Topic Clusters

Group of freelance writers discussing Topic Clusters

If there’s one thing you can always count on when it comes to digital marketing, it’s that the game is always changing. Search engines update their rules, people’s preferences shift, and competitors always seem to be onto the next big thing.

In other words, what may have worked like gangbusters for your brand only a couple of years ago might not be doing the job anymore. The solution is to adapt and freshen up your approach to digital marketing with some savvy moves of your own.

In 2024, the trend is clear: organized, user-friendly websites filled with helpful content are where it’s at, and mastering the fine art of topic clusters can help keep you relevant. Here’s a closer look at what you need to know to bring your site up to speed with a killer topic cluster strategy of your own.

Understanding Topic Clusters

Also sometimes referred to as content clusters, topic clusters are organized groups of web pages with a centralized theme in common.

Each individual topic cluster has a pillar page that presents a broad introduction to a particular subject. It also includes multiple cluster pages that focus on a variety of related subtopics. For example, a cooking website might feature a pillar page on basic techniques with subtopic pages on subjects like baking, roasting, steaming, and frying.

A classic topic cluster model positions the pillar page as the primary hub on a broad topic by having it link out to each of the related cluster pages. Each cluster page then also links back to the associated pillar page.

Organizing related pages in this way and seamlessly linking them together comes with many potential benefits for a site, including the following:

Easier navigation for visitors

The more organized your site is, the easier it will be for your visitors to find what they’re looking for and explore your content further. Topic clusters turn browsing for information into an intuitive, user-friendly experience, often leading to lower bounce rates and higher engagement.

Stronger search engine optimization (SEO)

Grouping related pages together using the topic cluster approach helps signal to search engines that your pillar pages are worthy authorities on particular topics. It’s also an excellent way to potentially target a wider range of choice keywords.

Better brand authority

Well-organized authority content, high engagement rates, and top SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) rankings can help transform a brand into an industry authority over time. Imagine being the go-to source for information on your niche of choice. Well-strategized topic clusters can help you get there.

Impact of Topic Clusters on SEO Performance

The more you can do to show search engines you’re serious about providing your visitors and potential customers with a top-tier experience, the better it will be for your ongoing SEO strategy. In addition to making your site easier to use overall, topic clusters help boost your rankings by:

Improving your site’s internal linking structure

The internal linking method associated with topic clustering helps Google better understand what your site is really all about, why it’s important, and how your various pages are connected.

Effectively expanding the scope of your site

Search engines tend to favor sites with a consistent, organized structure and navigation system. A cluster-based system helps present information using a system search engines understand.

Potentially winning the trust of users, peers, and search engines

Google and the rest of the search engines are in the business of providing users with the best, most relevant possible solutions to their queries. Sites that are organized, user-friendly, helpful, and informative are more likely to provide those solutions and achieve top SERP rankings as a result.

Showing that your site digs deep into topics that are important to users

Pillar pages and related cluster pages allow you to organize vast amounts of information using a cohesive system that intuitively makes sense to your visitors. This makes it easy to efficiently deep-dive into the subjects your readers care about most on a level your competition may not be doing.

Helping Google better understand the hierarchy of your website

The better Google understands how your website is set up and how the content contained within it interconnects, the easier it will be to rank it. Clustering also provides a framework that lends itself well to establishing serious authority in a given niche.

Supporting your keyword strategy

Smart, natural keyword usage is already a huge part of climbing the SERPs. Adding topic clusters to your strategy can help you further focus your efforts and better plan future content, especially on a long-term basis.

Structuring Topic Clusters

Topic Clusters

Without a cohesive internal linking structure in place, it’s hard for a website to avoid becoming overwhelmingly complex as it grows. Over time, as the number of total pages increases, the overall structure of a site tends to get increasingly complicated.

Naturally, this complexity can make it tough for visitors to find the valuable content they’re looking for and equally challenging for search engine bots to figure out how your pages are connected.

As a result, Google may have trouble understanding which of your pages are the definitive authorities on the topics you cover. Instead of working together cohesively to earn you better rankings, your related pages might end up competing with each other, not just for search engine rankings but also for your visitors’ attention.

Topic clusters address all of these problems with a consistent, easy-to-follow structure that makes sense even at a glance, to human readers and search engines alike. Here’s a quick look at how they work:

Pillar page

Think of a topic cluster as a wheel with a fixed center and multiple spokes branching out from that center to support it. The cluster’s pillar page constitutes the center, providing a broad overview of a single key topic or subject.

Good pillar pages are general but fairly comprehensive, providing visitors with a solid introduction to the topic at hand and a good idea of where to go next for more answers.

Cluster pages

Your cluster pages form the spokes of your cluster wheel, supporting the main topic and providing visitors with additional, more targeted information on a variety of subtopics (one per cluster page).

Effective cluster pages cover their designated subtopics in detail, ideally answering common questions readers have and delivering useful, on-topic information.

Internal linking

The internal link structure of a topic cluster is the glue that holds the whole thing together and makes it functional. Pillar pages contain organized links to each related cluster page, and each cluster page links back to the pillar page in turn.

From your visitors to search engines, this setup helps everyone understand how your content is related and structured, which makes navigation a breeze.

Initiating Topic Cluster Strategy

Ready to start leveraging topic clusters to drive quality organic traffic and engage your target audience more effectively? Let’s break down the steps to create a cluster strategy that works:

Choose your main cluster topic

Every effective content cluster begins with a central theme. This is your foundation. Consider the following to settle on something that will really resonate with your target audience:

  • Content you already have versus any gaps that need to be filled
  • Content topics that have already worked well for you in the past
  • Subjects your audience cares deeply about or actively asks about
  • Topics your competitors are already covering that should also be part of your strategy

Be sure to select something expansive enough to yield multiple strong subtopics for fleshing out your cluster. It should be something that genuinely interests your audience and serves the needs of visitors.

Research compatible keywords

Remember, well-orchestrated content clusters and well-chosen keywords go hand in hand, so starting a new cluster should always include a fresh round of keyword research. How might a potential visitor query Google to find content like yours?

A solid keyword research tool like SEMRush Keyword Manager, KWFinder, or Google Keyword Planner can help you brainstorm lush groups of topics, subtopics, and target phrases using simple seed keywords as a starting point.

Organize your keywords throughout your cluster

Consider which core keywords are the best fit for your pillar page by reflecting on the search opportunity attached to each option. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  • The search intent behind each keyword (in other words, the user’s true reason for entering a particular query)
  • The competition for ranking on each keyword
  • The search volume for each keyword

Next, go back to your list of possibilities and select options for each of your cluster/subtopic pages. Ensure that each of your chosen subtopics realistically relates to your pillar topic, and evaluate the possibilities for search opportunity.

Knock your content out of the park

Once you’ve mapped out the skeleton of your topic cluster, it’s time to start filling it with next-level content your audience will love. Start with your pillar page, then expand on your cluster pages, taking care to include opportunities to link back to your pillar.

The fundamentals of robust content that both human readers and Google will love include:

  • Readable formatting that includes headings, bulleted lists, images, etc.
  • Dynamic, engaging language that fits your brand voice
  • Strategically used keywords in prime places like the first paragraph and headings
  • Clear, concise wording and phrasing that’s easy to digest
  • Well-incorporated internal links that make the content more useful
  • Something extra readers won’t be able to find on competing pages

Tools and Strategies for Topic Research

Effective topic clusters that deliver don’t simply happen. They’re the results of careful, thorough research, and the right tools (including keyword research tools) can help take the guesswork out of the process. Here are a few popular options that are well worth exploring:


Buzz Sumo screenshot

You may already be using BuzzSumo in your content creation strategy, but you should know it’s perfect for brainstorming topic clusters as well. Use it to audit your existing content and identify gaps to fill. You can also leverage the Topic Explorer tool to discover potential topics related to a chosen keyword.


SEMRush screenshot

SEMRush is a full-service suite of tools that streamlines many aspects of keyword research, content creation, and organic research, among other necessities. It’s packed with useful features for topic cluster research, including Keyword Magic Tool, Topic Research Tool, Keyword Gap, and Organic Research.


SpyFu screenshot

Keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing and how your site measures up is a crucial part of staying ahead in the rankings game, and SpyFu can be quite helpful for that. Easily find out which keywords the competition is ranking for, analyze how your own strategy compares, and use the findings to brainstorm high-performance clusters.

Google Trends

Google Trends screenshot

This tool from Google itself is fantastic for comparing the search volume attached to different keyword options, especially over time. Use it to study and keep track of the topics that resonate with readers in your niche to better inform your content choices.

While picking topics you are passionate about is important, you definitely don’t want to sleep on what your competitors are up to. At the end of the day, SERP rankings are all about which pages best serve the user behind a particular query, and knowing where you stand is an important part of getting ahead. 

Pay attention to pages that rank ahead of yours for important target keywords, too. What are those pages doing that you’re not? Is there anything missing from comparable competitor pages that your site could do a bang-up job delivering? Use tools like these to stay on top of what competing brands are putting out there and look for ways to improve upon it.

Real-World Examples of Topic Clusters

Curious how topic clusters play out in real life when they’re well crafted? Here are some examples to get you inspired about the possibilities:

Wine Folly

Wine Folly’s expertly crafted Wine 101 hub is a prime example of a topic cluster that delivers. The pillar page covers key basics about wine concisely but informatively before leading the reader to a list of cluster page links that promise even more fascinating information. Examples include overviews of common varietals, wine-tasting tips, and breakdowns of the wine-making process.


HubSpot nails it with their guide on Instagram marketing. To begin with, Instagram marketing is absolutely a key topic of interest to their audience, and HubSpot covers it in detail across their pillar page. They also further support the pillar with multiple spoke topics for interested readers to explore next.


Online courses are red hot right now, and all-in-one marketing brand Podia leverages that to perfection with its comprehensive pillar page on how to build a course. The pillar page is treated as an “everything you need to know” guide with the cluster pages serving as supporting chapters, which works well for the type of content presented.

As you can see, the concept of the content cluster is pretty simple. However, that’s exactly what makes it so effective. It’s easy to adapt to any industry, niche, or business focus. It can be simple and concise or elaborate and detailed. It’s an effective approach to organizing content in appealing, attractive ways that encourage visitors to spend time on your site and dig a little deeper into available topics while they’re at it.

How could you use this approach to spotlight a favorite topic on your site better appeal to your audience?

Crafting High-Quality Content for Topic Clusters

Content is king when it comes to all aspects of increasing the authority and visibility of a website, and this is just as much the case with topic cluster content as with anything else. Here are a few quick and dirty tips for crafting content that’s a terrific fit for a cluster-based content strategy:

Conduct a thorough content audit

Whether you’re reorganizing existing content to fit a cluster-based content strategy or crafting new content to add to an existing cluster system, it’s crucial to know where you already are with your catalog. A content audit can help give you the perspective you need.

Look for existing content that can be refreshed and regrouped into effective new clusters. Address any issues with duplicate, irrelevant, or outdated content you find. Then plan content to fill in any obvious content gaps and make your clusters sing.

Consider key visitor pain points

People turn to search engines looking for answers or solutions. Some people have specific problems they’re hoping to solve, while others are simply on a mission to gather information.

Topic clusters provide rich opportunities to serve these users and show them how your products or services could help provide the solutions they’re looking for. Start by considering key pain points your target audience has and see how they align with your current clusters or be used as the basis for a new one.

Do plenty of market research

Market research is a highly effective way to get another angle on what your audience really wants to see from you. Perform a round of competitor and market research to get a solid read on what matters to your audience.

Consider getting feedback from your existing audience via surveys, social media, or questionnaires, as well. Assess how you can refine what you’ve learned about your readers into rock-solid content that resonates.

Hire experts to help

Crafting a top-notch, informative content that’s ideal for content clusters is a tall order, especially if you need to create a lot of it to meet your goals. It’s probably not the kind of thing you’ll be able to tackle all on your own, so consider assembling a team of professionals to help you with the job.

Think about bringing in specialists like SEO professionals, content strategists, and professional freelance writers. These people have the content creation chops to help your cluster strategy blossom, allowing you to focus on other aspects of running your business.

Measuring Topic Cluster Success

Putting together a clustering strategy you’re sure will work is only half the battle when it comes to achieving success. The rest is about monitoring, measuring, and analyzing the potential returns of your efforts. Keep a close eye on the following key performance indicators (KPIs) to properly assess your results.

Keyword rankings

Perhaps the most important factor to track is your search ranking for your pillar and subtopic pages. Improvements here are likely signs that search engines find your content informative and valuable.

Search traffic

How do the organic search traffic rates look for your cluster-related pages? An uptick in visitors naturally suggests improved search engine visibility.

Conversion rates

If you’re using topic clusters to drive sales or increase interest in products or services you sell, keep a close eye on conversion-related data. Examples include actual sales, of course, but also mailing list sign-ups and similar actions.

Internal click-through rates (CTR)

Watch the CTR attached to your internal links within your different clusters. Those links are there to encourage visitors to migrate from one page to the next and spend more time on your site, and higher CTRs suggest they’re doing their job.

Quality backlinks

High-quality backlinks are the gold standard when it comes to signs your content is resonating with all the right people. They prove that visitors from your industry or niche not only find your content valuable, but like it enough to recommend it to their own audiences.

Audience feedback

Positive user feedback is another valuable sign that you’re knocking your cluster game out of the park and then some. Encourage your audience to provide some by offering appealing incentives or engaging them directly.

Advanced Technical Insights in Topic Clusters

Even an exceptional approach to content clustering can always stand to become even better, especially over time. Here are some insights to help refine your strategy

Think like your visitors

One reason topic clusters are so effective is that searcher behavior is changing and algorithms are evolving to match. The cluster system makes it easier for today’s search engines to understand and accurately recommend websites.

However, consider the fact that people are entering sentence fragments and single words into search engines much less frequently than in the past. These days, they’re using complete sentences and tools like voice search to find answers, too. Looking for ways to state and answer common questions with unique content can help make clusters more effective.

Avoid ranking cannibalization

There’s no hard and fast rule that dictates an ideal number of subtopic pages per cluster. Generally speaking, you want to include enough to cover your subject of choice, but don’t simply assume that more is always more.

More content doesn’t always mean better coverage. If some of your subtopics are too similar to one another, you risk having them cannibalize each other and compete for rankings. Keep an eye out for telltale signs like multiple pages with similar ranking results or pages that inexplicably don’t rank as expected. If you see these, you may need to tweak things to keep your website from competing against itself.

Refresh your content often

Keep your content clusters effective by revisiting them often and refreshing them frequently so they stay as up-to-date and visible as possible. Some good rules of thumb to keep in mind include:

  • Topics that change quickly: Review at least every quarter
  • More stable topics: Check in at least annually, or more often if your field sees rapid changes
  • Evergreen content: Refresh every 18-24 months, even if it doesn’t change much
  • High-traffic pages: Give them an update every 2-3 months

You’ll also want to evaluate your clusters to assess whether it’s time to add new subtopics or even remove existing ones.

How Crowd Content Can Enhance Your Topic Cluster Strategy

Ultimately, topic clusters bring a lot of potential to the table when it comes to establishing your brand as an industry authority and providing a five-star user experience to readers. However, there’s a fine art to getting them just right.

Use clusters to explore fascinating topics in depth that will keep your readers coming back for more. Whip your existing website into shape from an organizational standpoint and ensure continued navigability moving forward as your site grows. Leverage your creativity to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack.

To really polish your strategy and ensure your content hits the mark every time, consider partnering with a premier content creation service like Crowd Content.  Crowd Content is your go-to resource for professionally crafted, search-engine-optimized content on demand that’s fully in line with your brand voice and audience expectations.

Explore Crowd Content today to discover more about how our content experts can help you make your content sparkle and boost your bottom line.

Rick Leach

Article by

Rick Leach, the Vice President of Content Operations at Crowd Content, is a seasoned professional in orchestrating large-scale content initiatives. At the helm of a dynamic team of content managers, QA specialists, and production assistants, he oversees the team’s production of high-quality content for businesses around the globe. Rick's expertise extends beyond operations management to providing strategic insights on scaling and producing outstanding content, making him a respected voice in the content creation industry.

Rick's journey in the content industry is preceded by more than five years as an Advertising Sales Manager at The Tampa Tribune, where he refined his skills in media sales and advertising. And his entrepreneurial spirit is evident in his successful 17-year venture as the proprietor of an e-commerce business.

On a personal front, Rick's life is as fulfilling as his professional endeavors. A proud U.S. Navy veteran, he enjoys a blissful family life, married with four children and a grandchild. Originally from New England but now residing on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Rick is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.

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