Since the beginning of search engine optimization, keywords have ruled when it comes to ranking on search engines. But changes to Google's algorithims and users' search terms has taken keywords out of style, with topic clusters replacing them.
As trends continue to move towards mobile, search engines have changed to accommodate search terms we now use. People no longer type “system integrator Georgia” or “automation supplier in Atlanta” into Google. Instead people are posing queastions to search engines, such as “find a system integrator near me” or “where can I buy automation equipment near me?”. We can probably blame Siri for this change in how we search.
As we search differently, search engines have evolved to become smart enough to understand the context of our searches. Back in 2015, Google launched RankBrain--a machine learning algorithm that associates past searches with similar topics and phrases to find the best search results.
With this new addition to Google's algorithim, marketers who used to preach the value of keywords are now teaching topic clusters. SEO optimization used to focus on picking the right keyword. You would target a keyword that aligns with your company's solutions and also had a low competition on SERP.
Today, there are now hundreds and thousands of variations of keywords and long-tail keywords. To rank for every variation, you have to consistently produce a ton of content. It's a stressful and competitive playing field.
Enter topic clusters. Instead of picking and choosing keywords, you select a general topic you want your website to be a leading resource on. For instance, if you provide cybersecurity services, make cybersecurity a topic. To boost your SEO, brainstorm subtopics that go with cybersecurity.
Once you have your topic and subtopics selected, create a pillar page around your topic that extensively covers your chosen topic.
From your pillar page, link to all of your sub-topic pages that address one area mentioned on your pillar page. For example, with cybersecurity as your pillar page, you can link to a page on securing SCADA systems against cyber threats.
To complete your cluster, link all subtopic pages to your pillar page. This shows search engines there is a semantic relationship between the content. If one of your subtopic pages performs well on search, pages that are linked to and from that successful page will also be boosted by search engines.
This change towards topic clusters may seem daunting as you're tasked with re-thinking and re-organizing your website, but don't panic. This change is only making our jobs easier. Instead of focusing on picking the right key words, we can center our attention on building technical resource libraries on topics that drive the right visitors to our websites.
Need help planning your content marketing strategy? Read our ebook, Smart Marketing for Engineers: Build your Foundation.