The value in creating and distributing high-quality content should not be underestimated, but you need to adopt a strategic approach. Pushing out low-quality blog posts, social media updates, and articles won’t generate inbound leads. Instead, it is more likely to damage your brand.
The problem with content marketing is that the goal posts are continually shifting. This leaves many businesses playing catch-up or sticking with the content marketing methods they have been using for years, with or without success.
Google’s 2013 Hummingbird algorithm update had a huge effect on content marketing. The emphasis is no longer on keywords and churning out endless pages. Instead, Google looks for other things, such as topic clusters. You can use this to your advantage by focusing on topic clusters in your content marketing strategy.
In this post, we’re going to show you how.
The Power of Content Marketing
Content marketing is still as relevant as ever. 90% of businesses use it to generate inbound leads and build their brand. There may be a glut of irrelevant content online, which is something search engines are trying to address, but blogging, social media posting, and vlogging are still valuable ways to get the message across to your customers.
In addition, content marketing is surprisingly cost-effective. On average, it costs 41% less than paid searches and takes less time. If you run a company blog, regularly posting content will boost your page rank and make it easier for people to find you.
What’s not to like about that?
Prior to the Hummingbird update, brands focused on producing content that targeted keywords. What they wrote was less important than hitting the required keyword density. There were often pages upon pages of similar content that was written around a set of relevant keywords. The aim was to rank those pages higher in the SERPs so more people would visit the website.
Unfortunately, this didn’t create a positive user experience (UX). Visitors were lured in with the promise of a useful article, only to find the content was repetitive and thin. Pages were disorganized and websites grew unwieldy.
When hummingbird hit, this approach hit the skids. Content marketers needed a new strategy, one that provided a better user experience.
Providing a Better User Experience
Google’s algorithms place great emphasis on providing a positive user experience.
Content marketing may be effective, but it is dependent on what type of content you create and how you distribute it. Topic clusters provide a much better user experience than creating random pages based on target keywords. Brands can use topic clusters to organize their content and show off their expertise on a subject. Users can visit the site and find the information they need, without having to flit over to numerous other websites.
What are Topic Clusters?
One way to maximize search engine love is by creating content clusters on your website. So, what are they and how can you use them to great effect?
A topic cluster is a collection of content based on the same topic and related sub-topics. For example, if you have a garden center, your website would have a home page outlining what you do, for example, you might sell fruit, vegetables, plants, flowers, gardening equipment, and more.
The next step is to create a pillar page. In this example, your pillar page could be ‘plants and flowers’. This is a sub-category of your home page. From there, you would create a collection of pages that address the topic of ‘plants and flowers’ in more detail. For example, you could write a series of blog posts on different seasonal flowers, shrubs, bedding plants, planting guides, how to grow veggies, etc. The list is endless.
Creating Topic Clusters
There are no hard and fast rules for creating topic clusters. If you are building a site from scratch, your task is somewhat easier because you can plan exactly what type of content you need. Think of how Wikipedia works, with categories and sub-categories. For each page, you organize the content into a series of sub-pages that are related to the main page, as we illustrated in our garden center example.
Write down a list of main topics related to your home page. From there, dig deeper into each topic and come up with ideas for related content.
- Example – Furniture Retailer
- Main topic = bedrooms.
- Sub-categories = beds, bedding, décor, bedroom furniture, kids’ bedrooms, bedroom lighting, bedroom blinds, etc.
As you can see, if you dig deep enough and tackle all the related sub-categories, you should end up with a big cluster of related content that will satisfy your readers.
Just like Wikipedia, your website needs lots of internal links. Make sure that your pages link to other relevant pages. As new content is added, audit older content and add in new links.
Think of your site as a tree or a spider’s web. The big branches extend outwards and divide into smaller branches. Similar pages can have reciprocal links, so readers can move seamlessly between related pages to find the information they need.
With an existing site, carry out an audit of your content. Reorganize it if necessary, by linking related pages together and creating topic cluster categories. If you have a lot of content that is very similar and doesn’t add value, combine it into one resource and remove the dead wood. Use pages that tackle a key theme to act as a pillar page for related content.
You don’t need to create tons of new content. Four or five pages of related content in a category is enough to build a content cluster. Link these pages together and link them all to the main pillar page.
Make Google Happy
Google isn’t the only search engine, but it is the most prominent. By creating content clusters, you should notice an improvement in your site authority and page ranking. Google boosts sites that match search intent, so if your content covers a topic more thoroughly, Google is more likely to push it up the rankings.
Topic clusters are a powerful SEO strategy. Make sure topic clusters are part of your content marketing going forward.