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Topic Clusters: Why you should focus on topics instead of keywords

The future of search strategies should include topics instead of keywords. The industry has focused on keywords for many years, but this is shifting towards topics. This article shows how we work with topic clustering in our award-winning SEO cases.

Search intent is forcing SEO towards topics instead of keywords

As Google is getting better at understanding the meaning of search queries, users rely more than ever on Google to know what the intent of their search is. The days with short and simple keyword queries are over as queries become longer and more detailed.

Search engines have changed their algorithms to fit the consumers’ behaviour better. This changes the SEO game, as the job is not owning a few keywords anymore but owning a topic.

This can be tricky if not structured correctly. The work is more extensive, but the reward is ownership of a topic close to your business.

Your business will be the one to turn to, as you would be the topical authority and, in the search engine’s eyes, the safest bet for a destination that will give the user what they want.

To achieve this, you need to optimise for topic clusters instead of keywords.

The definition of topic clusters

Topic clustering is arranging content to answer every relevant query to a topic.

A topic cluster contains a pillar page targeting a broad term and then interlinking to cluster pages with a more specific target term.

Using the pillar page as an umbrella page for all the cluster pages, you make sure every cluster page has an internal link and that all cluster pages are linking back to the pillar page.

The pillar page should cover the broad topic with small paragraphs introducing each cluster page. Then, users can follow a link from the pillar page to one of the cluster pages if they want an elaboration of the subject.

The number of cluster pages and the scope of the pillar page depends on the topic and the different search intentions behind the topic.

Why you should use topic clusters

As competition for prominent keywords is getting more fierce, topic clusters can become a strategy to get an edge on the competition.

Rankings for major keywords require more content and higher authority, which is precisely what topic cluster pages offer.

On the one hand, the cluster pages will cover mid and long-tail keywords laying the foundation of getting the best possible rankings while, on the other hand contributing to the authority of the broader keyword on our pillar page.

An essential element of topic clusters is to include your converting pages and details in the clusters. These pages “answer” the commercial intent of the searches, adding to the topic as a whole while also increasing the business value of the organic traffic.

Creating topic clusters

The foundation for topic clusters is Keyword Research that shows what terms users are searching for.

You start by grouping the keywords by identical intention. Then, looking at the groups, you identify the broader groups as they will be your pillar pages. Lastly, you map the pillar pages to their assisting cluster pages.

An example of a topic cluster mapping could look like this:

Depending on your existing content situation, you can either optimise existing content to fit into the topic clustering strategy or create missing content pieces to complete the topic.

Having the proper structure and environment for topic clusters

  • Before initiating a topic cluster strategy, you need to have the necessary flexibility on your website.
  • How are your pillar pages going to be implemented?
  • How are they going to connect with the cluster pages?
  • How is the rest of your website supposed to interact with the topic clusters?

These are all important questions to answer before jumping into topic clustering.

Depending on your current website structure, you might have to create a whole new environment for your clusters, or you might need to optimise existing pages to link together to form clusters.

Becoming a topical authority

By covering every area of a topic with high-quality content, you display your knowledge of the topic and become an authority. With authority, you will be much more likely to obtain good organic rankings for all keywords related to the topic.

There is no way around considering topic clustering for companies with SEO ambitions.
If your company is operating in a low competitive market or a B2B niche, topic clustering will not have the desired effect, and you will be better off optimising for single search intents.

However, for companies in a competitive market Topic Clustering is a future proof content strategy. Whether your website already has a lot of content or you have just started diving into developing content, topic clustering should be the cornerstone of your strategy.

At s360, we have vast experience creating and implementing topic clusters and have won several awards for our work, including the prestigious “Best SEO case” at the European Search Awards and “Best Use Of Data” for large companies.

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