How to Switch From Keywords to Cluster Topics for Best SEO
According to the SEO agency community, topic clusters are the new best search engine optimization (SEO) practice moving forward. Thanks to a major shakeup in Google’s algorithm earlier this year, a greater emphasis is now placed on providing a good user experience (UX), and topic clusters can be key to that.
In a nutshell, Google now scrutinizes content even more for its value to users. And that means that what your site says to consumers needs to be more relevant and useful than ever.
This guide tells you everything you need to know about this trending SEO method, including:
- A distinction between keyword- and cluster-centric approaches
- Three steps to transition from using keywords to cluster topics
There’s a lot to discuss, so get ready to take notes.
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Keyword vs. Cluster Topics for SEO
For the longest time, experts from SEO agencies would cite keywords as the most valuable cornerstone of SEO. That is because the heavy emphasis was previously on ranking higher using the most efficient search terms you could find.
Although keywords are not entirely out of style, topic clusters have eclipsed them as the perfect SEO strategy. Both aim to get your content on top of search engine results pages (SERPs).
However, their approaches differ significantly:
- Keyword strategies are often disjointed because the approach to content is piecemeal. That glaring flaw is pushing this strategy to the side as algorithms change.
- Cluster topic strategies take a holistic approach that simultaneously addresses content creation and link building. Pillar and cluster pages work to shape your website’s quality.
The conclusion here is not to forego keywords entirely. You need both elements for the best SEO. Instead, use them to supplement your clusters for a more robust content strategy.
3 Steps To Change Your Content Strategy to Topic Clusters
Creating SEO topic clusters is similar to using keywords in that you begin with an idea or issue you want to address. With topic clusters, however, you use individual keywords as the center of your own content strategies. You can start from a pillar page or cluster page this way.
A pillar page is a compilation of your subtopic articles. Think of it as taking the main points of your supporting content and writing a condensed guide covering them in less detail. Pillar pages are the central point that binds your library of articles together.
A cluster page is an in-depth look at a topic or subtopic that emphasizes certain points or points of view. Think of it as the chapters of a textbook, which contribute to the main subject but restrict themselves to particular topics. Together, cluster pages cover the main topic in full.
Below are three steps you should follow when changing from a keyword-centric to a topic-centric strategy.
1. Revisit Your Website’s Content
Gather all of your existing content (or ideas) in one place to start your cluster topic strategy. It could be a spreadsheet or mind map, as long as the information is visible and the method is convenient for you. The next step is to tag your articles for quick sorting.
Some of the vital ones you should have are:
- The article’s target keyword
- Theme or main idea
- A short summary of the content
Your goal at this point is to organize your content (or ideas) to make the subsequent steps flow more smoothly. You do not need to tax yourself or stuff your spreadsheet with stats for your articles. The only necessary information is that which gives a snapshot of the content.
At this stage, you can also start assessing whether an article (or idea) can stand alone as a pillar page or serve your strategy better as a cluster page. A quick way of distinguishing the two is by how broad or narrow the title is, or how general or specific you make it.
For instance, "The Ultimate Holiday Cookbook” works well as a pillar page, but “5 Roast Dishes for New Year’s Eve” fits better as a cluster page.
2. Split Your Blog Posts Into Topics
Shifting from keywords to cluster topics is beneficial because the changing SEO landscape shines a light on an outdated practice that is a pitfall for new websites. Focusing on repeating keywords or long-tail keywords is ineffective SEO and should be used in moderation.
While targeting search terms with less competition certainly helps your ranking, it is more lucrative to focus on building around high-volume ones. Cluster topics offset any downsides by providing an extensive selection of relevant content that supports your bid to rank for a keyword.
To do this, you should:
- Sort your content spreadsheet by keyword or theme
- Group similar content together based on the above
- Check if any are too identical and decide which to keep
- Remove duplicate content to avoid penalties to your site
- Select a central topic for groups that do not have one
3. Get Ideas From the Sales Funnel
If you lack pillar or cluster pages, consult a keyword research tool to find new ideas. Build your content maps and add to your link-building strategy by checking your sales funnel. Find the parts that are underserved and seek keywords or ideas to help you address them.
Every stage of the sales funnel calls for different approaches to content. For instance, potential customers in the awareness stage require education on the what, how, and why x or y is a problem. However, people in the decision stage actively seek a service provider.
Here are the three stages of every customer’s buyer journey and how to handle them:
- Awareness Stage: People who are unaware of potential issues are here. Subtopics for this stage include articles discussing the advantages of solving the customer’s problem.
- Consideration Stage: Users move to this stage once they actively seek solutions. Content that compares or focuses on specific solutions is a fitting response here.
- Decision Stage: People who reach this stage are ready to become customers. Writing articles that make you a top choice as a problem-solver should be your priority.
Pillar pages need support from all three of the above article types. Otherwise, you miss out on serving a critical need and fail to move your target market from leads to customers.
Keywords may no longer be number one, but they still have a place at the top of your content strategy as a partner to cluster topics. Just as SEO is a combination of determining factors, keywords and cluster topics work together to bring out the best in your website.
Are you seeking to switch from a keyword to a cluster topic strategy? Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
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