Everything you need to know about content clusters – How to get your SEO tactics back onto track in 2019

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SEO is constantly changing. What were once dominant strategies just 10 years ago can have the opposite effect on your company’s website nowadays. This is due in part to the steady increase in new SEO approaches forcing companies to constantly adapt.

Although optimization can be really mind-boggling for entrepreneurs, it comes down to a single basic principle: improving users’ experience. This is precisely why search engine optimization experts today are more preoccupied with increasing sites’ speed and making them mobile-friendly than building irrelevant links for the sake of adhering to outdated practices.

While you can do lots of great things for your site, it is still really hard to reach that coveted spot on page one of Google. This is why you have to prioritize content as the focal point of your website.

But how do can you create actionable content that Google accepts?

The secret behind SEO friendly content

Most SEO experts will tell you that well begun is half done and as long as you write relevant content, you addressed the hardest part of optimization – getting started. This is a very broad concept and doesn’t necessarily encapsulate what SEO is all about.

It is definitely true that you have to create relevant posts but it goes far deeper than that. It’s not only about what you write, but what you’re not writing. For example, a footwear site that writes about t-shirts can cause all sorts of issues (even if they have t-shirts in their offer). Ideally, you should concentrate on particular topics and build from that.

Google is very focused on users; they will much rather give rankings to a specialized site than to a big website that barely touches on a particular topic. The main goal is providing relevant information from top industry’ professionals.

And with that, we come to content clusters.

What are content clusters?

Content or topic clusters represent a set of pages (posts) that revolve around 1 main topic.

Basically, with a cluster, you’re able to explain a topic in great detail without cramming everything into one post. This is great for users as they can access various subtopics from the initial (pillar) page. If they’re not satisfied and want to learn more, they can click on one of the links placed on that page and go to a related page.

Here are some of the main marketing and SEO benefits of content clusters:

  • Making sense of your content

For years, one of the main approaches to content was creating “power pages” or “ultimate guides”. While they can be great resources, these posts tended to be extremely long and contained enormous levels of information in order to attract lots of attention. In time, people got tired of them mainly due to their extensive nature. Ultimate guides were also troublesome as it was really hard to reach the specific information you need. In fact, the user was forced to read a couple of thousands of words just in order to reach a minor detail making the information ultimately hard to digest.

  • Presenting yourself as an authority

When you create a content cluster, you’re effectively answering all the possible questions users might have. Instead of providing everything in one piece, you’re able to explain each topic separately. Think of it like an FAQ on your topic of expertise. In eyes of other people, this makes you look like an even bigger expert as you don’t have to use marketing ploys in order to make yourself look better. At the same time, by focusing on one topic, you will become a go-to resource. By doing this, you’re also able to position yourself more efficiently on the market.

  • Gaining exposure for a longer period of time

When creating a cluster, you won’t write all the topics in one day. Instead, you will go through them one by one, by first creating the most important page and working your way outwards. Such an approach gives you a unique opportunity to create a content series. Mention this to your loyal fans and start covering various aspects of the topic. That way, you will make something that is fun and that forces people to come to your blog over and over again.

  • SEO benefits

Lastly, we cannot let out an explanation of the immense search engine optimization benefits that this method brings. By interconnecting numerous posts, you’re able to rank all these pages higher – especially the main pillar page. If you’re planning your content, this is probably the most efficient way to build your site.

Main elements of a content cluster

Each cluster has 3 main elements: pillar page, satellite pages and links.

  • Pillar page

As mentioned, the pillar page is the main page of the content cluster. This is also the page you want to prioritize in terms of ranking and marketing. You will start the process by creating it. Keep in mind that it has to be much longer than the other pages; this allows you to mention all the related topics that you will use for satellite pages. Later on, you can link out from satellite pages to the pillar page. Besides being long, it is recommended that you invest in some visual solutions and even add some videos. Always remember that the main point of a cluster is to get this page to page one if not number one when users search Google for your topic.

  • Satellite pages

Satellite pages are the secret ingredient that allow your pillar page to rank. We use them as a way of prioritizing one page over another. By having enough satellite pages, you’re able to give your pillar page just enough boost so that Google can notice it and give it more authority. But that doesn’t mean this will be enough; you will also have to promote your cluster just as you would with all of your other content and if possible, get some external links. Nevertheless, satellite pages are the thing that helps you get over the hump.

  • Links

Needless to say, just having all these pages is not enough. You need to connect them in some way. This is where hyperlinks step in. By linking out from satellite pages to your pillar page, you’re able to transfer all this authority.

How to create a cluster?

Here are the main steps you need to go through when creating topic clusters:

  • Find lucrative topics

The first thing you need to have in mind is that clusters take a lot of time. You cannot simply make them overnight. In fact, you might need a whole month just to write all these articles. This is why everything needs to start with proper planning. You should find topics that would help you promote products and services. Furthermore, these topics have to be broad enough so you have a sizable pillar page and enough content for creating satellite pages. Keep in mind you can also recycle pages that you already have thus reducing the time needed for the whole process.

  • Decide which satellite pages to include

If you’re looking at things from an SEO perspective, you probably think that having more satellite pages is better. They would give you enough to boost your main page and would make the whole cluster look that much more impressive. However, this isn’t only a question of SEO; it is also a question of user experience. Having too many related pages can have a negative impact on readers. In fact, there is a good chance you won’t have enough information to create solid pieces on some of these topics.

  • Connect the pages with links

Linking is the crucial step of the process. Not only should you link out from satellite pages but you should also create links from pillar page to satellites. Furthermore, you can also interlink satellite pages between themselves which would allow you to create a more cohesive structure. The only thing you have to keep in mind is prioritizing. In other words, certain links should be nofollow while others should be dofollow. The links going to your pillar page should be dofollow while those going from pillar to satellites should be nofollow. This way, you will be able to transfer link juice without losing it.

  • Go back and review your content

One of the biggest issues with cluster content is lack of consistency. This is due in part to the fact you need to write so many pieces and connect them together, which may lead to slight mistakes. Or, you simply might omit certain information. To make everything as perfect as possible, you will have to edit all the content once it’s done. Ideally, do it during one work day. This way, it will still be fresh in your brain as to what you previously did.

That’s basically that.

Besides the creation itself, it is also necessary to mention the promotional activities. Google will give you some boost in rankings just because you presented content in this format but you will still need an additional push. So, share the posts (focus on the pillar page) and get some external links for the pillar page.

Despite what you may think, there are a lot of different things you can do in order to improve your rankings without getting even one external link. Of course, they will definitely help but proper managing of content can also be a very powerful tool at your disposal.

Ellan Dineen is the Marketing Associate at Design Wizard. When she’s not hard at work in the Marketing Department, Ellan can be found en route to foreign lands with a book in her hand and a podcast in her ear. With a Master’s in English and Diploma in Social Media Marketing, she knows the importance of staying up-to-date with the industry’s latest trends and insights and is keen to pass these tips on to her readers.