CJ Design & Consulting Uncategorized What Are Pillar Pages & Topic Clusters?

What Are Pillar Pages & Topic Clusters?

Why Pillar Page & Topic Clusters are the Answer to Thin Content & Keyword-Based SEO

What do pillar pages & topic clusters have to do with website content & SEO? Well, Google has once again fundamentally changed SEO as we know it. While you still need to have great content and choose the right keywords, with so much content available online, Google now wants to know that you are an authority on your topic. The best way to demonstrate this authority is to structure your content into pillar pages and topic clusters.

So what are pillar pages & topic clusters? A pillar page is a website page that provides a comprehensive overview of a topic. A topic cluster is a collection of interlinked articles and website pages centered around the umbrella topic. The pillar page links to topic cluster content and the topic cluster content links to the pillar page. The result is an interconnected content experience that delivers tremendous value to the reader and firmly establishes to Google that YOU are an authority on the topic. It is my goal over the course of multiple blog posts to tell you what you need to know about creating your own pillar pages and topic clusters.

In the past, keywords were king is SEO, but today, searches have become more specific and contextual. The majority of searchers today type in long search phrases. In fact, according the Ahrefs, 64% of search queries contain 4 or more words. Google thinks that if searchers are using such detailed terms, the content it serves up in the search engine results page (SERPs) should also be detailed as well. Think about that as you write your content.

In addition, many searchers don’t even use a keyword in their search. Much of this is due to the popularity of voice search devices. Fortunately, Google has updated its algorithm over the past few years and search engines today are smart enough to know the intent behind your search. So taking these 2 factors together it becomes clear thin content and keyword-focused SEO strategies aren’t p to the task of meeting the needs of searchers today.

This is an example of how pillar pages and topic clusters work.
This is how pillar pages and topic clusters work.

How To Distinguish Pillar Pages From Topic Clusters

The first step, of course, is to define your topics. This process involves 4 steps.

Step 1: Research Your Buyer Personas & Identify Their Key Problems. SEO is driven by people. A good SEP strategy begins with examining user behavior. Think about it. Keyword research os just about understanding what terms people are searching for. Whenever Google makes an algorithm change, it’s a reaction to new trends in user behavior. Topic clusters are no different. To understand what topics your website’s content strategy should center around, you need to look at your audience. The best way to understand your audience is by using buyer personas.

Step 2: Map Out Topic Clusters with Keyword Research. Now that you a list of your buyers core problems, it’s time to turn them into a topic cluster. To build this map you will need to do some keyword research. You will use this research to do 2 things; refine your topic phrase and map out your cluster content.

As mentioned before, a topic phrase is the umbrella term that describes your topic. Using your keyword research you will make sure your topic phrase matches what your customers are actually searching for. To avoid snafus or pitfalls, let your keyword research validate your choice and enable you to make sure there aren’t better alternatives to the phrase you’re thinking of using.

Once you’ve settled on a topic phrase, it’s time to map out your cluster content. To do that, you want to identify ALL of the areas of your topic that a potential buyer might want to know. Strive for at least 8-22 specific keywords that are meaty enough to support a blog post. You can start brainstorming all the potential phrases and keywords that you know are related to your topic by asking yourself what information would be useful in an A-Z guide in this topic?

Step 3: Categorizing Your Existing Content. I’ll be honest. Auditing website content isn’t what I call a fun time, especially if the company has been blogging for a while. However, before writing new content, you need to know what content you already have and what you’re missing and that means a content audit. Sorry, there’s no way around doing that.

To keep track of all your information, you should an Excel or Google spreadsheet. CJ Design & Consulting has performed many content audits in the past and is very familiar with Excel Google spreadsheets. Remember identifying and removing content that is no longer of value to your website it a positive SEO move and will be seen as such by Google and other search engines. Here is the information you want to put in that spreadsheet.

  • Page URL
  • Cluster topic
  • Subcluster (if applicable)
  • Keyword to rank for
  • Is it linked to a pillar page yet? Y/N
  • Is it relinked (if applicable)? Y/N
  • Are there any other actions needed?
  • Has the other action been taken? Y/N
  • Links out to pages 1, 2, 3 and/or 4
  • Is it a sub pillar page (if applicable? Y/N

Step 4. Identify Cluster Content Opportunities. Once you’ve completed your content audit, compare your spreadsheet to the topic map you created in Step 2. There might be an imbalance as it’s possible you covered one niche of your topic very in-depth and completely missed another longer keyword phrase. Don’t ignore these gaps. You can turn them into new cluster content later as part of your ongoing maintenance on your pillar page.

Set your calendar for more information next week.

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