Topic clusters and pillar pages are a great way to help your site rank and build authority. If you want to build an effective SEO strategy, this should be something you consider. Read our blog to find out more about what topic clusters and pillar pages are and the benefits of including them in your SEO and content strategy.
SEO has changed.
Thin content and keyword stuffing are out.
Expertise, authority and trust are in.
Topic clusters and pillar pages provide a great way to help your site rank and to build authority.
But what are they and how do they work? Let’s take a closer look in this blog post…
Pre-2013, keywords were essential for SEO and were the only thing that really mattered. However, Google’s Panda update saw the end to keyword stuffing and websites that offered little to no value.
Now, Google’s algorithms have evolved to consider other factors when providing search results to individual users, including search intent, location, previous search data and more. According to research, 64% of search queries contain four or more words.
In fact, Google’s Helpful Content Update even outlines the need for writing content for humans and not just for the search engines.
What does this mean for your SEO strategy?
Keywords and content are still important when it comes to SEO, but with so much competition out there, Google and other search engines want to see that you’re an authority in your industry and not just creating thin content that offers very little value to searchers.
After all, Google wants to provide searchers with the most relevant search results to help them answer their questions or buy products or services. Otherwise, no one would use Google at all!
The best way to demonstrate your authority is to create topic clusters and pillar pages based on the topics you have expertise.
But what are pillar pages and topic clusters, and how can you use them to your advantage?
A pillar page is a website or blog page that provides a full overview of a specific topic. Your pillar page should cover all aspects of your core topic with enough detail for users to find information they need quickly and to click through to other pieces of content to find out more.
You should touch on all the questions or queries a customer may have around a broad topic and provide a brief answer without going into too much depth. You will then go into more depth when you create your topic clusters.
A topic cluster is a group of content pieces related to a particular topic (the same topic as your pillar page) that all link to each other and link back to the pillar page.
The topic cluster approach to content allows you to take a deep dive into a particular topic as well as build a good site architecture at the same time. Linking between all of the pieces of content is important because it enables Google to understand more about your content, group your cluster content into, and group all the articles into one topic.
Doing this helps to show search engines that your content is relevant, up to date and shows how each piece of content links to one another.
Topic clusters and pillar pages are highly effective for SEO. Search engines now reward content that is organised by topic and not by keywords.
This will help you build your site's authority and rank for low and high-competition keywords over time. It also shows your website visitors that you’re an expert on your topic and will help to drive more qualified traffic.
Let’s have a look at the key benefits of utilising this approach for your own SEO strategy.
If you can get a blog page to rank well in the search engines for a relevant keyword, it will help to drive the rankings for the other pages in the topic cluster that link to that page.
Google’s algorithm has evolved, so signals such as backlinks and keywords that used to work on their own are no longer enough. They’re still valuable, but they’re not the only things you should be considering.
Google’s goal is to understand what searchers want and provide them with content that will provide them with an answer to their questions. Topic clusters and pillar pages are highly effective in helping Google do this, so we always recommend structuring content this way.
When visitors land on your website and your blog, if your content is arranged in hierarchical topic clusters, they can find everything they want to know about a particular topic on your website without having to jump around to find the information they need.
If you follow the customer journey and the marketing funnel, you can map your content and topic clusters to help lead them to a sale. You can think about your target audience’s next questions, include calls to action or product links, and guide them to the next stage in their journey, no matter what stage they’re at when they land on your website.
When it comes to ranking your website and content, Google looks for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT). This can affect how well your pages are performing in the SERPs, and topic clusters and pillar pages are perfect for demonstrating each one of these.
Users search for particular keywords and content when they want to find out more about a certain topic and understand more. If they land on a pillar page on your website and you’ve done it well, they will find the information they need and will also be interested in the other content you have available.
They can then follow the links to other pieces of content, which keeps them on your site for longer. It’s also likely that if they find you to be a reliable source of information, they will come back again and will fill in forms on your website to become a high-quality lead.
Internal link building is highly beneficial for SEO. Internal links provide users and Google with easy connections between the pages on your website and allow search engines to get a good understanding of how your site is structured.
Internal links also show search engines which pages on your site are most important, and a page that ranks highly can pass its authority onto another page that might not be performing as well.
Now you know why need topic clusters and how beneficial they can be, let’s have a look at how you can create them.
If you’ve already got a digital marketing strategy in place, you should already have buyer personas so you know exactly who you’re targeting and the channels they’re using.
If you don’t, this is something we highly recommend before you start creating topic clusters.
To create topic clusters effectively, you need to understand the keywords that people in your market are searching for.
The two things you need to know are:
Think about five to ten problems that your customers are likely to have and find the search terms being used around these. You can then use these to build out topic clusters and content that helps to solve your target audience’s problems and provide them with the information they need.
Once you know your customer’s problems, you’ll need to use this information to drive your content. Take some time to understand your personas and what they’re looking for. We recommend speaking to your sales teams, too, to dive deeper into how your product or service helps your customers.
Topic clusters will usually focus around the long tail keywords your customers are using to research information. These keywords tend to have less competition and target customers at the top of the funnel.
Before you start writing any content, take a look at the content you already have that can be used as part of your topic clusters. You might need to rejig some of your content to make it fit into your new topic clusters, but this is quicker than starting completely from scratch.
Plus, if the content is already ranking, you can utilise this for your new strategy to make sure your content is as successful as possible. It’s also a great way to find holes in your content strategy so you can make sure you fill them and ensure you’re not duplicating any content.
Now you’ve got your strategy in place and an idea of the keywords you’re targeting with every piece of content, you can start writing your content.
We recommend starting with the topic cluster pages first and linking them together before you create your pillar page. This will allow you to slowly build your rankings for individual and lower competition keywords before you move on to trying to rank for terms with more competition. The pages you already have in place will help pass the authority onto your pillar page.
Once you’ve created all of your topic pages and pillar pages, you’ll need to add internal links between them to make sure they’re all linked up.
You can do this in a number of ways:
Topic clusters and pillar pages provide a great way to organise the content on your website and provide great SEO results for your business. Not only do they help search engines to better navigate your site, but they also help to make your website easier for users to navigate and find the information they need and want.
Defining your topic clusters can also help to fuel your content marketing strategy by providing you with focused content ideas and a content calendar that’s full of relevant content for your customers and which helps to ensure your website is found in the search engines when your customers are actively searching online.