If you’re interested in growing your blog audience, using topic clusters can be a great way improve the way readers consume your content. However, creating content that resonates with your ideal reader takes time and skill.
With a ton of tools at your disposal, your can easily write about a wide variety of topics. But what’s the best approach for writing?
You may find yourself struggling with coming up with ideas for topics to cover. And as you think about your ideal reader, you might also find yourself thinking about them in terms of demographics and interests rather than just one interest that they have.
So how do you begin thinking about how to write?
This article includes a video tutorial to teach you how to use topic clusters to make content marketing more successful for you and your business.
What are Topic Clusters?
Topic clusters are a way to group related topics together for content marketing campaigns. This can help you target your audience more effectively and create more engaging content.
If you think of this in the blogging world, you can organize your blog posts into clusters based around a the subject. The best thing about topic clusters is that they allow you to group a wide variety of topics together. This way, your readers don’t have to sift through lots of irrelevant articles. Instead, you can deliver them all in one place.
The three main components of a topic cluster are:
- a piece of pillar content that focuses on one topic
- subtopics or cluster content based on that one topic
- links that connect all this content together
But even if you’re not a blogger, you can still leverage topic clusters. Topic clusters include all types of content such as landing pages, social media posts and the emails you send as part of your email marketing. This article will teach you how to identify the topics that are of most interest to your audience.
Why Are Topic Clusters Important?
One thing that makes topic clusters so valuable is that they give you a more targeted way to reach your audience. This means that you don’t need to create lots of pieces of content on topics that are less relevant to your audience. In fact, you can save a lot of time and effort by focusing on one topic that you know your audience cares about.
It’s also worth mentioning that it’s hard to create content that everyone likes. So if you can find a way to group your articles together based on common themes, you’re more likely to reach a wider audience and create content that people will enjoy.
Are Categories the Same as Topic Clusters?
Categories are a way to group similar content together for your content marketing campaigns. However, topic clusters are a better way to organize your content because they are more specific and focused. Topic clusters are made up of related topics that can be grouped together based on a common theme or topic.
A sidenote here: I’ve seen many people use the terms “category”, “pillar content” “themes” and “core topics” instead of “topic cluster” because it’s easier to understand. As long as you understand the foundation, call it whatever you want.
For example, if you’re a personal trainer: a category, core topic or pillar content could be workout routines but your sub-topic/topic clusters would be more specific such as
- workout routines for weight loss
- workout routines without fitness equipment
- workout routines for new moms
- workout routines to build lean muscle
How to Create Topic Clusters?
Define Your Target Audience and Their Interests
Before you can create topic clusters for your content marketing campaigns, you first need to define your target audience. This will help you determine the topics that are most relevant to them.
The best way to understand who your ideal reader is is to look at the content you already produce. That will give you a good idea of the types of topics you’ve already written about. And it will also give you a sense of the type of content that’s already popular on your site.
In other words, start by looking at what your audience is consuming. Then, try to think of yourself as that person. What would you be interested in reading about? What is your primary motivation when you visit a website?
If you’re new to blogging, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Think of it this way: your ideal reader lands on your website. What questions are they asking?
Identifying Your Audience’s Interests
To create a topic cluster, you first need to identify the interests of your audience. The best way to do this is to look at the content that your audience already creates.
In other words, you can ask yourself:
- What kinds of things do people talk about on social media?
- What are the topics that interest them the most?
- What are the topics that are trending right now?
When you think about your ideal reader, you might also think about demographics and interests. For example, if you were a personal trainer, you might think about the following groups:
- New moms
- Fitness junkies
- Person who works from home and is on a computer all day
- People recovering from a life changing injury
If you’re a personal trainer, you might also think about the different interests of the following groups:
- looking for a quick and easy way to lose weight
- looking for a safe alternative to traditional diets
- looking for a healthy way to build lean muscle without using weights
- looking for a way to exercise after an life-changing injury
- looking for ways to get exercise into your routine
Now think of how you can combine these:
- a new mom looking for a way to exercise may not have a life-changing injury, but may have had a C-section and needs a special routine for exercising
- a fitness junkie who sustained a life-changing injury while at work needs to learn new exercise routines
- a person who works from home and is on the computer all day needs suffers from back pain and is looking for easy ways to get exercise into her daily routine.
When you have identified the topics that your audience cares about, you can then use those topics as the basis for creating your topic clusters.
Creating topic clusters can be quite a challenge. If you’re new to content marketing, it may take some time to get the hang of it. But don’t worry. I’m going to show you a simple process with a variety of examples.
Research Your Main Topic
For this example, let’s say you’re a designer of vegan handbags:
What questions is your target audience asking? a question might be: How do I clean vegan leather?
Can you create additional topics from this main topic? if yes, the additional topics are your topic clusters. For example: product to care for vegan leather
A really simple method of doing this is using a mind-map diagram as shown in the short video below.
For this example, let’s pretend you are a dog trainer.
Step 3: Map Out Your Topic Cluster
Once you have identified your topic cluster on paper, map it out on a document that you can print and keep handy when it comes time to content creation.
Tip: If you’d like to get fancy, go to Canva.com and you can search for “mind maps”. There are a bunch of templates to choose from even on the free plan.
Creating Your Content Based on Topic Clusters
Now that you have your topic clusters mapped out, create your main pillar content. This is the piece of content at the top of the map that covers all aspects of that one topic and will contain links to the topic clusters. The pillar content should be at least 1,500 words. In the individual articles in your topic clusters, they will contain links back to that pillar content.
In a nutshell, Pillar content is a long form piece of content that talks about that one topic and your sub-topics or topic clusters are more specific to a certain part of that topic.
Think of your pillar content as “the ultimate guide to X”
Example: You’re a nutritionist that specializes in the Keto lifestyle. Your pillar content will be a substantial article covering broad information about the Keto method of eating. You could call it “the ultimate guide to the Keto Lifestyle”. Inside your pillar content, you’ll create links to sub-topics/topic clusters/articles that are more specific such as recipes, nutrition, transitioning from x to Keto. You can break down your clusters even more. Your recipes cluster can contain additional sub-clusters such as appetizers, entrees, side dish, desserts etc.
Let’s go back to our vegan handbag scenario:
The Pillar Content is the general concept or idea that the article is trying to convey. For example, when you create an article about vegan handbags, one of your main topics is how to care for vegan leather. You could call it “the complete guide to cleaning vegan leather”.
Sub-topics or topic clusters are the individual aspects of the main topic. For example, there are many different ways to wash a vegan handbag. These are the sub-topics or topic clusters that could be covered in an article.
When creating your blog posts, add links to other articles in the same topic cluster and the piece of pillar content. This creates relevancy and makes it easier for readers to find what you have to say about a particular topic.
Creating topic clusters is an effective way to target your audience and promote your content marketing campaign. If you get confused about interchanging the terms, don’t worry. Just refer to the Topic Cluster tutorial in the video above.
Topic clustering is an effective way to make it easier for your target audience to consume your content. By grouping similar topics together, you can create a more focused content marketing campaign. This will help you connect with your target audience and encourage them to read more and more of your content.
Until next time, stay inspired.