Beginner’s guide to SEO content: topic clusters

Alice Rowan

Alice Rowan Content Marketing | SEO Content & Web Copywriting

What are topic clusters?

This one kind of does what it says on the tin, really. Topic clusters are clusters or groups of content around the same topic. For SEO this will look like a series of blogs, case studies, and other on-page content focused on a set group of keywords or phrases. But it can also include downloadable content like eBooks, whitepapers, webinars, and podcasts.

How do topic clusters help with SEO?

By having a number of pieces of content covering a particular topic area, you are telling the search engines that you are an expert on the topic. There are other things that tie into this, like links and references for other sources, but that is a discussion for another time.

Also, the more articles you have on one topic, the more likely you are to be seen on the front page of Google or Bing. If you can get multiple articles or pages on the front page of Google, you are in a great position as many consumers see the front page of search engines as a recommendation of useful content.

Even better, create pillar or cornerstone content out of your clusters.

What is cornerstone content for SEO?

Cornerstone content or pillar content (there is ongoing debate as to the exact definitions of each), is integral to a successful SEO strategy. It is a long piece of content, think 3000+ words, on a single page.

This type of content, if well-crafted and optimised, is more likely to rank than your other articles. So why bother writing the whole lot?

Links. Cornerstone content allows you to create an in-depth analysis of a question or search term people are using. And the best way to do this is by linking to other resources – both your own and other people’s.

Cornerstone or pillar content should be well-researched with all sources linked. It needs to contain links to reputable sources. For my B2B research, I like Harvard Business Review and McKinsey & Co., but the reputable sources are different for every industry.

Then you need links to your own site. This is where all those other articles come in. You can group these articles together in a shorter guide (like this one I worked on with LEO Learning) or create a much longer piece with graphics and a broader narrative.

How does keyword research help?

Before you can crack on with your planning, you need to conduct keyword research.

Keyword research is the process of understanding the types of keywords or phrases you should focus on in your SEO content efforts.

This process involves collecting and analysing data about the search terms people are using. And this data includes things like how many people are looking for this thing, how often are people clicking the links, and how tough the competition is for that word or phrase.

There are a number of great tools for this including:

Whichever system you choose to use, make sure to check out Moz’s SEO resources as they have a wealth of well explained, clear information. They cover all things SEO but have some great webinars and written resources about keyword research.

Favourite resource: Moz’s Keyword Research Guide

I’ll cover keyword research in more detail another time. However, one simple tip. I would recommend focusing on a longtail keyword(s) for your topic cluster.

How do I use keyword research to generate content ideas?

Once you know the focus keywords moving forward, it’s time to start planning the content. Personally, I like to start with the titles. Create a long list of potential titles containing the target keyword/phrase or something close to it. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it helps me stay focused on the topic at hand.

For example, say my keyword is “blended learning at work”. The list of topics may include things like:

5 ways to incorporate blended learning in the workplace

Why is blended learning so important at work?

The secrets of blended learning: behind the scenes of workplace training

Hybrid learning vs blended learning: which approach is best for your training?

This list is usually 20 – 30 titles long. And then I cut it down to the most relevant topics that aren’t overlapping too much in content.

This is also a great opportunity to see if you can make anything else out of this topic cluster. Different types of topics may emerge. An idea for an eBook or whitepaper, some research you’d like to conduct, or simpler assets like checklists, templates, or infographics.

One of the key elements of topic clusters is that the focus isn’t on any one specific piece of content. It is a shared focus across articles and content types.

Ready to dive into topic clusters? Whether you want a hand with planning or someone to write the lot, get in touch so we can chat about your content.

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