What is the Pillar and Cluster Content Model?
Search has changed. We’ve moved from long-tail keywords to questions and phrases. Separately, most of us have crossed over to the future where we orally request our inquiries out to a gadget, confidently awaiting a relevant response.
Technology is changing the way people are searching. This changes the way information is being pulled from its sources which invite us to reorganize the way information is put together on the source.
Also, until recently, content marketers and SEO agencies have used targeted long-tail keywords to create content. However, this current structure forces each one of your newly published posts to compete with your previous entries. Not good.
Whether your clients know yet or not, everyone is reconfiguring their website structure from topic clusters to the pillar-cluster model.
What are pillars?
Pillar pages are resource pages on your site. You’ll want to assist your clients in creating a set of pillars that categorize and house all your data. Without getting into too much detail, each page addresses the fundamentals of a topic for the reader. The pillar page acts as the central hub for a particular subject. The pillar serves as the umbrella, and various topic clusters are created to fall under the pillar.
What are topic clusters?
Each pillar page will have internal links connecting to a cluster of topics.
An example of how this is broken down will look like this:
-Pillar Page: Building A House
-Cluster Topic: Building The Foundation of A Home
-Cluster Topic: Putting Up The Walls Of A House
-Cluster Topic: Attaching The Roof To Your Bungalow
-Cluster Topic: Case Study On How We Built A Beautiful Home
The cluster topics are basically the subtopics related to the page theme. You’ll note that each of these topics has a specific take on the pillar page topic and corresponding keywords to focus on.
This new structure invites you to create content for different keywords and then link them all together. Tadah! If they are linked together, they can’t compete against each other, and they’ll now work together to boost your pillar page’s SEO rank.
Getting Your Clients Onboard
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? No, it doesn’t, and it probably won’t look fun to your clients. But bear with us for a moment, because although it may seem overwhelming and tedious, you’ll want to remind your clients that due to the changes in how people are searching for information, revising their content structure is inevitable. With your help, this change to their infrastructure will bring them monthly growth, better SEO page rankings, and better user experience for their readers.
So, how will this wonderful change come about? Here you go.
Strategize Pillars & Clusters
Depending on how long your client has been blogging and how much content they have to revisit, you’ll need to work through it to separate material by pillars. We usually focus on strategizing 4 to 6 pillars to categorize their content with clients.
For our blog, two pillars there were easy enough to determine were eCommerce SEO and eCommerce Advertising. Each of these pillars was broad enough that they allowed us to create various clusters (subtopics) under them, but not so widespread where they would share content.
Additional pillars included:
-eCommerce WordPress Plugins
Throughout a few months, we write a full description to accompany each pillar page which includes each of the subtopics (cluster topics). We’ll work our way back from top to bottom through the clusters.
Example: We’ll write pillars 1-5, and then we write cluster 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, and so on.
Each pillar page will require a description (about 1,500+ words) of all the clusters that would fall under the pillar. For our eCommerce SEO pillar, that meant writing out paragraphs for topic clusters like On-Page SEO and Keyword Search.
If you’ve done an excellent job of identifying which are the most relevant subjects on your blog as pillars it should be relatively easy to categorize existing posts.
More on Content Gaps
This forced spring cleaning on content will help determine what is relevant, and most importantly, what is missing. Conducting keyword research on each of your cluster topics will help you address gaps in content and provide direction for new material.
Start by determining the highest performing keywords that are related each of your client’s topic clusters. Be sure to flag the keywords that haven’t been used. Voila! You now have a list of new blog posts to write.
If you discover similar keywords across topics and posts, you’ll need to make a change. These posts are working against each other. Determine which of the pages is ranked best and proceed to combine that information on the best performing URL. Then, redirect other posts to it.
Once the structure is set in place, you’ll have to relink all blog posts in each of these topic clusters back to the pillar page so the post won’t boost in ranking, the page will. It’s now a team effort, and each individual post won’t work against another because they are all connected. You can also send some high DA links to each pillar page in order to help push them along.
Note to self: Long-tail keywords still matter but in a different way. The pillar-topic cluster model is the most effective way because it’ll take your blog and keyword research to another level because it allows all of the writing for a page subject weigh in on its ranking.
Because SEO and technology are always changing, progress is slow. The positive effects of these changes and growth in traffic or ranking will come in due time. Incorporating these architectural strategies is a smart way to respond to the changes in search. With technology, no agency or brand may ever be 100% ahead of the game, but with optimizations such as these, you and your clients can surely be aligned with it.