A content strategy isn’t just about audience journey, a buyer persona, and creating content true to your audience.
It’s also about SEO structure and strategy—and one cannot exist without the other. We call this topic cluster content.
SEO and content are like “two peas in a pod”. They’re bound together. They have similar principles, and they rely on each other.
To develop an effective organic content marketing strategy, you must organize your digital content into pillar posts and topic clusters to rank on Google search.
What is topic cluster content?
An effective topic cluster strategy can send your website to the top of search results. The strategy is comprised of multiple content pieces (i.e. blog posts, landing pages, product pages, or FAQ pages) that live on your website and are linked together by a pillar topic piece.
A pillar topic piece (also known as a cornerstone piece) is the foundation of your content. It’s the main topic conversation driver, and it’s usually a broader topic like “what is solar energy?”, “data analytics solving x,y&z in environmental tech”, or “solar basics 101”.
They provide a contextual introduction to a main topic that you wish to rank for and be known for on Google.
A pillar topic piece is at the center of each topic cluster—and a topic cluster is made up of multiple topics that dive deeper into the subject and act as subtopics. Generally, these topic clusters are rooted to a long-tail keyword that has a smaller search volume but is still relevant to the audience persona.
Here to the left is MTC | The Content Agency’s topic cluster strategy for the broad keyword topic: B2B content marketing. We’re developing key topic cluster pieces around a large topic pillar post on this keyword.
We chose this topic because we wish to rank for B2B content marketing—and we want to be considered experts in combining both marketing and sales efforts to achieve results.
As a team, we’ve also developed topic cluster content for our clients.
You can see this example to the right.
Our solar energy client is a solar residential company, and they work directly with customers in their local area. We developed a pillar topic piece on the keyword “solar power 101” which had a large enough search volume to be competitive—and it acts as a first touch point to educating customers on the ‘awareness’ level of the audience journey. Below the pillar post are the cluster content topics that support the main theme.
Overall, pillar and topic cluster content help you lay the foundation and conversation with Google. By interlinking these key topics together, you are telling Google the context of your website, why it’s important, and the audience to show it to (i.e. research the latent-semantic-indexing algorithm). Google wants to provide its searchers with relevant and useful information—and a topic cluster content strategy is an effective method for you to help Google do this.
Lastly, a pillar post isn’t just any regular piece of content. It’s a long-form piece of content close to 1,500 words—and has substance, depth of knowledge, and relevance to the topic. It’s an expert piece with all the key important topics on the subject to make known to your audience.
How to build a cluster
You have to start somewhere—and it might be to your surprise, you don’t start with the content. You start with people.
Just as we stated in our content marketing strategy article, a pillar post and topic clusters begin on relevant pain points (or challenges) of your target audience. They have relevance—and they’re key questions and topics your ideal audience is discussing.
Once you’ve developed your buyer persona and deep-dived into these challenges, you now have starting topics. Take these topics and perform basic Google keyword research and determine which topics have a decent search volume and a relatively manageable competitiveness. From this data, you can develop your pillar topic and its keyword.
Next, use tools like Answer the Public and LSI graph to brainstorm all the long-tail cluster topics that you can use to support your pillar post. This is your topic cluster content strategy. Finally, combine that structure and map it out in a free tool like Mindmeister.
An effective strategy is always the start of any high-converting lead generation approach. Make sure pillar posts and topic cluster content are at the heart of your organic content marketing strategy.