How to Use Topic Clusters For Amazing SEO

Maria Briggs


April 13, 2018 (Updated: January 23, 2024)

Topic Cluster Graph

Topic clusters are the future when it comes to content marketing strategies and SEO. If you’ve already heard about them, you may be wondering how they can possibly be as powerful as the hype would suggest. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’re probably wondering what they’re all about. Discover what you need to know about topic clusters for amazing SEO.

What Are Topic Clusters?

If you’re looking for something you can do in your content marketing that will make a difference, topic clusters are it. Getting ahead of the curve and restructuring your content to incorporate topic clusters is the best approach you can take for your content strategy, website, SEO, and brand. But what exactly are topic clusters and how do they work?

A topic cluster comprises multiple pieces of content on a single topic that all interlink. They’re built around a central piece of content, known as the pillar post, which is targeted at a broad keyword that encompasses the full topic and links to every other post in your topic cluster. The other posts are focused on specific aspects of that broad topic.

If you’re struggling to visualize the idea, topic clusters look something like the following:

Pillar Post

Original graphic courtesy of Hazel Butler created for CopyPress

The Benefits of Using Topic Clusters

Topic clusters are powerful because they establish your site as an authority on the topic they cover. Websites with multiple pieces of content that focus on a specific topic, ones that go into great detail and into every core aspect of the topic, massively outperform sites that contain content with less authoritative information.

Below are the top three benefits:

  1. Maximum Reader Retention: Site visitors will stay on your site longer if your site contains multiple pieces of content for which they are searching. The longer they’re on your site, the more likely they are to convert.
  2. SERP Rank: When one piece of content in a cluster ranks well, every other interlinking piece gets a boost. Not only does this effect make your site rank higher in general, but it can also result in having multiple high-ranking SERP positions for one keyword.
  3. Traffic Boost: Higher rankings will bring more traffic to your website, which perpetuates the cycle of people staying longer on your site. This traffic can lead to higher conversions, leading to a better search engine ranking.

How to Create Topic Clusters

At first glance, creating topic clusters may seem complicated. But it’s actually simple if you follow a few key steps. The first step is determining exactly what topics you need to be writing about. You’re looking for topics that will build your brand, your authority, and positively impact perceptions of your business while simultaneously being highly searchable for your ideal client.

Below are a few questions to get started:

  • What problems do your ideal clients face? What immediate issues do they need help fixing?
  • In what specifically do you want to establish yourself as an expert? What’s your niche?
  • What are people trying to accomplish with your products and services?

Generate Related Terms

The answer to these questions should leave you with a few good topic ideas. Use an LSI Graph to quickly generate a list of keywords related to each topic. You’ll end up with a list of keywords for each topic.

Prioritize Your Topics

Use Google AdWords Keyword Planner — you need to create an account to use it, but you don’t have to run any ads — and work through your lists. The planner will generate many ideas. You’re likely to end up with far more ideas for each topic than you can possibly write content for, and many of them are going to be similar. You need to figure out which search terms should be your priority. The Keyword Planner indicates search volume and competition.

Look for keywords with a high search volume and low or medium competition. You want the bulk of your posts to focus on these terms, with a few optimized for the high traffic and high competition terms in your niche. Try to get a good mix of head terms, one- or two-word search terms, and long-tail keywords, longer phrases of three or more words that are specific.

Brainstorm Headings and Outline Your Posts

You should now have a list of great priority keywords for each of your topics. Create a simple spreadsheet with a page for each of your topics. In the first column, add your list of priority terms with the broadest search term to the top row to create your pillar post.

Now take each keyword in turn and come up with a compelling headline that naturally includes it. Add your headings to a new column in your spreadsheet. In the next column, write a brief outline of what you will include in the post so that you don’t forget your original idea.

Start With Your Pillar Post

Once you have a list of fully fledged post ideas, design your pillar post. Remember that this post should include a reference to every post in your topic cluster as naturally as possible.

The easiest way to achieve this goal is to create an “Ultimate Guide to …” and use each of your post ideas as a heading. When you come to writing your pillar post, write a succinct summary of the concept, idea, or method you will be outlining in the full piece.

Publish you pillar post first, followed by your topic posts. Every time you publish a new topic post, go back to your pillar post and link the relevant section to the live post.

Cross-Link Your Topic Posts

As you write your topic posts, be sure to include cross-links to other relevant posts in the topic cluster — you’ll have a few that you can link to in every post. If they’re not live yet, make a note of the anchor text you will use, and the post you need to link to, and go back and add the link once the relevant post is live.

Creating effective topic clusters isn’t nearly as intimidating as it may first seem, and it is well worth the effort. SEO and content marketing strategies are constantly evolving. Topic clusters and pillar posts are the next evolution, and the sooner you make the jump, the better off your business will be.

If you need more help creating great content, or boosting the visibility of your content, get in touch with us. One of our expert content marketers will advise you on the best strategy for the needs of your business.

Author Image - Maria Briggs
Maria Briggs

CopyPress writer

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