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A Beginner's Guide to SEO: Building Topic Clusters

Kari Scott
Mar 02, 2022   |   Kari Scott Recommended for:   Marketing, Ecommerce
Woman at computer with wine Woman at computer with wine

If you haven’t already, we recommend reading the first two installments in this blog series, A Beginner's Guide to SEO: Identifying Keywords and A Beginner's Guide to SEO: 5 Easy SEO Elements You Can Optimize Today.

Now that you've come up with target keywords and started implementing them across your site, it's time to take a step back and consider how your SEO keywords relate to topic clusters.

Topic clusters are groups of related content that collectively cover a broad subject area. For example, a topic cluster on "Pinot Noir" could include a recipe or top food pairing recommendations, a story from the winemaking process from harvest to bottling, and a how-to guide on the best way to taste Pinot Noir.

Topic clusters ensure each new piece of content ties into larger narratives. They often stem from high-volume search keywords and similar terms that rank within the same category and—most importantly—relate to your winery.

Over time, the way we interact with search engines has changed significantly. We've become more intentional and complex in how we search for information online, posing entire sentences or questions like "where can I buy?". In response to these shifts in user behavior, search engines updated their algorithms to recognize connections, i.e., the "People Also Ask" section of Google's search results page. Now, algorithms understand the context and intent behind each search. They even tie these elements back to similar previous queries to deliver the most relevant, helpful results to searchers.

Let’s begin with five steps to get you started with Topic Clusters, taking your SEO skills to the next level:

1. Identify Your Topic Clusters

    If you're developing topic clusters for the first time, it can feel difficult to sit down and call out your primary focus areas. And while existing content or pre-defined search terms may come into play, keyword/phrase identification is the most effective way to produce topic clusters that will notably impact your content's performance and draw more visitors to your website.

    Here is a tip to get started: Your primary phrase should be high volume — between a couple hundred and 1,000 searches per month. It should relate to your core products and experiences but be broad enough to act as an umbrella for more focused search terms. For example, the primary phrase "Pinot Noir wine club" relates to a segment of your business and allows you to create more focused content around specific terms like "Pinot Noir release," "Pinot Noir food pairings," or "Pinot Noir dinner event”. You can also create clusters around your winery's identifiers, like location, the varietals you produce, and any proprietary names used for your wines.

    2. Create Your Subtopics

      Now it’s time to develop subtopics to support your topic clusters and associated search phrases. As mentioned above, you’ll want to build out content around more specific focus areas that fall under one of your primary topic clusters. For example, if your topic cluster is “organic white wine,” subtopics may include “how organic wine is produced,” “our top organic white wines,” “benefits of organic wine,” etc.

      Keep in mind that your topic clusters and subtopics should offer comprehensive coverage of a specific subject so visitors can satisfy their search queries while visiting your site. Your subtopics should also balance reader intent with high-ranking keywords to ensure you attract visitors to your content and provide them with relevant, high-value information about the topic at hand.

      Subtopics

      3. Build Your Pillar Pages

        A pillar page is a high-level website page that provides an overview of a core topic and links out to in-depth articles about specific "cluster topics" or sub-topics.

        Pillar pages need to be broad enough that you can logically interlink all of your cluster topics within them. It's often helpful to frame pillar pages through a "What is..." or "How to..." lens, then use cluster content to go in-depth into one section or phrase mentioned on the central pillar page.

        4. Remember to Use Your Keywords!

          Topic clusters are now the strongest way to rank well on a search engine results page (SERP), which means you need to identify and implement cluster-related keywords across every piece of content you produce.

          As you conduct keyword research to identify related keywords under your topic cluster, be sure to balance volume with intent. There's not much value in targeting a high-volume term that doesn't resonate well with your audience or tie back to your topic cluster. You should also keep the entire buyer's journey in mind and look for keywords that capture intent at every stage of the funnel, from initial discovery to the decision stage.

          5. Create a Scalable Content Strategy

            As you define clusters and supporting keywords, you'll be well-positioned to create a content calendar that answers relevant questions for your audience and continually contributes to your topic clusters' depth and breadth.

            Your topic clusters should also define the architecture of your public-facing blog listing page. A cohesive, intentional blog architecture helps site visitors find related content and helps search engines analyze how each blog relates to a larger theme.

            Topic clusters don't just do wonders for your search performance and authority; they also provide marketing teams with a clear path for content creation.

            Topic clusters ensure each new piece of content ties into larger narratives and demonstrates the value of your digital marketing strategy as a whole. They also allow for more internal linking and make it easier to use cluster pages like blogs as a framework for pillar pages.

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            Creating your website's topic clusters may sound daunting, but it's important to note that you can develop these components gradually over time. So, while you'll eventually want to include all of them on your site, you don't need to build everything out completely to start seeing the results of your winery website's topic cluster strategy.

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