Andrew Hong | August 01, 2018

Marketers are constantly scrambling to improve their Google rankings. But keeping up with Google’s constantly changing algorithms? That’s no easy feat.

Google is always looking for better ways to serve its users – and that means changing its search algorithm on the regular.

Though you could change your keywords, rearrange your site structure and rewrite all your content every time there’s an update, there’s now a better strategy to stay atop the rankings – regardless of what the current algorithm looks like.

They’re called topic clusters.

Comprehensive, all-encompassing hubs of information, clusters are everything a brand needs to claim high rankings and stay there for good. Let’s look at them more in-depth to learn why.

What’s a Topic Cluster?

A topic cluster is just what it sounds like: a cluster of pages all centered on one general topic. That general topic is spelled out in deep detail on what’s called a pillar page.

Think of it like a bike wheel. The pillar page is the center, and all the pages in a cluster are the spokes. They’re all related to the broader subject, but they answer deeper, more specific questions about it. They go into more detail. They get down to the nitty-gritty.

It’s a different approach than what the traditional keyword-based model calls for. Rather than have 1,000 blogs all focused on different topics, keywords and ideas, the cluster model focuses on creating a more thorough resource around a number of broad subjects that your brand has expertise in.

Where to Start

To determine what topic clusters you should create, you basically work the opposite of the old, keyword-based model. Instead of starting with the super detailed keyword, you start at the bottom – at the most basic, broad subject you can. What services do you offer? What do you know the most about? What are your customers looking for?

Here at Tobe, for example, we wouldn’t just focus on creating a blog to rank for “top digital marketing agency,” but instead a cluster of pages all around the topic of digital marketing itself. We’d have a pillar page about digital marketing – what it is, its evolution, etc. Then, we’d have dozens of cluster pages coming off that, detailing different marketing approaches, tools, platforms, strategies and more.

You’re basically aiming to be the single-resource a user would need on a topic, answering all possible questions and addressing all possible concerns.

Why They Help Your Site’s Google Ranking

So why does this approach work? And how can it keep your brand at the top of rankings regardless of what the latest algorithm demands?

Here are a few reasons:

1. Searches are Longer and More Conversational

Google searches are more complicated and conversational than they once were. People aren’t searching for “best diaper brands” anymore, but instead things like “which diaper will keep my baby dry at night?” and “which diaper brands are best for boys?”

Part of this comes from the rise of voice search. Users are utilizing things like Amazon Echo and Google Home to conduct searches verbally – and since these verbal searches come with more variability (and are less predictable), Google has to get creative in how it locates the right content.

That’s where topic clusters can help. They ensure you cover a variety of words and phrases that a user might search for, so no matter how they word it or what they type in, you’re sure to show up.

2. There’s a Lot of Content to Compete With

Let’s face it: there’s a ton of content on the web. Every business has a blog, and Google has to sift through every single one of them to find the right content when a user enters a search.

When it comes across a site with lots of information around a certain topic, Google recognizes that as authority and expertise on the subject – not just fluff, low-quality content designed to climb the rankings.

Authority on a subject allows a site to rank higher – and likely more often – than other pages on the web. This is particularly true if you keep adding new and fresh content to the cluster, indicating you have developing and continuing knowledge on the topic.

3. It Means a Better User Experience

No user wants to hop from website to website just to get their questions answered. They want all the information, all in one place.

Topic clusters deliver just that. With the right internal linking strategy, users can start with the pillar page – or any page in the cluster, for that matter – and easily navigate from question to question, diving deeper and learning more with each click.

A bonus for you? You keep people on the site longer – and that means a higher chance they’ll contact you and convert.

The SEO Strategy of the Future

Topic clusters are the key to long-term SEO success. Tune into our latest podcast to learn more about this strategy, or contact the Tobe team directly. We’ll help you put your brand on the SEO map.

Topics: Marketing

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