September 3, 2020
How Topic Clusters Boost Your Search Rankings [Tips + Examples]
Guest Contributor

As a content marketer, you’d of course aim to have as many of your blog posts ranking on the first page of search engine results. After all, this means you’re able to get more traffic and leads organically, which means being able to use your marketing budget on other paid channels and tactics.

But when we see search algorithms constantly changing and evolving – just like the recently-implemented Google link attributes – how can you make sure you’re hitting your search rankings goals?

In this post, we’ll show you why the topic cluster method is one of the most powerful content marketing strategies you can use to boost your search rankings. Then, we’ll leave you with some tips to get started. 

What are topic clusters

Topic clusters are essentially a group of interlinked content on your blog all about one general umbrella topic. 

topic clusters
Source: CoSchedule

They consist of a pillar page, which contains all the general information about a chosen topic. This pillar page then links out to content clusters that talk about subtopics within the umbrella topic, only in more detail.

Benefits of using topic clusters

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of the topic cluster model on your overall content marketing strategy.

Increases your content’s search visibility

One of the biggest benefits of the topic cluster model is that it can boost search rankings organically. We know that getting organic traffic can be far more beneficial than paid traffic, especially if it means making the most of our existing marketing budgets.

And topic clusters can help do just that. First explained by Hubspot, topic clusters can help your site’s overall SEO because the more interlinking you have within your site, the better your placement on search engine results. 

Increases content’s search visibility
Source: Hubspot

Complements your link building campaigns

The topic cluster method also complements your link building campaigns. If you’re already trying to get high-quality backlinks to specific posts, then using the topic cluster method to help you organize your content can inform search engine crawlers which posts to prioritize on search engine result pages (SERPs). 

Combining your backlinking strategy with topic clusters helps organize your content for web crawlers, so they know which blog posts and links are more important and ought to be displayed for search users. This way, you don’t compete with other related posts on your own blog, and can boost search rankings for your best posts.

An example of this can be when you’re sending out emails to get backlinks for a blog post you want ranked higher. By having your topic cluster model, you can identify which is the most important post to send out for backlink campaigns. If you want your pillar page on “Social Media Marketing” to rank higher, then you’d prioritize this post in your backlink requests moving forward.

Improves website user experience

Finally, the topic cluster also improves the user experience of your site. Because of the interlinking between different posts, readers will be able to find related posts and content based on a specific topic without having to extensively search or navigate through your blog.

It has a similar effect to organizing your blog based on categories, only visitors will be able to click to tangent posts straight from the blog post they’re already on.

Improves website user experience
Give users a great user experience by organizing content based on different categories, like this example from from the blog of Freshbooks.

6 tips for making the most out of topic clusters

Now that you know just why topic clusters can benefit your content, here are some tips to help you get started on this strategy.

1) Focus your topics on your buyer persona pain points

One of the most important things you’ll want to do when creating and using topic clusters is making sure your chosen blog post topics are based on your target buyers’ pain points. Plan content around what they might be asking, especially online.

For example, if you run a dental clinic site, perhaps you can create content based on common concerns people will be searching for. Your user might be asking questions like “what is gum disease” or “how do I know I have cavities” – use valuable insights like that to help you plan out your initial topic clusters.

2) Audit your existing content

Chances are you’ve already been running a blog for a while. Just because you’re shifting to the topic cluster strategy doesn’t mean all those existing posts are moot.

Instead, do a thorough audit to see which posts you’ve already done and on which topics. Then, you can identify which posts can be put into a topic cluster as cluster content, or assign certain posts to become pillar content you can keep on expanding.

Pillar content are those that cover a specific topic in your niche – say “influencer marketing” or “social media marketing” while still being broad enough for your cluster content to cover more in-depth. 

Cluster content, then, are essentially specific blog posts that talk about sub-topics at length. So if your pillar content was on “social media marketing,” then example cluster content may be “Facebook marketing,” “Twitter marketing,” or “Instagram marketing.”

3) Go as deep as you can in your pillar page

Your pillar content page is meant to be comprehensive and include all relevant information about a general topic. Because of the depth required of them, they can go up to 3,000+ words. Calling back our previous example on a pillar page for social media marketing, you can add subheadings like the following:

  • What is social media marketing
  • Best platforms to do social media marketing
  • Cost to market per platform
  • Social media marketing tools

The goal for your pillar page is to have as much information as you can, while linking out to related posts in your topic cluster. Then as you build up your cluster content, you link all these back to the pillar page.

4) Use LSI keywords when creating content clusters

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are essentially keywords that are related to your main keywords or any search terms that users put into their queries. This is Google’s way of making the search experience better, where search results now highly consider the intent behind said search.

Because of this, when you create or update your cluster content, sprinkle in related keywords that will help provide more context about your post. Instead of just dumping the same keyword or keyword phrase over and over, add other terms and keywords that can help web crawlers provide more context about what your page is really about.

5) Contribute guest post articles related to your pillar pages 

We mentioned before how topic clusters can complement your existing backlinking campaign. Create a guest posting strategy that will let you publish posts on high-quality publications while linking back to your pillar pages. This not only is great for boosting your search ranking, but it also establishes you as an authority in your niche.

As an example, we created a pillar page on email marketing strategies on our blog. Then we pitched several topics to reputable websites on related topics, like “10 Creative Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaigns” and “How to Get More Email Subscribers using Paid Ads on Benchmark Email”. 

Contribute guest post articles

6) Include a relevant content section below your blog post

Finally, you can organize your links by including a relevant content section at the bottom of each blog post. Consider this your way of inviting users to see more posts like the one they were just on, to encourage them to stay on your site longer.

Just take a look at this example of a Robinhood review from The Tokenist that shows you cluster content at the bottom of the article. Because users probably landed on this page for a thorough review about the app they were considering, i.e. Robinhood, it would make sense for them to be interested in seeing side-by-side comparisons with related apps.

topic clusters
Adding cluster content in a context box can organize your links better, like in this example from The Tokenist.

This compels your readers to stay on your site and read more from you without having to navigate across the site themselves using a search bar, while also maintaining the main interlinking principle of the topic cluster model.

Key takeaways

As content marketers, we’re always looking for ways to get the best results from all our efforts. And the topic cluster model is one of the greatest tactics to boost your search rankings and make the most of your existing content marketing strategy. Using the tips you learned above, you can start organizing your content and getting better rankings on Google today.

Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant that helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.

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Guest Contributor
This post was written by a guest contributor and polished by Point Visible editorial team.


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