written by
Kevin Dam

How To Boost SEO and DR in 2024 With Topic Clusters

Search Engine Optimization 12 min read

Google algorithms change constantly. You can’t guarantee to have and maintain high rankings every single day. Yet, one thing remains relevant. Google will always provide users with the most valuable and relevant results to search inquiries. One way to boost relevance is by implementing topic clusters.

Topic clustering helps build expertise and authority, making it one of the best tricks to try if you want to rank high in search engines.

In this article, we will discuss topic clusters and the best ways to implement them. Improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) with in-depth expertise on a subject through topic clustering.

What are Topic Clusters?

Image Source Search Engine Journal

What are topic clusters and the purpose of topic clustering in SEO strategies?

A topic cluster is composed of content grouped together. These pieces of content are clustered because they are related to the topic. Using topic clusters drastically improves the scope and visibility of your website.

SEO performance depends on many things, and topic clusters have the potential to rank websites highly. Topic clusters play a big role in improving how search engines understand your website. Search engines can map out the hierarchy of your website, meaning Google will understand the relationship between your web pages and note your authority on certain topics.

Benefits of Using Topic Clusters

Having topic clusters can look like additional work if you're running a website. However, creating clusters for your website is more beneficial than harmful. It’s one of the ways you can increase website rankings over time.

IMPORTANCE OF TOPIC CLUSTERS FOR SEO

Topic clusters organize topics and subtopics accordingly. This builds more relevance between web pages. Using topic clusters is an SEO-optimised way of arranging your website. You are grouping content that has potential relevance and value for readers.

Using topic clusters helps improve SEO because:

  • You gain traffic for keywords that have lower search volumes and long-tail keywords
  • The pillar page content drives more traffic for the more competitive keywords. Tip: Read this article for more information about content pillars.
  • Increase credibility in one topic, which is supported by other content in internal links

IMPORTANCE OF TOPIC CLUSTERS FOR GOOGLE

Google will see and understand your website faster with topic clusters. Internal links help distribute PageRank and improve positions in the SERPs. The more subtopic or cluster pages you have, the more Google sees diverse yet supportive content for a topic.

Topic clusters signal Google on the website’s authority (by providing relevant content around a central topic). You can maximize topic clusters by implementing an off-site SEO strategy like building backlinks. Google makes your site more visible and authoritative in the SERPs when more websites link back to your pages.

IMPORTANCE OF TOPIC CLUSTERS FOR USERS

Topic clusters serve as a structure in a website. They organize the way websites appear, providing easier navigation around a website. Build as many topic clusters in your website to provide clearer site architecture. Users will have a better time exploring your website. Why? Because topic clusters make your website more cohesive and well-supported.

Topic Cluster Example

Let’s use an example: A website about Women’s health

Your pillar page is about a comprehensive guide titled, Best Office Shoes for Women. Other relevant content could be blogs and articles about the following:

  • Top Office Shoes Brands 2023
  • Day to Night: How to Wear Office Stilettos from Work until Your Dinner Date
  • Tips on Measuring Correct Office Shoes Size
  • How to Choose Shoes for Office Work
  • Do You Need Heels and Stilettos as Your Office Shoes?
  • Among many other content cluster articles

The point is everything becomes more related using topic clusters. Improve website SEO by having a hierarchy in the website. This way, Google knows which pages drive more authority and relevance for search results.

In this case, Best Office Shoes for Women brings more value by providing other relevant articles to women looking for the best office shoes.

How Do They Work?

Note that Google didn't create topic clustering. In 2017, HubSpot introduced topic clustering. HubSpot reworked some of its legacy content to be part of topic clusters. The results were astounding. In the next months, HubSpot saw a 107% traffic increase in its resource pages.

Topic clusters are simple to understand. The concept revolves around three things that help drive better business SEO strategies. Below are the three main parts of a topic cluster.

  1. Pillar page - the central page containing content covering the main topic and typically ranks for short-tail keywords
  2. Cluster pages under the pillar page - all pieces or pages of subtopic content supporting the pillar page and typically rank for long-tail keywords
  3. Internal links - links between the pillar page and the cluster pages

HubSpot showcases how topic clusters work. Its change to topic clusters gained HubSpot more traffic after its initial launch of new topic clusters.

Image from HubSpot

SEO Topic Clustering Strategies: Breaking Down

Topic clustering isn't “done-in-one-night” work. It takes time to assess your content and unearth potential keywords you can write as cluster pages. Below are the best practices to start topic clustering for your website.

1. Perform a Content Audit Analysis

Start at where your website is. What does this mean? You need to audit your website content. Make an inventory of your content by listing down blogs, landing pages, news, educational resources, and all types of content. This inventory content will give you a snapshot of your website’s content. This lets you know which content you can integrate into a topic cluster.

Best to use SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Yoast to bring out the data. Specifically, there are functions for website audits. This is where you also get an idea about your website's current performance. Get the relevant data from these tools to know which content brings high traffic.

For example, let’s use our website Aemorph, as an example. It hosts a blog that puts up articles about SEO topics.

2. Build Your Topic Clusters

It’s time to pick a topic for your first topic cluster. It seems like the most obvious and easiest part of creating a topic cluster. In reality, it’s not that simple. Go back to your content inventory and data analytics.

Note that you don't need to have one specific topic. You can have multiple topics, especially if your website covers a broad subject. At best, you can store these topics as potential pillar pages in the future.

Define your topic areas

Topic areas are general, which you will break down into core topics that relate to the main content of your website. This information answers what your entire website is about and gives you ideas on what you can still write for. Ask the following questions:

  • What is the website about?
  • What services or products do I offer to users?
  • What type of content do I regularly publish?

Identify your core topics

Now it’s time to narrow down the topic areas. It’s best to start on one first. Slowly add others as you grow the website.

  • Which content from your SEO tools is driving the most traffic? What are these topics about?
  • Are these topics relevant?
  • Do these topics serve a specific user intent? What are they?

When thinking of core topics, think of short-tail keywords that provide general concepts answerable to your current content. Here are some tips to help identify core topics:

  • Enter topic areas in the search bar and look at the auto-suggestions from Google. These can give you ideas on what users generally search for.
  • Enter topic areas in the search bar and view the People Also Ask portion in the results. You may also use Answer The Public. These will tell the most common questions users ask about the topic areas.
  • Come up with some Who, When, Where, Why, and How questions for topic areas so you can generate potential questions.

Answer the Public produces 139 questions about the input topic, SEO.

Identify your subtopics

The subtopics serve as the support to your core topics. Go back to your content inventory and group together related content. Subtopics further break down your topic into more categorized, specific portions of the content. Below are some tips for creating solid subtopics:

  • Find some categories in related content that links back to core topics.
  • Target long-tail keywords so you’ll have an idea of how to coin the best subtopics.
  • Use SEO tools like HubSpot’s SEO tool, which has functions for generating good topics and subtopics for topic clusters.

3. Conduct Thorough Keyword Research

Keyword research is the bread and butter of SEO content. Core topics and subtopics are keyword-driven branches of your website. Topic clusters are great opportunities to write about more in-depth content. However, it’s necessary to handpick the words you want to rank for.

Keyword research also largely involves checking your competition. You want to spot opportunities and keywords to rank for that your competitors don’t. Conversely, checking competition metrics also gives you keywords your competitors rank for that you’ve never considered.

How can you conduct keyword research? The best and fastest way is to use a Keyword Research Tool. Ahrefs, Semrush, HubSpot, and Moz, have keyword research functions on its platform. These tools will provide search volumes for words you need to rank for. You will also see other suggested keywords you can use to write about.

Keyword research tips for topic clusters

  • Select keywords with a medium to hard Keyword Difficulty (KD) for pillar pages.
  • Select keywords that have lower search volume and lower difficulty for cluster pages.
  • Use Wikipedia and run a keyword research tool to get organic keywords! Every Wikipedia page result is like a topic cluster. Search your core topic (for the pillar page), look at the Contents breakdown (to know how you can structure the pillar page), and then note internal links (internal links can be subtopics of the page).

Below is a Wikipedia page about Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. Blue links link out to a relevant topic for SEO. These blue links can then become potential content clusters for the topic.

4. Develop Your Content Plan

Plan your content strategy accordingly. The pillar page pertains to a specific topic, but the internal link binds the content together. Pillar pages can be long, containing thousands of words and a mix of competitive and low-difficulty keywords. There’s plenty of opportunity where you can link all content clusters.

Go back to your content inventory. Some of these articles and pages are already relevant to each other. You need to connect the current content to your created pillar page. It’s up to you to add additional content to the list. However, it’s best to update existing content to cut time and improve rankings for current content.

Look at your current content and the potential keywords you can still write for. Perform a content analysis on the remaining keywords by searching them in Google. What types of content do top results display? Are they Listicles, Reviews, or Basic Guides? The content you plan to write should satisfy the format and purpose users search for.

Ultimately, your goal is to write better content than your competition. File these pages under the pillar page. Connect these pages using internal links. Lastly, review changes and rankings of content so you will know which areas to improve.

The keyword “SEO” mostly showcases basic guides in the results. The most common questions users ask are what SEO is and how it works. Hence, making a comprehensive guide about SEO can bring more value to potential users.

5. Create Your Content Clusters

Now you have a pillar page and a list of keywords for content opportunities. It’s time to write content. Demonstrate your expertise in a specific topic. Dont, forget to apply the best SEO writing strategies to make content more readable and user-centric.

Also, reconcile the content you plan to write with the current content inventory. You never know. The article you want for the content cluster is something you’ve already written months before. You can update the existing one or create a different but related article.

Your readers are the ones driving traffic to your site. You created a pillar page and content clusters to lead them from one content to another. The pillar page holds the highest authority by holding all relevant content pages together.

6. Link Your Content Clusters Together

Internal links lead and redirect one web page to another. They bind together the clusters and support the pillar content. It’s your gateway to all other content pages that your pillar page holds.

Tips to link cluster content together

  • Only put a link where it makes sense. You don't need to apply links to all main keywords just to link to the content cluster. Too many links can get annoying and will affect user experience.
  • Use descriptive and relevant words as anchor text to the content cluster. The closer the word or phrase is to the subject of the content, the better search engines understand what the content cluster is about. Utilize both long-tail and short-tail keywords as anchor text.
  • Always link to the pillar content naturally to make the page more authoritative.

7. Monitor and Refine Your Strategy

Now, you launch your pillar page. Monitor it for the next few months to see changes in traffic and ranking. There are tools that help you measure metrics on your SEO and pillar page. Use Google Analytics and SEO tools to monitor all pages across your topic.

Monitor page views, average duration per session, bounce rates, and traffic sources. These aren't the only metrics for measuring performance, but they indicate a lot about how your pillar page is doing. Lastly, do competitive analysis regularly to spot additional keyword opportunities.

Conclusion

Creating topic clusters can be a lot of work. You need to look back and perform a deep analysis of your website. If you have the time, it’s a great way to know the ins and outs of your website. You could spend months and weeks executing one properly if you don't. It’s not a walk in the park to create pillar content that binds all content pages together. Not to mention, invest in the best tools to make the work faster and more accurate.

Nevertheless, the payoff is worth it. Topic clusters are sources of authority for websites. As more people read the pillar page, they will be redirected to other valuable content. Ultimately, you provide more resources to your readers, even if they only search for one specific thing.

The good news is this: Many SEO agencies and experts can execute topic clustering well. These professionals already have the experience to create the most compelling topic clusters, so you don't have to.