As Google and other search engines are getting better and better at interpreting search queries to get to the bottom of a user’s intent, SEO marketers have to keep up with the latest algorithm updates, and constantly adapt their content and SEO strategy to match them.
One of the biggest changes that Google has made recently has to do with the way information on websites is structured in order to become visible for specific searches. Internet users navigate through a network of billions of web pages, with tons of information at their disposal. As a result, they are inputting increasingly specific and longer search queries in search engines. In addition to that, voice search is also used more often, which makes the queries longer and more detailed.
To match a pin-point search query with the most relevant content, SEO based mainly on keywords might not be enough anymore. This is why marketers should start organising content differently now.
We will go through the basics of pillar pages and topic clusters, the new ways of organising content for the increasingly sophisticated search engines.
What Are Topic Clusters?
Let’s start by looking into how blogs and websites have been structured so far. Some of them made the shift to the new way of organising content, but most hadn’t done so yet.
The traditional way is to write blog posts and optimise them separately for SEO, choosing the most relevant keywords for each. This results in a mix of keywords and topics, pieces of content that sometimes overlay or confuse the crawlers. It might make them rank in Google search engine results, but not necessarily with consistency.
With the new approach, a topic cluster is built by grouping blog posts on the same topic, revolving around pillar pages, and adding details into a topic with cluster posts. This way, a website or blog will have several main topics that they tackle, including pillar pages on the more general information about each topic, and cluster posts that go into more details.
This way, information is better retrieved by search engine bots, which use machine learning for better guessing what a user would be interested in finding on a website.
What Is a Pillar Page?
For each topic you decide is relevant for your audience, you will have a pillar page. It will contain general, broad information on the topic, covering a vast part of it without giving the reader everything. For more detail, there are other shorter posts on the blog, called cluster content, that will link back to the pillar page, creating a neatly organised bundle of posts for each topic on your website.
A well-built pillar page will answer the most commonly asked questions about the topic they cover, offering a good base for the user to start looking for more in-depth information. If it’s easier to understand, think of a pillar page as a 101 guide for the topic it covers. For example, “Instagram Marketing” could be a pillar page, and “Instagram Stories optimisation” can be a cluster post.
To interconnect the pages in a certain topic, you will use hyperlinks that go back-and-forth from the pillar page to the cluster content, and vice versa. Organising your blog content like this gives Google a very good impression on the value of your website, and your SEO rankings will go higher.
Include a table of contents in your pillar page and use Q&A style formatting for a better chance of it being featured as a snippet in the search results.
How to Choose Which Topics to Cover on Your Website?
Reorganising your content based on broad topics might be challenging, especially if your blog was not really following a certain niche, to begin with. But being able to identify the main subjects you write about is very important in establishing yourself as an authority website in your industry.
The first thing to keep in mind when embarking in this “renovation” project is what are the key problems your audience has. Start researching keywords that bring visitors to your website and write down the recurring subjects.
Use a buyer’s persona, a fictional character who embodies the most common traits and behaviours of your audience, and think about what they would like to read about. Be careful not to use topics that are too broad (an indicator would be a large search volume), or that are too niched.
Once you know which topics you will concentrate your content around, you have to define them in a friendly way for the search engines. Use a concise phrase to define the topic, one that is relevant for search engines.
Once you start linking to your pillar page, use the topic phrase as an anchor text in your cluster content. Keyword research becomes more important in this content, but not the only thing you should focus on.
Mapping Out Your Topic Cluster Content
When you have your topic phrases set, start mapping out your cluster content by lying down all the keywords that could relate to the topic. Tools like Ubersuggest or SEMRush are very good at finding keywords or long-tail keywords that you might’ve missed.
Organising your content using the topic cluster model is a fantastic way of finding new things to write about, by filling in the gaps that you left unknowingly on a certain topic. You will be able to identify duplicate content and spot any holes in your content. This helps you become well organised and enables you to offer a better user experience to your readers.
How Does the Topic Cluster Model Matter for Your SEO Strategy?
Creating pillar pages for your website or blog is not just about identifying a few general topics to cover, then writing a super long blog post for each. It’s more than writing a lot on the subject.
Pillar pages need thorough keyword research done beforehand, building internal links, organising existing content, identifying possible subjects for the cluster content that will be linked to your pillar page, etc. You must then promote them on social media and other channels, in order to get your topic more visibility.
Pillar pages and the topic cluster model are time-consuming and require some SEO skills, so you might want to hire a professional to do it if you don’t have the time or knowledge to do it.
Once you have the proper resources to reorganise your content in topic clusters, your SEO performance will improve. Search engines are now capable of redirecting users to content that doesn’t necessarily use the same exact keywords in the query. Instead, they identify topics by using machine learning.
Having your website neatly organised in topics already is a fabulous way of adding SEO value to it.
Do Want to Learn More About Pillar Pages and Cluster Content?
We at Australian Internet Advertising are up-to-date with all the recent updates from Google, and we made a passion out of finding creative ways to go higher in search engine rankings. If you think your business needs a website reorganisation to match the current way Google prioritises content for its users, contact our Search Engine Optimisation Experts, and let’s have a chat!