Do you remember the times when you were able to do a simple keyword research to kick-start your content marketing efforts?
You would cherry-pick the most promising ranking opportunities by selecting a few low-competiton, but high-volume keywords among hundreds or even thousands of keywords. Then you strictly optimized your content with the goal to show up in search engines high for that single target keyword. And unless you had delusions of grandeur to rank for the search terms like "table" or "technology", with enough elbow grease and enough high-quality content, it was achievable.
But not anymore. While focusing on one primary keyword worked a few years ago, this strategy will not yield the best results today. Hubspot has even gone as far as sunsetting its Keyword Tool in a few weeks. There are several reasons for that. Search engines have now evolved to better anticipate real-world search behavior, predict search intent, and therefore improve the quality of the results:
Their advanced algorithms are able to grasp semantically related concepts which results in one piece of content potentially ranking for a bunch of related keywords.
Google (and other search engines) are also tailoring search results to individual users, which makes it increasingly harder to calculate keyword ranking positions, so betting the farm on one keyword is becoming very inefficient.
Lastly, Google & Co. aren't looking for one-hit wonders but for trustworthy and authoritative content sources that consistently create high-quality content that attracts a lot of readers.
While I do believe that there is value in keeping an eye on your keywords once in a while — afterall, you need some data to inform your content strategy — I want to show you an alternative today.
How Your Prospects Are Using Topics In Their Searches
Let's start by having a look at how your prospects are using search today.
Imagine you are an enterprise IT project manager and your organization has just migrated to Windows 10. Now, it is your responsibility to rollout OS upgrades into your entire IT estate twice a year, and you need to get a crash course on everything there is to know about Windows Servicing.
Since you are just starting out, you could search for "Windows 10 Servicing Model" or "Windows Branching" (the correct term until Microsoft changed the entire Windows 10 update terminology), "Windows 10 support timeline" or hundreds of other keywords.
As you can see from the screenshot on the right, you will get some Microsoft TechNet articles, followed by educational blog posts.
As the IT project manager, you are under a lot of pressure and you know failure in a desktop IT management project isn't an option, so you would try to find every reputable article there is on the topic.
The problem is this: you don't know where to start; you are not familiar (yet) with the terminology. This is where topic clusters come in.
Because our client, Juriba, has written more (and better) content on the Windows 10 Servicing topic than anyone else with the execption of Microsoft, they are ranking within the Top 10 with a variety of articles that range from high-level strategy recommendations down to practical how-to implementation recommendations.
Their content covers the entire buyer's journey for their primary target personas!
Now, switching back to the role of a tech marketer, you can see how important it is to not only rank for specific keywords but to dominate entire topic clusters. Today, I want to share with you one of the secrects of how to get there.
What Is A Topic Cluster?
Instead of creating lots of stand-alone pieces of content, topic clusters are an effective way to organize multiple content assets related to an overarching topic by hyperlinking to and from a single “pillar” page.
This pillar page is a large piece of content that covers the topic broadly. As you link to and from this page from other related pages and blog posts, it acts as the main hub to increase the page's authority, improve overall visibility for readers and search engines alike, and over time, rank higher on the entire topic. This will not only result in a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture but will also boost user experience and the stickiness of your site.
Over the next weeks, I want to cover topic clusters in more detail and show you, step-by-step, how to decide which topics your content strategy should focus around, how to build and maintain topic clusters within your HubSpot marketing automation tool, and how you can leverage topic clusters for your lead generation.