Here’s how you can use the pillar-and-cluster approach to create content that ranks in organic search. In the example, the pillar topic would be content marketing strategy. Head over to Answer the Public and type your overarching topic to find a list of long-tail keywords that could fuel your list of ideas. Each keyword phrase relevant to content marketing strategy can act as a cluster page if it’s sufficient to act as a standalone blog post. Similar keywords – like “defining a content marketing strategy” and “how to create a content marketing strategy” – have the same user intent. Write your cluster pages Now you’ve got your list of cluster pages, it’s time to move on to the fun part – creating the content. Write the pillar page With your collection of topic clusters ready, you still need the pillar page – the broad view on the overarching topic – so you can incorporate the internal cluster links. Confused as to why I recommended writing the pillar page after the topic clusters? Just head back to each topic cluster and link to the pillar page where appropriate. Remember to choose a strong topic, write your pillar and cluster pages methodically, and add internal links to connect each page.
Do you struggle to create engaging content that lands you in the top spots of Google?
There is a way to solve that problem, and create content that Google loves, while building a library of content that’s super useful to your target audience.
That way? The topic clusters model.
Topic cluster model explained
The topic cluster methodology, also known as the “pillar-and-cluster” technique, was first detailed by HubSpot Research in 2017. It’s used by both B2B and B2C organizations to streamline their content marketing strategy.
An SEO strategy that focuses on topics rather than keywords, the model is an intent-based approach that simplifies blog archives by creating content around one central topic – referred to as the “pillar” page or post.
Then several supporting blog posts – clusters – are written to explain sub-topics based on your pillar content and generate internal links to the pillar page.
The structure turns out looking a little something like this:
Using the topic cluster approach requires treating your blog setup differently because it doesn’t follow the traditional blog publication approach.
The organized structure of pillar-and-cluster content proves to Google a semantic relationship between each page (catering to its latent-semantic-indexing algorithm) and encourages each topic in your cluster to be pushed further up the search engine ranks.
After running this strategy on its blog, HubSpot proved more internal links led to a higher placement on the SERPs:
That discovery is why the topic cluster method is quickly becoming one of the most effective content marketing strategies.
Fancy getting in on the action?
Here’s how you can use the pillar-and-cluster approach to create content that ranks in organic search.
1. Decide on your overarching topic
Pick your pillar – the primary topic around which you build topic clusters. Makes sense, right?
It’s easy to do, too.
Brainstorm to create a list of relevant topics. Look to your buyer personas for assistance. What type of content are they looking for? Which of their pain points can be addressed by your organization through content?
If you’re a marketing agency, your idea list might look a little like this:
- Content marketing to get leads
- Promotion of blog posts through social media
- Email-generated content ideas
Those bullet points are cluster-type topics. You need one overarching topic – the common denominator for all three.
In the example, the pillar topic would be content marketing strategy.
Google recently announced a shift in the way their algorithm works. A spokesperson said:
For starters, the authority of a web page is now a more important signal in the ranking. If you’re doing a search for DIY shelving, the site behind the image is now more likely to be a site related to DIY projects.
If you can think of a strong topic cluster that underpins the foundations of your business, and you’ve already got content around that topic elsewhere on your site, you’re already on the right path.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
2. Do keyword research to define your clusters
You have the list of topics from your brainstorm – many of which now fit neatly as clusters. Don’t leave it there though – you need to dig and compile a bigger list of the cluster content you can create for your pillar page.
Enter keyword research.
Head over to Answer the Public and type your overarching topic to find a list of long-tail keywords that could fuel your list of ideas.
Here’s the result for “content marketing strategy:”
Notice how many questions it lists?
Each keyword phrase relevant to content marketing strategy can act as a cluster page if it’s sufficient to act as a standalone blog post.
Here are a few relevant inquiries from my Answer the Public graph, and the cluster content they could inspire:
- How to present your content marketing strategy could become a page on how to present a content marketing strategy to your boss.
- How to manage your content marketing strategy could become the post, “9 Ways to Manage Your…