Content Is King, but We Can’t All Be Royalty. How Topic Clusters Might Lessen the Load

Lucy Railton

1/25/18 2:05 PM

“Content is King” is something marketers have heard for years. Blogs, white papers, case studies, ebooks, podcasts, videos you name it, marketers have been struggling to keep up with the content machine all in an attempt to hopefully one day wear that crown.

But, not many marketers, have the unlimited resources, time, and budgets needed to be crowned king, or queen.

We can’t all be royalty, but there is good news. You don’t need to be.

Recently, Google changed their search algorithm to favor topic-based content. This change has search engine optimization (SEO) experts reinforcing the need for quality over quantity, and championing a topic cluster structure.

Quality over Quantity

Although not a new concept, Quality over Quantity was a key takeaway from the October 2017 Inbound Conference. Companies like HubSpot, have found that reducing their blog frequency while increasing the quality and length of their blogs (2,000+ words) provides better results.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you get to spend less time on content development. Instead, it means spending more time per blog (or other content) but developing less content overall. If you are in a niche industry, quality usually trumps quantity. However, if you are in a very competitive industry you will have to find a balance between quality and quantity to compete.

As SproutContent puts it “Producing quantity gets you visibility; producing quality helps turn those views into leads and customers.

What are Topic Clusters

According to CoSchedule, “a topic cluster is a group of interlinked web pages that are built around a single piece of pillar content that targets a broad topic and that link to several related by more narrowly-focused tops.
Topic clusters are becoming more popular because the way people use search engines has changed. As a result, so has the way search engines interpret the inquiry and choose what pages to show on the search engine results page (SERP).

Years ago, we would search for specific keywords. For example, “red leather boots.” Today our searches are more conversational in nature, and often formed as a question. “Where can I buy red leather boots in Ontario?”, for example.

The change in how we use search engines, combined with search engine technology advancements, and how users interact with content means they way we create content must adapt as well.

No longer should we rely on a blog written to support an exact keyword, or long-tail keyword, instead we need to develop content on topics we want to be known for and to cover that topic deeply.

Once you know what topic you would like to be known for, you start by writing a blog (or another type of content) that has a broad-reaching topic ad that is very comprehensive (long-form 2,000+). This will become your Pillar content. Then you can write other blogs (known as Cluster content) to provide additional single topic depth and reinforce the content covered in the pillar content.

HubSpot does an excellent job of explaining topic clusters and illustrating what they should look like.

HubSpot Topic Cluster Illustration

Keep in mind that the experts agree that this content should be ungated, which means it should be freely available on your website and not locked behind a landing page form.

Keywords and long-tail keywords are still very important. Your topic-based cluster will likely naturally include many relevant keywords. Your primary focus, however, should be on developing wide and deep topic-specific content; not on writing content around a specific keyword.

So is content still king?

Yes, content is still king. But being the content king isn’t all it was once cracked up to be.

You no longer need to have unlimited resources, time, and budgets to improve your search engine ranks. Instead, you will dive deep into topics you know well—topics that interest your target audience. And, you’ll write very long and well-sourced, comprehensive, and helpful blogs (Pillars) that are supported by smaller blogs (Cluster blogs) that expand the topic and reinforce what was written in the Pillar.

You won’t be royalty, but you will be rich with engaged website visitors.

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