SEO: How to Use Topic Clustering to Improve Your Ranking
For those of you who have written a lot of content for a website, you’ve probably started to notice something.
Content begins to overlap.
Different pages begin to compete with each other instead of with the competition. You even start running out of ideas. After all, how many different ways is there to write about Facebook, pottery or running shoes?
That’s problematic – particularly as we create so many pages of content that we can’t possibly remember everything we’ve said everywhere. And that creates redundancy, dead ends and lost ideas.
The solution is topic clustering. Here, instead of writing content directed at one specific long-tail keyword, what we aim at producing is high-quality content that’s aimed at topics instead. This serves a number of advantages, such as that it makes your page easier to oversee both for your content team as well as your visitors, as well as helping you rank better in search results.
So how does topic clustering work?
The idea is quite simple. Instead of having all of your pages at an about equal basis, you create a new level, which functions as a top-level topic introduction and which has links to all the individual articles which are related to that page.
The pages at this new level are known as ‘pillar pages’ and their existence nestles content into different groupings which aren’t all that different from silos. The idea is that the pillar page covers the general outline of the topic and offers up hyperlinks to allow people to go more in depth into specific aspects of that topic.
This makes it far easier to oversee what content is out there and how it relates to each other. That’s beneficial for your visitors, your content creators and, of course, search engines.
In fact, the reason that topic clustering came about in the first place is due to changes made by Google to their ranking systems. As a result, experimentation showed that if topics were woven together more tightly in this way, they ranked better in search engine results.
So yeah, though it’s a lot of work, it’s definitely worth it to start creating such topic clusters on your site.
Initial implementation – the topics
The first step to getting your topic clustering organized is to let the idea of keywords slide – at least for now. Instead, what you want to figure out what topics you’ve got. There are a number of different ways to do so, depending how you’ve been organizing your site.
- If you’ve been using tags, then these can be useful ways to figure out what topics you’ve got. Just take a look at the tags which are the most common and you might already have some idea of what your natural topics are.
- Another good way to explore the topics is to approach it form the other side. What searches are bringing people to your page? This might give you a good idea as to what topics you’re ranking for and as you already have traction with Google for these, using them as organizational topics for your website will help your SEO get even further.
- And finally, there are the keywords. Chances are, some of these are already organized as unofficial topics by your content team. To turn them into official ones isn’t that big of a deal.
Choose or create your pillar pages
Now that you have your topics, you’ll need to create the pillar pages for them. If you’ve already got an article which acts as a summary for the topic and links to a lot of other pages, then that’s the one to go with.
If you’re not sure whether a page will serve, then go back to what question the page was trying to address. If it was broad, then you’re on to something. If, on the other hand, it was narrowly trying to deal with one long-tail keyword it might not work as well.
If no page will do, then you’ll have to create a new page to serve as your pillar. Schedule these just as you would your normal content. The trick is to summarize the topics and link to all the content related to those topics. A list of all the pages you’ve created around this pillar page will be useful.
Also, while this page is being created chances are you’ll realize you won’t have covered specific areas. That’s great! Those topics will then be available for write ups in the near future.
The final step is to link the pillar page to all of the more specific pages. Just as importantly, you’ll want to make certain that all of your more specific pages also link back to the pillar page. To make sure that the pillar page gets the traction it needs, you’ll want to get the internal links right. For that reason, do your keyword research and make sure that in the internal links to your pillar page you use those keywords.
This will make it far more likely that Google will recognize those pages for what they are and that they will therefore send people who are still trying to figure out the general outlines of a topic to that page. Obviously, if you’ve dealt with the topic exhaustively, that’s a big deal as they’ll not just read the main page, but will often also read the related topics that you link to.
It isn’t as much work as you think it is
Though it’s a big project, the truth is that it doesn’t have to mean that much more work. After all, it doesn’t all have to be done at once.
For that reason, start by simply changing around your content calendar so that you’ll create the pillar content pages where you normally might create an entry that’s about some specific keyword. Of course, you’ll also have to plan in when you want to edit the other posts to link back to the keyword, but that too can be done quickly.
Really, you can choose to do this at the speed you want to. You could, for example, plan all the pillar articles you have to write immediately and push everything else backwards. Alternatively, you can interleaf the pillar articles into your regular content schedule, so that you create a niche article and a pillar article interchangeably, for example.
As long as remember to add new articles to the pillar articles and to link back to them as well, you can take your time with this process. Who knows, by taking your time you might just find you give yourself the head space to figure out better ways to do things.
About the author: Jessica Fender, professional writer, independent blogger and chief content officer at OnlineWritersRating.com. She is passionate about wise team management and self- development as a leader. Featured on Freelancer.com and Addicted2Success.