Today we’re talking about the latest evolution in SEO…content clustering.
If you’re just joining us for this Technical SEO series, here’s what we’ve been talking about so far…
In week 1 we gave an overview of the 3 most important technical fixes we do for clients.
In Week 2 we talked about the weird but real SEO phenomenon where the same keyword can give different results on different devices.
In Week 3 we talked about Semantic Search, aka the way that Google interprets your intent when searching.
And that brings us the 4th and final post in this series: content clustering (AKA content silos). We’re talking all about the evolution of search so far, and diving deep into a new technique that involves organizing your website into related sections so that the user (and Google) has an easier time of understanding what your site is all about.
If you’re wondering if this is a big deal…it is.
And the best part of this?
It doesn’t involve writing anything new.
Yep, that’s right. This technique involves repurposing all of your blog posts currently on your site (and of course adding to the content silos as you continue your regular blog posting). But unlike other SEO techniques with might involve creating something new, all that you’re doing in this is connecting your current related posts together.
Here’s how this evolution of website organization came to be:
The Old Way: Content categories.
In the “old days” (or for many people, currently), vast amounts of content on websites are organized with categories. Consider food bloggers. They have a huge wealth of content, and to make searching easier organize content by categories. For example, a soup recipe might be categorized under multiple categories such as, “holiday”, “soup”, “winter”, and “vegetarian”. A food blogger could easily have 40 categories, but the new recommendation is to have no more than 8-12 categories. So we need a new way to organize content.
This model is a “top down” model. Here’s what it looks like.
The New Way: Content Clustering
This involves organizing content in a hub and spoke model, creating a focus on a certain topic, rather than an individual keyword. Because targeting individual keywords get tedious, fast, especially if you’re trying to target all the many variations of your desired keyword.
Here’s what this model looks like:
So…what is content clustering?
It’s a way of organizing content on your site that helps the user (and Google) understand what your site is all about.
In other terms…
Content clustering is a way of putting related content together into a single page full of internal links (that’s a link to your own site, from your site, rather than linking to someone else’s site).
Content clustering is an SEO strategy that focuses on topics, instead of keywords. (Thanks for the definition, HubSpot!)
Think of it this way: when you have all of your content clustered together, you’re creating a ‘megapage’ in a sense, and showing that you have an authority on a certain topic. Because if you see that someone has 20 articles all about make-up, you’d reasonably assume that they know a lot about it, right? And Google does the same thing. That one page then, over time, will increase in rankings as an authority page. And like a rising tide that lifts all boats, all these related pages that link to each other will get a boost when the main authority page gets a boost.
However, if you have 20 individual pages about how to apply make-up, those pages are essentially competing with each other for rankings, because they’re all about related, but slightly different keywords. And why would you want to compete with yourself? Enter content clustering to boost your rankings, instead of competing with your own rankings.
This technique builds off of other new(ish) techniques like semantic search, which is what search has evolved into over the years. People now search for complete, complex sentences, rather than fragments. For example, we used to search terms like “best mexican Austin”, and we now type in “What’s the best Mexican restaurant in East Austin?”. It’s much complex, and Google has evolved the results algorithm to keep up. The key part here is that Google will interpret your intent behind this search, and deliver results accordingly. And ultimately, this evolution helps Google deliver great results to searchers and relevant traffic to your site.
Google continues to evolve to consider user intent, and that’s a big jump from what search engine optimization used to be a few years ago. Google used to be much more literal, and give you only and exactly what you asked for (much like Amelia Bedelia, remember her?), but now can infer related topics that you are likely also searching for, even if you didn’t type it in exactly.
Now let’s dive into some examples.
Last week we talked about the movie Black Panther and possible Google confusion when searching for it.
In the Spring of 2018, most people are likely searching for the movie, not the animal or the political group from the 1960s. And content clustering is a great way to show Google which Black Panther you’re writing about.
Let’s say you’re a movie review blogger. To cluster your content, you might have a page dedicated to Marvel movies, including Black Panther. By making a clustered page, you’re giving Google cues that you’re writing about the movie (not the animal).
Black panther Clustered into landing page about movies helps Google know that the website is talking about the movie not the animal or political group from the 60s.
Jeff Goins has a resource page that’s almost content clustering, but not quite. You can see that he’s broken his page down into sections, and that it’s a thorough page. It would be a perfect example of content clustering if each of these sections were its own landing page, instead of all being together. Because people are searching for terms like “email marketing resources” not simply “resources”. And his page would have a lot more SEO power if he broke it down.
You can see that we don’t have a lot of great examples to show you…that’s because few people are doing this! It’s a new way of approaching content organization, but it’s powerful. And because so few people are doing it, it means that when you do it it’ll carry even more weight. Lucky you!
How to Cluster Content
Use clustering and internal linking and being smart about how you write.
- Make a list of broad topics, (bigger than keywords) that you want to be known for
- These big topics are the big clusters (aka pillars)
- Make a list of the related subtopics
- The items on this list are what will populate the content on your big cluster page
- Have a landing page for all of your major topics.
- Include a blurb at the top of the page (to give Google something to read)
- Link to pages within your site related to your topic, using images and one sentence description if necessary.
- Limit Categories (and build a landing page instead)
Rinse and repeat as you continue to write new content and new topics for your site.
We’d love to know your thoughts! Does this seem manageable? What questions do you have? Google is constantly evolving, but we’re here to help you stay on top of your SEO so that you can be the top in your field.
We’re cheering you on, friends!!
Meg and the Clapping Dog Media team