Sufficient internal linking, improved website authority, efficient site architecture and technical SEO, clear navigation, streamlined content ideation – all these are the side benefits of topic clustering.
This article explains how this is possible and how you get this done.
A topic cluster is a group of interlinked webpages centered around one topic. Each cluster consists of:
The aim of creating topic clusters is to develop a particular topic to such depth as to give users exhaustive information on it. In their turn, search engines treat your site as an authoritative source and rank you higher on SERPs.
Here is the scheme of how the content model that is based on topic clusters looks like:
When we stepped into the semantic search era, it changed our approach to content creation. Topical relevance and content depth have come to the forefront. And that’s why topic clustering came into play and has become so common.
To put it simply, this is what topic clustering means for your site:
No more boring theory. Let’s move to practice.
Here is how you are going to act: first, you discover all the keywords your site can rank for, then, you group them to form topic clusters, and then you create and interlink all pages in a cluster.
First, you need to collect all the keywords relevant to your site.
No doubt, you could do the keyword research manually – brainstorm and search through SERPs competitors’ sites and forums. However, that won’t be even as half efficient as keyword research with Rank Tracker.
To start your work, launch the software and create your project if you haven’t done it yet.
Then go to the Keyword Research module and try out different keyword research techniques:
All you need to do is to enter your seed keywords or competitors’ domains. The tool will pick up all the relevant keywords.
Note that all the keywords you’ve collected will automatically appear in the Keyword Sandbox tab. Operate from there from now on.
Now, all the keywords are in our Keyword Sandbox. However, not all of them will be perfect for your site – there may be keywords with wrong locations, other brand names, or misspelled keywords.
You should scan your keyword list and remove all the irrelevant search terms first. The task may take time as you have to do it manually.
You can make your job a bit easier by specifying the negative keywords in Advanced Settings at the top right of the dashboard while doing your keyword research. The search terms with these specified words won’t be collected.
Now, as our keyword list is totally relevant, we need to remove the keywords that don't seem promising to us. For example, you can remove the keywords with low search volume that won’t bring much traffic to your site.
Use Rank Tracker’s filtering functionality to find those unpromising keywords and delete them. In the dashboard’s upper right, click the filter icon and then Add Filter.Download Rank Tracker
Specify your conditions (e.g., # of Searches less than 100 and/or Keyword Difficulty more than 80) and click Ok.Download Rank Tracker
Only the keywords that are not good enough will remain on the list. All that is left to do is delete them.
When your keyword list is finally clean and shiny, it’s time to proceed to keyword grouping.
Here is the logic behind keyword grouping you should follow: 1 keyword group is meant to target 1 page (pillar or cluster) covering 1 topic and targeting 1 search intent.
Thus, it all comes down to 3 things you should consider when grouping your keywords:
You should deal with 1 topic cluster at a time. It can be a bit overwhelming to deal with them all at once, especially if you have more than 500 keywords on your list.
First, create your pillar page folder by clicking the New Group button at the bottom right of the dashboard.Download Rank Tracker
Then you need to select the proper keywords for your pillar page. Remember, it should be the most broad terms with relatively high search volume and keyword difficulty.
Then, scan the remaining list to select the same topic keywords. All that is left to do is to drag and drop them to your pillar folder. That part should be easy.
Once your pillar folder is ready, proceed to create its subfolders aka future topic cluster pages. Just right-click the pillar folder and click New Group. Then add relevant keywords there the same way you did with the pillar page.
This is an example how it may look like:Download Rank Tracker
Check out our short video tutorial on how to do topic clustering in Rank Tracker.
You can get your keywords grouped automatically if you will. Click on the Ungrouped folder > Regroup by topic. Choose the level of Semantic Similarity low, medium, or high and get your keywords grouped. However, you’ll have to revise those groups anyway.
Note: If you do not start from scratch and already have some folders in your site structure, revise them. You may decide to add additional cluster pages or reorganize them. You may also decide to add keywords to a group. In this case, you’ll just need to update a page's content, not create a new one.
Now that all the keywords are grouped, you can start creating or updating your content.
At this point, you probably know what type of content it’s going to be – product page, blog post, or another landing page. If not, pay attention to the keywords in your folder: if they are informational consider writing a blog post (guide or how-to), if investigational ones consider reviews and listicles, and transactional keywords are usually for product pages and landings.
As a rule, pillar pages are product or landing pages while blog posts are cluster pages. The model may vary for different websites: it may all be blog posts, for example.
Whatever it is, start with pillar pages first and then create supporting cluster pages.
While creating your content, remember following the best SEO content writing practices as mindless keyword placement won’t bring you the desired results.
Use Website Auditor’s Content Editor to ease the production process for yourself. It also can be used to create an SEO brief for your writers.
Launch the software and go to the Page Audit module > Content Editor. Think up your new page’s URL and enter all the keywords from a folder and click Create Content.
You can also update already published content by choosing Optimize an existing page.
With the Editor, you will not only be able to track what keywords and how many of them to use, but you will also get additional keyword recommendations and topics to cover.
This step is as important as keyword research and clustering. So, don’t neglect it.
You’d better think of the internal linking between all those pages you created – pillar and all the cluster pages – before you publish your content. Surely, you can do that after publishing, but it will be neater if you take care of it in advance.
These are the basic rules of internal linking for clusters:
Use WebSite Auditor’s Visualization tool when planning internal linking. With it, you can map all your future pages and add internal links to see how they all will work together.
Launch the software and go to the Site Structure module > Visualization.
Click the plus button at the top left of the dashboard to add a new page to your site structure and enter its URL. Add links from a page and to it by clicking on the arrow buttons. Once done you can recalculate the PageRank by clicking on the Calculator button. You can see how to work with our Visualization tool in our video guide.
No one is immune to making mistakes. Sometimes even professionals make them when working on topic clusters. Here are the most common ones:
We don’t do SEO blindly, right? Though it’s rather hard to understand if your topic clustering model works, there are a couple of metrics that can tell if your overall content strategy works. Here, Google Analytics becomes your best friend.
You can find out if you hit the right search intent with your content by looking at Average Session Duration and Bounce Rate metrics.
Average session duration (see Audience > Overview) shows how long users spend time interacting with your site.
Here, you need to check if there are pages where these metrics are too different from the everage. If your average session duration is too low and bounce rate is too high, that means your content isn’t resonating with your audience.
You can also check out Pages Per Session and Behavior Flow.
This is what you should check out consistently – each time you add a page to the cluster. If you see your pages per session number increased and in the Behavior Flow Report you see how people go from general to more specific topics, you did everything correctly at least from the user navigation perspective.
If the metrics aren’t satisfying, audit your overall content strategy – the reason may be in the wrong clustering. However, it may also be a not suitable tone of voice, CTA, or design. So, further investigation is required.
Topic clustering takes time and it can be tiresome. However, the advantages of it outweigh these little drawbacks, no doubt.
To succeed, remember and follow 4 simple rules:
If you have any questions or suggestions on topic clusters, feel free to join our Facebook community.