An SEO topic cluster is a sophisticated on-page SEO strategy. Most SEO experts would agree it’s a pretty reliable way to get results.
Essentially, a topic cluster strategy is structured like this:
That was an oddly formal way of wording it. Here’s a visualization:
(Note, I can’t remember where I got this image but I’ve been using it for years — if I stole it from anyone, don’t trip, just tell me).
Putting a topic cluster strategy together just requires a little know-how and a lot of math.
(If you’re like, back up! What? Read this first: What is Search Engine Optimization? — assuming you’re good, let’s roll on.)
Same disclaimer on this graphic — here’s what you need to deploy a good SEO topic cluster:
I would say that this is an apt visualization because those petals do illustrate the weight given to each of those areas:
On that note, if you want to hear from someone who HAS done a million of these, go read this from Stacy:
Ok, so that’s loosely the foundational concept and how you’re going to skin this cat.
Here are the steps:
Yes, just that. Get a couple of keyphrase ideas together. Then, you’ll vet them.
Here’s how you vet them:
Find the answer using SEMrush SERP Analyzer (or similar).
You can look on Surfer SEO to find the categorization, but you can also just Google it in incognito mode and see what turns up - what other sites rank for it? What kind of content turns up?
Use an SEO tool to compare SERP metrics. You can also just evaluate on Google - if you’re up against incredibly high authority sites and the client’s site is a peanut, be smart. Some things aren’t possible.
After that, you should have a shortlist together. You may need some approvals to cross-check the word you’ve vetted with search intent. You’ll see in SERP results whether something has commercial or informational intent, obviously, but you want to make sure the search intent is right for the website itself. In other words, don’t go for something that doesn't make business sense. That’s doing SEO in a vacuum which is wasteful.
Once you’re validated and approved, you’ll start the real research and content production.
You can manually start research that will help you put the pillar outline (or table of contents) together.
Then you’re going to add in some creativity/CRO/sales enablement sensibilities. Where will your CTA off-ramps be? Where do you have product feature callouts? Where does it make sense to do a competitor table?
Almost invariably, pillars will be like an “Ultimate Guide to” or “Comprehensive” treatment of something. You’ll want to really thoroughly cover the topical area. This means quantity AND quality and it’s a ton of work.
Note, I’ve written SEO pillars that are 10k words. Most will be between 3k-5k these days, but it really does depend on the SERP you got from the keyphrase research. The internet sets the terms of the game and you have to play by them. Otherwise it’s a heckuva lot of investment for something that won’t work in the real world.
There are a few sources used to create your list of 6-12 supporting blogs for your pillar:
Create each blog outline, being careful to not cannibalize as you go. Keyword cannibalization is probably your biggest risk here, as is getting crazy repetitious. You’ll have to get creative. You may be writing multiple blogs that address variations on a keyword, which means you want to bracket those with phrases or qualifiers that shift the nature of the content. It’s a balance and you don’t want to end up with a bunch of fluff.
All said and done, you’ll be ready to write:
Sophisticated = yes. Fast = not really.
Innumerable factors impact how quickly you start to see traction take off with this strategy.
What you should see is an increase in keyword ranking, both in volume and position. It can take some time.
I’d say reasonably the goal is three months fully complete content and indexing and six months to see the keywords ranking and traffic increase.
If you haven’t dipped your toe in this yet, I can assure you it’s worth your time to learn and try. If you need help, connect with Hire a Writer.
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