SEO Hack: Pillar Page and Cluster Topic Model

Sue Davison

March 20, 2024

SEO Hack: Pillar Page and Cluster Topic Model

Blog content planning can be daunting for small businesses, especially if you're new to SEO. Traditionally, marketers have created blog posts based on a list of keywords they want to rank for. But search engine algorithms now demand more from your blog content strategy. They favour topic-based content that indicates relevancy rather than a collection of blog posts about isolated subjects. Enter the pillar page and cluster topic model.

What is the pillar and cluster topic model?

The pillar page and cluster topic technique organises your blog posts in a way that allows Google to give your content top marks for relevancy. The 'pillar page' provides a detailed overview of a topic. It links out to a series of cluster topic pages that expand on the information provided on the pillar page. Each post in this 'topic cluster' links back to the pillar page.

It sounds complicated, but it's not when you visualise the concept. It looks something like this:

Pillar and Cluster Content by Full Height Copy

A seasoned blog will be made up of several clusters:

Blog Structure - Pillar and Cluster by Full Height Copy

Why does this technique boost SEO?

Google gives merit to web pages that provide high-quality content that is relevant to a search term. Search engines are becoming incredibly smart at doing this. They can detect pages that are semantically related to each other using latent-semantic-indexing.

What does this mean in plain English? If your pillar page is highly relevant to a search term and has reciprocal links with other relevant pages on your site, those pages will also earn link juice. It also means that none of your pages will compete for search terms because they are all focused on a different but related search term. Bingo.

Are there any other benefits to using this method?

Definitely. Aside from significantly boosting your chance of ranking high for your chosen search terms, the pillar and topic clusters model can:

1. Increase the amount of time visitors spend on your website

Creating topic clusters organises your content, making it easier for your website visitors to find the information they need. Each post ushers the reader to explore other relevant pieces of content. This positive user experience will increase the time visitors spend on your site, giving you a better chance of conversion and sales.

2. Builds authority and trust in your brand

A website that contains useful and relevant content gives visitors confidence in your brand. You demonstrate that you understand both your customers' needs and your subject.

How to implement the pillar page and cluster content technique

STEP 1: Identify a topic that you want to rank for

It's time to brainstorm. You need to find an overarching topic that will appeal strongly to your customers. Base it around one of their main pain points. What questions do they need answers to? What are they searching the net for? Where are they in the buying cycle?

Let's imagine you're a meditation teacher. Many people who are considering taking up meditation want to have a better understanding of what it is. So, a good overarching topic might be "What is meditation?".

Whatever topic you settle on will form the basis of your pillar post. But don't start writing it just yet. You have more research to do and cluster content posts to create first.

Why not dive straight into writing the pillar post? Because you can only determine the content of this overarching piece once you know what cluster posts you'll be writing.

STEP 2: Choose your content cluster titles

You can use a few awesome (and free) tools to determine your cluster content titles. Use all three of the tools below to make sure you gather plenty of keyword ideas:

Answerthepublic.com

Pump your main topic into the search bar and watch the magic happen. This powerful tool will generate many related search queries that can inspire your titles.

Here's the result for "What is meditation?"

Answer the Public by Full Height Copy

Google Suggest

Get the king of the web to tell you what to write about. Simply type your pillar topic in the search bar and see what other suggestions pop up.

Like this:

Google Suggest by Full Height Copy

LSIGraph.com

Use this gem to mop up any straggling keywords you haven't previously identified.

LSI Graph by Full Height Copy

Now, you're armed with an extensive list of keywords. Paste them into a spreadsheet and start making sense of them. You want to use only some of them as similar keywords will target the same user intent. Choose a selection of keywords that target different user intents that are related to the same overarching topic.

Once you've worked out what to include, you should end up with a content plan that looks a bit like this:

Pillar and Cluster Example by Full Height Copy

STEP 3: Review your existing content

Before you start writing new content:

  • Run an audit on your existing content.

  • Check if you've already created posts that could serve as cluster pages.

  • Identify what adjustments you might need to make to these pages, such as referring to and linking to the pillar page.

STEP 4: Write your cluster posts

When you write your cluster posts, you should follow the usual best practices for blogging, such as:

  • Use the primary keyword in the page title, subheads, body copy, image alt tags, title tag and meta description.

  • Use semantically related words.

  • Add concept-enhancing visuals.

  • Illustrate with examples.

In addition, also make sure that you:

  • Provide deep coverage of the subject — you aim to build authority and provide highly relevant content to the search term.

  • Stick to this topic — don't detail any subject covered by another cluster page. Refer to related subjects and link to the relevant page. Keep every page unique.

STEP 5: Write the pillar page

You can now create your pillar page based on the cluster content that you have selected. Again, follow good practice for blog writing and also:

  • Keep the detail extremely broad — this is the overarching page, so save expanding on ideas and concepts for your cluster pages.

  • Write at least 3000 words — the post needs to contain lots of valuable and relevant information to rank high in search engines. The higher it ranks, the more authority it will pass on to its cluster pages.

To get some inspiration, check out Hubspot's 9 examples of pillar pages.

STEP 6: Add your links

The only thing left to do is link all your content with hyperlinks in the body copy of each post.

Make sure that you:

  • Link individual cluster pages to other relevant cluster pages.

  • Link each cluster page to the pillar page.

  • Link the pillar page to each cluster page.

  • Check that all links work before publishing.

To conclude

The pillar page and cluster topic model will help you organise your content for the benefit of search engines and your website visitors. This can boost your search visibility, provide a great user experience and build trust in your brand.

This method relies on:

  • Choosing a solid topic that addresses your target audience's pain points.

  • Adhering to best practices for writing blog posts.

  • Linking each piece of content appropriately.

And remember, SEO is a long-term strategy. It could take you weeks or even months to see the full results of your efforts and that top spot on Google. To help speed up the process, make sure you allocate resources to promoting your content.

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