Content Marketing Topic Cluster Strategy

How to increase website traffic with topic clusters [w/Template]

Aoibhin Stokes
Sep 1, 2020

When considering an update to your content marketing strategy, it's important to recognize that your surrounding marketing and client industries are inevitably going to change alongside new trends, marketing strategies, and technological achievements.

Failing to remain flexible and relevant can put your organization at risk of not connecting with potential customers and becoming obsolete.

The good news is that your content marketing strategy can be easily updated with thoughtful topic clusters, pillar pages, and accompanying content calendars. Continue reading to learn the optimal topic cluster content strategy and how it will contribute to your website’s architecture.

Why is a Topic Cluster Strategy Necessary?

Search engines are the most relied upon method of looking up content in the modern world. People trust search engines to have the right answers, which is shown by how Google bears over 63,000 searches a second, with 15% of them being completely brand-new with no previous search history.

One of the greatest technological advancements allowing this is that search engines have the intelligence to determine their user’s intent. You’ve likely experienced this first hand. Whether you’ve searched a misspelled term but still reached the right results page or googled a song lyric to find a song you like, search engines recognize when you’re looking for related content.  

To align search engine behavior with your SEO strategy, adopt a topic cluster model. Avoid developing your content calendar based solely on long-tail keywords, which come in hundreds of different variations. Instead, focus on topics to guide content creation and integrate high volume keywords within relevant content.

The immediate benefit of this is that your team will not have to produce constant content based on repetitive keyword variations to maintain your website traffic. This will prevent your website from becoming disorganized and redundant.

By following a topic cluster strategy, you will be on your way to building your website in chronological order. An organized website helps search engines like Google navigate all your related content, and therefore increases your website’s visibility and search rank. This is important because, by gaining a higher rank on your desired search results page, you establish your brand as a thought leader, industry expert, and client resource.

It also offers a logical content path for readers so they can continue exploring similar topics they are interested in across your website. Your content will ensure they stay on your website longer, which reduces your bounce rate and helps prolong their consideration of choosing your company’s service or product.

A great topic cluster model is easy to implement with an organized thought process and marketing strategy.

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Develop your topic cluster strategy with our free template

  • Determine relevant keywords used by your customers
  • Create overarching topic clusters that correspond with your keywords and subtopics

Determine Your Industry's Overarching Topics 

When brainstorming topic clusters, consider who your target audience is. Categorize your various prospective customers based on their buyer personas, the semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer characteristics, likes, fears, and challenges.

Consult SEO research to gain valuable insights into content your target audience enjoys reading, questions they commonly have and problems they are looking to solve. In using keyword research to see which topics are highly searched for, you gain a great indicator of how well your content will perform as well as the competitive density of the particular keyword. 

Identify 5-10 topics, backed by 50-100 keywords, your customers struggle with and can rely on your organization to fix. If applicable, consolidate any topic clusters that can be combined to further determine the best topics. These will later become the basis for your pillar page. 

Integrate Keyword Research to Create ‘The Topic Cluster’

To create an effective topic cluster (as pictured above), use your keyword research to refine the wording of your main topic, also known as your ‘topic phrase’. For instance, if you are creating content on school program admissions and your target audience is searching with the keyword ‘admission requirements’, it would be significantly less effective to use a topic phrase like ‘entrance qualifications’.

Once you have a great topic phrase that aligns with industry jargon your customers prefer, use keywords to inspire cluster content. Consult both short and long-tail keywords to identify 8 to 22 narrow topics your customers want to learn more about. They should be dense enough to provide an entire blog’s worth of content. 

Audit Your Old Content

Before you begin writing an onslaught of new content, make sure to audit your old content. This can help you make your content marketing more efficient as you can manage and repurpose old content that is still relevant. 

By performing an internal content audit, you gain the opportunity to:

  • Delete duplicate content
  • Determine information gaps you need to address in future content
  • Categorize existing content into new topic clusters
  • Clean up content links that are performing against each other on the SERP
  • Note which pieces of content are performing best for further strategy insights

Once you have identified your most relevant topics, reviewed keyword research, and gained insight into what your next steps are to optimize old content, it’s finally time to begin expanding your website and begin creating content.

Begin Building Content Hierarchy

Your first step requires creating main “pillar” pages that provide content for your chosen topic phrases. 

A pillar page doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s best as a long-form blog post or website page (approximately 2,000 to 5,000 words) that is visually organized and information-dense so your readers can navigate it easily. The main goal is to use strategic formatting to help them quickly find the information they’re looking for. However, make sure you are not sacrificing writing quality or the overall reader experience with your pillar page’s organization.

Develop Complementary Subtopics

 This page will then act as a core piece of content that contains links to complementary and more specific subtopics. While the subtopic content pieces you create are only limited by creativity, some tried and true examples are:

  • Fundamental blog posts that are a go-to format for cluster and subtopic content
  • Whitepapers that serve to report on a topic and show readers a valuable solution
  • Case studies that show relevant real-life scenarios
  • Fact sheets that explain measurable pros and cons, success rates, etc..
  • Infographics that use visual representations to entice readers to skim through data

The pillar page and its subtopic content should have a two-way relationship, with both of them linking to each other. All links back to your pillar page from content must have the exact topic phrase within the hyperlink. Alternatively, by including all your relevant links to content on your pillar page, search engines can recognize it as being the hub of your topic.

This is a highly effective way to gain online visibility and can often cause your pillar page to rank higher than your linked content so it’s important to make sure it is well written and continuously updated.

Plan Content to Create a Significant ROI for Your Business

Now you may be asking yourself, “is changing my marketing strategy to align with a topic cluster content strategy worth it?”

The short answer is “Yes!” To make your content one of the first search results, you have to outdo all your competitors who are striving to achieve the exact same thing. 

Strategizing your content based on topic clusters will improve your reader’s experience with your content while driving website traffic. You prevent content from competing with each other based on similar keywords (commonly referred to as keyword cannibalization) so that each piece of content has room to shine. Overall, you gain a hierarchical website that acts as a go-to resource for your target audience, helping you connect with both prospective and current clients.

Begin establishing your brand as a trusted authority for your industry. To further optimize your content strategy, check out our blogs on measuring content marketing success, why your content strategy is more than just a content calendar and using SEO best practices.

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