When it comes to creating content, you might think the more you put out into the Universe, the better. However, adding more content to outdated existing site architecture can actually confuse Google, making it harder to find and rank your content.
An increasing amount of content being shared to the internet year after year has sent Google into overdrive - and their response has been to create updates like Hummingbird and Rankbrain, which are designed to sift through the clutter.
Updates like these will try to establish what people are actually searching for, rather than making a simulated guess with robotic precision. Your customers are humans, after all, so it’s about making content for them - and not just what you think the search engines are looking for.
To create content that converts visitors into leads (and eventually customers), you need to create a positive user experience for both the search engine and the searcher. How could you possibly please both?
It’s not as complicated as you think - it starts with targeted, relevant clusters of content that cover specific topics, called topic clusters. These topic clusters will then lead to a centralised hub - aka, your pillar page. And here’s how you’ll do it!
Image source: HubSpot.
How to Create Your Topic Clusters
The first step is to start by identifying a topic you’d like to be known for, and build search authority around. But - instead of focusing on key SEARCH terms you’d like to be known for, focus on more specific terms with a higher monthly search volume.
For example - “Content Marketing” probably has a large volume of searches, and might lead you to believe that you have a higher chance of ranking with a broader term. But if you were to refine that topic to something like “Small Business Content Marketing Strategy” you have the chance to rank highly with a more specific term relevant to your services that will pay off better in the long term.
Remember: the average first page ranking for a keyword with a low search volume will also rank well for about a thousand other relevant keywords. If search engines thinks your content exists with the intent of resolving a search query, they’ll choose to rank it anyway. That’s why it’s important to think about topics instead of just keywords.
Once you’ve decided on the term that’s specific to the topic you’ll write about, you need to identify your topic clusters, which will then be made of relevant sub topics. A sub topic should be strong enough to be published on it’s own as a blog topic, video, or otherwise.
Using the previous example, a subtopic could be: “How A Content Marketing Strategy Improves Small Businesses’ ROI”. If you’re looking for a place to start when identifying subtopics, consider the questions your audience has around the specific topic you’ve chosen to write about.
Image source: HubSpot.
How To Create Your Pillar Posts
Your pillar page is a web page that covers a topic in depth and is linked to a cluster of relevant content. By linking all your internal content in topic clusters to your pillar page, Google is able to scan all everything, and make sense of the fact that there’s a semantic relationship between each page’s content.
Not only this, but the ties between the content signals to Google that it contains more depth, which in turn gives it more ranking authority. If there’s one thing you should remember, it’s that Google likes to reward strategic and orderly linking with higher search placement.
Your pillar page covers your broader topic. Using the same example, this page could be dedicated to an in-depth dive into one of the broad topics you’ve chosen you want to rank for - i.e., “Content Marketing Strategy For Small Businesses”. At a minimum - make sure all subtopics link to your pillar page. By doing this, you’re funnelling all your traffic to the main resource hub on this topic.
You should offer a majority of your information in the actual pillar page - don’t rely on resources like videos and e-books to try and convince your audience to commit immediately. If you really feel the need, consider providing those resources to the reader in a way that won’t disrupt their experience.
You can link to helpful topics on externals websites that are related to your topic cluster from your pillar page, as long as these sites rank well. This will help you build authority with Google.
Not every subtopic you have can be referenced on your pillar page - and that’s okay. Link through pillar page only when it makes sense, and adds value to the page. Just make sure ALL subtopic pages provide a link to the pillar page!
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