Topic Clusters: Writing the Right Topics to Enhance SEO
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Topic clusters are a type of content strategy aimed at building strategic content development to enhance a website’s SEO ranking. Creating content without a detailed plan no longer works. Instead, small businesses are finding success with meaningful content developed for their target audience, organized into clusters on their website.
As Jason Miller of LinkedIn explains, “You don’t need more content; you need more relevant content.” This is the basis of topic clusters and tangential content. When you focus on what your audience wants and needs to see, you can better meet their needs. And when you can meet their needs, you have a higher chance of converting them to a paying customer later on.
Using Topic Clusters to Build a Content Strategy That Works
Topic clusters are built to help improve your website’s architecture, making it easier for web crawlers to make connections. That sounds like a lot, so let’s break it down.
Your website’s architecture is how each piece of content is organized, designed, and developed. This helps your development team build a functional website that’s easy to navigate.
Web crawlers are the search engine algorithms that crawl websites in order to index them. This is how users find your content on Google, and SEO plays into this. When you use topic clusters for your website’s content strategy, you make it easier for Google to discover relevant content.
Why You Should Use Topic Clusters Instead of Typical Keyword Strategy
The average website has a home page, services page, contact page, and a blog. The company picks a keyword to focus on, then writes content for every long-tail variation on it. The result? Repetitive content that is written with only one keyword phrase in mind, instead of an entire niche.
Because of the way topic clusters are linked to one another (more on that below), the singular keyword focus is outdated. The repetitive content can hurt your rankings, as well as making content less desirable for your readers.
This strategy means your content will also be too large to capture search traffic, and your website will become bloated with unnecessary content. SEO optimization requires every piece of content to serve a singular goal, and this inhibits that function.
How Topic Clusters Benefit Your Small Business’ Website
In short, topic clusters help your company become a resource in your industry. Each cluster contains a variety of content focused on a singular topic and its variations, making it a thorough yet non-repetitive resource in your niche.
When you build out proper topic clusters, your website is positioned as an authority in your niche. This authority improves your search engine ranking, increasing the chances of being seen organically online.
Building a Topic Cluster on Your Company’s Website
Instead of the traditional content marketing strategy mentioned above of choosing keywords then writing around each, you find a topic people are looking at within your niche. Then, you build out content within it.
A website built on topic clusters will focus on multiple groupings, each with specific topics. Each grouping contains a pillar and the cluster pieces. The pillar piece of content is a long-form piece of content that broadly outlines the topic.
Then, each piece of content within the cluster focuses on a specific long-tail keyword within the overarching topic. This way, you cover all the specific topics you need, but in an organized way that limits website bloat.
Now here’s where the SEO magic happens.
A pillar piece of content is linked to each piece in the cluster and vice versa. The same word is used as the hyperlink, which helps web crawlers make more connections. Because of this strategic link-building, when one piece of cluster content performs well, the entire cluster will rise.
Now, picture your website with multiple groupings, each linking within themselves. Each grouping, when done well, can help your page visibility, which can improve traffic. Every piece works together to enhance your website’s value.
Using Tangential Content for Your Website’s Topic Clusters
Tangential content is an important part of your topic cluster strategy. Tangential content is used at the top of your sales funnel and acts as a way to improve brand awareness within your niche with non-branded content.
That sounds counter intuitive, but it works. Instead of creating every blog post as a reason why a reader should buy your service, develop content that talks about your industry. For example, home improvement services like carpet cleaning or home painting can write about home décor, improving the resale value of your home, and other related topics.
This tangential content offers value for your reader, which is critical in content marketing. Branded content is suitable for bottom of the funnel prospects, but when you’re introducing people to your company, you need to give them as much value as possible before asking for the sale.
Think about it like dating. You don’t (well, shouldn’t) ask for a long-term relationship on the first date. Instead, you get to know each other by spending time together and learning about their quirks, beliefs, and how they view the world.
Then, after learning how compatible you are, you commit to a long-term relationship.
You don’t want to go right for the sale. You want to woo them a bit by offering content they find valuable and not asking for anything in return. By staying top of mind and continuing to provide value, you can situate yourself in the right position when it’s time for them to make a purchasing decision.
The Benefits of Using Tangential Content for Topic Clusters
Aside from postponing the hard sell until they’re ready, tangential content increases the number of opportunities for link building because your valuable content will be something other websites will want to share with their users. By building a diverse resource of content, you establish yourself as an authoritative voice in your industry.
You’ll also create an emotional reaction. Niches don’t typically feature content that get a strong emotional response, but when done strategically, you can create content that will make people want to click, comment, and share. (Without click bait.)
The emotional reaction could be sentimentality, like an apartment listing aggregate listing the top donut shops in each state. Or, a news website can feature top news stories from each decade to elicit the same type of response.
There are also the comedic opportunities, like movie listicles or pop culture updates. For a serious tone on an insurance website, you can talk about recent natural disasters and the importance of preparing your home. The purpose of tangential content is to elicit that emotional reaction while providing value.
Tangential content requires you to think outside the typical content marketing strategies. There’s a reason this plan works so well, and it’s important to implement properly.
Sourcing the Right Topics for Tangential Content: Facebook Audience Insight
When looking for that emotional reaction with tangential content, it’s important to remember the foundations of a brand: your buyer personas. When paired with Facebook Audience Insights and trending news, you can create content that compels the right people to reach.
Your buyer personas will determine the type of content you share. A 25-year-old millennial working at a startup will want different content than a 47-year-old mom of three. In order to maximize your content’s effect, you need to know who you’re targeting.
Once you revisit your buyer personas, then you can learn more about their demographics with Facebook Audience Insights. We all know Facebook tracks users’ data, and it’s time to use it to our advantage. With buying habits, interests, and job information in one place, you can create detailed buyer personas that inform your content strategy.
Important Tips for Creating Tangential Content
Tangential content can be very successful, especially for companies in “boring” niches. There are a few caveats, though. To maximize your success, remember to allow for trending topics, and to test before fully committing.
While planning content is an important piece of a successful inbound marketing campaign, there needs to be room for trending topics. Trending topics are one of the best ways to take advantage of tangential content, and needs to be implemented quickly to maximize its reach. Evergreen content can get pushed in order to create the right content surrounding a trending event, so you capitalize on the buzz.
While tangential content has been successful for many companies, it’s important to always test before committing all your resources. One of the best ways to test possible content topics is to share an existing article.
Put some ad spend behind it to reach more followers, then compare its performance with other posts to see your audience’s reaction. While marketing is often one large experiment in an ever-changing industry, it’s critical to test before committing significant resources to developing more content.
Using Tangential Content for Topic Clusters
If you’re already seeing how topic clusters and tangential content relate, great! Let’s dig in. When creating topic clusters, you want to remain towards the top of the funnel for most of the content. When creating these clusters, remember how you can use tangential content to build out each grouping.
It could be a pillar piece on home décor trends, then cluster pieces about the best vintage toys to decorate with or Pantone’s Color of the Year announcement. By building out each grouping using tangential content, you can create a strategic resource for visitors.
This strategic resource minimizes website bloat while maximizing value, both important factors for your website’s SEO performance.
Content strategy can be a hard beast to manage, but it doesn’t need to be. Planning your content to fit within topic clusters can keep your website lean, effective, and beneficial to your prospective customers.
As SEO algorithms continue to change to benefit users, it’s important to adapt so we can better reach a target audience, without getting penalized. Tangential content provides the best value for website visitors, while topic clusters keep it organized. These two methods will benefit your small business’ search engine ranking. Regardless of industry, you can implement these changes!
Ready to Begin?
We can help you decide on topics, do the research, write and post your blogs, and promote them for your business. Send us an email using our contact form and we’ll get back to you right away.
By Marc Apple
Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.
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