We have discussed topic clusters before as a method of organizing your website and choosing how to connect your pages with internal links. Basically, topic clusters are an extra-simple mind-mapping technique where you choose one important topic – your pillar – and then choose a cluster of lesser, related topics that should be linked to the pillar.
Topic clusters are an easy way to organize just about every kind of content, and we suggest you try using them for topic based SEO if you aren't sure how to publish or link...anything. But beyond being a useful starting place, topic clusters are also starting to have an important impact on SEO techniques. In fact, Hubspot, a major CRM player, now has a section devoted entirely to topic clusters. Let's take a look at why these clusters are suddenly getting so much attention.
Imagine you are the Google bot, tabulating the content of all those websites in the world. Part of your job is to provide information that allows the search engine algorithm to correctly identify what a website's purpose is and what sort of questions it can answer.
As the bot, you love topic cluster websites. They allow you to immediately, effectively map out what a website is about, what it's primary subject matter is, and how it can help people. When you send that information over to the algorithm, it can quickly classify and rank that website in response to organic searches. In fact, without a confusing layout or disconnected articles lying around, the algorithm tends to rank the site higher than similar sites that don't use topic clusters.
You can see how this approach can then give you a topic based SEO advantage over competitors that don't adopt the same tactics. Remember, Google is all about encouraging user-friendly content that thoroughly answers questions. Topic clusters are a good way to ensure your website is doing this, especially if you have a lot of pages or a blog to build.
How does Google analyze authority? Well, the algorithm appears to care a lot about where articles are linked, how in-depth content is, what sources are used, and other basics that you may expect. Using topic clusters is essentially a way to apply to Google as an authority on your subject matter: "Look at all these well-planned links and related articles for people to learn more," you can say. "That's quite impressive, your site is more likely to be recognized as an authority in this matter," Google will respond. Better page ranking follows.
From a brainstorming and targeting perspective, topic clusters have the ability to perform better than keywords. Let's face it, these days keywords aren't very impressive. They're a little too confusing, too repetitive, and too lonely – little ships sent out hopefully across a very large ocean. Topic clusters, meanwhile, are grounded in a website's purpose, help a brand develop an online identity, and are easier to understand – more like a fleet of ships launching with detailed maps.
This is true from Google's perspective, too: The way the search engine sees things, keywords are more trouble than they are worth. The topic cluster approach to building content is much better when it comes to tracking and ranking websites. As Google starts to reward this kind of organizational strategy, clusters will become a core part of SEO. That's why services like Hubspot have been so willing to invest in topic cluster tools, and why we're talking about it.
In summary, if you're looking for a new way to organize your website and give your brand an SEO boost, look into topic clusters. Hubspot's tools can automate part of the process, but you can also experiment with topic cluster arrangements on your own.