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Building Topic Clusters To Boost E-E-A-T

Targeted topic clusters are a simple yet tactful content strategy that can help boost your visibility on search engines. When you develop an industry-relevant topic cluster model, you display your expertise to users and search engines, increase your ranking potential, and are more likely to reach your desired audience. Let’s dive into the details so you can start creating clusters!

May 7, 2024

8 m read

Quality content alone won’t lift you to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). To make a dent in the rankings, your website should have solid topic clusters that showcase the depth of your knowledge. That’s why topic clustering is my go-to strategy for thoroughly exploring a subject and building topical authority. The more knowledge you can demonstrate about a subject, the more likely Google will view you as a trusted expert and display your content to users.

In this guide, I’ll walk through the steps of building topic clusters on your website and share examples along the way. I’ll explain how to pick a topic, assign keywords to your pillar and cluster pages, and link them together to build a strong cluster. When you use this technique, you’re sending a powerful signal to Google that your site is an authoritative resource and deserving of ranking prominently in search results. Plus, it’s kinda fun.

What Is a Topic Cluster?

A topic cluster is a group of web pages that provides comprehensive content creation around a single topic. Clusters comprise two components:

  • The pillar page is the foundation of a topic cluster, providing a high-level overview of the subject. It acts as a gateway, directing readers to supporting cluster pages for details.
  • Individual cluster pages are tied to the pillar page. These pages provide details on subtopics so readers can learn more about specific areas of interest. You can add any number of cluster pages to your pillar as long as they’re thematically related.

Why Should I Create a Topic Cluster? 

Google wants to know that the web pages it recommends are credible and deliver reliable information. As a result, websites that demonstrate experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EEAT) are more likely to earn higher rankings.

Clustering topics helps you align your content with EEAT guidelines because you’re displaying extensive knowledge in your niche. You’re not glossing over a topic but really delving into questions readers might have about the subject. It’s a great opportunity to provide content that naturally meets consumers where they are in their search journey. Your content is the hero — let it save the day.

On top of improving topical authority, clustering is a strategic approach to search engine optimization (SEO). You’ll know what topics to create based on search interest and behavior, which will help streamline your content production. Each cluster page is another opportunity to gain visibility in the SERPs and earn backlinks from external sites. This SEO strategy also helps you share link equity between pages, which means the clusters get stronger and more visible as a whole.

As an added bonus, clustering topics enhances user experience. When you have a substantial inventory of content, readers don’t need to go elsewhere for information. They find answers right on your site, improving dwell time, loyalty, and engagement.

Topic Cluster Examples

So what are topic clusters like in practice? As mentioned earlier, we use this strategy here at Victorious.

If you visit our blog, you’ll see we’ve organized our content into core topics such as keyword research, local SEO, link-building, on-page SEO, and technical SEO. Each topic is an area of expertise related to our business, structured with a pillar page and supporting cluster pages.

Let’s focus on the link building topic cluster as an example. The pillar page provides an overview of backlinking. Readers will learn what backlinks are, why they’re important, how to get them, and answers to other FAQs. The piece is useful on its own as an introduction to the topic, but it also gives us plenty of opportunities to link to relevant pages.

The link building cluster pages go into detail on related topics:

To tie together the depth of our knowledge and relevant information, we cement the cluster with links. There are links from the pillar page to the cluster pages, the cluster pages to the pillar page, and between the cluster pages themselves. Googlebot follows the links, discovering a number of high-quality pages on related subtopics. 

And ta-da! 

You have all the information you could ever want to know about link-building in a handy cluster of content, and at the same time, we’ve demonstrated a solid knowledge base and our expertise in the niche. See the fun in it now? Let’s move on to the process of putting all this fun work into practice.

How To Create Topic Clusters

To start creating topic clusters, follow the steps below. You can use these tips to strategize new content as well as reorganize and assign existing content to clusters.

1. Pick a Topic

First, decide on the core topics your site will cover. These content pillars should be directly related to your products and services so you’re attracting visitors interested in your business niche. Brainstorm topics by thinking about your audience’s pain points and questions and what solutions you can provide. 

It may also be helpful to look at the topics your competitors are writing about to help focus your clusters. But don’t copy them—that’s lame. Stick to what your brand does and knows best. You’ll draw people in for being uniquely you (while still providing valuable, optimized content based on keyword research!).

A good cluster topic is broad enough to attract audiences at different stages of the buyer journey and bring them into your marketing funnel. At the same time, the topic should be focused enough that your area of expertise is clear. It may seem contradictory, but I promise it’s an achievable balance.

Let’s say you offer business consulting services. “Choosing a business name” is too narrow for a pillar page as it limits the subtopics you can create. “How to run a business” is likely too broad, as you can go in many different directions. However, “starting a business,” “marketing a business,” and “growing a business” are manageable topics that offer plenty of room to create subtopics. We’ll use these content pillars as examples below.

2. Do Keyword Research

Now that you have topic cluster ideas, you need keywords to guide your content so each cluster can rank for the appropriate search query. Find keywords that are important to your business and audience. This is an important step, as keyword research validates your ideas and ensures there’s an audience for your topics.

As a general rule, you’ll assign a broad keyword to your pillar page and more specific, long-tail keywords or question keywords to your cluster pages. Use your favorite keyword tool to generate ideas. Then, collect data to help you decide which terms to target.

Consider the potential traffic for a keyword and how competitive the keyword is based on the top pages. If top-ranking pages are well-established with plenty of backlinks, for example, it’s harder to unseat them. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to leapfrog them by building your authority over time. However, mix in keywords that are easier to rank for so you can start gaining some visibility now.

3. Assign Keywords to Pillar Pages

As you work through the keywords, I recommend tracking them in a spreadsheet. The pillar page should have a fairly broad primary keyword so you can touch on various subtopics in your copy. Include a few variations of the primary keyword to make your content relevant to a wider range of queries. Now, let’s rewind for a second and return to our hypothetical content pillar about starting a business. 

After researching keywords, you may land on “how to start a business” as a primary keyword. You might see that the related keywords “steps to start a business” and “how to start a company” are also generating traffic, so you can add these as secondary keywords to your pillar page. And just like that, we’re in business… or starting one at least!

4. Find Keywords for Cluster Pages

Once you’ve determined the keywords for the pillar page, plan out your cluster. Each cluster page should focus on a subtopic and target distinct keywords so pages aren’t competing with each other for search rankings. Just as you did for the pillar page, choose primary and secondary keywords for each cluster page.

For example, our topic cluster on starting a business should address the key questions an entrepreneur might have — structuring a company, financing a company, and creating a business plan. Here are some keywords we could use for each cluster page:

  • Structuring the company: Types of business ownership, company structure types
  • Financing the company: Small business funding, startup financing sources
  • Creating a business plan: How to create a business plan, parts of a business plan

The beauty of this approach is that your clusters will naturally grow. While you’re already targeting the keyword “types of business ownership, ” there’s room to later add separate pages devoted to sole proprietorships, corporations, and partnerships. Focus on your core topics first, and gradually grow your clusters to expand your expertise.

Remember to only target keywords that fit into the topic cluster to keep your area of expertise well-defined. Articles about branding a new business would go into the marketing topic cluster, and articles about IPOs should slot into the cluster about growing a business.

5. Create the Pillar Page

As the anchor that keeps a cluster together, the pillar page should be an organized resource. It should be detailed enough to educate readers about the topic and have its own value while seamlessly directing readers to the supporting cluster pages.

Here are some tips for creating an effective pillar page:

  • Create an outline and identify the main sections of your article.
  • List the main points to cover in each section based on your research or expertise.
  • Look for places to mention and link to your cluster pages.
  • Write high-quality content that demonstrates EEAT. Use authoritative sources and back up your writing with examples, statistics, and case studies where relevant.
  • Use your primary keyword naturally. Follow best practices and place it in the metadata, introduction, and another couple of times in the content. Just please, for the love of SEO, keep it natural.
  • Add cluster page links using anchor text that clearly conveys the topic. If you haven’t created a page yet, make a note to add the link later (Once again, I keep a list in a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets will be your best friend if you let them.)
  • Organize content for readability and rankability. Use appropriate header tags, short paragraphs, question/answer formats,  bullet points, and numbered lists.
  • Add a table of contents or sidebar navigation to help readers jump to relevant sections. This is especially useful for content-heavy pages.
  • Use graphs, charts, and other visuals to break up content, maintain readers’ attention, and enhance the value of content on the page.

6. Create Cluster Pages

Now, it’s time to build out your pillars with supporting content. You’ll need to create individual cluster pages using the keywords that you researched.

To create effective cluster pages:

  • Understand search intent. Consider what your audience wants to learn when using a keyword.
  • Decide on content format. Keeping search intent in mind, choose a format that best answers your audience’s question. Blog posts and articles are the most common, but you can also create ebooks, checklists, glossaries, templates, listicles, video tutorials, and guides.
  • Consider how to add value. Find ways to make your content stand out by bringing your unique perspectives and insights. Share original research or examples from your own business.
  • Follow best practices for content creation. Create a logical outline to address your main points, and ensure your content is well-written, clear, readable, and interesting.
  • Optimize for keywords. Use the primary keyword a few times, including in the title (H1) and metadata.
  • Add internal links. Weave your cluster together by adding links to the pillar page and other cluster pages. Then, link to your newly published cluster page from the pillar page and other cluster pages. You now have a lovely linking clusterfest — woohoo!

7. Measure Topic Cluster Performance

Does anything even matter if we don’t track metrics? I strongly recommend measuring the performance of your content clusters regularly to make sure you’re progressing toward your goals. It takes time to build topical authority, but by monitoring changes in visibility, traffic, and engagement, you can ensure your strategy is working. 

If there are pages that aren’t starting to rank, you may need to further optimize them to break into the SERPs. Performance tracking also reveals avenues for building upon your accomplishments. When you know what topics are popular with readers, you can capitalize on the authority you’ve established and create additional supporting cluster pages.  

To measure the success of your topic clusters:

  • Track the keywords you’re targeting for your pillar and cluster pages to see if you’re gaining ground in the SERPs.
  • Analyze the organic traffic that each of your pages is generating.
  • Use metrics such as bounce rate, engaged sessions, time spent on the page, and session duration to see if your content is engaging users.
  • Monitor backlink growth to help boost your authority.

Get the Help of Content Writing Experts

Topic clusters are an effective way to signal to Google that your brand is an expert in its niche, improving your chances of landing higher in search results and increasing traffic to your website. Let our experts customize and implement a content marketing strategy that showcases your brand’s authority. Smart, purposeful content not only fuels your growth in the search rankings but also builds trust and converts readers. Contact us today to learn more about our SEO Content Services.

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