With constant algorithm updates and conflicting advice from SEOs, creating a content strategy can leave brands with more questions than answers. Although a lot has changed, it’s important to understand that the future of SEO driven by the way humans search, and not search engines.
The shift from formal keywords to conversational search inquiries is revolutionizing how search engines index content. As a result, brands need to adapt and evolve their content strategies to continue driving organic traffic.
At Groove, our marketing team been closely following a content methodology developed by HubSpot called topic clustering. This concept involves organizing website content in a way that helps search engines understand relationships and hierarchy for blogs and longer form pieces.
After implementing this approach for several of our clients, we felt it would be helpful to share information directly from the source. That’s why we invited Hubspot Principal Channel Consultant Guillaume Delloue to present his explanation and recommendations related to topic clusters at our Baltimore HubSpot User Group. You can watch Guillaume’s full presentation below or read our recap below to learn how they work and how you can implement them for your business.
What is a Topic Cluster?
Topic clusters help brands take a deep dive into very specific topics they want to rank for. This idea ultimately manifests on your website as pillar and subtopic pages. These pages create a website infrastructure that helps search engines and users understand how content on your site relates.
Think of the pillar page as the tenant of your content strategy for a given topic. This long-form content covers a variety of subtopics and houses a wealth of information related to a main topic. As a result, you would write subtopic blogs focusing on longer-tail related terms that link back to your main pillar page. According to HubSpot, successful pillar content can increase organic traffic for both the pillar page and linked subtopic blogs.
The Two Types of Pillar Pages
There are two main types of pillar pages. The first is a “10x content pillar page”, where all the content is written by you. A 10x pillar page is set up similar to an e-book with chapters and rich original content. The second type is a “resource pillar page”, which is a mix of your own content and outbound links. A resource pillar page aggregates resources together for your prospects and adds credibility to your content.
There isn’t a right and wrong decision between these two types of pillar pages. The decision ultimately comes down to what you want to accomplish and your resource availability to create original content.
How do I Set Up a Pillar Page?
Choosing a Topic
We encourage you to think beyond individual keywords and instead focus on the overall idea you’d like to discuss. Choose a topic that you want to rank for and keep it broad enough so that you can brainstorm topics for blogs that are based off more specific keywords related to your broad topic.
Additionally, it’s important to evaluate your current search equity and choose topics where you have a higher probably to rank. To start this process, we recommend taking a look at search results for your desired topic and see who’s ranking in the space. If you aren’t already displaying on the first page of search results for your desired term, getting there with your pillar page will be more difficult (but not impossible). Start with low-hanging fruit and work your way up to broader topics once you’ve increased your organic search presence.
Creating the Page
Pillar pages are a fairly abstract concept, so we’ve found that looking at a few examples can help point you in the right direction. This example from Hubspot about Instagram Marketing demonstrates the chapter-based approach that we recommend for original content. User and search engines can easily identify the main topic is and can also access more specific blog posts within the main pillar.
Overall, there are four key elements that you should always include in your pillar pages.
- Clear topic
- Table of contents
- Rich, chapter-based content
- Subheadings that include a specific topic-related keyword
After choosing your topic, we recommend identifying your desired keywords. As with blogging, you should choose keywords with high traffic and low competition to increase your chances of ranking. We also recommend including one of these keywords in your working titles.
Finally, we’ve outlined several best practices for pillar pages below to help you in the right direction.
Make navigation available at the top of the page
- Make it easy for your users to find what they’re looking for. Sticky navigation can be a simple way to help users and search engines digest and explore your content.
Include your topic in the H1
- This tried-and-true SEO best practice helps search engines understand page hierarchy. Including your topic in the H1 tag helps visitors understand the subject of your pillar page and how subtopic content will relate.
Include your key topic on the page and in the URL
- Think of your URL as the GPS for search engines to find your site. Including the keyword from your key topic helps Google understand how your pages relate, and more importantly, what your page discusses.
- There are two key benefits to this tactic. First, including a definition helps your users understand exactly what they’re reading. Additionally, these definitions can help pages rank with “featured snippets” on Google. It’s a simple approach that can have significant impact.
Make your H2s relate to your key topic
- Topic clusters are all about how content relates. We recommend designing your page structure and H2s around subtopics of your key topic. This demonstrates the connected nature of your content and helps search engines understand how subtopics direct to your more-prominent key topic.
Include links to internal and external sources
- Internal and external sources will help establish credibility and increase your chances of ranking. We recommend a thoughtful approach to link. When in doubt, make sure they relate to your key topic and provide value.
Although the topic cluster as a term is a fairly new idea, the logic behind it is based on years of SEO experience. If you’re curious about applying this methodology to your site, we recommend starting small. After all, creating pillar pages can be a time-intensive endeavour. Once you create a pillar page and link your subtopics, you can begin organizing your existing blogs to create an overall topic cluster strategy.
If you want to learn more about how to create topic clusters or a content strategy for your business, we’re happy to help! Just fill out the form below and a member from our team will be in touch.