Are your web pages falling down in the rankings? This could be a signal that you need to change your SEO strategy to adopt the topic cluster model.
The days of keyword stuffing are over. Google and other search engines have gotten smarter and focus more on quality content and useful information than how many times a keyword appears. Yes, keywords are still important, but it’s more important than ever to create content around a pillar page that acts as the main hub of the topic with multiple content pages relating to that topic with links that send you back to the pillar page.
How Does this Model Improve Your SEO Results?
The pillar page used could be the longest and most comprehensive content piece offered for the topic at hand. This page is the authority on the topic, and all other pages are spokes that link back to the pillar page. An example of this would be a comprehensive car review page with several pages discussing the trim levels, features, and powertrain in separate ways that link back to this car review page. This is just one example of how to build this model.
Are Users or Search Engines Forcing the Shift?
The simple answer is yes. Even though we propose two options, both users and search engines force this change. Using topic clusters, your pages are more likely to be found by users that search with voice commands or a complete topic sentence. This shift in search habits has become part of the algorithms used by various search engines, which means you’re required to meet the needs of both with this new model. The days of short, simple, fragmented keyword searches are over and won’t likely return.
Have Changes to the Search Algorithm Been Evolving?
Yes, the first time there was a massive shake-up of the search algorithms took place in 2013, with Google’s Hummingbird update giving us parsed phrases instead of simple keyword-focused searches. This is seen as the beginning of topic-based searches and the beginning of the end of keyword-based search results. Today, you can still receive keyword results from search engines, but most offer predictive text to offer suggestions to provide the most complete and useful information. The internet has more information than ever before, and search engines work to help users receive the right topics for their needs.
Do Topic Clusters Impact Search Engine Results?
Are you simply creating a cluster of pages to send users to the pillar page, or do these clusters actually impact the search engine results? Thankfully, former HubSpotters Anum Hussain and Cambria Davies performed an experiment with these clusters that dates back to 2016. Their results showed the more interlinking done, the better placement they found on SERPs. This means your website pages will benefit when you begin to put these clusters to work and create subject matter that continually relates back to the main pillar page.
Does This Change Your Way of Linking?
It certainly should. If the point of building a cluster is to rank higher on search engine pages, you’ve got to build the pillar page and create sub-categories and creative topics that spin-off of that page. If you were to diagram the pages before these clusters and after, the diagrams would look extremely different from each other. Older diagrams might be more of a straight line and linear searches, while these clustered topics have a main pillar page in the middle and several pages of content as the spokes that come off of it, like a bicycle wheel.
How Can You Build These Topic Structures?
You’ll want to employ two strategies to build your topic clusters and adhere to the future of topic-based searching by most users. The first process is to audit your website, and the second is to focus on the future content and where it will go. Let’s take a look at both of these processes and see how they can aid your team.
How Should You Audit Your Website?
Do you have pillar pages for each of the main topics you cover on your website? If not, this is the first thing you need to do. These pillar pages should be lengthy, maybe 3,000-5,000 words, and offer an authoritative position on the subject matter. Several images, graphs, and subheadings will make this long-form content more impactful and offer several great subjects to spoke off of this content. Once the pillar page is created, link all other related pages to this content.
If you have the pillar pages for your topics but are missing some of the spoked content, begin building this content. You’ve already got your main topic and can create several spinning pages based on this pillar item and bring more of the content to attract users to find these pages on the search engines.
Your website audit will likely show you a few holes and places where you need to build up content and create complete topic clusters that help bring your pages closer to the top of the search pages.
Creating New Content: How Should You Approach It?
Before beginning new content, you should ask a few questions. Does this new content work as a spoke in one of the clusters? If so, which cluster does it belong to? Are you creating an entirely new topic cluster with this new content? If so, will you create the pillar content before building any supporting spoke content for this new topic?
It’s a Time-Consuming Process, but One that Could be Worth Your Time and Energy
Moving away from a keyword-based search system to one that allows you to build clusters and receive more page views can be incredibly beneficial for you. When you focus on the topic clusters and keep your content around the specific subject matter, linking back to a general and broad page that covers the topic with authority creates much more authority for your short-form content.
Will you begin to build topic clusters and use these for the future of your web pages? If you don’t focus on topics and move away from keywords, you’ll continue to see your SERP rankings fall.
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