How topic clusters can improve your content marketing strategy

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Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving and becoming smarter. Long gone are the days where keywords are the most important factor in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Nowadays search engines are taking a much more human approach to search results, using machine learning and artificial intelligence to read web pages and gauge the topic and quality of the writing. It is because of this that a scattergun approach to blogging is inefficient, ineffective and more work than a strategy based on topic clusters. Find out how you can use topic clusters to improve your school’s content marketing efforts below.

What are Topic Clusters?
Topic clusters, also known as silos, are a method of planning and grouping blog subtopics into a few main topics. The main topic should be quite broad, something that someone might search for in a search engine, and then each blog subtopic should cover, in detail, an element of the main topic. For each main topic on your website you should have an information page, known as a pillar page, that broadly covers everything to do with that topic, enough to give your user a basic understanding of the topic. Throughout the pillar page, there are also links to the relevant subtopic blogs so your user can delve deeper into specific areas of the main topic.

Why are Topic Clusters Effective?
The topic cluster method of creating pillar pages for your main topics and then linking to your blogs from them not only works well for both the user and SEO, but, once the strategy is up and running, it is also much easier to manage and maintain.

For the user, it is much easier for them to find the information they need by giving them a broad overview in the pillar page and then linking to detailed information where relevant. The user can consume the information in their own time and are more inclined to properly read the blogs after being introduced to the topic on the pillar page, rather than randomly in a blog list.

For SEO, it very clearly indicates to Google’s algorithms that you are an authority on clearly defined topics. By keeping your blog subtopics clearly defined within your clusters, only blogging on relevant subtopics, not doubling up on subtopics and not covering more than a single main cluster topic in a blog, you’ll get a much stronger ranking for your main topics, rather than an average ranking across many blogs without a main focus.

And for you writing and managing the blog, there is more of a focus on quality rather than quantity so you reduce the number of blogs you have to write; when you plan your topic cluster and pillar page you also plan out all of its subtopics, so you spend less time trying to establish topics; there is more focus on refreshing old content rather than constantly producing new content.

How to Implement Topic Clusters
Firstly, you must identify what your main topic clusters will be. Use Google Analytics and Search Console to see what keywords people are already using to find your website and try to identify which of these could become topics. Next, determine what topics you want people to find you with, considering the search terms people might use and how popular it is. You can compare the popularity of different search terms using Google Trends. There is nothing wrong with starting with one main topic and focusing on that.

Once you have determined your main topics, list out your subtopics and create your pillar page. The subtopics should each cover a specific detail of the main topic and should not overlap each other too much. The pillar page may end up being quite long. It should cover each subtopic, but not go into too greater detail − it should give the user a basic understanding of the main topic and link to blogs to provide further detail. As you write more blogs based on your subtopics, you can add these links to the pillar page to further build your authority on the main topic.

The pillar page should also be evergreen content – that means it should always be relevant and never out of date – you may need to update the page as necessary. You should also create a schedule for reviewing and refreshing older blogs. This is a good way to improve lower-performing blogs.

Once you have created all of the blogs for a particular topic cluster, then you will need to assess your situation. Is it time to create a new topic cluster and pillar page? Are there more subtopics that you can create for your topic cluster? Are all of your blogs performing as well as they can or is it time to refresh or rewrite some?

This is a very basic overview of topic clusters and pillar pages. Initially, it can take some time researching and planning out your topics and strategy, and even more so if you’re adapting it to an already established blog. In the end, you’ll save a lot of time and quickly start seeing the benefits of this strategy, both in analytics and in your user’s experience.

Do you know what topics would make up your topic clusters? If not, maybe you need to identify how to communicate your school’s message more effectively. Check out our Message Architecture Program (MAP) ebook.

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