As search engines become more sophisticated in serving up results — called SERPs (search engine results pages) — they are looking beyond keywords and rewarding websites that use topic clusters. These are pillar topics with a clusters of subtopics relating to the core topics.
In crawling your site Google and other engines will view you as an authority if they detect these clusters. That’s assuming, of course, that the content is original, well written and adds value for your readers.
How Clusters Work
HubSpot gives a simple description and visualization in this video:
Keywords Still Matter, But…
Keywords still matter, but in context. Several years ago I wrote a guest post describing semantic search in which I explained, “In simple terms, semantic search uses machine intelligence to determine the intended meaning of words so searches become more relevant. Google and the other major search engines are aiming to be more precise in delivering content that people really want.
“As search has become essential to our lives, we have become better in defining our search terms. Instead of searching for the generic “French restaurants,” we might type in “Looking for French nouveau cuisine on the west side of Manhattan.”
Blog and website owners must become acutely aware of the importance of phrasing and not just keywords. In developing topic clusters it’s more important to write in the conversational language of your readers than to stuff your content with keywords.
What Do Your Customers Want?
What do your customers want and what are the words and phrases they use in looking for the information they need? Will they type in “athletic socks” or are they more likely to ask, “where do I find socks that cushion my heel but aren’t too thick for my sneakers?” I’ve worn heavy socks that made my toes pinch when I jammed my feet into my shoes.
Sometimes the words our customers use aren’t the keywords and phrases we include in our content and ads. The biggest companies use research and focus groups to find out what those words are. But even small companies can learn by doing a little digging.
Consider picking up the phone and have a conversation with several trusted customers. Ask them to describe, in their own words, their concerns and problems, and how you can help solve them.
Evaluate your website’s analytics to discover the content that draws the most visitors and then build topic clusters around the most popular posts. We’re in a new world now where keywords are no longer king but pay service to topics and subtopics that Google rewards by increasing traffic to your site.