It’s tough to produce content that ranks well in 2021. According to Internet Live Stats, over 1.9 billion websites are online right now, and people make 3.5 billion searches per day on Google alone. Additionally, 91% of organizations now use content marketing, and most organizations have invested in short articles and blog posts.
So how do you stand out from the crowd with so much competition?
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo no longer rank content based solely on keywords. Instead, you need to deliver an educational experience that enriches the lives of anyone who visits your blog to stand out in search results.
Creating a content cluster strategy will help you do that. In this article, we’ll teach you what a content cluster is, how to create one, and the top tips you need for a strategy that works.
A content cluster strategy is a digital marketing technique that uses content clusters (groups of content in the same niche). The strategy consists of three key components:
The best way to understand how a cluster content strategy works is to compare two video content marketing websites with and without a cluster content strategy. The website with a cluster strategy groups content around niches like “video editing,” “video production,” and “video research,” while the website without a strategy publishes content randomly.
Though many websites have unknowingly used a cluster content strategy for years, marketers have focused on content clusters since Google launched its Machine Learning (ML) algorithm Google RankBrain in 2015.
RankBrain changed how Google indexed and evaluated pages for search results. These changes shifted Google’s algorithm’s focus from keywords to many other factors, including user experience and user intent.
Once the algorithm prioritized user experience, some marketers created content clusters that gave readers an organized and seamless experience. RankBrain started to reward these marketers with high-ranking search results, and thus, other marketers quickly followed suit and embraced content clusters.
Having read this far, you’ve probably picked up on a few of the benefits of content clusters – including that they can help you perform well in search engine results. But that’s not all. Embracing a content cluster strategy can also help you:
Most website visitors only stay on a website between 10 and 20 seconds. If visitors can’t find what they are looking for, they will leave your site. That’s why a content cluster strategy works.
Clustering your content marketing makes it easy for your target audience to find the information they are looking for quickly. Thus, they will stay longer, build a stronger relationship with you, and are more likely to convert.
A cluster content strategy can improve your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Specifically, it will help you:
As you might imagine, improving your SEO will improve your organic traffic and Search Engine Results Page (SERP) performance.
Clustered content can help you portray yourself as an authority in your field, as you can cover the nuances of a topic in a lot of detail without making your website look cluttered or disorganized.
Establishing your site as an authority will help you build backlinks. Backlinks are links from other websites, news organizations, and blogs that direct traffic to your website. Backlinks will increase your traffic, boost your brand’s media presence, and improve your performance in search engines.
You don’t need to be a sales expert to master content clustering. From small business owners to professional digital marketers, anyone can implement a topic cluster strategy on their website.
First, you need to set goals for your strategy. Setting goals will guide your strategy and give you a reference point to assess your performance.
Use SMART goals for best results. SMART goals are:
If you are having trouble setting a SMART goal, try this template:
“By (insert date/ time/ period), we will (insert milestone) by (insert metric).”
For example, “by the end of March, we will increase customer conversions from our “how to perform keyword research” blog post by 10%.”
Remember – you don’t need to use the same goals as other marketers. Every marketing strategy, product, and customer base is different. Tailor your goals to your audience, and be practical. If you can’t achieve your objective, using it as a reference point only sets you up for failure.
Next, you need to perform keyword research and select keywords to target. Ideally, you should aim to cover a diverse range of keywords, including:
Once you’ve conducted keyword research and chosen your keywords, you need to look for them in your current content with a content audit. A content audit assesses your content’s keywords, performance, quality, and usefulness. To perform a keyword audit, rank each piece of content against those factors in a spreadsheet.
Next, use a content mapping tool to envision your ideal content strategy. Your content map will show you the types of content clusters you need for each phase of the sales funnel. The sales funnel includes the phases Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action (AIDA).
Finally, compare your content audit to your content map and work your existing content into your map.
At this stage, you will have some clusters that are full of content and others that need more. You’ll know if you have enough content in each cluster if you have:
Take this opportunity to craft new content to fill each cluster. We recommend creating diverse content, including a mixture of blog posts, infographics, images, podcasts, and short-form and long-form videos.
Alternatively, you could respin content into a new format. For example, you could take an article like this:
And turn it into this:
Next, you need to link your clusters together with internal links. There are two places you should put internal links: on your pillar pages and throughout your content.
If you aren’t an experienced copywriter, creating internal links may seem tricky. Use these tips for best results:
You can also include internal links at the start and end of your content under a heading like “similar content.”
Finally, you’ll need to assess the strength of your cluster strategy so you can improve it where needed. The best way to assess your strategy as a whole is to compare your progress to your goal.
You should also assess each piece of content individually by checking:
You’ll also need to add to your strategy long-term. As new keywords and topics in your niche gain popularity, capitalize on them.
Now that you know how to create a cluster-centric content marketing strategy, you’re ready to embrace it on your website. Here are four tips to help you create the best strategy possible.
Content gaps are topics, keywords, and questions your current content clusters don’t cover. It’s easy to miss content gaps when performing an internal audit of your content, as you may not realize that a particular topic is trending if you only look at your own site.
To find content clusters, analyze competitors’ sites for missing content and add it into your clusters.
While most companies optimize their homepage as a pillar page, many marketers forget to optimize other key pages.
For best results, build multiple pillar pages to grab traffic from multiple sources. You could do this through:
Here’s Kinsta’s knowledge base page for inspiration:
Creating multiple pillar pages will increase your internal traffic, as they will help your target audience navigate your site more effectively. Just make sure you differentiate your pillar pages and target different keywords (so your pages don’t compete with each other in search results).
You don’t need to limit your content marketing to just blog posts. Your content cluster strategy can include any type of content you like, as long as it’s relevant to your brand and audience.
For example, you could hold a webinar or virtual summit if you operate in a Business-to-Business (B2B) field.
If you sell a service in a niche that’s confusing for the average customer, create an eBook to answer people’s questions.
Or, if you sell a product that’s difficult to envision in pictures, film a product demo video. Here’s a fun example of a product demo video from Hasbro Australia:
The quality of your content matters, as research shows that 60% of consumers won’t buy from a brand that publishes a poorly written blog post. Thus, any blog content you produce needs to be top-quality. That means it’s:
You should also pay careful attention to the blog platform you use. If you use a platform that’s slow, difficult to navigate or has a bad user experience, people won’t stay on the page long enough to read your posts.
Related: How to create high-quality blog posts that rank
From the outside, a content cluster strategy may seem difficult. But it’s easier than you think. Follow the steps in this article, and you’ll create a winning cluster strategy in no time.
Just don’t forget to:
And if you’re ever stuck, go back to basics and prioritize the user experience above all else. Meeting user needs is the secret to a great content marketing strategy.
Thanks for the initial insights into Content Cluster. I am also rebuilding my websites at the moment. Which question comes with the topic on all tutorials somehow always something too short. I collect around a pillar page thematically appropriate content pages and link them each with the pillar page. So far so good. But what about the URL structure? Do I build my sitemap to match the pillar page/content page structure? That would mean for my existing websites that I have to move and redirect a lot of content. Or can existing content pages remain in their current URl e.g. under tests, glossary, blog, advisor…. and only the internal linking is decisive for the content cluster mesh?
Thanks in advance.
What are your thoughts?