Content isn't King.
Content is just a man with a crown.

Topic and cluster SEO content

Posted by Steven

Last updated on September 5th 2020

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Topic and cluster SEO content is the kingmaker

Free web traffic.

Organic leads.

It's the SEO dream. Chief lie in that dream?

Content is king.

Content isn't king. It's just a man with a crown.

Topic and cluster is the kingmaker.

It's the only viable way for normal, non-multinationals to compete for the lucrative, high converting head terms search traffic.

How does Topic and Cluster SEO work?

Topic and cluster content models are dissected quite laboriously by Hubspot and Search Engine Journal, but they're quite a simple concept.

You simply cluster your content hierarchically around key search topics.

That's it. Really simple.

From a URL point of view it'll look like this:

Topic page

Cluster pages

You'll also structure your content so you have a lot of internal links binding the URLs together.

Use a good mixture of body copy links, as well as nav structures and related articles. There's nothing special about how you do that – if you're running any sort of content or inbound operation, you will do this already – but with topic and cluster, it's important that all the cluster pages link back to the topic page.

What's a topic page?

A topic page is a proper quality addition to the internet.

It's your chance to tell your reader exactly everything of value that you know about a certain subject.

You should only need a handful of them because they target the biggest distinct and general search terms your business deals with.

Each of your other content pieces should feed into a topic page and naturally sit after them in the URL structure.

Sometimes a topic page gets called a pillar page cos they are the pillars you build your content strategy (and output) around.

What is a content cluster?

Cluster pages are longtail articles. They cluster around and link back to a topic and are ultra specific to the search term they target.

How does Topic and Cluster SEO help you rank?

There's evidence to suggest Google's implemented algorithm changes to favor topic-based content.

In theory, if you have a topic and cluster setup, you show Google you have lots of knowledge in one niche area. This gives you authority and you are rewarded with a higher SERP position for queries related to that niche.

Remember, this is SEO, its ever-moving and there's no black and white rulebook, but, topic and cluster helps your rank higher in 3 main ways:

1) Your content become more than the sum of its parts

Each page in the cluster is not simply ranking on it's own merits, it's getting rewarded for the presence of all the other pages in the cluster too.

2) By extension, each page is rewarded for the performance of each other page too, if there's a hyperlink between them

The easiest way to think of this is simply internal backlinking. You do outreach, you get a good backlink from a high DA site and your own ranking goes up, right? Oversimplified I know, but that's the jist. It works in a similar way with topic and cluster. You get one page to rank well, you can pass on that authority via links to other pages in the topic cluster.

This is particularly important for the topic pages. As mentioned, your topic pages should be shooting for high volume and/or high converting and competitive search traffic. It's tough to get a page in the mix.

If you have lots of your longtail content linking back to this page, you can pass on some of that authority and get your key topic page to rank higher than it ordinarily would.

Of course, this is providing that your longtail stuff ranks well and has authority. Not easy, but much easier than hitting the head terms.

A well-researched and thought out topic cluster takes your longtail performance and sprays it across the rest of your site, magically making link juice flow up through your content journeys like some sort of pissed champagne fountain.

3) Finally, topic and cluster just helps users find more of what they want.

You kind of build site navigation and customer journeys into the content calendar because you're always thinking about how each peice of content relates to the others.

This makes your whole site stickier... in a good way. It increases pages per session, dwell time, builds more brand equity for you in the minds of your audience – all the stuff that content marketing is supposed to do and Google is meant to reward you for.

Topic and Cluster is what Google wants the internet to be like

Consider how RankBrain works. It's Google's own machine learning algorithm and it's tasked with understanding the context of search and refining the intent of a person's search.

It does this by looking at a privacy-squirming shit-ton of searches and analysing underlying themes and pulls multiple keywords together. This is exactly what topic and cluster mirrors.

Sounds simple. Why do I need a copywriter to do my content?

Setting up a topic and structure content model is simple. Especially if you have any sort of basic SEO understanding.

Transforming your content model into a reliable acquisition channel is not.

You have to realise that content is selling. You produce content to sell your product or service, not to be nice.

Content marketing is the balance between the audience's informational need and your company's commercial objectives.

Which means that you need to produce useful content that ranks, but you also need to:

And these are the only considerations you have if you're trying to sell in a bubble, but you're not. You have your category competitors to think about, your content competitors and wider content shock.

And these are the only considerations you have if you're trying to sell in a bubble, but you're not. You have your category competitors to think about, your content competitors and wider content shock.

Basically, if you're going to invest in SEO, you're going to need to do topic and cluster, and you're going to not have to treat the content as an afterthought.

Let's chat about your SEO and content marketing

Nothing wastes money like chasing after free traffic and leads. The sooner you start your topic and cluster model, the sooner you'll get organic growth.

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