How to Implement SEO Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages for Improved Content Organization and SEO Results

seo topic clusters and pillar pages

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The general advice on how to create topic clusters and pillar pages hasn’t shifted in the last decade. So, if you’re on this blog, you might get the same advice here too. 

However, there’s one primary benefit of being on the Rock Content blog as opposed to the other websites — we’ve corroborated our facts from experts and gotten advice from them on how to ensure your topic clusters and pillar pages‌ drive fruitful results. 

If your main aim is to learn how to not only create topic clusters and pillar pages but how to create them so that you improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and enhance user experience, you’re on the right page!

Step 1: Identify User Intent and Select a Pillar Topic With Broad Intent

First thing first — you’ll need to begin researching to understand the kind of content your audience wants to read. SEMRush suggests considering things like:

  • What type of topics has your target audience liked historically? 
  • What are the things they care about? [You can find out this data by using social listening tools]
  • What pillar topics are my competitors focusing on? [Emily Onkey, CMO at Aplos, suggests beginning with a competitive content analysis of your competitor’s highest-performing content containing the keywords you want to target.]
  • Which type of content is important for my brand? 

Once that’s done, create a list of topics you think can become a pillar and figure out if you can contribute enough information to each cluster and create a strategy around it. 

On the strategy side of things, consider questions like, would you create different content pieces for different topic clusters and keywords, or would you create one type of content to satisfy the search intent of different topic clusters? 

For example, when faced with this question, Drift, a B2B conversational platform, went ahead with the latter option. 

Two different pages by Drift written on similar topics

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Maya Kislykh, content marketing manager at involve.me, said the pillar topics should have informational search intent, traffic potential, and should maintain a broad scope. She ideally suggests targeting long-tail keywords with a keyword difficulty score between 0–12.  

Step 2: Shortlist Topic Clusters for the Pillar and Create Quality Content

Once you’re done identifying the pillar page topic, then comes the task of finding topic clusters and planning content. We suggest using keyword research tools from SEMRush, Ahrefs, SE Ranking, Moz, Keyword Planner, etc., to make the process easier. 

The goal? Identify the main topics that your audience is interested in. Then, create comprehensive guides or resources for each one. 

For example, if you are a pet-related website, you might have a pillar page about pet health and wellness, and then create topic clusters around subtopics such as pet nutrition, pet grooming, pet training, and the cost of pet insurance.

Example of a pillar page nad topic cluster.

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Each topic cluster should link back to the pillar page and other relevant topic clusters, creating a web of interlinked content that covers the main topic in depth. This way, you can provide value to your readers, boost your authority on the topic, and improve your SEO rankings.

Focusing on related topics like these shows search engines that you have authority and expertise, pushing your posts further, thus increasing your SEO score. 

With that being said, some experts also said to ignore topics that don’t directly satisfy the burning questions of your customers/leads or showcase the importance of your product/service. 

Charlotte Chamblin, the content strategist at Tao Digital Marketing, shared a few pointers on how to create topic clusters:

  • Start with one. Focus on a single hub, using keyword and query research tools to dive deep into a range of short-term FAQs and long-tail, low-volume queries. 
  • Filter your chosen content into TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU, and start by creating pieces from a mix of the, uploading, and indexing as soon as possible.
  • Ensure every page is internally linked to the pillar page/s and to other supportive content wherever possible (but only where it makes sense). The more in-depth the hub, the more authoritative your site will be in Google’s, and users, eyes. 
  • Expect a hub to be a minimum of 20 pieces, but this can very easily triple or more for larger topics.

In an article published by Wix SEO Hub, Jonas Sicker, an SEO thought leader, suggested creating spreadsheets for topic clusters that include blog category, topic cluster name, blog post topic, and keywords listed in it to ensure all your data stays in one place. 

Just a friendly PSA: When it comes to strategizing, you should first identify the pillar posts and then shortlist topic clusters. But when you’re in the middle of execution, experts like Charlotte have suggested creating content for topic clusters first and then building up the pillar posts. 

And when you start to do that, think of all the ways you can beat competition for the same topic. Aka, what can you do more than them to grab the attention of your readers? Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Add your zing of expertise (i.e., what topics can you write about or what insights can you share that your competitors won’t be able to?).
  • Focus on buyer intent instead of promoting your product/service.
  • Share your unique brand story and/or experiences.
  • Have a tone of voice, style guide, and company branding different from your competitors.
  • Employ writing best practices (structure, hooks, use of easy words, etc.).
  • Using smart copywriting techniques (consider the example below).
Tweet on a smart way to stop people clicking on your competition on SERP

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Step 3: Begin Linking — Both Internally and Externally

If you link internally, you improve the user experience for your readers (think of all the times you went doom-scrolling on Wikipedia because of their interlinking strategy) and reduce the bounce rate. 

Example from SEM Rush on topic cluster linking

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If you add a link externally, it shows the search engine (and the reader) the topic was well-researched. 

A good mix of internal and external links eventually improves your SEO score, as the algorithm accounts for how credible your content is depending on the places you link it to. 

But how does it help from an SEO standpoint? Internal links build a solid site architecture to aid search engine spiders in efficiently discovering and indexing your content. 

By organizing your website through topic clusters, you provide a clear and logical structure, making it easier for search engines to recognize the relevance and authority of your content within the broader topic you choose.

An excellent example of this strategy in action is MOS, a money app tailored for students. They effectively leverage topic clusters by creating compelling content that revolves around various topics of interest to students, such as “how to write a financial aid appeal letter.” 

Within this central theme, MOS develops sub-contents, covering subjects like:

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA)
  • Financial aid award letters
  • Appealing the financial decision

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By strategically interlinking these articles and pages, MOS ensures that search engines recognize the depth and breadth of their expertise on financial aid. 

When linking, some of the best practices you can follow are:

  • Ensuring the link topic and the anchor text satisfy the same search intent.
  • Considering hierarchy when you link to a different page (e.g. if you introduce jargon in a blog, link to “what is jargon” instead of “difference between jargon and another jargon). 
  • Avoiding excessive links (the crawl limit on a page is 100). 
  • Linking to the pages you want to rank higher. 

Step 4: Address Other Parts of Content Creation to Boost SEO Score

Hire a content writer to create the best and top-quality content. And once you write the content, your work doesn’t end there. You need to also focus on data storytelling to ensure you do justice to the written content. 

What does this mean, you ask? You’ll need to ensure you:

  • Add an appropriate amount of visuals like pictures, infographics, charts, and QR codes to make the reader understand the topic. 
  • Keep structural issues in mind when publishing content (readers love to skim content and will usually only read the headlines). Also, many readers are now opting to read content on their mobile phones — so content has to be mobile-friendly too. 
  • Hone in on the requirements of technical SEO best practices. 
  • The content isn’t just valuable but also engaging (consider things like does it have a conversational tone, is easy to read, and has added examples and insights?)
  • Have adhered to accessibility standards, so everyone can easily access it. 

Step 5: Regularly Test and Update Your Old Content

Suppose you’ve gone through the whole nine yards of figuring out a pillar post, identifying topic clusters, creating content, linking to it, and adhering to the other different parts of content creation — now, the next task up the list is to regularly test and update the content. 

This may be two-fold as you’ll need to:

  1. Understand the SERP ranking for each topic, figure out the bounce rate, perceive audience reaction, and keep a close eye on the overall metrics.
  1. Refresh the content, as the stats or examples you may have used would have become dated.  

Once you grow your website and scale your content capacity, it’s easy to get lost behind the ideation and content creation process of new topics. However, refreshing old content can help you boost your credibility and SEO rankings. You’re only as strong as your weakest blog post. And pruning an old piece of content can boost your organic traffic tenfold. 

Besides, you’ll also end up finding out which topics customers enjoy most and which are the most convert-worthy, and you can then write about similar topics and even think about creating and scheduling Instagram posts about them.

Publish Content That Gets Noticed With Rock Content

As a company that primarily helps ‌content marketers, there’s no one better than us to understand the importance of content organization and SEO results — and that’s because our customers have voiced concerns about both topics before they opted to subscribe to our services. 

If you, too, are left scratching your head, wondering how and when you’ll begin and end the process of creating relevant content for your topic clusters such that it converts, you couldn’t have arrived at a better place than this — because that’s exactly what we do here. 

Regardless of your content creation challenges, we have a solution for you here — for example, our portal WriterAccess will partner you with the best freelancers, we have consultants who can address and alleviate your doubts, and our Studio solution will allow you to collaborate with your all your team members and stakeholders in real-time!

Are you ready to climb the search engine rankings?

About the author

Catalina Grigoriev is an incurable optimist with a bubbly personality. That’s what my colleagues say. Secret mission: cat lover disguised as a dog person. An ex-law student who switched to the digital marketing lane. Currently delving into the depths of SEO and content marketing at Planable.

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