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Digital Marketing 12 min read

The Galactic Fed Guide to Topic Clusters

Ayesha Renyard photo

Written by Ayesha Renyard

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Dallin Porter photo

Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter

Marketing Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 18 Jan 2022

As a content marketer myself, I can attest that building a content strategy can be overwhelming. There’s a sea of opportunities and ideas out there—it can be easy to get distracted and create a piece of content on a whim. 

Cat gif.

Here’s why you shouldn’t do that: creating valuable content takes time. If you can’t connect it back to a strategy, it’s only a short-term win. At Galactic Fed, we’re all about maximizing ROI. 

That’s why we’re here to talk about topic clusters. 

Topic clusters are groups of content that revolve around a central topic and use a pillar page to link to and from. They keep your content strategy focused and create internal linking opportunities. It’s a win-win. 

So as part of our SEO Series, we’re digging deeper into how SEO and your content strategy work together by giving you the lowdown on topic clusters. Today, you’ll learn what they are, why they’re important, and how to create them yourself. 

What are Topic Clusters?

As mentioned above, topic clusters involve multiple pieces of content which all connect to a shared topic and related subtopics. As a whole, these pages offer comprehensive coverage of a specific topic. You connect them using internal links, creating a guided experience for your readers that’ll keep them longer on your website. 

Cluster diagram of pillar pages, cluster content, and hyperlinks

Source: Hubspot

For every topic cluster, you should have: 

1. A pillar page: This is the hub for a specific topic. These should be broad enough so that cluster pages can link back to them. 

2. Topic cluster pages: These are more in-depth pages that answer a specific question about your broad topic and link back to your pillar page. 

Take a look at our blog as an example. We have broken it down into different series, which act as pillar pages for various broad topics. Our SEO Series pillar page is the hub for all things SEO. Our topic cluster pages cover certain aspects of SEO—like this blog piece I’m writing right now. (A topic cluster page on topic clusters…woah.)

A man wearing eyeglasses and a black shirt saying it's all very meta.

What are the Benefits of Topic Clusters?

There are several key benefits to creating topic clusters—particularly for your SEO and content strategy. 

  • Improved SEO: Linking topic cluster pages to pillar pages helps search engine crawlers read your website’s structure and content. If they can see that you offer a ton of related content on one subject, they’ll flag your website as an authoritative, valuable source for users. Higher authority means a higher ranking in search results—and that’s hitting the SEO jackpot.
  • Faster content production: Creating a pillar page requires a fair bit of work and research. The good news is, you now have a lot of information that’ll also apply to your topic cluster pages, which means you’ll pump content out much faster.
  • More organized content: Say goodbye to a scattered content strategy. Pillar pages help keep your content strategy focused. 
  • More comprehensive content: When you don’t plan out your content strategy, you run the risk of creating overlaps or gaps in it—and who has time for that? Topic clusters help you work smarter, not harder. 

In this quick two-minute video from Hubspot, you can see why topic clusters are just the thing for boosting both your content and SEO strategy. 

How to Create a Topic Cluster

Step 1: Decide on a core topic

To begin, you need to brainstorm core topics—these will help you generate pillar pages. Core topics should be broad enough so you can dig into related subtopics in your cluster pages. 

So grab a pen and paper and begin ideating. Cluster diagrams, like the one by Hubspot shown above, are helpful for this brainstorming activity. 

To choose a strong core topic, consider these questions: 

  • Does this topic speak to the value of my business?
  • What does my audience want to know? 
  • Can I build from this topic?
  • Am I able to break down this topic into subtopics? 
  • Will I need to explain one key topic before moving to the next? 
  • Are others writing about this topic? How can I make my content different? 

Step 2: Perform keyword research on core topics

Before putting time and energy into your core topics, you want to ensure that there’s a demand for this type of content. To do that, we recommend conducting keyword research. You can do this manually or with a keyword research tool, like Ahrefs or Moz

Manual keyword research involves looking up keywords in a search engine yourself and seeing which webpages surface in the results. The top-ranking posts will indicate what’s performing well—and the type of content your audience may be looking for. Use this opportunity to identify ways to make your content better or more unique. 

I like using Keyword Surfer, a free Chrome extension, to see the search volume of keywords and other popular related keywords. Best coffee grinder SERP.

Keyword research tools help take your research to the next level. You can see the keywords you are and aren’t ranking for—as well as your competitors’ performance. 

In Moz, you can pull up a Venn diagram on words both you and your competitors are ranking for. 

Venn diagram outlining overlapping keywords with a competitor.

Source: Moz

If you’re ranking well for specific keywords, target them in your topic clusters for a quick win. 

If your competitors rank higher for certain keywords, you should also incorporate them in your topic cluster strategy. Building out more related content will help build authority in these areas—and improve your ranking for these keywords. 

Your first priority is identifying a handful of primary keywords related to your core topic ideas. Then, you’ll want to sift through your research for secondary keywords that relate to these broad, primary keywords. Typically, these are long-tail keywords

Take a look at Headspace. Broad keywords such as “meditation,” “sleep,” “stress,” and “mindfulness” are perfect topics for their pillar pages. They then use related, more specific keywords to guide the creation of their cluster pages.

Headspace blog pillar pages

Source: Headspace

Step 3: Prep and produce content 

A few themes should have emerged when you categorized your target keywords. Grab one primary keyword, a list of secondary or related keywords, and let’s create your first topic cluster. 

First, produce a content outline for your pillar page. You’ll want to include the primary keyword in your headings and subheadings. Plus, all the secondary and related keywords you’ll be writing cluster pages for. Consider it a blueprint for this core topic. When you’re done, ask yourself this question: Is this pillar page highly linkable? Will I be able to link back to it? Will others want to link to it?  

Next, you’ll want to create an outline for your cluster pages. For each cluster page, you should target a keyword related to your pillar page. Again, seed these keywords in the headings and subheadings. You’ll also want to consider opportunities to link back to the pillar page. 

Let’s consider Hubspot, a CRM platform that helps users with inbound marketing, sales, and customer service. You can see that their blog is broken down into four pillar pages. Within the pillar page, you’ll find related content. If one reader is looking for sales information, they don’t need to dig through one disorganized blog. Instead, they can jump straight into the sales blog and find a slew of valuable content. 

Hubspot blog pillar pages

Source: Hubspot

Since you’ve already done plenty of research on your core topic, developing and producing quality content should come much quicker. Don’t forget to audit your current content library. You may have already created content that relates to your pillar page—and perhaps it’s just a matter of updating it to target certain keywords.  

Step 4: Create and add internal links 

Lastly, you’ll want to add internal links to connect your cluster pages to the pillar page and to one another. 

Internal links are links from one page to another page on your website. Your users and search engines use these links to find other content on your website. 

Diagram of internal linking for topic clusters

Source: SEO-hacker

Here’s why internal links are important: 

  • They drive your readers to other parts of your website
  • They help establish an information hierarchy in your website
  • They help spread link juice around your website
  • They allow web crawlers read your website and content 

Without internal links, users and search engines won’t see all the juicy content you offer on each core topic. 

Plus, if one of your pages is ranking really well, you’ll want to spread that link juice to other parts of your site. In other words, internal links can make or break your rankings in the search results. 

So don’t put all this hard work to waste. Here’s how you can add internal links to your content: 

  • Contextual links: These are pieces of clickable texts located in the body of text on your webpage. A common mistake is hyperlinking “click here.” To optimize your topic cluster strategy, we recommend that your anchor text reflects the keywords that the page is targeting.
  • Navigational links: Navigational links are essential for your pillar page. Whether it’s clickable thumbnails or a table of contents, your pillar page should link out to all your cluster pages. Remember, these links should reflect the keywords that each cluster page targets. 
  • Image links: Did you know that you can also hyperlink images? Yes, you can make images, charts, and infographics clickable. With that said, image links should be intentional. A hyperlinked stock image won’t carry much weight, but an infographic related to another webpage will. Be sure to use a relevant caption and alt text to signify the value to search engines. 

Though you want to add internal links, don’t overstuff your pages with the same link, or Google will flag it as spam. If you point to the same URL multiple times, priority will be given to the first anchor text.

Next Steps: Keep an Eye on Your Best-Performing Pages

The beauty of topic clusters is that there’s always room to grow them. After creating your topic cluster, keep an eye on the pages bringing in the newest users and unique page views. This will help you determine what content you should create next.

As you know, topic cluster pages are one of many SEO tactics. To beef up your strategy even further, speak to one of our SEO specialists. It’s time to take it to the next level!

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Ayesha Renyard photo

Ayesha Renyard

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed