Topic Clustering Guide to Level Up Your Content Strategy

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.

What a topic cluster is

A topic cluster is a group of interlinked webpages centered around one topic. Each cluster consists of: 

  • a pillar page covering a broad topic 
  • multiple pages covering its subtopics in-depth. 

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:

Know the difference: Topic cluster vs. keyword cluster

A topic cluster is not a keyword cluster, so don’t confuse these two notions. In brief, a topic cluster is a group of interlinked pages, while a keyword cluster is a group of keywords a particular page is optimized for. 

Why topic clustering became a thing 

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:

  • Better topic coverage. Topic clusters allow you to disclose the subject from all angles. That means you can naturally rank for more keywords. This way, you can maximize your market share by taking over entire keyword verticals on SERPs.
  • Better internal linking. Internal links not only distribute link equity among your pages but also help further strengthen the relevance of each cluster page. 
  • Logical site structure. Topic clusters contribute to the hierarchical structure, keeping its navigation and logic simple, yet intuitive. It makes your site user-friendly. 
  • Streamlined content ideation and production. The result of thorough keyword research and clustering is literally a ready-made content plan. Once done, it will save you and your team a lot of time.

No more boring theory. Let’s move to practice.

How to cluster keywords and topics 

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. 

Step 1. Do the keyword research 

This step requires Rank Tracker. You can download it now for free. Download Rank Tracker

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:

  • find out all the keywords your competitor ranks for with Ranking Keywords
  • run the Keyword Gap analysis to find out the keywords your competitors rank for and you don’t
  • extract keywords from Google Ads Keyword Planner and Search Console 
  • take ideas from Autocomplete Tools of different search engines 
  • get additional keyword ideas from Google’s Related Searches and Related Questions 
  • expand your list with all possible Keyword Combinations
Download Rank Tracker

All you need to do is to enter your seed keywords or competitors’ domains. The tool will pick up all the relevant keywords.

A pro tip

You can also use TF-IDF Explorer to discover the keywords your top 10 SERP competitors use most often to uplevel your content optimization.

Note that all the keywords you’ve collected will automatically appear in the Keyword Sandbox tab. Operate from there from now on.

Step 2. Remove all the irrelevant or low-potential keywords

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. 

A pro tip

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.

Download Rank Tracker

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.

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Specify your conditions (e.g., # of Searches less than 100 and/or Keyword Difficulty more than 80) and click Ok.

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Only the keywords that are not good enough will remain on the list. All that is left to do is delete them.  

Step 3. Group keywords to build topic clusters

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:

  • Topical relevance. All the keywords in a group should relate to one topic. It can be synonyms, keyword variations, and other related terms.
  • Search intent. There should be one search intent (informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional) per keyword group. E.g., keywords gaming gear reviews and buy gaming gear should belong to two different cluster pages. It will also be great to cover all search intents within a topic cluster.
  • Search volume and difficulty of keywords. Pillar pages are placed higher in the site structure than cluster pages and have a higher potential ranking. So, they are to cover the broad topic and target the most "broad" and highly competitive keywords. The cluster pages are on the next step of the click depth from the main page. They will take on more specific keywords with lower competition.

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: 

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Check out our short video tutorial on how to do topic clustering in Rank Tracker.

A pro tip

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.

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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.

Step 4. Create and/or update content 

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. 

A pro tip

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.

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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:

  • Each cluster should link to the pillar page at least once and each pillar page should link to relevant topic cluster pages.
  • The homepage should also link to pillar pages.
  • All topic cluster pages should be interlinked.
  • Anchor text should be descriptive and if possible contain a relevant keyword.
  • Constantly watch out for broken links or links to outdated irrelevant content.

A pro tip

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.

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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.

Mistakes to avoid

No one is immune to making mistakes. Sometimes even professionals make them when working on topic clusters. Here are the most common ones:

  • Too many pages targeting the same keywords. There may be cases when you should target the same keyword on several pages. However, if there are too many overlapping keywords on different pages, it may cause keyword cannibalization. 
  • Cluster pages do not support the pillar topic. None of your cluster pages should stand out from its pillar topic it belongs to. If the topic and keywords of a cluster page are irrelevant to the pillar topic, it may violate the pillar – cluster relations. If this lexical hierarchy can’t be traced, Google may not identify your content as relevant and in-depth. Your topic clustering model won’t work. 
  • Focusing solely on one search intent per cluster. Search intent is directly linked to the content marketing funnel. Thus, if you choose to target only transactional keywords (which correspond to bottom-of-funnel content) and neglect informational ones (which correspond to top-of-funnel content), your site content won’t meet customer interests to the fullest.

How to check if you did a good job 

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. 

A quick note

  • Average session duration (see Audience > Overview) shows how long users spend time interacting with your site. 

  • Bounce rate (see Audience > Overview) is the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and left. 

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

A quick note

  • Pages per session (see Acquisition > Overview) is an average number of pages a person views in a given session. It basically tells you how engaging your content is. 
  • Behavior flow report (see Behavior > Behavior Flow) shows how users go from one page to another. 

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:

  • Be diligent about keyword research, and you’ll be rewarded.
  • Keep topical relevance, search intent, and traffic potential in mind when grouping keywords. 
  • Create quality in-depth content only as it's always quality above quantity.
  • Don’t do internal linking randomly but with SEO in focus.

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