What is the Topic Cluster Model, and How Does it Benefit SEO?

The topic cluster model for SEO is an increasingly powerful and effective way to organise your website’s content around a core set of topics. The model has recently gained popularity in improving search rankings and driving more website traffic. But what exactly is the topic cluster model, and how does it work?

Below, we’ll explore the ins and outs of topic clusters, including what they are, how they benefit SEO, and how you can implement them on your website. Whether you’re a seasoned SEO pro or a content marketing beginner, the topic cluster model is worth considering as part of your overall content marketing strategy. So, let’s dive in and learn more!

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

What are topic clusters?

Google and other major search engines have changed how they assess content, favouring topics over individual keywords. To meet this changing metric, many websites now group related content in “topic clusters”. If you’ve only been creating blog posts based on single keywords, now’s the time to modernise your content strategy.

In a topic cluster, a primary topic (pillar page) serves as the hub for a group of related subtopics (cluster content). The idea behind a topic cluster is that you can demonstrate your expertise to search engines like Google by creating a comprehensive, in-depth resource on a primary topic. By linking to and from your pillar page and cluster content, you also create a web of content that signals to search engines that your site is an authority on the topic.

For example, let’s say you have a website focusing on gardening. You might create a pillar page on “organic gardening” and then develop subtopics on related subjects like “composting,” “pest control,” and “crop rotation.” By linking between these pages, you signal to Google that your site is a comprehensive resource on organic gardening, increasing your chances of ranking highly for related search queries.

Topic clusters comprise three main components:

Pillar Pages

Your pillar page serves as the foundation of your main topic. The content on this page should cover the basics and provide a general overview of your topic. It should be evergreen, meaning it should not become outdated over time; update this content as needed.

To ensure all visitors can access basic information, optimise your pillar page content to answer broad questions about your main topic. With the rise of voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant, solving people’s problems and maximising reader value is crucial. Cluster content can provide more specific information. FAQ sections make a lot of sense here.

Cluster Content

Cluster content is specific content related to your main topic/pillar page, such as blog posts. It further supports your pillar page and should focus on one in-depth topic. Cluster content is typically optimised for long-tail specific keywords, while the pillar page targets broader head keywords.

Ideally, 20-30 cluster pages should point to one specific pillar page to provide a broad umbrella of information without overcrowding your website.

Hyperlinks serve as the branches that connect individual cluster content to the main pillar page. Every cluster page should have at least one link pointed to the pillar page. Using the same anchor text in all cluster content hyperlinks is essential to help search engines recognise the posts as part of one topic cluster.

How do topic clusters help Google understand your content?

Most brands have multiple areas of expertise. Developing a website around these key subject areas and using topic clusters can improve search rankings, attract more traffic, and establish credibility as an expert. Topic clusters help Google understand your content by creating a hierarchy of information within your website that tells Google exactly what your website is about.

Topic clusters help Google see your site as authoritative in specific subject areas and understand the interrelationships between your content. By linking supporting cluster content to the pillar page, you emphasise the relevance, relationship, and importance of the content to search engines.

When you use hyperlinks to reinforce topic clusters, you build a strong connection between your main topic and related topics. And the best part? Google loves it! Hyperlinks help your website show up higher in search results, which means more happy customers, more sales, and more people being aware of your brand.

How do topic clusters benefit SEO?

The primary SEO goals of topic clusters are to:

  • Attract search traffic for long-tail, lower-volume keywords through cluster content.
  • Improve the performance of the pillar content for more competitive keywords.
  • Establish credibility in specific topic areas to gain recognition as an industry expert by Google.

Topic clusters can benefit SEO by improving the structure and organisation of your website’s content. By creating topic clusters, you can establish a strong relationship between your main topic and related topics, signalling to search engines that your website is an authority on that subject. This authority can improve search rankings, as search engines usually favour websites with a clear and organised structure.

Additionally, a topic with the potential to unlock supporting topics can ensure a wide range of long- and short-tail keywords to choose from. This can improve your website’s keyword relevancy and help you rank higher in search engine results pages.

Most websites have a lower Domain Authority at their beginning stages, making it challenging to rank for competitive keywords, even if their content is high-quality. However, you can use topic clusters to rank for less competitive keywords and drive traffic in the short term. As the site’s authority grows, it can target bigger and more competitive keywords.

Overall, topic clusters can help improve your website’s SEO by providing a clear and organised structure, improving keyword relevancy, and establishing your website as an authority on a particular subject.

Four steps to creating a topic cluster

How to create topic clusters infographic
Create topic clusters in 4 steps

Determine your core topic:

To build your topic cluster:

  1. Start with your pillar content and expand from there.
  2. Determine a core topic that aligns with your business’s core values, as this showcases your business’s value to potential clients.
  3. Once you have general ideas for topics, consider how to turn them into awesome content.
  4. Ensure your content fits your business goals to reflect what you’re all about.

Perform keyword research:

Conduct keyword research to identify related keywords, questions, and autocomplete suggestions that could serve as potential target keywords for your cluster content. Examine and pinpoint the keywords that your competitors are not utilising. You can gain additional insights, such as identifying the following:

  1. Missing keywords that your competitors rank for, but you do not
  2. Weak keywords where your rankings are lower compared to your competitors
  3. Strong keywords where you have better rankings than your competitors

By combining all this information, you can determine which areas are prime for quick gains through topic clusters and where it might take more time to see improvements in rankings.

Create your content:

Once you’ve gathered all your topic ideas, keywords, and outlines, it’s time to start creating top-notch content. Your content must be interesting enough to hook your target audience and make them want to read more.

As you create your cluster content, remember that it should be guided by the pillar content, focusing on smaller search volumes, less competition, and related search intent.

Remember, your competitors cover the same topics as you, so you must ensure your content stands out. Don’t just rehash what others have written; create unique and authoritative content. Aim to make even better content than what’s already out there.

Once you have created your pillar and cluster content, internal links are key to holding the topic cluster together. Internal linking helps Google understand your content’s relevance, relationship, and importance. Remember to maintain the pillar content at the top of the linking hierarchy to emphasise its importance and promote it more frequently in search results.

To keep your content fresh and relevant, it’s important to continuously add internal links to supporting topic clusters as you develop new content. Even if your content is already ranking well, there is always room for improvement. Regularly updating your content can give you an edge over your competitors and enhance your content’s relevance in your industry.

It is important to avoid linking your cluster content to the pillar pages of other topic clusters, except in some cases where it may be relevant. By maintaining a clear internal linking structure, you can help Google better understand the organisation and importance of your content and improve its overall visibility in search results.

Best practices for optimising in the topic cluster model

  • Ensure your topic cluster is well-defined and focused, with each subtopic supporting the central pillar page. This approach helps organise your content coherently and helps search engines recognise the semantic relationship between the different topics.
  • Link your cluster pages only to each other and the pillar page. These links are valuable because they tell search engines that all your cluster content is related. Plus, it helps users stay on your site longer because they can easily find more information about the same topic. Get rid of any other links that aren’t related to the cluster.
  • Streamline and consolidate any overlapping information. Doing so can help you avoid multiple pages that cover the same topic or subtopic, which can lead to keyword cannibalisation (when multiple pages split the benefits gained from targeting a given keyword, undermining both). Consolidation means combining similar or outdated posts into one cluster page or redirecting them to a new page, ensuring that your content is organised and concise.
  • Regularly refresh your content. Historical optimisation involves updating and republishing older posts performing well on search engine results pages under the same URL. Although it may seem counterintuitive, search engines consider both the freshness and age of links. By refreshing your content, you can improve its relevance and keep ranking high on SERPs.
  • Don’t leave any gaps in your content. If you can break down a broad topic into more specific subtopics, cover all of them to demonstrate your expertise and authority in that area. This expertise signals to search engines that your website offers comprehensive and valuable information.

Examples of topic clusters

The key to effective topic clusters is choosing a main topic that is broad enough to cover multiple related subtopics and to use hyperlinks to create a strong relationship between the main topic and subtopics. A broad main topic can help improve your website’s SEO and establish your website as an authority on a particular subject. Here are a few examples of how topic clusters work:

Digital marketing topic cluster
Digital marketing topic cluster

Pillar Topic: Digital Marketing

Cluster Subtopics: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising, Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Web Analytics.

Pillar Topic: Healthy Eating

Cluster Subtopics: Vegetarian Diets, Ketogenic Diets, Intermittent Fasting, Paleo Diets, Vitamins and Supplements, Healthy Snack Ideas.

healthy eating topic cluster
Healthy eating topic cluster
Fitness topic cluster
Fitness topic cluster

Pillar Topic: Fitness

Cluster Subtopics: Strength Training, Cardiovascular Exercise, Yoga, Pilates, Mental Health Benefits of Exercise, Fitness Equipment Reviews.

Pillar Topic: Home Improvement

Cluster Subtopics: Kitchen Remodelling, Bathroom Remodelling, DIY Projects, Interior Design, Exterior Home Maintenance, Landscaping.

Home improvement topic cluster
Home improvement topic cluster

Organise your content with the topic cluster model

Well, what are you waiting for? Make your website a comprehensive resource on the topics that your customers care about. Not only do topic clusters help you rank higher for relevant search queries, but they also encourage visitors to explore more of your content and engage more actively with your brand. If you’re serious about growing your online presence, give topic clusters a shot and see how they work for you!

Ruby Garner

Ruby joined the content team in August 2021. An avid reader and writer since she was young, Ruby always knew she wanted to work with words. After leaving high school, she studied a Bachelor of Communications majoring in journalism at Massey university. She spent a few years working as a journalist for a news app in the area she grew up in, Matakana, before joining the team at PureSEO.

Ruby also worked part time as a preschool teacher to save money for travelling. So far she has ticked Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bali off her list, and she hopes to be able to travel again soon.

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