg

Remember back in the earlier days of SEO when the main goal was to fill a webpage with a keyword or two that you wanted to rank for in search results? Sometimes it would even seem a little ridiculous when you were reading "SEO'd" content because you felt like a broken record reading the same key phrase over and over in a few paragraphs where it didn't really belong.

Those were the days when SEO was all about the key phrase. My how times have changed. Today's it's almost the opposite. If you try to jam a key phrase into a page too many times Google will actually downgrade your ranking. Why? Because the jig is up. You can't just stuff key phrases into a page and expect that Google won't see through it. Google's algorithm has changed over time to identify websites that seem to have the bigger picture on a topic and not just a single keyword stuffed page. 

This is not particularly new news. For a while now Google has rewarded the websites with better rankings when you write in a way that humans like to read, while logically incorporating important phrases into your text, your videos, your imagery, your headlines, etc.

Now things have taken a step even further. Google is looking for content authorities. By evaluating a set of pages and their content, as well as how they're interconnected, Google will identify a website as an authority on a topic that has made smart connections between content pages of a similar topic. A content authority is rewarded by improving their organic search result rankings for the various phrases related to the topic being searched.

topic-cluster-keyword.png

How To become a content authority

1. Start with a Goal in Mind - Before you go too far, be sure you know what you want to be recognized for. What's most important for driving traffic? If you're not sure, this is a good time to be sure you know who you're targeting by developing personas. That helps define the specific challenges for each group which then, in turn, helps you create content that will propose valuable insight and solutions.

Download a Free Persona Development Guide  - Taking the time to do this will guide all of your efforts down the right path.

2. Evaluate your Options - This is important if you're trying to rank for something that's really popular. For example, trying to show up in the top search results for the phrase "breast cancer" isn't going to be easy. There are many long-standing content authorities out there with established spaces for this keyword. Not that they can't ever be pushed down in the search results, but maybe there's a better way to get what you want without having to wait and without having to spend as much money to optimize for a common phrase.

Look at a more specific topic that you'd like to be known for. For example, we work with cancer centers in various markets around the U.S. We're not as interested in them ranking for the phrase "breast cancer" as much as we want to rank for all of the various phrases related to breast cancer treatment.

This narrows down the playing field to those who offer similar services in their market. Now we need to evaluate the content that we have and what we need to be able to establish a topic cluster.

3. Create Topic Clusters - If you're interested in ranking for a topic (ie: breast cancer treatment) for a specific geographic area (ie: Tucson, Arizona), we'll need to look at content that's already on the website and identify where we can add more content related to the topic. Content can be of various types including:

  1. Content pages on the website
  2. Videos on the website that Google can "read" using SRT files
  3. Blog posts related to the topic

Once you've figured out what content you have and what you'll be developing you need a way to connect the pages to one another. Learn more about creating more content with inbound marketing in mind.

A good way to make that connection is to have a "pillar page." This is a page will give an overview of the topic and mention the content on the connected pages in the cluster. In our example of breast cancer treatment, we might have a series of pages and blogs on the topic, all of which need to point to the pillar page. This might include:

  • Breast cancer treatment options
  • Questions to ask after being diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Breast cancer support services
  • Breast cancer research trials
  • Recent breast cancer blogs

The pillar page will mention all of these topics and link off to the coordinating page.

Cluster model.png

Good for your visitor and for Google

By creating valuable content clusters, you're really creating a one-stop-shop for your visitor. You're going to give both the human and the Google bots the information they need, starting with the pillar page, to quickly identify you as having a wide breadth and depth of knowledge on the topic you're discussing.

Be sure you have a sales funnel ready to go on the website for those who visit as a result of your topic clusters. Learn more in our free eBook about how to use your content marketing strategy to drive more visits and leads through your website. Click below to download it now.

New Call-to-action 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, SEO