Search engines have evolved over the years, there is no doubt about that. Once, you had to enter what you wanted in very specific terms. This is because search engines were once focused solely on keywords. There really wasn’t a way for them to understand natural language or determine your intent. Back in the day, your searches might have looked like these:

  • Soccer Cleats Youth
  • Mexican Restaurant Tampa
  • Diesel Motor Repair

Often, you would have to go through different search iterations to find what you were looking for.

Eventually, you were able to add articles and prepositions to create keyword phrase. For example, you could type ‘Soccer Cleats for youth’ or ‘Mexican Restaurant in Tampa.’

Now, you simply use natural language to request information and ask questions.

  • Where to buy soccer cleats for youth?
  • What is the newest Mexican restaurant in Tampa
  • Best diesel motor repair videos

Now, Google and other search engines know what you intend. You get a listing of local stores that sell soccer cleats for kids, not articles on the science behind soccer cleats. You see more videos on repairing diesel motors and less content that simply has diesel motor as a keyword.

Clearly, search engines have done a pretty good job at catching up to customer demand. But what about your website? If you are still focusing only on keywords to draw in visitors, the answer is no. You’ll need to adopt a new way of structuring your content around pillar pages and topic clusters

Introducing Topic Clusters And Pillar Pages

Webster defines pillar as a firm, upright support for a structure.  A pillar page, as you can imagine, is the content page that acts as the comprehensive source for information on a particular topic on your website. Pillar pages should be designed to maximize SEO indexing. These are the pages that will attract inbound links. They will be most discoverable by customers seeking information. These pages are not the place for forms, paywalls, or otherwise gated content.

A topic cluster combines the pillar page mentioned above with pages covering any subtopics relevant to that pillar page. The subtopic pages should be designed to address specific questions or concerns customers may have about the main topic. Pillar pages and subtopics should have a one-to-many relationship.

Creating or Selecting Your Pillar Pages

Setting Your Search Volume Metrics

Every pillar page should be based on a high volume keyword phrase. How high depends on your goals and your overall traffic. Here are some tips for collecting metrics and other information on keywords. The idea is to select topics for your pillar pages that are already drawing search traffic to your site.

Know What You’re Ranking On

Which pages of yours are already ranking at the top of page one, or at the very least landing somewhere on page one. These are the pages that are the best candidates to be designated as pillar pages.

Build off Topics With Heavy SEO Potential

Choosing and building pillar pages should be a part of your overall content marketing strategy. Just like you plan landing pages and other web content to potentialize their reach to the best search engine rankings, you should do the same with pillar page topic selection.

Think of all of the things you take into consideration when writing content now. You consider your customer personas and the needs and interests of each one. You consider trending topics, as well as the keywords for which you want to rank. You also take into consideration how you are currently ranking.

Creating Topic Cluster Structures Through Linking

Topic clusters are formed through linking. Think of links like spokes in a wheel. Your pillar page is the center point, where the axel meets the wheel. Your subtopic pages are the outer rim. Each subtopic should connect with its pillar page using a single link. It is fine for subtopic pages to contain links to external sites. Pillar pages should link out to subtopics.

Attracting More Qualified Traffic

Topic clusters help you to draw more qualified traffic to your website. They allow you to create deep content, that is relevant to your personas. Even better, your pillar and subtopic pages can be structured so that they do not compete with one another for ranking. Instead, by creating topic clusters and linking them correctly, you communicate to Google that your site is a source of information on a specific topic. This structure also allows you to make additions or changes to a particular topic cluster quite easily.

Conclusion

It isn’t that keywords are going away. They aren’t. Even if you embrace topic clusters, keywords still play an important role. However, by using topic clusters, you allow yourself to become a source of useful information to your target audience. This means focusing on developing knowledge bases and establishing thought leadership.

About the author: Amanda Sparks, professional marketer and blogger, head of content department at Essay Supply. She works as a marketer for 7 years and is passionate about developing innovative and customer-friendly solutions for brand growth. Amanda blogs for pleasure and in her free time she writes on her personal website Top Down Writer about the issues in education.