How and Why Topic Clusters Are Your Best SEO Tool
- Topic Clusters are a way of grouping useful content so users can easily find the information they want.
- Topic clusters are good for SEO because they improve your site crawlability and increase interlinks.
- Interlinking is the process of linking articles and content to one another across your website.
- External Links are links from a website outside of your domain to your website.
- Outbound links are links from your website to another outside of your domain.
SEO experts have long strived to identify the best and most effective strategies and methods to climb the Google rankings. Since Google’s inception in 1996 (as BackRub), the battle between SEO experts and Google’s mysterious algorithms has raged on. SEO’s will either find an effective ranking strategy, or be told a ranking factor by Google which they can target. Only for that strategy or factor to be ‘updated’ or ‘patched out’. Then it’s back to the planning table to assess new modes of attack.
Yet there is one method which has not only proved reliable for many years past, but is continuing to become increasingly so. Almost as though a peace has been struck between the two sides. Content clustering is this middle ground. The perfect balance between the measurable metrics SEOs love to track and the user experience focus Google adores.
Google has always been most concerned with user experience. Which makes sense, if using Google wasn’t quick, easy and effective, we would all still be searching with Yahoo, or Ask Jeeves. Instead, Google prides itself on presenting reliable, accurate information which is relevant to the users query. Which is why it enjoys 92% of the search engine market share (Search Engine Market Share). So that it can keep hoarding the pie, it needs to continue its focus on user experience. That’s why many, if not most, of Google’s previous updates have been focused on this. Its famous Medic update in 2018 introduced Google E-A-T which worked to reward sites that were, and could demonstrate, expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Its Core Web Vitals update looked to provide a measurable score for website performance and load speeds.
What are topic clusters?
Topic clusters are a way of grouping useful content. You base your content group around a central high intent topic using a pillar page (a longer from service or informed long-form piece of content you wish to drive users too) to link to and from. Essentially, topic clusters are formed around a single central topic with multiple links breaking off to more in-depth subtopics all closely related to that core area you wish to rank for, and so thought leadership on.
The purpose is to build a web of internal links which will cover users searching for terms and phrases, directly and indirectly, related to your central topic. Providing them with all the answers and information they could ever need in that area. Encouraging them to explore your site in detail and ultimately take advantage of its services or offering.
We go over what topic clusters are and how they can skyrocket your digital content strategy in more detail in our feature article ‘SEO Bomb: The Unique Digital Content Strategy For Explosive Results’.
Why topic clusters matter in SEO
The big reason is simple. Google says they do. With google holding almost all of the search engine market share, what they say, goes.
As a slightly more helpful answer, topic clusters matter for Search Engine Optimisation because they improve Google’s understanding of what your website is about. Therefore, allowing it to present your site to the most relevant online audiences. A win-win!
How Topic clusters improve your SEO
Google announced a breakthrough in ranking technology that means its algorithm can determine the relevancy of specific passages within the overall page. As well as advances in their ability to understand subtopics through neural nets. Check out Google’s announcement for a full run-through.
So when you search for something specific like “who is the fairest of them all?” Google is smart enough to extract a summary answer from a specific part of a specific webpage.
These advances are exactly what topic clusters excel at. Organising information around a broad pillar topic to link to more detailed, insightful information from relevant passages. Making it nice and easy for Google to extract users’ desired information from your page and present it to them straight off the bat, encouraging them to dive into your site for more information.
Effective and structured interlinking is invaluable to any website. Interlinking is the process of internally linking your content. So articles to articles, pages or any mix of these.
Its importance cannot be understated. Interlinking helps Google understand three important things about your site.
- The relationship between pages
- The value of pages
- The relevance of pages
As mentioned, one of the primary focuses of topic clustering is to give search engines the best possible understanding of your website. By linking your subtopics to your pillar content and generally providing more links across your site you’re improving both its crawlability and its accessibility. Crawlability is a search engine’s ability to crawl a website and the content on its pages. Briefly, crawling is the process carried out by a search engine to index a website and its pages so that it can retrieve and present that page to a user from its index.
So having good crawlability makes it easier for Google to find things on your site, thus making it easy to understand. Accessibility makes it easier and faster for users to explore your site. Improving their experience in the process. Something Google is passionate about.
The second focus for topic clusters is the user. Accessibility is what a user needs when navigating your site. So when they land on a page or piece of content and want more information about it or a certain part of it, an easy to find link to that more in-depth information makes for great accessibility and improves the user experience.
External Links are links from a website outside of your domain, to your website. External links are like a vote of confidence from one website to another. They have more weight in Google’s eyes as they’re a third party showing trust in your site and its contents. Internal links don’t carry the same weight as they’re more like a website owner patting themselves on the back. As you probably guessed, the more highly regarded the referring website, the more weight that external link carries. As an example, a link from a well regarded and authoritative website such as Business Insider would carry more weight or ‘link juice’ than a first year students blog on ‘top 5 digital marketing companies’.
Outbound links are slightly different to external links in that they are links from your site which lead to another. Whereas external links can be categorised as links from an external site to your own. Outbound links are great for showing authority and can be used to back up arguments and support information.
Outbound links are important for one main reason. Google rewards expert, authoritative content as part of its E-A-T measurement. So by supporting your content with evidence from other, more authoritative sources, Google begins, in theory, to recognise you as being someone who speaks with an expert voice.
The other, lesser reason for using an outbound link is its politeness. Think of it this way. Someone is researching a topic closely related to your brand or service. They take inspiration from your content, perhaps even paraphrasing some of it and using a little bit of artistic license in other areas. You would want them to give you some credit for the work they’re drawing from. So you should do the same. The end result is a beautiful network of shared ideas, content and inspiration. All tied together with juicy juicy backlink juice. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Looking to create a topic cluster to explode your Google rankings? Check out our new feature article on our latest innovation in digital content strategy the SEO Bomb!
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