Discover how you can use topic clusters to drive your website to the top of search results! Make ranking easier than ever by harnessing the power of topical authority!
What Are Topic Clusters?
Topical clusters are groups of related articles that help to explain and break down parts of a topic. All topic clusters will have a pillar page they belong to. The pillar page will link to each page in the cluster, and each page will link back to this pillar page. You'll also see various pages in the cluster linking to one another whenever they are relevant or helpful.
How Do Topic Clusters Help Your SEO?
Topic clusters improve your SEO by improving the way users interact with your website and proving to search engines that your website deserves to be seen as an authority in its niche. We'll cover more about each of these below.
The First Way Topic Clusters Improve Your SEO - User Behaviors
The first way is how users interact with your website as a whole. When you take the time to create quality articles that help users understand a topic more easily, users will take note of this. You'll see more users spending time on your pages, and they'll even visit multiple pages in a single session.
They'll start doing other essential things like sharing your content with other users, returning to your pages, bookmarking articles, submitting forms on your website, etc. All these things show search engines that your website delivers high-quality content. These metrics are important to rank higher in any industry.
The Second Way Topic Clusters Improve Your SEO - Topical Authority
The second way is how search engines view your website. The only way search engines will consider a website as a trusted, reliable, and authoritative source is when that website covers enough about the topic to be seen as an authority.
This threshold will vary from niche to niche, but regardless of the industry, the more thoroughly you can cover your niche, the more easily you will begin to rank for even the most competitive keywords.
How To Make Topic Clusters?
You make topic clusters by first deciding what topic you are planning to write about. Then, you'll want to break down the subject into a logically structured hierarchy. At the top of the hierarchy for any cluster will be the parent page of the entire cluster, which is known as the Pillar Page.
The pillar page is the page that outlines the entire group of articles you'll be writing, and it will link out to each of its direct children. The direct children of pillar pages will either be standalone pages or child pillar pages with topic clusters of their own.
The image above illustrates this in more detail. But now that you understand pillar pages, its on to the pages that make up the cluster.
Once you understand what your pillar page will be about, you can break down the topic into smaller parts. These parts will make up the topic cluster. Your goal with topic clusters should be to cover that topic as thoroughly and completely as possible. In addition to this complete coverage, you want to ensure that you build relevant internal links to further enhance your content's quality, helpfulness, and relevancy.
Now that you understand how to create your own topical clusters, we'll show you how to improve your authority even further with current best practices.
9 Tips To Maximizing Authority With Topic Clusters
1. Choose Your Main Topic
One of the most basic but essential aspects of a quality topic cluster is that it covers a single topic, but it covers it completely. If you split the focus of the topic cluster into two or more topics, you will defeat the entire purpose. Determine a single topic you plan to write about and stick to it religiously.
2. Design Your Topical Map First
Before creating a topical cluster, it is important to flesh out a topical map. Creating your topical map beforehand is important because it will keep you from making simple mistakes and missing certain opportunities.
Seeing the entirety of your topical cluster with your own eyes beforehand will allow you to ensure the structure makes sense and help you determine more topics to include in the cluster.
If you create the cluster without mapping it out beforehand, you will inevitably make mistakes. These mistakes will result in 301 redirects, missed opportunities for pages, improper hierarchal structure, etc.
3. Perform Keyword Research
While planning out your topic cluster, compiling a list of relevant keywords is another crucial step. You can do this in a variety of ways. To learn more about how to do keyword research check out our keyword research page.
Performing thorough research is vital because it will help you to ensure the most complete coverage of the topic. For example, competitive keyword research is a great way to ensure you cover more of the topic than your competitors.
4. Optimize On-Page Content
Optimizing on-page content is incredibly important to creating your topical cluster. To take complete advantage of the investment required to make your content, you need to ensure your content complies with all modern SEO practices.
5. Focus On One Topic Per Page
Every article in your topic cluster needs to be focused on one single topic. You can briefly mention other related topics, complete with internal/external links to a page that will further enhance a user's understanding of the topic.
But remember that an article's context is a very slippery slope. You can always touch on a topic and build a relevant link to another page in your cluster that goes into more detail.
6. Design & Create Relevant Internal Links
Throughout the topical map creation, it's important to keep in mind what pages make the most sense linking to one another. At a minimum, your goal should be for all pillar pages to link out to their children and for their children to link back to them.
You'll also need to ensure that you're looking out for opportunities for siblings to link out to one another as well. The best way to ensure all of these internal links carry as much weight as possible is to preserve the context as much as possible.
7. Stay On Topic
Search engines are constantly looking for new, reliable, relevant, and quality resources they can share with users. The best way to ensure search engines see your content as valuable is by creating content that is structured logically and stays entirely on topic.
A tell-tale sign of a low-quality resource is when it goes on unrelated tangents. As mentioned in point 5, it's perfectly fine to touch on a topic briefly, but tangents - if done improperly - will sully the relatedness of your article. Once sullied, search engines will no longer view your page as relevant, and you will greatly lose your ability to rank.
8. Use The Main & Supplementary Sections
The main content section is the section of the page where you house the main context of the article. This is where you tell your users about the whole reason they came to the page.
The supplementary sections are places for either tangents, ads, or other things that differ from the main context of the article. For example, it is common to end an article with a few sections that touch on other topics. But it is important to remember that these sections also help to expand upon the main topic of the article further.
9. Build Links To Your Pillar Pages
As touched on earlier in the list, each children of a pillar page should be linking directly back - in context - to their respective pillar page. This helps to distribute the link juice throughout your topical cluster.
How To Leverage Topic Clusters Even More
Leveraging topic clusters for maximum SEO benefit goes beyond creating and linking relevant content. Here are some strategies to improve your topical authority:
- Conduct Content Gap Analysis: Identify areas where competitors might outperform you and fill those gaps with high-quality content.
- User Intent: Align your content with the various stages of user intent, from informational to transactional. Creating content that fulfills each stage of user intent will help ensure you can take customers through the buying cycle, likely resulting in increased conversion rates.
- Update and Refresh Content: Keep your content up-to-date. Revisiting and updating your articles is a good way to ensure they remain relevant and authoritative.
- Use Images & Videos: Using custom videos, images, and infographics is a fantastic way to improve your website in many ways. Users like them and will spend more time on your content, and search engines like them as they prove your website is an authority.
How Pillar Pages Can Help Topic Clusters
You can get your pillar pages to help topic clusters in many ways by building various high-quality backlinks to your pillar pages, ensuring proper internal link building, and many other things. With careful consideration of the URLs you use, the breakdown of your topic, keyword research, and various other means, you can help your pillar pages elevate your topic clusters.