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What The Heck Are Topic Clusters? (and why they matter for your SEO strategy)

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If you’re a marketer, you know search is constantly evolving.

Is it me, or do search engine algorithms change more than Rihanna’s hair?

via GIPHY

Well, it's no surprise that search engine algorithms have changed... yet again. But it’s not just search engine algorithms that have evolved; the search — and searcher — has, too.

Anyway, there’s a new SEO sheriff in town and I’m here to tell you all about her (that's right, I said HER)!

So what’s the latest SEO trend? Topic clusters.

What’s A Topic Cluster?

Topic clusters strutted onto the scene in early 2017, but not much was known about them. It’s just the past few months that they have started to make themselves known in the SEO and marketing worlds.

Topic clusters, also known as content clusters, are a form of site architecture that uses one broad keyword as a hub for specific topics. This model connects webpages and blog posts to other URLs as well as the primary keyword via hyperlinks. All of these stem from a pillar page.

Read more about topic clusters and how to create them, here.

Which leads you to ask “what’s a pillar page?”

What’s A Pillar Page?

The pillar page is a key component of a topic cluster.

According to HubSpot, a pillar page “is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page.”

The pillar page is your “broad topic” and your clusters are topics that address a specific keyword or keyword phrase.

For example, let’s say you want to create a pillar page on Content Marketing, which is a broad topic. One cluster could pertain to blogging while another could cover email campaigns.

Think of the pillar page as the tree trunk, the links as the branches and the subtopics as leaves. The pillar page is the primary source for a topic and should cover all areas of the topic you want to rank for. However, it’s not in-depth; that’s what the subtopics are for!

Here’s one of our topic clusters, using HubSpot’s Content Strategy Tool.

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If you don’t have HubSpot — although we think we should! — try using a free mapping tool, like Coggle, to plan your topic clusters.

Do You Need To Use Topic Clusters?

So do you really need to use topic clusters? Is it really worth it to overhaul your website, blog and entire site structure just to have algorithms change on you AGAIN?

Well, the thing is search has changed.

Search engines have changed.

And searchers have changed.

That’s the way the SEO world works. Google leads, and we follow.

More importantly, this strategy not only creates the type of cohesive site architecture Google craves but it also provides users with better answers.

Google’s chief goal is to quickly and accurately deliver the answers users are searching for, and topic clusters help it do just that.

They provide Google with a deliberate, organized and well-structured site architecture that’s easy to crawl and understand. Which, in turn, Google rewards, giving your site more authority and a higher placement on a topic. 

But enough about SEO. Let’s talk about what’s really important. The user, the consumer.

People are entering longer, more conversational search queries. This is especially true if they are using voice search. Rather than searching for “dog boarders,” they are asking “what are the best dog boarders near me?”.

According to Search Engine Land, voice search makes up 20% of search queries on Google's mobile app and Android devices. Additionally, 64% of searches are four words or more, according to Ahrefs.

As you can see, consumer behavior is changing, and if search engines are adapting, shouldn’t you, too?

LEARN MORE ABOUT HUBSPOT