What are content clusters?

content clusters

As search engines becomes better and better at recognizing user intent, specific keywords and phrases are becoming less important in terms of SEO. Rather, search engines want to give preference to websites that are a clear authority on the broad topic a specific query revolves around.

How do you show them you’re one of those sites? By creating well thought out, well-structured content that links logically to other related subject matter. In other words, you create content clusters. We take a look at what they are, how they work, and how you can put them to use on your website.

Why is this happening?

So what was so wrong with simple keywords in the first place? Why is this shift happening? One of the biggest reasons is simply because the way people search for information is changing. With the rising popularity of voice search, people looking for information are using longer, more conversational queries. (That’s because your average human can talk 3.75 times faster than they can type!) And the longer the phrase you search for, the less likely it becomes that there’s a piece of content out there which prominently features that exact phrase.

It’s not likely, for example, that there’s a blog post out there that features the exact words “What’s a good movie showing this weekend that I could take my seven and ten year old nieces to see?” For a search engine to show this user the most relevant results, it needs to understand the intent of the person doing the search. In this case, they’re looking for kid-friendly movies – even though the words ‘kid-friendly’ didn’t appear in their search at all.

What content clusters are, and how they work:

When you create content clusters on your website, you start with ‘pillar’ content. These are relatively lengthy pieces that focus on the broad basics of a particular topic. These then link out to shorter posts that discuss one aspect of that topic in greater detail. All these individual pieces link back to the main pillar post, and vice versa, creating a cluster of information, all revolving around an overarching theme.

Let’s demonstrate this with an example. Say you’re a digital marketing company that offers SEO services Cape Town. You would identify your pillar content themes around the different services you provide – such as PPC campaigns, social media marketing, SEO strategy, and web development, for example.

For each of those broad topics, you’ll want to create an in-depth introductory piece that covers all the basics. That central piece will then link out to shorter posts that cover one particular aspect in much greater detail. In this example, your pillar piece on social media marketing could link off to additional posts which cover Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn marketing.

To give another example, let’s look at a company that sells residential solar power products. Your main pillars might be something like this:

  • Batteries
  • Solar panels
  • Inverters, and
  • Accessories

Each of those would then branch out into different subtopics. In the batteries cluster, for instance, you might have posts which talk about lithium ion batteries, lead acid batteries, gel batteries and alternative energy storage systems.

As you can see from the above, taking this systematic approach is also a great way to come up with ideas for new content, and identify subjects you could be covering in greater detail.

How to create a content cluster strategy

So does this mean you should throw all your previous keyword research out the window, along with the existing content you’ve created that doesn’t link back to a central pillar? Not at all – but you do want to revisit your site’s architecture and structure. Existing posts can be combined or split to fit better into their applicable categories – always making sure you’re linking back to those pillar pieces.

If you already use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or Adwords Keyword Planner, most will show you which ‘parent’ topic the keywords you’re currently using fall under, as well as what the competition for them is like. You can then use this information to formulate a content production schedule.

What are the benefits of creating content clusters?

One of the biggest benefits of this approach is that when one page performs well, it gives all the other pages it’s linked to a boost too. In addition, people are likely to spend more time on a site where there’s a lot of stuff to see! Increased dwell time further helps your search engine rankings. And because you’ve got a lot of relevant, well organized information on your site, it makes you look more trustworthy – both to search engines and human visitors.

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/81110186@N05/44939772264

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