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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Jul 6, 2018 4 min read

Why Every Content Strategist Needs to Understand Topic Clusters

{}Content strategy is important. Whether you’re a content strategist or you head the content team, you need to be on board with evolving marketing techniques to create effective materials and attract customers. 

Enter topic clusters. They’re changing the way users find content. Keep reading to discover why you should focus on this strategy instead of keywords.

What Are Topic Clusters?

Topic clusters are a model used to better align your content strategy. It’s a series of topically related content intended to build authority and influence with search engines and visitors. Pillar content, cluster subtopics, and internal links are all part of the topic cluster pyramid. 

It groups sets of related pieces of content around one main webpage, referred to as a pillar page. The pillar page acts as an umbrella, which the related pages live under. Search engines use these related posts to determine your pillar page’s authority. Grouping similar content together presents your content with an improved opportunity to stand out. 

To create a cluster, choose a core topic first, then brainstorm a list of related subjects. Shift the centre of attention towards a specific theme that you want your brand to be recognized as an expert in. From here, writers can organize and link related content pieces to each other. Readers now have the ability to find content more quickly, will spend more time on your site, and will become enlightened about your brand. Their newfound knowledge makes them more likely to buy. This chain wouldn’t have been possible without the pillar page and topic clusters.

What About Keywords?

Writers and marketing gurus were previously preached the importance of long-tail keywords for getting their content out there. This became a problem. When new pieces of keyword-heavy materials were published, they competed not only with the competitors’ content, but with the writer’s own previously published material. 

Focused keywords aren’t wholly relevant. Instead of being the main act of search results, use them sparingly to optimize content and web pages. The relationship between keywords and topics still exists, but keywords are no longer solely responsible for search results. 

The words we use to try to attract an audience are important, but they can lead to incorrect assumptions. We each have our own personal language biases, and how we speak influences the view of potential customers. Even if we have the same intent, our audience may not be looking for an answer using the keywords we think they would. 

Build effective clusters by placing keywords around topics. After identifying your core subject, expand outward, listing related keywords within the subtopic posts.

What It Means for SEO

The thematic concept of a cluster makes it easy to link posts back to the original pillar page. It’s not recognizing articles or blogs by keyword but using related topics to attract readers back to your content and help keep your content organized, which search engines love.

Search algorithm updates, like Google’s Hummingbird update, parses phrases instead of keywords. RankBrain associates past searches with similar themes, pulling multiple keywords and phrases associated with queries to give users the best results.

Pillar pages cover broad topics and use long-form content rich in information. Clusters cover more detailed and specific matters under the umbrella. Focusing on topics allows more content breadth in your blogs.

Weaving your own internal content links throughout your posts skyrockets search engine rankings. Link all cluster content back to your pillar page and vice versa. You’ll eliminate the risk of pinning your own content against itself and boost content SEO through those quality backlinks. When one page leads to success, they all do.


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.