In this blog, we discuss how location, proximity, previous searches, user search behaviour, device, keyword terms – all of these factors are taken into consideration by today’s search engines to deliver the most accurate and relevant results possible.
Aided by natural language processing (NLP) technology, search engines have reached a point of sophistication where they can interpret user search queries to provide results that are more accurate and more relevant. Search engines like google, for example, are increasingly concerned with the 'context' and ‘intent’ behind a user’s search, looking at a number of variables – NOT just keywords.
Location, proximity, previous searches, user search behaviour, device, keyword terms – all of these factors are taken into consideration by today’s search engines to deliver the most accurate and relevant results possible.
Much of this change is down to how we – as users – use search engines. Nowadays, search is increasingly mobile-first and voice-based, mobile voice assistants like Siri and Alexa have made search queries far more ‘conversational’ and natural, and we are perfectly fine posing the most complex, sentence-based questions to search engines: “What’s the best restaurant in London?”, “Where can I find affordable clothes?”, “How can I get to Times Square?”.
1. What does this mean for B2B enterprises?
From a B2B marketing perspective, most businesses have been focusing their content and search engine optimisation(SEO) around strict, keyword-based strategies. These businesses would use relevant, long-tail keyword terms with low competition and good search volumes to drive quality, targeted traffic back to their website. Many companies have had success with this approach, but as influential search engines alter their algorithms to favour topics rather than keywords, the nature of the content is changing and businesses must change their approach to content creation and optimisation.
Keyword strategies are, of course, still important, but in an increasingly competitive landscape, new strategies are required to stay ahead of the competition… and in light of these changes, content creators and SEO experts are moving to a ‘topic cluster’ approach.
Don’t dismiss your keyword strategies.
While topic clusters must be considered as the standard for future content creation, keywords can still help you to identify what your target audience is interested in and looking for.
2. What is a topic cluster?
A topic cluster is where a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content for an overarching topic and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and to each other. In simpler terms, a pillar page is a broad overview of a specific topic – think of it as a summary or road map of anything that is around 2,000 to 5,000 words long. The pillar page then links to in-depth articles related to the main topic. These articles are known as ‘cluster content’.The idea behind this approach is that you build a central page that provides an in-depth overview of a specific topic, and then write a series of in-depth subtopics related to the main topic, covering different aspects, and link them back to the pillar page.
3. How does it work in practice?
If you provide accounting software for small businesses, your pillar page could be along the lines of: ‘Accounting Software for Small Businesses’ and your cluster content – the pages linked to the pillar page – could be blog topics around 'choosing the right accounting software', ‘Benefits of accounting software for small businesses', and ‘How to get the most out of your accounting software. These all fall under the broader topic of accounting software
Take this scenario for example:
A potential prospect executes a search for ‘accounting software for small businesses'. They are then presented with a list of results and click on your pillar page for ‘Accounting Software for Small Businesses’. Your pillar page provides them with a comprehensive overview of accounting software and includes cluster content that provides a detailed breakdown of each element involved. Your prospect leaves your website informed and educated – and you have positioned your business as an authority on that topic. What's more, they pass your information on to other stakeholders in their business, making your solution top-of-mind when they make their decision.
As more and more people find your pillar page, it's ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) increases and more organic traffic comes to your website.
4. Why topic clusters are important?
It's important to remember that when we search, multiple variables are involved. For example, typing into Google: "Burger joints in London" is not the same as "Best burger joints in London'. In the first instance, one is vague and not concerned with the quality of those burger joints, whereas the second is.
A slight variance in the search - though similar - should deliver different results. And so, by using topic clusters, we change our approach to creating content to ensure it delivers the right content based on what prospects are looking for.
5 . What are the benefits of a topic cluster approach?
1. Improved SEO
By using a topic cluster setup – you signal to search engines that there is a semantic relationship between your pillar page and the content that it links to. Bots crawling the page will be able to quickly map out what your topic cluster is about, what the main page is, and how your information can help searchers.
As your content is clearly laid out and easily understood, search engines will identify your pillar as valuable, and the quality inbound links to and from the pillar page, via the subtopic content, will increase the pillar page’s value and rank on SERPs over time. And when one piece of interlinked content does well – so do your other pages.
2. Website authority
Topic clusters are an easy way to build website authority. If you have in-depth content on your website addressing a specific topic, and subtopic content answering questions related to that topic –all of which is interlinked – Google will look at your web page as an authority on that subject matter. Remember, search engines use links as a signal of authority, so by linking subtopic content to your pillar page and your pillar page to subtopic content, you enhance the value of all your pages and make it easier for website visitors to find what they are looking for
3. Content organisation
Topic clusters put strategy back into your content creation. Rather than creating one-off pieces based on keywords, you look at the bigger picture and start to create content that will not only improve your pillar page’s authority in the eyes of Google but also answer the questions your prospects have. Topic clusters simplify your content hierarchy, making it easier for interested parties to navigate their way through your website and for you to move them further into the buyer’s journey
4. Improved lead generation
Topic clusters provide the perfect opportunity for you to create a top, middle and bottom of the funnel content and have it all under one umbrella, allowing you to move website visitors from simple visitors to leads all through the content.
For example, let’s say you provide Inbound Marketing consultancy and someone has questions around Inbound, what it is and how it can benefit their business. They investigate your website and find your topic cluster on Inbound Marketing and read an article called “What is Inbound Marketing?”. Having found out more about Inbound, they want to know how it can benefit their business, so they look through your topic cluster and find an article on “The Business Benefits of Inbound Marketing”.
Now, convinced and educated on the benefits of Inbound, they want to know how your business can help – so they read another piece of cluster content. This time it’s a case study, which helps them decide they’re ready to engage with your business. Suddenly, from that initial website visit, you have generated a lead– all through content.
6. Building a topic cluster
As topic clusters consist of a pillar page and cluster content(clusters), you need to come up with a central topic and surround that central topic with relevant, in-depth articles (cluster content).
First, construct a plan that covers the cluster content you will create to surround your pillar page with – make sure the cluster content relates to the pillar page and answers the questions your prospects have (buyer personas will help in the process).
You should keep adding more cluster content to your pillar page over time, as this will help to improve the value of the pillar page(and the cluster content) in the eyes of Google.
A topic cluster should have at least ten subtopics that address specific questions, problems or pains your customers may be exploring related to the core topic of your pillar page. There isn’t a definitive number of how many blogs you should add to your pillar page, it completely depends on how many topics you think you can cover.
When it comes to building your topic clusters, think from the perspective of your prospects. At every stage, the content you create should be tied to the business pains/challenges they face and the possible solutions to those problems
7. Building out subtopics
Having built your central pillar page, you need to create specific and detailed subtopics. As mentioned previously, how you come up with these topics will be based on your buyer personas and the questions they might be asking.
If you’re not publishing regular blog content, you should be. This strategy is not a complete overhaul of your content marketing efforts, but more a process of realigning your strategy to ensure its focusing on current SEO best practice, and that you are not blogging for the sake of blogging.
Here’s an example from HubSpot, looking at their“Content Marketing” pillar page.
Content Marketing Strategy
Content Creation Tools
Blog Post Topics
8. Connect your subtopics to your core topic
Finally, hyperlink text in your core topic to your subtopics where relevant – and link your subtopics back to the pillar page. This is the most important step when creating topic clusters.
The internal linking between your topic and subtopic pages shows search engines that the content across your pages have a semantic relationship.
How Can We Help?
Content without strategy is just stuff - and the world has enough stuff.
As topic-based content becomes the standard for all kinds of content creation, having a long-term content strategy in place will be vital. The thing is, if you are randomly creating content and promoting it, you will not be able to build your website's authority over time, generate website traffic or improve your website's ranking on SERPs.
You need to look at the bigger picture of content creation and start creating libraries of content that contain the answers to the questions your prospects have. You need to become a source of information that your prospects can turn to and rely on.
To that end, topic clusters represent a more strategic approach to content creation and put a renewed emphasis on high quality, de-depth and relevant content.
But if you don't have a strategy in place - or need assistance creating one - we can help.
Content is the backbone of your Inbound Marketing strategy - and if you are just getting started, you need to get it right the first time and ensure your content creation is tied to business goals and the pain points of your prospects.
At Huble Digital, our specialist consultants have helped enterprise clients across industries to build our pillar page strategies, pillar pages and subtopic content - including conduction buyer persona workshops, content audits, content brainstorms and ongoing content support.
To find out more about the content services we provide, get in touch today.