Your content (whether an article, blog, image or video) tells who you are and what expertise do you have. Your content can establish you as an authority in your domain. And thus having a right content strategy is the key to grow your business success. As SEO I always recommend that right content strategy can ignite organic growth. This is because Search Engines are very particular about ranking websites that are authority in their domains.

I first came across Pillar-Cluster Content strategy on Hubspot and decided to deep dive into it. So far I have implemented this strategy for many e-commerce, publishing clients and have seen good growth. Let’s discuss this strategy in detail.

Pillar content is linked to a wide range of content that spreads over the individual; more specific subtopics, which are also known as, cluster content. Each cluster topic page for the pillar makes sure to provide more detailed and specific long- tail keywords related to the main topic.

Ways to get Ranked and Read with the Topic Cluster Content Model

It sure takes a great deal of effort to create engaging content that finds itself in the top spots of Google. The Topic Cluster Model helps in creating content that Google loves while building a library of content that is highly beneficial to ones target audience. 

Over the last couple of years, Pillar Cluster Pages are recognized as the key strategy for high-level content marketing under one roof. Pillar Pages are being pushed for the simple reason that Google is focussed on topic authority. They have been gearing towards this for quite some time in order to better understand the user intent and to deliver the content that the user is expecting to have their questions answered. 

Content marketers are continually battling to be noticed by their audience. However, with this huge number of contents being published online, search engines like Google are being forced to better systematize and highlight the content they think would be useful to the searcher. All this change brings opportunity for content marketers to be found by their ideal audience. Therefore, when we think of optimizing a website or page for search, what comes to our mind? Keywords, Backlinks, Anchor text. 

SEO is rapidly changing and approach needs to evolve. We are moving to a world where a topic is more important than keywords and effective SEO involves more than just optimizing a URL.

Choose the topic

Firstly, choose the topic around which the topic cluster will have to be built. Brainstorming on the list of relevant topics or checking on the audiences’ personalities may assist in finding out the type of content they are looking for. A marketing agency’s list will include; content marketing to get leads, Promote blog posts through social media and email generated content ideas. Therefore, if we consider the above three points as cluster- type topics, the pillar topic would be ‘Content marketing strategy’. The idea is to make sure that a strong topic cluster, which underpins the foundation of one’s business, is present anywhere on the website. 

Conduct keyword research to identify the clusters

After brainstorming the list of topics, a number of them might fit in as clusters. These may serve as the cluster content for the pillar page once the keyword research is done. It has been noticed that if the keyword phrase is closest to the content marketing strategy then it may act as a cluster page for a standalone blog post. Another way to find cluster topic is to ask Google to suggest topics that could form the cluster pages. To do this, type a prefix (why, how, when) before the topic in the Google search and browse the auto-generated recommendations by Google. 

Write the cluster pages

With the list of cluster pages in hand, it is time to move on to creating the content. It is similar to writing a standard blog post but with two exceptions mentioned below

  • Make sure not to mention about topics covered on another cluster page.
  • Make an in-depth article on the topic instead of taking a generalized approach.

Some good habits while writing quality blog content include- posting long-form pieces, adding unique data and using appropriate visuals along with a one of a kind cluster page. Therefore, each SEO optimized page must include the long tail keyword in the page title, heading tags, image alt text, body copy and Meta title and descriptions.

Writing the pillar page

While the collection of cluster topic is now ready, it is time to build the pillar page. This page is an overview of everything related to the main topic without concentrating on specific areas of the topic. It is important to write the overarching topic first and then move on to the specific ones. It is better to leave the pillar page for last because while writing the pillar page it is next to impossible to gather knowledge of how detailed each topic cluster might turn out to be. This means it runs the risk of duplicating points and placeholders for internal links cannot be added.

Establish internal linking between pillars and clusters

After publishing the pillar pages and cluster pages, the internal links for each piece of content needs to be added. It’s a simple method of just heading back to each topic cluster and link them to the suitable pillar page. These internal links help in providing Google with an easy way to index the topic clusters and allocate a stronger SEO power to the pillar page.

Many times, a website’s content has ended up confusing the reader. With the topic cluster model in place, the contents are now organized while both the user and search engines can easily navigate through the site’s content. It is pertinent that an engaging topic is selected and the pillar and cluster pages are written systematically while adding internal links to connect the pages. It might take time to get the site ranking in Google search result but with time and effort, this content strategy marketing also yields steady and positive results.

Search Engine Optimization is all about providing what searchers want.

A searcher’s query is nothing more than a Google algorithm. It is constantly evolving in order to provide the best answers to user queries. Too many internal links or conversational queries, which reflect the searcher’s thought process along with machine- learning to understand specific interpretations of individual keywords.

This means that Google is painstakingly helping searchers find the precise information even if it isn’t exactly related to what they are looking for. Therefore, if one searches for “mobile phones”, Google will show results for all types and brands of mobile phones. This just goes on to prove that bloggers and SEOs need to revamp their content creation and allocation so that in no way can a searcher overlook the website that pops up in front of him. 

The chief reason why Google ranks one website or piece of content over the thousand others is for it to identify what the site is about. An ambiguous website with low-quality content can never attract organic traffic. Each article in the cluster page must have its backlink to the pillar page so that Google can allocate them accordingly. This way the site can be ranked better. The more exhaustive the topics are the better Google ranking it can fetch. 

Ways to connect a blog strategy to a pillar content strategy

In order to optimize an already existing blog with a new keyword, the following points need to be considered:

  • Update the blog title to include the new keyword.
  • Insert the keyword on to the article wherever it can be used aptly.
  • Use as many image alt tags in the blog as necessary along with the keyword.
  • Including Latent Semantic Index (LSI) keyword variants of the principal keyword in the article wherever suitable. 

This is a great way to refresh the blog contents. However, don’t forget to republish the fresh blog article with a new publish date.

Measure the cluster performance

The following are a few parameters to determine the success of the pillar and blog strategy combination:

  • Organic traffic to the cluster pages and their subparts.
  • The conversion rate of the pages inside the cluster.
  • The conversion rate of the specific pillar page.
  • Overall site’s traffic.

Content Strategy Tool helps in measuring the cluster performance while keeping an eye on the traffic growth to the cluster and the overall conversion rate and watches it grow. It goes hand in hand with the conversion rate of the pillar page since it is the landing page. The ideal target for the landing page conversion rate is above 15%. Therefore, one must strive to bring continuous improvements to the website’s pillar page in order to get a gradual improvement in the conversion performance. Make sure to keep a tab on the website’s overall traffic rate also. Once more and more pillar and subtopic clusters are introduced, the site’s organic traffic will also rise drastically.

Content marketing is the most vital part of SEO. For a better visibility, maximum shares and quality organic links, in-depth and comprehensive content is needed which must match the user’s prospects and intent seamlessly. Pillar Pages help in creating high- quality content by covering all aspects of the topic on a single page with room for in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page.

Hubspot (1)
Hubspot (2)
Content Marketing Institute (3)