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Seb Atkinson Search Marketing Manager Selesti

Why Keywords Are Out, Content Clusters Are In

Traditional keyword research for SEO is dead. Not only has Google taken steps to make keyword data less readily available for uses outside of Adwords, but the way people search online has changed, and so Google’s algorithm has adapted to reflect this. Marketers therefore need to evolve their strategy to ensure their content can be found online. This is where content clusters come in.

Over the last few years, people have moved away from searching for fragmented keyword queries in Google, towards posing more complex questions written - or spoken - in natural language. In turn, Google has evolved to take these search trends into account to deliver more accurate results, notably in the form of the Hummingbird and RankBrain algorithms, first launched in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

It might sound like a breakfast cereal marketed to copywriters, but a content cluster is actually a topic modelling strategy where you create a cluster of related content around one central pillar page. This results in a more logical way of organising your website’s content, helping Google to understand the relationship between related pages and improving the chance of the algorithm picking the right one for a particular search query.

So, what does this mean for your website? Firstly, you can drop keyword research. Have your target customer in mind, and consider what they may be searching for online that you’d be in a position to answer. A great tool for this is AnswerThePublic.com. Simply type in a broad keyword that would describe your product or the market you’re in. The tool then provides you with who, where, what, why, when style search queries based on Google’s data.

Secondly, think about how you’ll cluster your content to capture these queries. The key is to consider the types of topics you want your business to appear for, rather than individual keywords.

Next, map out a content plan for a particular topic that would be relevant. Plan out a main pillar page, covering that broad topic. Then brainstorm articles covering subtopics or longer-tail searches based on data you’ve found in AnswerThePublic and other research about what your audience are interested in.

As you publish each subtopic piece in the cluster, link back to the pillar page using the same anchor text each time. The result of this is a clear path back to the pillar page, helping to signal which page you want to rank for broader search queries around this topic.

The final thing to consider your authority in this topic. Are you the best person or brand to write about it, and do other people see you as an expert in this area? How can you become like the best if you’re not already? This is where earned media comes in - the best sites have links from other leading sites in your industry, so to be the best, you’ll need links from quality, topically relevant sites to improve your ranking potential.


Seb Atkinson is the Search Marketing Manager at Selesti, a digital agency that specialises in strategies, technologies and campaigns for brands with ambitions.