SEO best practices change all the time. But for years, marketers have optimized pages in the same way:
Then, you would promote your page and cross your fingers that Google would crawl your content soon. Sometimes your content would rank. Sometimes it wouldn’t.
Now I’m here to tell you: Forget everything you’ve ever learned about on-page SEO. Because Google is getting smarter than all of us. No seriously. Forget it. This is no longer the best way to write content for your website.
The good news? As Google continues to make changes, there are more opportunities for you to rank for related search queries without having to create a page simply to capture a keyword.
The bad news? Your 2013 keyword-rich post will not rank well if the content isn’t helpful, insightful, or the smaller piece of a larger puzzle.
Now, if you’re a small- or medium-sized business, you may not have the budget to deal out to an expensive SEO consultant. With that in mind, we’ve put together the practical marketer’s guide to the future of SEO: topic clusters.
A topic cluster is the strategic organization of your website into a group of related content so that a visitor can easily navigate among related topics to have their search query fully answered.
To give you an idea of what this looks like, here is a graphic from HubSpot’s Matt Barby:
Okay, that all sounds well and good. But why does this matter?
We sometimes forget that Google has a job to do. Google’s primary purpose is to serve visitors answers to their questions. Whether it’s a picture of a unicorn, or a recipe for homemade lasagna, Google’s job is to populate the best answer to a search query within 1-4 search results.
Recent updates to Google’s algorithm show that Google is now able to populate search results based on context rather than content.
For example, your post may rank for “how to choose the best dog breed” even if the keyword “choose the best dog breed” doesn’t appear anywhere in your post. Why? Because people searching for similar search terms may have found the answer they were looking for in your post.
But more importantly, someone that is searching for dog health tips probably doesn’t care about cat health tips. (Sorry to all the cat lovers out there…) So again, we come back to thinking critically about what our visitors want.
You can better establish your authority on a subject by only linking to content that is related to your topic. However, it's important to recognize that this does include linking to high-quality, relevant third-party content address this topic, as well.
In a perfect world, the organization of your website would look something like this:
Right now, your content is likely floating around, linked to everything with a keyword, and not tied to any pillar piece. Don’t panic. Here’s how you can start organizing your website into clusters in stages:
The ultimate goal of topic clusters is for you to become the authority on a particular topic. A visitor should be able to learn all there is to know about your topic simply by engaging with your pillar content and the hyperlinked cluster pieces.
We get it – not everyone has the time, energy or resources to tackle an enormous content restructuring project. Here’s what you can do instead:
Wrangling the beast that is search engine optimization may take some time, but given the competitive nature of the online marketing landscape across all industries, it's well worth the effort. Above all else, keep the needs and user preferences of your customers and prospective buyers front and center when optimizing your website.
Need help with completing a website project or developing an SEO-inspired content strategy? Contact our team! We're happy to lend a hand.
Kate Moore is a Content Strategist by day, HubSpot expert by night. When she’s not getting distracted by her many fans (ahem – work emails and phone calls), she’s hunkered down, plugged into Spotify and writing about stuff that will make your work with HubSpot smooth and simple.