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What Are Content Clusters And How Do They Work?

Content clusters, also known as topic clusters have been a growing and important aspect of many SEO strategies for some time, but we haven’t written a post on the subject…so here we are.

You may have heard lots of other terms floating around in relation to content clusters too such as ‘pillar content’, ‘topic clusters’, and ‘keyword clusters’…this can all sound a bit intimidating and like it’s a really complex subject, but it’s not.

Here is the easy-peasy explanation of content clusters, including how they work, how you can work them into your SEO strategy, and why you should.

What Are Content Clusters?

Content clusters are groups of content that are all related to one core topic…that’s it!

You will have seen lots of diagrams floating around that something like this:

a graphic showing how content clusters are organised

As you can see, at the centre of a content cluster is a topic and surrounding it are related topics. The central page is usually referred to as a ‘pillar page’ and the pages surrounding it are ‘topic clusters’ or ‘cluster pages’.

A pillar page should be a large piece of content that provides an overview, touching on all aspects of a topic. The cluster pages are the sub-topics.   

I’ll give you an example I might use if I were to have a website about gardening…

Say I want to talk about gardening basics to appeal to garden beginners, I could certainly write an overview of gardening basics (the pillar page) but there is no way I would be able to cover each aspect in as much detail as the reader would like unless the page was ridiculously long. So, I would use individual topics as the cluster pages. So if my pillar page is ‘gardening basics’ and has a complete overview of the entire topic, I would use my cluster pages to cover topics such as:

  • seed sowing
  • composting
  • vegetable growing
  • flower growing
  • pest control
  • plant nutrition

Now comes the important part…the cluster pages all link back to the pillar page and to each other, where appropriate. Aside from the cluster pages and the pillar page being obviously related by topic, the links help Google crawl these pages more easily and understand that this is a content cluster. The links also help the reader move between the related topics easily and find more content that is useful to them.

Now, you may be wondering why I chose ‘gardening basics’ as my pillar page and not just gardening…well, I would consider gardening is way too broad a topic and it needs to be split down into pillar pages. My website may be about gardening overall, but my pillar pages will be about different branches of gardening, and my cluster pages will be about individual topics within those branches.

Can you see how content clusters help organise related content but break it down into smaller parts and usefully link it all for the reader?

How Do Content Clusters Work Or Help With SEO?

Now you know what content clusters are, you’re going to need to know how they work and why they help your website…

Firstly, if you use content clusters, it helps enormously with the structure of your site and organising your pages. You can’t just go adding content to your website all over the place, whenever you feel like writing a new blog. Well, you can, but it’s not a good idea.

If content isn’t organised neatly, it makes it difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for. They are less likely to stay on your website because there is no natural path for them to follow to read related content or a more in-depth piece on a particular topic.

Having nicely structured content doesn’t just appeal to visitors, Google likes it too! When your content is organised and linked, Google can crawl these pages more easily, index them and work out how much of an expert you are on this topic, then decide which page to show someone, depending on the topic they searched for.

When Google sees your lovely pillar pages that cover a topic in-depth and all the sub-topics linked to this page, you build EAT (expertise, authority, and trust) which in turn helps your website rank better.

Using content clusters can also help you rank for keywords with higher search volumes and a greater variety of keywords that are related to your subject.

Before you start planning out your content clusters, you need to do a lot of keyword research. You need to know if people are searching for these topics, and how many people are searching. Your pillar pages should be optimised for the keywords that have higher search volumes and your cluster pages should cover keywords that have lower search volumes. Your pillar pages are likely to cover broad topics and your industry’s main keywords (the ones your competitors all want to rank for), whilst your cluster pages will target keyword sub-topics, semantics, and long tail keywords.

To Sum It Up…

See, I told you the topic of content clusters wasn’t that hard to understand!

You just need to make sure you do plenty of keyword research before you get started, and really think about how you can split out the topics you want to talk about. There are no set rules as to how many content clusters you should have…like most things in SEO…it depends! Naturally, most businesses do cover a few topics with their services or products so you will likely need several content clusters. Do your topics cross over and not actually need separate clusters? Go where your keyword research guides you.

If you need any help with content clusters, keyword research, or help creating all your lovely new content, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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