Making your Content Marketing work harder for you.

Competition on search engines like Google is extremely high. Companies all over the world are constantly battling with each other to rank highly on a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page). SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) experts would optimise web pages and content based on SEO best practices, as well as include low competition, long-tail keywords with high search volumes to drive traffic to that specific page.

In the past, this was all that was required – or even considered. However, gone are the old days where search engines would take the exact words and phrases entered and serve up the web pages that contained those keywords word for word.

SEO has changed drastically over the last few years, and one of the most dramatic shifts is the move away from keywords to topics. This is due to Google (and the other search engines) having a greater understanding of semantics — or, in other words, a greater understanding of the meaning behind our language.

Having web pages and content that include your keywords is simply not enough anymore and, at the end of the day, if you want to be found on Google, you need to follow Google’s rules.

SEO has evolved – and it is moving from being purely based on keywords (specific words or terms that you want to be ‘found for’) to be based around topic clusters.

What is a topic cluster?

A topic cluster is a marketing model where you have one central ‘pillar’ piece of content or webpage which acts as the central hub for an overarching topic. Then, off this central hub, you build multiple pages that link back to the pillar content.

For example, if you provide accountancy software, you may decide to have a central page around the benefits of accountancy software, and then have various clusters of content around how your product could benefit customers in various industries.

Of course, keywords are still important, but industry professionals are now seeing greater success where a single ‘pillar’ page acts as the core for content on an all-encompassing topic and elsewhere on the site, while several related content pages refer back to the pillar page using hyperlinks.

By linking from the main pillar content to the cluster content and then BACK to the pillar content, you’re telling Google that the pillar page is important and holds value, which should help it to rank higher over time – and we all know what that means.

The topic cluster model is an attempt at structuring a website’s pages using an architecture where there are less pages competing for the same term), whilst also ensuring semantic relevance across a broad range of content types.

How do I do it?

First and foremost, in order to create a topic cluster, you need to look at your current content assets and group them into topics, as well as map out which ‘clusters’ should link to which ‘pillars’. Once you’ve identified your pillars, the next step is to use things like buyer personalities and customer pain points to identify the clusters that you’ll surround your pillar with.

You should design a plan detailing how you will build and enhance the number of clusters you create to surround your pillars with, as this will increase the pillar’s authority and importance, which in turn should help Google understand it’s importance and push it higher up in rankings.

Remember that, regardless of how much search engines evolve, their principal purpose is to help the person at the end of the screen – a potential customer or client – to find the content that best answers their question. Therefore, when it comes to the creation of your website and its content – try to think from the very perspective of that website visitor and predict what they would have typed (or said to Siri) to find your website.

It’s clear that topic clusters are here to stay. They help with content strategy organisation, impact your position in search engine results pages, use marketing best practices, and (most importantly) organise a wealth of information for your website visitors. This is an evolution of how smart marketers are responding to search engine updates.