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Jul 26, 2020 | Uncategorized

Earlier this year, a handful of my extremely bright and capable colleagues compiled a report on topic clusters. Now first, what the heck is a topic cluster?

A topic cluster is a method that uses a single “pillar page” as the main hub of content for a given topic. All of your content assets related to that topic link back to the pillar page — and the pillar links out to each asset.

Here’s why it’s critical to your content strategy.

Topic clusters aren’t just a nice, clean way of organizing content that brings glee to the most Type A of marketers (me, for instance). It also keeps Google happy. As it turns out, the search engine giant has changed its algorithm to favor topic-based content, making pillar pages a requirement for content marketers who want to maintain a high SERP ranking.

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Here’s a handy video explaining how topic clusters work:

Now, let’s dive into what these pillar pages mean for your business.

What is a pillar page?

My colleague, Sophia Bernazzani, does an excellent job of summarizing pillar pages (and comparing them to HubSpot Marketing Blog’s own previous method of topic organization) in her post on the subject here. As the previous paragraphs suggest, she says:

“A pillar page is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page. Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth.”

What’s more, however, is that the idea of a pillar page is to cover broad content in a way that is highly linkable itself — that is, external sites would link to it as a canonical resource for the topic. So, to put it into visual terms, here’s what our blog architecture used to look like using this old playbook:

Disorganized website structure before HubSpot used pillar pages to create topic clusters

This is where the topic cluster model comes into play. Using topics you want to rank for, you can organize the mess of content above by optimizing it for specific keywords related to its respective topic. Then, hyperlink all of those topics back to a pillar page.

Think of this pillar page as a topic’s mother ship, and your blog posts are all smaller soldier ships that give and receive support from this mother ship. This organization offers greater search engine authority because it tells Google you’ve dedicated a certain amount of digital real estate to this topic, and are to be considered a reliable answer to users’ questions on that topic when they conduct a search.

Now, as we’ve established multiple topic clusters, here’s what our blog infrastructure now looks like:

Content structure using the topic cluster model by HubSpot

See how the site architecture is more deliberate in this model? The visual above shows how it organizes content assets together to help searchers more easily find information within your domain.

It has three main components:

  1. Pillar content (your pillar page)
  2. Cluster content
  3. Hyperlinks

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