In recent years, getting your company’s website found in search engines has become way more important and complicated.
Sure, you likely have a few handfuls of business-critical topics that your company wants to be known for. But so does your competition!
And in a globally connected, digitally-transformed world, where your next prospect could be from anywhere around the country or around the globe, so can your next source of direct, disruptive competition.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around for 20+ years. After all, millions of businesses have strong financial incentives to get found by the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and most of all: in the right context.
On-page SEO revolves around creating content that provides exceptional levels of value to intended readers while at the same time following best practices for search engine discovery.
In recent years, topic clusters have emerged as a way for websites to organize their thematically related content into hierarchical clusters of related content spread across multiple pages.
In this article, you’ll learn about the basics of topic clusters and how to apply this on-page SEO and content strategy to your IaaS, SaaS, or Fintech business.
What Exactly Are Topic Clusters?
Topic clusters organize your website content in a way that:
- Helps search engines better understand the main topics your company wants to be known for and critical parts of your overall website architecture
- Groups related website pages (cluster content) together into one main website page (pillar page)
- Establishes the relationship between related pages on your website (and sometimes even other websites)
Pillar Pages / Pillar Content vs. Cluster Content
Pillar pages, also known as pillar content, signal core topics that your company wants to be known for and rank for (on search engine results).
On the other hand, cluster content supports the pillar content as related content pages that back up your company’s claim of expertise on a particular topic.
Pillar pages have a one-to-many relationship with cluster content. In other words, you typically need a minimum of four cluster content pages to support your topical relevance claim that you make with your pillar content page.
Also worth noting: hyperlinks act as the plumbing that connects pillar content with cluster content.
Running Your Topic Cluster Planning Workshop
As your company looks to build its brand as the go-to through leaders and subject matter experts in your space, you’ll also certainly want to loop in multiple stakeholders from different teams in your topic cluster planning workshop.
Before that workshop, send out a short survey to critical stakeholders across marketing, sales, customer success, and product to find out:
- The products and services that their company needs to become better known for (both the company’s product/service name as well as the category in which these products/services reside)
- How customers use and benefit from each of these products and services
- Challenges and pain points that each of the products and services solves
- (For digital marketing teams -- internal and external) Paid keywords that have achieved success in the past
Identifying the Right Subtopics for Your Topic Clusters
In addition to this survey gathering, also
- Create or review your existing buyer persona documents
- Approach topic discovery from the standpoint of each of your most crucial buyer personas
- Visit online user communities such as relevant discussion forums, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, and Slack channels
- Review prior survey data, chat logs, and inbound lead submissions
Also, prioritize topics using a third-party SEO tool to gather data on estimate monthly search volume and relative degree of difficulty.
Content Research Best Practices
As part of your content research, content creation, and content organization process:
- Study each topic’s search engine results page (SERP) for additional topic ideas and inspiration -- especially the top three results for each topic
- Prioritize the core questions and most essential subtopics that you need to address
- Discover thematically-related topics that show up in the search results autocomplete or related searches section at the bottom of the SERP
- Organize content hierarchically into Heading 2 (H2) and Heading 3 (H3) sections
- Fill in any content (text, images, audio, or video) that you need to make your topic cluster 10 times better than any other content on this topic on the web
- Put yourself in the shoes of your target buyer person doing the searching
How to Implement a Topic Cluster Strategy
When thinking about how you can implement a topic cluster strategy in your own company, keep these basic steps in mind:
- Identify the core content topics or themes that your company wants to be known for.
- Brainstorm the subtopics that will reside within each of your cluster content (as pillar pages).
- Consider how your existing website pages relate to upcoming topic clusters.
- Link cluster content pages to the pillar content page.
- Plan and implement your content calendar (and content creation) to support the build-out of your topic clusters.
- Measure and optimize your topic clusters.
And finally, also include one or more contextually relevant calls to action (CTAs) to suggest the next local step in the buyer’s journey.
How are you currently using topic clusters to attract more of the right visitors to your website? What’s working well? What have you found most challenging? Let me know in the comments.