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Why should you include topic clusters in your 2021 SEO strategy?

Although we said goodbye to 2020, we are still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and it continues to affect us. In this time,  SEO even matters more now for business as the skyrocketed use of online search. Customers rely on online searches to discover new businesses. 

As the recent HubSpot Bootcamp winner, I have learned that building topic cluster must be an essential part of your content strategy, especially for SEO. So if you are keen to boosts your content’s search engine rankings, increase traffic, leads, and customers to your website then topic clusters should be part of your marketing efforts in 2021.


So, what exactly is a topic cluster?
BEE has covered the Content Strategy: How Do I Build Successful Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages before. A topic cluster is basically the mothership of a broader topic with high search volume; it interlinks a narrow topic or related topic web page (known as pillar content––see below). 

There is a reason for using this strategy: Two years ago, Google launched one of its most important updates, the BERT AI ranking algorithm. Instead of only focusing on keywords, the BERT AI ranking algorithm wants to identify what a text or a sentence means and what the user’s intentions are. Using a topic cluster strategy to reorganize the site structure and interlink related topics helps to make you an authority on a particular subject. A website that’s easy to navigate makes things simpler for the Google algorithm, helping to boost SEO

Tips: Besides the topic authority of your website, your domain security is also how Google distinguishes it from those non-secure ones. You will need an SSL certificate which is “HTTPS”. Using the standard SSL certificate is available on HubSpot for free. Here is a HubSpot SSI checker to see if your website is secure. 

3 Main components of a topic cluster: 

HubSpot Bootcamp has taught us that there are three main components of topic clusters: 

  1. A pillar page 
  2. Cluster content (Subtopics)
  3. Hyperlinks

1. A pillar page 

Imagine you would like to order some lunch today. Would you prefer  Menu A or B?

BEE Inbound Menu
I believe everyone would choose B. When you’re hungry, it’s easier to skim through an organized menu rather than try to make sense of a menu without structure where the food and beverage items have been positioned arbitrarily. Having a pillar page that links to other content is using the same logic as the menu. When your pillar page covers the core topics or category, it’s easier for the user to navigate to get the content they want. Your pillar page will be the authority page that covers a core topic and interlinks to your cluster contents(sub-topics). For the Google algorithm, the entire page will gain authority when one page performs well because the subtopics are connected to the core topic. 

Pillar Page and Topic Cluster


Your pillar page should focus about your main product and service. What are the main reasons  leads come to your business? For example, HubSpot’s core topics are “growth” and “Lead generation” and at BEE inbound one core topic is Inbound

  • The Anatomy of a pillar page, source from HubSpot 

Anatomy of a pillar page

  • How to grow your pillar page?
    • Add live chat
    • Video marketing 
    • Put relevant content to your buyer persona
    • Insert heatmap - to understand the performance and know the next step
  •  
  • Pillar page checklist: 
    • Does this page answer every question of the reader who searches for the keywords? 
    • Is that page board enough for 20 blog posts?
    • Does the topic you want to rank have adequate search volume?
    • Is this page relevant for your buyer persona?
    • Typically, the pillar page should contain 1.5K-3K words

2. Cluster content (Subtopics)

Cluster Content (Subtopics) is extended questions related to your core topics. For example,
Google Search
If you have no idea what your subtopics are, you can research on FAQs, browse forums, check Reddit, or even Amazon reviews. 

3. Hyperlinks

Link, link, and link! By linking all your subtopics back to the pillar page, you are giving signals to Google that your pillar page is the authority page of your core topic. 

 

HubSpot recommends the following as the 6 Steps to implementing a topic cluster strategy 

  1. Define your core topics, think of the following to get started  

    • Product or service that you sell. 
    • Think of how customers benefit from your product or service?
    • What are your customer’s biggest pain points? 
      The real value of your product is how effective your product or service is at solving their problem. It’s a very basic concept. Imagine you once used a moving company service online that you are very satisfied with. Next time you move house, you will use the same company once again. 
  2. Strategize your subtopics

    • No idea where to start?
      Check with your sales team or customer to explore  FAQs, views and reviews. Your customer’s most asked questions are the subtopics. 
    • View things from your buyer persona’s perspective. What frequent questions do they have and what are they looking for? 
    • If your company is still in the beginning stages, you may want to look at Reddit, Quora or other review sites to generate ideas for your own content. Browse the topics your buyer personas engage with to come up with relevant content for your own website. 
    • Use SEO tools to find targeted keywords.  There are free tools such as Google Keyword Planner, HubSpot Blog or Idea Topic Generator, and Answer the public etc. 
  3. Map your existing pages to topic clusters

    • If you don’t know where to start, seek the help of professionals to perform a content audit of your website. BEE Inbound also offers a free SEO check (contents in German, but we do English as well if you prefer). 
  4. Implement a linking structure

    1. If you are also using HubSpot, you can use  HubSpot’s SEO tool to identify missing links from each subtopic on your pillar page. BEE also has a step by step guide on how to do the topic cluster on HubSpot.
    2. Sitebulb is also a tool to guide you through the process of interlinking pages.
  5. Create and execute a stellar content plan

    1. Having a content plan helps you to organize the steps towards reaching your goal. If you’re unsure where to start, you can download our free ebook on content strategy.
    2. Having a clear and structured editorial calendar can help you prioritize content that is relevant to your buyer personas.
  6. Measure and improve your content  

    1. To find out if your content has been successful, you will have to observe specific metrics. Check out Content Marketing: More success through KPIs and ROI measurement.
    2. An easy way to get an overview of your content performance is to Enable Google Search Console integration with Hubspot to add metrics to your SEO dashboard.

Conclusion 

Content marketing will continue to be an important element for your business in 2021, undoubtedly. Remember, the key to reach your audience and beat the Google algorithm is to have helpful content that is organized and interlinked on your main page. Implementing a topic cluster strategy into your 2021 digital marketing plan is a great way to boost your SEO. Still not so sure where to start ? Click below to request a free SEO-check. 
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What are your thoughts on topic clusters or SEO in general? Leave us a comment below.

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