What is the Topic Cluster Content Marketing Strategy?

Pillar and cluster content graphic

As part of the AMI Digital Trends blog series, we’re discussing current trends in content marketing. Developing a content marketing strategy can be challenging. Where do you start? What do you include? Content should provide value to your readers or customers, provide a strong return on investment and establish authority. How do you accomplish this? That’s where the topic cluster strategy and pillar content come into the picture.

What is Pillar and Cluster Content?

Before we dive into pillar content, let’s define content marketing. Content marketing encompasses online materials like blogs or social media created by brands to increase awareness and interest. Pillar and cluster content is a specific content marketing strategy. It is made up of core content, or pillars, and supporting topic clusters. This content is developed to be evergreen and provide in-depth information about specific topics to provide value and establish authority.

The pillars provide a comprehensive overview of a topic, and supporting topic clusters provide more in-depth information about a particular sub-topic. The pillars and clusters interlink to become a one-stop-shop for information about a subject.

Long-form search topics are used to develop the clusters, or specific supporting topics, and the pillar content. The pillars and topic clusters interlink to provide comprehensive information about the core topics and relevant subtopics. For example, a pillar may focus on ‘kitchen appliances’ and content clusters may include ‘best kitchen appliances for small kitchens’, ‘electric kitchen appliances’, ‘propane kitchen appliances’, ‘refrigerators’, ‘ovens’ and so on.

When trying to determine the number of clusters needed, focus more on your audience’s needs and your authority on the subjects than a specific number. The important thing is that the pillar and clusters combine to provide comprehensive information about the topic. One fully developed cluster that you have a strong authority on is more beneficial than several partially developed ones. Identify what readers are interested in, where your expertise lies and combine the two.

Benefits of Pillar and Cluster Content

Using the topic cluster strategy establishes you as an expert to both readers and search engines. There are several aspects that play into the success of pillar content, including the value of content, authority, site performance and more.

Provide Value to Readers

Pillar and cluster content is focused on long-form searches and phrases that are similar to what people are searching for. Search behavior is changing and content has to adapt. People are using voice search and are being more specific in all of their searches to wade through the overwhelming amount of info. As a result, search engines are changing how they index information and display results. Developing pillar and cluster content around specific phrases means that readers receive exactly the information they’re seeking.

In addition to providing valuable information, identifying areas of expertise and developing in-depth pillars prevents unnecessary duplicate content. This provides value to readers, improves search engine rankings and prevents wasted resources.

Establish Authority with Search Engines

Pillar content establishes authority with search engines through a combination of things. One of the most beneficial aspects of pillar content is the interlinking between pillars and clusters. This interlinking signals to search engines that there is significant and quality content to show users.

When a search engine recognizes that there is a significant amount of quality content, it begins to trust the source and display it more prominently on search engine result pages (SERP).

Improved User Experience

Search engines also consider the user experience when determining SERP rankings. Providing comprehensive information and interlinking content provides a better experience for readers. They are more likely to spend more time on your site reading and navigating to other pages. This communicates a strong user experience to search engines and can improve your rankings. In addition to stronger SERP rankings, improved user experience means your site is better positioned as an industry expert.

How to Write Pillar and Cluster Content for Your Business

If you are considering a pillar and cluster content marketing strategy, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Although the process is unique to your needs, there are five main steps.

Identify Core Topics and Areas of Expertise

To begin, identify the areas of expertise that you hold authority over. What can you provide expertise and in-depth knowledge about? Also, consider the content that you already have developed as a starting point. Together, these areas and topics should give you a strong starting point for your initial pillars.

Conduct Keyword Research

After you identify areas of authority, you can begin conducting keyword research to develop cluster content. What are supporting topics that directly tie into your pillars? How are people searching for information regarding the topics? Focusing on specific, long-phrase keywords sets you up to develop quality cluster content.

Develop Cluster Content

Once you complete keyword research, you can begin developing cluster content. Cluster content is a comprehensive look at a subsection of a pillar, so this content should be informative and long-form. It should be very specific and answer any question a reader may have. If you find yourself getting off-topic, consider creating additional clusters to separate all information. However, only create content that is truly valuable and you have authority on.

Develop Pillar Content

Has all of your cluster content been developed? Now you can focus on creating the pillar content that holds it all together. Pillar content should be brief but informative about a specific subject. The goal is to drive readers to explore individual clusters for more information.

Interlink Pillars and Content

When you have developed your pillars and supporting clusters, you can begin truly connecting them by interlinking the two. Whenever relevant, link to cluster pages from the pillar content and vice versa. If you conducted your research and developed content strategically, there should be many opportunities to interlink.

If you are considering new content marketing strategies, consider the pillar and cluster method. Whether you are looking to provide more value for readers or improve search rankings, it offers a variety of benefits. If you would like to learn more about how this strategy works and how your company could benefit from it, contact the Callis team with any questions!