Skip to main content
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Content Clustering for SEO Gains

By September 27, 2019October 18th, 2019No Comments
A cluster of bubbles representing content clustering for SEO purposes

What is content clustering for SEO?

You want Google to recognize your brand as an authority on a subject.  Content clustering is a great way to help.

The basic premise behind content clustering is to build, or rework, your site’s hierarchy/sitemap/information architecture (whatever vernacular you use) to group relevant, bottom-level content around the broader, relevant content topics you’re a subject matter expert in.  In short, you’re creating and organizing “clusters” of content around individual topics.

It’s worth noting that content clustering is doing that in a much more purposeful way than simply relying on categorization of blog posts.

That might look like this:

Original Structure

Graphic showing a website's information architecture before content clustering

Clustered Structure

Graphic showing a website's information architecture after content clustering

By doing this, you capitalize on Google’s machine-learning algorithm to build domain and page authority around the overarching topics by feeding sub-content, through strategic internal linking, back into the broader topic that will help your rankings across the board. It’s a powerful approach to building on the long-tail keywords you already rank for and start making larger gains in the broader, higher-volume keywords encapsulated by those longer search phrases.

While content clustering can bear significant fruit, it’s not quite as simple as moving pages and posts around. We’ll do our best to walk you through some of the ins-and-outs below.

Some pitfalls with Content Clustering to be aware of

Content topics will get unruly, quickly

It’s generally pretty easy to start laying out the high-level content topics you want to build content clusters around, but when you start digging into the sub-topics that will feed that pillar content, trust us, it balloons fast.

Using this SEO-centric article as an example:

Let’s assume this post is a clustered piece of content around SEO as the overarching content silo.  Content clustering is a very small niche within the larger SEO sphere.  In order for us to build an effective content cluster around SEO, we need to hit on scores (if not hundreds) of sub-topics with the goal of building out meaningful content for each piece.

We could quickly list out 20 sub-topics on SEO.  Here are three:  On-Page SEO, Link Building, Keyword Research.  However those are really broad themselves and in a competitive space like “SEO”, we’re not going to get any huge movement from writing a few high-level articles about on-page SEO, link building and keyword research.

Simply looking at “On-Page SEO”, we’d then be looking to cover sub-topics such as Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, Heading Tags, Article Length, Structured Data, and on and on.

The point is, once you’ve committed to a content clustering approach, you’re going to immediately start identifying an insane amount of content gaps – some big and some small.  Filling those gaps will require time & resources and prioritization becomes critical.

You’re going to need to be pragmatic.  Use your keyword research, buyer personas and buyer’s journey to prioritize your content production.

Content clustering is a great way to integrate your content strategy with your SEO strategy, and there will be times that one helps guide the other.  But you obviously need to be pragmatic.

When laying out your content calendars and production schedule, think about what’s going to get the most bang for the buck.  That will require going back to your keyword research and your buyer personas & journey.  You should have a reasonably good idea about traffic volume, ranking difficulty and search intent for different targeted search terms.   Work on picking off the low-hanging fruit on your way to capturing the higher volume, more competitive keyword topics you’re ultimately aiming for with the clustering approach.

Don’t neglect your funnel in the process

Just because you have content gaps doesn’t mean all of your resources should be spent filling them.  The focus should be creating content that appeals to your users at various stages of their buyer’s journey.

Want more info on content clustering?

Here’s a great intro video from our friends at Hubspot:

And here’s a few deeper-dive articles for additional reading:

Suggestions for choosing topic clusters from Medium

An advanced guide on keyword clustering from MOZ

Steve Forcash

Steve Forcash leads a team of digital marketing professionals in The San Francisco Bay Area through 4S Design Studio – a Hubspot Partner & Inbound Content Marketing agency.