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Are Content Clusters Relevant to SEO?

Content Clusters are critical to SEO, often pillar content.

If you’re engaging in any content strategy and content planning, then you probably know what content clusters are. Content clusters are instrumental, even more so if your content is part of the core SEO techniques you use – as it should be.

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Since organic results are the main “provider” of traffic, the fact that there’s an increasing need for brands and companies to boost their SEO game is evident – even more so since marketers know that consumers won’t move past the first page of the SERPs.

The first step is benchmark your competition and your current state. Here’s an example of a recent site traffic for a new client of Matrix Marketing Group’s.

Matrix Marketing Group

Competition is fierce, which makes SEO a priority. And SEO is now being leveraged through a content cluster model. But what is that, exactly?

What is a content cluster: A Definition

The main idea of content clusters is the following: A brand decides on the pillar content. A content cluster is a subject that encompasses all of the content pieces present on the website. The content created after that is content that is relevant to the pillar content.

In general, your pillar content needs to be relevant to – or focused on – the keyword that best describes your brand and has a discernible search volume. The topic clusters focused around your pillar content need to be built around relevant keywords that are more specific and reachable regarding their search volumes.

Let’s assume that you’d like to focus your efforts on email marketing. You will create your pillar content with the keyword “email marketing” in mind.

Now, you will need to have topic clusters that will be talking about smaller keywords related to email marketing, like “email marketing for beginners,” “A comprehensive guide for eCommerce email marketing,” or “how to build your email list” and so on. The idea is to have the topic clusters link back to your pillar content, thus creating a trustworthy – by SERP standards – “network” for your content.

All in all, the piece of “pillar content” is pretty much the hub that links to – and is linked to – all of the other pieces of content.

In Google’s eyes, this technique creates a neat, tidy, organized model that is easy to crawl – for its machines – and easy to use – from a UX perspective.

Not to mention that breaking down a high search volume keyword into smaller clusters that link back to a centerpiece shows Google that you’ve got authority on the subject matter – especially if we’re talking about well-written, no-fluff content.

Why Content Clusters Help With SEO

Let’s go into a little more detail here. Your pillar content is what your brand is all about, which you need search engines and prospects to know.

Therefore, your pillar content should make your value super clear to both bots and humans and be present every step of the way, from building your content calendar to its implementation.

For example, when you’ve got a super lengthy and detailed blog post that talks about digital marketing, you need your Facebook marketing, Instagram growth, social media growth, and email marketing blog posts to be linking back to this centerpiece.

Make sure to frequently update your centerpiece and the supporting blog posts with new data and information. The more you do that, the easier it is for Google to know that you’re an expert on the field and urge users to look at your content by pushing it to the SERPs’ top positions.

What About User Intent?

Understanding user intent and creating content that corresponds with it and works to your advantage might be one of the hardest things to do when it comes to SEO. And it’s hard because it’s common to misinterpret what user intent is.

A marketer’s objective is to give the users what they want in just a few clicks – or one. This means that they need a firm grasp on the search terms people enter in search engines that have to do with their pillar content or brand.

So, let’s see what questions people are asking when it comes to email marketing: 

As you see, most people want to know more about what email marketing is, how to do email marketing properly, why email marketing is important, and so on. And since our pillar content revolves around email marketing, these are some of the questions to answer. These will create content clusters that revolve around your pillar content.

That way, you will satisfy the user, whose intent is to learn more about email marketing, and Google will reward you for that.

Why Keywords Just Won’t Cut It Anymore

It all comes down, again, to user intent. Nowadays, users search for “the best pr plan ideas for 2021”, not just “pr plans” or “pr plan tips,” as they used to some years ago.

And since the users are looking for something as detailed as that, they’ll need to find content that contains more than just keywords that can rank. Not to mention that most people may not be searching for something as specific as “best Netflix movies.” They may be in for a “What should I watch tonight?” kind of question. They may not be asking Google, even, but a voice assistant.

Still, Google aims to give the most relevant results, which means that it will search for content that will answer both a detailed and a vague question. And this is why content clusters that lead to a pillar content piece are needed. Thin, keyword-packed content can’t answer either question, as the first is way too specific, while the second one is way too vague.

How to Create Your Content Cluster Strategy

Content clusters are the topics that will be linking back to your pillar content. Your pillar content helps define and bind everything together. So, how are you going to create your content clusters in a way that will benefit your SEO efforts?

Establish Your Goals

Content is king when it comes to SEO because it helps brands reach their marketing goals. This is where marketers need to establish the goals their content will help them achieve and find a way to align with their goals and metrics.

Before you begin creating your clusters, think of what you need to achieve when changing your SEO approach – especially since it’s not an easy task. Are you hoping for more exposure? Better customer engagement? What are the goals you’d like to reach, and what is good conversion in that context? What are the keywords you’d like to focus on to get that conversion?

Answering the questions above will help you understand your goals a little bit better and have more clarity regarding the marketing strategy you will follow.

And it will make the next couple of steps easier to comprehend.

Define Your Buyer Personas

You can’t know the intent of your users if you don’t know your users. And you can’t understand your users if you don’t create buyer personas.

Your buyer personas – or customer personas – are a representation of your ideal prospect or customer. 

You can create a buyer persona by studying your customers’ journey through your data or surveys to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, according to your audience.

Be as specific as possible:

  • Are your personas married?
  • What is their level of education?
  • What are their problems?
  • What do they want from life?
  • What are their pain points?
  • How are you going to help them achieve their goals?

The answers to the questions above are the basis of your content clusters. So, next off, you will need to conduct a keyword search that will answer those questions. 

Look for keywords that will be relevant to the general umbrella term that can best describe you. This will allow search engines to understand everything about the topics you will use, from small clusters to the pillar content itself.

If, for example, you want to talk about online payments, and your buyer personas are small business owners, you can’t possibly skip the “online payments for small businesses” keyword.

Create a list with keywords that will help you create the content that can answer all of your prospects’ questions – since it can answer those of your personas. 

Use long-tail keywords, and make sure to study the keywords your competitors rank for, as it will give you an excellent idea about the things your audience is looking for in a brand.

Define Your Existing Content

Suppose you’re not a newbie and you’re trying to remodel your website and utilize all the SEO benefits content clusters can give you. In that case, you will need to define your existing content in a way that will correspond with your content clusters.

First of all, split your existing content into topics and categories. This will help you figure out what keywords you’ve already used and the ones you can use to create content in the future.

Next, make sure to see if there’s duplicate content, thin content, irrelevant content, or anything that could harm your content strategy and throw you off track.

Each piece of content needs to be reviewed very closely; otherwise, you won’t be able to remove content that is no longer valuable or changes and enrich content that doesn’t rank or has outdated information.

Once you get a good grasp of your content covers, you will know what content clusters you’ve already created.

Create Your Pillar Page

The pillar page is the centerpiece that binds all content clusters together. The main idea is for your content to look like this:

Of course, there is no pillar page if you don’t identify and create your clusters first, and there are no clusters if they cannot be tied to the hub that is your pillar page.

Your pillar page needs to be broad enough to link to all of your clusters, as well as be linked. But how are you going to create it?

First of all, you’ll need to find the core content of your pillar page. Here are the characteristics of the keyword that will be the basis of your core content:

  • It is broad and industry-specific
  • It can be educational
  • It’s not long-tail
  • It is on par with your product or service

If you’re starting your blog or website, you’re going to create your pillar page from scratch. But if you’ve already got some material to work with, you can choose an existing piece as a pillar page. Like so:

  • Find the best performing post that has a broader topic
  • Create internal links between your clusters and the post you decide to use as your pillar page

Your cluster content pieces should have internal links and be connected to your pillar page as well. Like a puzzle, you will need to create a picture that feels natural and leaves no piece behind.

Google’s algorithm will see that you’ve got various content that can all be traced back to one “mother” topic, in the form of internal links and backlinks. And since the clusters are good, Google will be sure that the pillar content is good – and easy to find and crawl.

Which will make Google think that you know your stuff very well – in other words, it will consider you to be an authority in your niche.

The Final Step for Content Cluster

Before we proceed with the final step of creating a content cluster that will amaze Google, let’s see the steps so far:

  • You’ve established your goals
  • You’ve studied your buyer personas
  • You’ve audited your content
  • You’ve identified your content clusters
  • You’ve created your pillar page and created links to that page

Now, for the final step: You will need to find a way to maintain that structure. This practice will benefit you in the long run, as it will make sure your clusters and your pillar content are always relevant.

Your content will need to be updated and a/b regularly tested since the content is a living organism that changes according to user intent. So, each time you create new content, make sure to review what you already have and keep it properly linked, fresh, and full of new data.

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General FAQs

What is a content cluster?

Content clusters are a newer concept in SEO content strategy that goes beyond merely inserting keywords in content and hoping Google will rank. 

What is pillar content?

Pillar content is content that provides a complete answer to any question a user may be searching for on a given topic.

Are buyer personas that important?

Buyer personas can help you with every marketing endeavor, and content clusters are no exception. Study your data, create segments and find the patterns that emerge. These patterns will help you find your personas’ pain points – and by extension, your customers’ pain points. Finding solutions to your personas’ questions will help you create and organize the topics your content clusters will cover.

Why use content clusters?

content cluster strategy not only helps boost your search engine visibility — it helps you come up with fresh ideas for future content

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