After Google commissioned the RankBrain algorithm, the search results have started to be presented as a semantic whole by combining the most meaningful search result with related topics and word groups. We can say that with this development, a new era started for search engines. The introduction of artificial intelligence algorithms and machine learning elicited a change in search results.
As a result of algorithm updates that started with RankBrain followed by Mobile First Indexing, Medic, BERT, and December Core updates, we see that more and more meaningful results are listed on the search results page. A prominent example of this is the high extent to which the locally oriented query results work. In this context, Topic Clusters are salient structures that also reveal the relationship between especially SERP ranking and keywords.
What are Topic Clusters?
A Topic Cluster is a comprehensive presentation of a topic or relevant subtopics as a whole by grouping multiple content sections. Topic Clusters are used by both B2B and B2C organizations to streamline their content marketing strategies.
Firstly, meaning should be assigned to the content by determining the primary keyword or finding other pages that are relevant to the topic. The keywords with high search volumes may be used at this point while long-tail keywords may be preferred as well. The most important point here is that it is necessary to create a page structure where meaningful and useful information is provided to users while addressing the topic in depth without wandering off the topic.
For example, considering that the preferred focus keyword is SEO, it will be necessary to create a SEM cluster page for topic clusters and provide detailed information. Therefore, it is very important to observe which phrases and information your target audience wants to examine while providing detailed information at the same time.
The Topic Clusters model can be used especially to present a single-pillar page as the center of the relevant topic and to list other relevant pages as other pages interlinked with each other and the pillar page. At this point, it is necessary to use internal links to link pages both on the landing page and in other topic clusters. By linking the cluster pages to the pillar page, a signal is sent to the search engine bots that the pillar page is the most important one.
At this point, it is necessary to briefly mention the on-page linking hierarchy. On-page linking that explains the hierarchy within the website is used between interrelated contents in order to enable both users and the search engine to navigate within the website.
On-page linking has an important role in many aspects, from page authority to positive user experience, to easy linking between pages and practicality. One of the most important actions to take while using the Topic Clusters model is to send clear signals to search engine bots about the pillar page by means of linking. Now, let's take a look at the five stages of content strategy.
Content Strategy in Topic Clusters Model in 5 Stages
1) Selecting a Topic
No matter how rich your content is, it is meaningless without a topic. At this point, it is important to know what we would like to address, why, and how we will do it. An in-depth contemplation of the topic and the creation of a holistic, meaningful structure with the product or service are the first steps towards success. Competitor analysis is especially important here. Successful competitors with a high position in the market, the search trends of the target audience, and the search volumes of keywords are important variables that should be taken into consideration while using the topic clusters model.
In the context of the topic cluster strategy, having a comprehensive search engine optimization and content marketing strategy will bring about success. The topic cluster strategy is perfect for increasing website traffic and offering users a positive experience.
2) Keyword Research
It is necessary to create a list of planned topics and subtopics. Keyword research before building clusters out of these topics and subtopics may be helpful in shaping the topic cluster strategy. There are many free and paid keyword research tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush, Ubersuggest, and AnswerthePublic. The cluster strategy may differ from website to website and be based on long-tail keywords.
For example, the results of the keyword "SEO" found with Ahrefs are as follows.
At this point, it is important to list the user questions and refrain from using generic words.
As a part of the topic cluster, a page can be created with the keyword "what is SEO and what does it do". We can create another content called "SEO Setting Configuration in WordPress Websites in 5 Steps" and make it a part of the topic cluster with cross-linking.
We can do the same with AnswerthePublic, especially for questions.
If you are unable to use a paid tool, it is recommended that you also evaluate the suggested keywords on the search results page. Click here to make sense of data using keyword research. If the topic became more comprehensible and easier to create a plan for, it means you are on the right track.
3) Cluster Pages and Content Updates
This implementation stage is actually one of the first actions taken to improve the content strategy. At this point, it is of great importance to create detailed content on cluster pages and not digress from the topic, because it is undesirable to distance the users from the main pillar page. Likewise, if there are keywords that are potential sub-headings on the relevant page, informative content should be included within the cluster page. Adding the linking keywords in the content during the content creation phase will make the process easier. For example, we can add an anchor text to our content that links the "WordPress SEO settings" page to the "what is SEO" cluster page.
If new content will not be created and the existing content will be used, it is important to detect and go over the content pages. The additions or changes in these pages will come in handy while presenting the cluster pages. For example, we can use the keyword "site: zeo.org" search information to find our existing content. It is best to make some adjustments to the existing content pages, if there are any, to develop the content strategy.
4) Pillar Page
The pillar page can be created after the pages to be included in the topic clusters are ready. It is best to see the pillar page as an overview of the topic.
The users should be directed to the cluster pages created for further details without going into too much detail about the issues on the topic. At this point, on-page links should be used to direct users to the cluster pages.
5) Cluster Pages and Pillar Page Linkings
Linking can take place after publishing the cluster pages and the pillar page. Links are crucial as the most important feature of the Topic Cluster model is that it presents topic clusters that enable users to access information on different pages by linking these pages to one another. Linking can be done between each page in the topic cluster and the pillar page. In this way, it is possible to both provide relevant content and enable search engine bots to easily scan these content pages and make sense of the topic.
By using the topic clusters model, it is possible to organize the content and present the content strategy as a meaningful whole. Topics and sub-topics suitable for the target audience should be determined and cluster pages should be created accordingly. We should link these cluster pages, which we create for users to make sense of a comprehensive topic, to the pillar page, the main topic page. With topic clusters, it is possible to attract the attention of users for longer periods of time and improve the position on the search results page. The main reason behind the improvement of your position on the search results page is because clusters and pillar pages that respond to the queries have been created. In this way, it is possible to increase visibility by using the Topic Cluster model alongside an SEO strategy that enables the navigation of both users and search engines.