In order to educate and nurture prospects through the buyer’s journey, your content needs to somehow get in front of them. Organic search can provide a great opportunity for you to reach audiences who are searching for information relevant to your company.
But, search listing results pages are getting more and more competitive, making it hard to be found online. It turns out there’s an effective solution: a topic cluster strategy, which can be simplified by HubSpot’s topic cluster tool.
What is a Topic Cluster?
A topic cluster is an organic search tactic in which multiple pieces of content around the same topic are linked and grouped together in order to help your website increase topical authority and rank for relevant keywords.
Topic clusters consist of a primary keyword known as the “core topic” and then various related more specific keywords referred to as “subtopics.”
The core topic is represented on your website through a pillar page. A pillar page is a long-form piece of content that aggregates all the topics included in your topic cluster and links out to all of the supporting subtopic content. The inclusion of a pillar page is what differentiates a topic cluster strategy from just internal linking.
How to Use HubSpot’s Topic Cluster Tool
HubSpot’s topic cluster tool allows you to identify and analyze potential core topics by providing information like monthly search volume and difficulty. Once you decide to move forward with a core topic, the tool will help you visualize how your topic cluster is implemented on your website through a bubble map.
Your core topic and respective pillar page will be in the center of your bubble map — spanning from it are all of the related keywords you have (or plan to have) support content. The tool will help you:
- Monitor the search volume of all keywords included in your strategy
- See what queries are leading visitors to your pillar page and subtopic content
- Ensure all your topic cluster assets are linked together
However, when using HubSpot’s topic cluster tool, it is important to keep in mind that it’s just a tool. It’s more of an organizational assistant than it is like a tactical implementor. Your strategy is what actually makes topic clusters beneficial for SEO.
So in addition to using the topic cluster tool to envision your efforts and report on their performance, you should also be employing tactics like editorial calendars, SEO copywriting and internal linking.
Your core topics should be central to your business and your service operations. For example, a core topic for us at New Breed is “What is Demand Generation?”
Additionally, the core topics you choose should be top of the funnel because you’re targeting people who want to learn about that topic. You wouldn’t want to use something like “demand generation services.”
You also want to ensure that your core topic has enough search volume to justify the investment into creating a topic cluster around it. We recommend a minimum of 400 searches per month, but you also want to make sure the search volume isn’t so high that you couldn’t realistically rank for it.
Once you’ve selected your core topic, the next step is to explore related terms to use as subtopics. For “What is demand generation?”, subtopics could include “demand generation best practices,” “how to implement a demand generation strategy” and “demand generation tactics.” These subtopics don’t all need to include the core topic keyword either. “Full-funnel marketing and sales strategies” and “data-driven marketing” could also be subtopics.
HubSpot’s topic cluster tool can help you refine your subtopic keywords once you have an initial idea of what you want to use. As you go to add a subtopic keyword to your cluster, it’ll show you the search volume for that keyword and provide a list of related keywords you could use instead.
Your topic cluster should have a minimum of six subtopics to start but eight to 10 is the ideal range. If you find that you need many more subtopics than that to cover the core topic fully, it might be worth splitting it up. For example, “What is inbound marketing?” and “Inbound marketing best practices” could both be their own pillar pages with 10 or more subtopics.
Create and publish content
Prior to launching a topic cluster within the HubSpot tool, you should have the majority of the content already prepared.
Create an editorial calendar to guide the creation of your pillar page and subtopic blog posts. Research, write and optimize all the content, then publish it and link everything in the tool.
The HubSpot topic cluster tool will help you ensure you created content to address every planned subtopic and placed hyperlinks within the copy for all posts. Plus if you want to expand your topic cluster further, it can help you see what you haven’t covered yet and if you have relevant existing content on your website that could be optimized and linked to the pillar page.
Report on content and SEO
The goal of a topic cluster strategy is to increase your ability to rank for the core topic. So, an increase in sessions will be one of the most important metrics for you to monitor.
Additionally, you’ll want to keep an eye on session-to-contact conversion rate, but since this is a top-of-the-funnel strategy, organic sessions and new users will be more important KPIs initially. You shouldn’t necessarily expect a lot of on-page conversions.
Another important metric to track is average time on page because it’s a user experience metric that is a big indicator to search algorithms about the value your content is providing.
A topic cluster strategy helps you efficiently create topical authority for organic search. Content is still king; you need well-written valuable content to see success from this strategy. But once you have that, a topic cluster can help you harness its full potential and ensure it’s locatable for search engines and readers.
HubSpot’s topic cluster tool enables you to more easily manage and monitor your topic cluster strategy. It’ll not just help you ensure your strategy is implemented correctly initially, it’ll also help you monitor and expand your topic clusters over time so you can create content that provides the most value for your audience and your business.
Ellie is an SEO/SEM specialist here at New Breed Marketing.