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How to generate topic cluster ideas for site traffic and topical authority

  • Chuks Wesley
  • 13 min read
How to generate topic cluster ideas for site traffic and topical authority


Let's be real: Google is a tough customer to impress.

These days, you can't publish a single page and expect it to rank high for a keyword. Nope.

Now you need to publish quality pages that cover a subject in depth and breadth. This shows Google you're a subject expert

That's where topic clusters come in handy. By creating a group of pages that all dive deep into a topic and link back to a main page, you give Google a clear signal that you're a subject expert in your field.

And when Google begins to notice this, they’ll reward you with higher rankings on the SERP.

But there is a common fear that discourages marketers from using the topic cluster model...

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…The fear of running out of relevant content ideas for your topic clusters.

I mean, sometimes, there isn’t much to say about your industry. Right?

You will often see topic clusters for broad subjects like SEO and content marketing. What if your niche isn’t so broad and interesting enough for topic clusters?

Today, we’ll see how to generate content ideas for your topic clusters. These steps will help you generate content ideas that your audience cares about.

But first, let me explain topic clusters in a simple, yet, informative way for people new to this concept.

What is a Topic Cluster

A topic cluster is a collection of related content centered around a main topic. The main topic is connected to a main page, called the pillar page. The purpose of topic clusters is to provide high-quality content that meets the needs and interests of your audience.

There are two types of pages in a topic cluster: the pillar page and the cluster page. The pillar page is a broad piece of content that serves as the foundation for the cluster pages. It provides comprehensive coverage of the main topic and is structured to make it easy to link to supporting pages within the same topic cluster.

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On the other hand, a cluster page is a hub of related content that offers comprehensive coverage of a specific subtopic. Instead of creating separate pieces of content on related subtopics, a cluster page takes a strategic approach by consolidating relevant information into one place.

What is a Topic Cluster

Topic clusters keep your target customers happy.

Think about it: when you create a topic cluster, you provide your audience with a one-stop-shop content base for the people in the awareness, consideration, and decision stage of their buying journey.

Your cluster page directs them to another relevant cluster page that can help solve their problems. So there is a high chance they’ll leave your site fully satisfied with the content they consume, and insights to solve their problems.

Chima Mmeje is the owner of Zenith Copy and a content strategist who has worked with clients like Wix, Literal Humans, Remitly, Skillshare, and more. She’s been featured on Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and Hackernoon.

She explains that:

“Rather than create a piece of content, topic cluster thinks about the user journey holistically from the top of the funnel when they come in and ask what is or how does this work, to the bottom of the funnel when they’re ready to buy. You are creating content to meet them at every stage of the buyer’s journey.”

This keeps you top of the mind of your audience because they’ve received real problem-solving value from your topic cluster.

Let’s see how topic clusters can increase your site traffic and topical authority

How can topic clusters help increase your site traffic and topical authority?

Here’s how topic clusters can help increase your site traffic, boost topical authority, and bring you more conversions:

Increase the average spent time on your website

Topic clusters increase the average time visitors spend on your website. When a visitor lands on any of your topic cluster pages, you can use CTA to direct them to other relevant pages that dive deeper into the topic. Before you know it, most site visitors are stuck in your cluster web consuming all the content they need to solve their problems.

I remember conducting research for a piece relating to CRMs and chatbots. During my search, I discovered Drift had a topic cluster on chatbots. What bliss. I spent hours, on their site, consuming every cluster of content just to get up to speed on the topic.

So topic clusters do indeed influence the average tie your customers spend consuming your content.

Help you target less competitive keywords and phrases

Targeting long-tail keywords within topic clusters allows you to focus on more specific and less competitive search terms.

This can help improve your search engine rankings, making it more likely that your website will appear in front of people who are actively searching for information on that specific topic.

By providing relevant and high-quality content that meets the needs of your audience, you can establish yourself as a trusted source of information in your industry or niche.

Boost Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T)

Topic clusters boost Google’s quality rater, E-A-T, which is now updated to E-E-A-T.

How do topic clusters increase your experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness?

First, Google rolls up minor and major updates in an attempt to knock down spammy sites with no valuable showing on the SERP.

But these updates aren’t correct.

Here’s what I mean, Google discovers any site through crawl bots. These crawl bots, at best, discover the purpose of a page and sends signals to Google if the content achieves the primary purpose of the page.

So when Google crawls and indexes your topic clusters, it notices a common recurrence of a topic, key phrases, and keywords. This makes Google believe your website marks the E-E-A-T check.

For example: Terakeet, a marketing agency, created a topic cluster on the subject of “content strategy.” With a pillar page and a series of cluster pages, they got rewarded by ranking on Google’s front page for the key phrase “how to create a content strategy.”

It is important to note that this is a very high difficulty topic, many big brands are willing to rumble for the first SERP page. Yet, Terakeet with an average domain authority (49) came top.

Internal linking is an essential aspect of SEO because it establishes the relationships between the pages on your website. When you have a topic cluster, internal linking becomes easier because all the pages are related and connected to the central pillar page. This connection helps Google to understand the hierarchy and structure of your website. By linking all the pages within a topic cluster, you are indicating to Google that these pages are related and are part of a larger content strategy.

When Google understands the relationships between the pages on your website, it can improve your website's overall search engine ranking. This is because internal linking helps to distribute the authority and relevance of the main page, also known as the pillar page, to the cluster pages. As a result, all the pages within the cluster are strengthened in terms of search engine optimization, and your website is more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Generating content ideas for your topic clusters

Follow these five steps to develop a powerful and effective system for generating topic cluster ideas.

Each of these steps builds upon the other to create a comprehensive and nuanced approach to content marketing that leverages topic clusters to their fullest potential.

By following these steps, you won’t only have a handful of content topics for your clusters, but you will also create content ideas that matter the most to your customers.

So, let's dive in and explore each of these steps in detail.

  • Step one: Identify your audience
  • Step two: Select a main topic
  • Step three: conduct keyword research for your topic
  • Step four: Analyze search intent for each keyword/keyphrase
  • Step five: group keywords into your customer journey phase

Step One: Identify Your Audience

If your customers don’t care about the content in your topic clusters, then it is useless. Why rank for Irrelevant topics your target audience won’t consume? You’ll end up attracting the wrong people to your website.

Your customers' needs are the core of every content marketing strategy, including topic clusters.

So before you spend hours creating content, spend enough time understanding the people you’re creating the content for.

To identify your audience, you need to carry out customer research.

Customer research strikes out guesses and gut feelings from the board. It is an effective process that can help you select subjects that matter the most to customers.

How do you perform customer research?

You can ideally do customer research by talking to customers.

Spend time chatting with customers. I’m not talking about conducting customer interviews alone, that’s helpful but you should constantly chat with them, and maintain a friendly relationship.

A chat feels more friendly and less official. People will readily expose their experience with your product, company, or competitors in a friendly chat.

Second, make contact with your sales and customer success team members to submit reports, questionnaires, and recorded calls that have insights into your customer's needs and objections. Your customer success team maintains the most interaction with your customers, hence, they know the common problems, interests, features, and resources your customers are howling for.

Third, hop on review sites and user-generated channels like Quora and Reddit to spot what your audience is talking about, and the posts getting the most engagement.

From this research, you’ll have clarity on what your topic cluster should be like and what it shouldn’t.

Step two: Select a main topic

The next step is to identify your main topic. This is the central theme that your content will revolve around.

You need to choose a topic that is relevant to your target audience and aligns with your business goals. The key is to choose a topic that has enough depth and breadth to support a cluster of related content.

For example, if you run a travel blog, your main topic might be "adventure travel” or “travel gears.”

These topics are broad enough to allow for a variety of subtopics and related keywords, such as "best adventure travel destinations," "adventure travel gear," and "adventure travel experiences."

To identify your main topic, start by reviewing the data and insights discovered from the customer research step to know what they are interested in. Look at your existing content and determine what themes are already present. You can also use tools like Google Trends, Buzzsumo, and SEMrush to see what topics are trending in your industry.

Have a brainstorming session with your team members. Allow them to throw a list of topics on the table, then go through each topic with thorough scrutiny.

Your selected main topic should be:

  • Relevant to your customers.
  • Connected to your business goals.
  • And broad enough for cluster content.

Once you’ve identified your main topic, it's time to move on to the next step.

Step Three: Conduct Keyword Research for Your Topic

In the world of topic clusters, conducting keyword research is crucial to ensure that your content is relevant and valuable to your audience. Once you have identified your main topic, the next step is to dive into the nitty-gritty of keyword research.

This step involves using various keyword research tools to identify specific keywords and keyphrases your target audience is searching for.

One of the most popular keyword research tools is Google Keyword Planner, which provides insights into the search volume, competition, and cost-per-click (CPC) of different keywords.

Ranktracker also has easy-to-use and effective keyword finder tools for compiling a list of related keywords for your main topic. They are also great for doing keyword analysis and competitor research.

By conducting keyword research, you can identify the specific topics and subtopics that your target audience is searching for, and tailor your content to meet their needs.

For example, if your main topic is "adventure travel," Rankertracker keyword finder will reveal keywords like: “family adventure travel” “adventure travel company” “travel adventure quotes” and the like.

Keyword finder

The research doesn’t stop here, you need more keywords. Check Answerthepublic or Alsoasked for hundreds of topic ideas and long-tail keyphrases on your main topic.

Another way to discover subtopics for your topic cluster is to observe the table of content on your main topic in Wikipedia.

Another way to discover subtopics for your topic cluster is to observe the table of content on your main topic in Wikipedia

The subtopics for “adventure travel” here include extreme travel, accessible tourism, jungle tourism, overland travel, and scuba diving.

Your keyword research should be an ongoing process, as search trends and user behavior are constantly evolving. By regularly conducting keyword research and updating your content to reflect the latest search trends, you can stay ahead of the curve and maintain your position as a thought leader in your industry.

Step Four: Analyze search Intent for each keyword/keyphrase

Simply identifying your target keywords and subtopics is only half the battle. To truly create effective content, you need to get inside the heads of your audience and understand the reason behind their searches.

Let me give you an example of our "adventure travel” topic here. At first glance, this seems like a straightforward topic with plenty of subtopics to explore. But by analyzing search intent, you can start to uncover the nuances of what your audience is looking for.

Perhaps you find that a significant portion of your audience is searching for "adventure travel destinations." This suggests that people are looking for specific locations to visit, which opens up a whole new set of subtopics to explore - everything from the best hiking trails in Patagonia to the top surfing spots in Bali.

Another search intent could be the different types of adventure travel. We already discovered the subtopics from Wikipedia during keyword research.

On another hand, you may discover that a lot of people are searching for "adventure travel tips." In this case, you might want to create content focusing on practical advice for planning and executing an adventure travel trip - topics like packing lists, budgeting tips, and safety considerations.

You might see a few more content ideas for travel tips by pasting the keyphrase on Answerthepublic, and Ranktracker keyword tools.

By analyzing search intent, you can also start to uncover the user's stage in the buyer's journey.

For example, someone searching for "best adventure travel backpacks" is likely in the consideration phase, whereas someone searching for "book an adventure travel tour" is likely in the decision phase.

Understanding this distinction can help you tailor your content to meet the user's needs and guide them further down the funnel.

Step Five: Group Keywords Into Your Customer Journey Phase

The last step is to match your content topics according to the customer journey phase.

This means understanding where your audience is in their buying process and tailoring your content to their specific needs and interests.

For example, let's say you're using a SaaS landing page to promote your business. In this case, your audience might be at different stages of the customer journey, from awareness to consideration and decision-making.

  • In the awareness stage, your audience is likely to use general keywords such as "what is a landing page" or "landing page for freelance writers" to learn more about landing page design and optimization suitable for freelancers.

Your content at this stage should aim to educate your audience on how your landing page can help them achieve their goals.

  • In the consideration stage, your audience may be searching for more specific keywords such as "drag and drop landing page builder" or "mobile-responsive landing page templates" to evaluate different landing page builder options available.

Here, your content should showcase the unique features and benefits of your landing page builder and compare it with other options in the market.

  • Finally, in the decision-making stage, your audience may be looking for keywords related to pricing, reviews, or customer support, such as "landing page builder pricing" or "landing page builder customer service."

Your content at this stage should focus on addressing any remaining questions your audience might have and persuading them to make a purchase.

By grouping your keywords according to the customer journey phase, you can create a more effective topic cluster that addresses your audience's needs and interests at every stage of the buying process. This can lead to increased engagement, conversions, and ultimately, business growth.

Types of content you can add to a topic cluster

One of the most common mistakes marketers make when building a topic cluster is to rely on a single content format–often blog posts. To create a successful topic cluster, you need to have a variety of content types that appeal to your audience's preferences and needs. Here are some types of content you can add to your topic cluster:

**Pillar Pages: **These comprehensive guides cover all aspects of a particular topic and serve as the main hub of your topic cluster. They provide an overview of the topic and links to the supporting content. Pillar pages are typically longer and more detailed than other pieces of content in your cluster.

Blog Posts: These shorter and more focused pieces dive deeper into specific subtopics related to your main topic. They still provide valuable information and insights and can help you target long-tail keywords and attract more specific search traffic.

Infographics: These visually appealing pieces present information and data related to your topic in a more engaging and shareable way. They can be used to break up long blocks of text and summarize key points or statistics from your pillar pages or blog posts.

Videos: These highly engaging and shareable pieces provide a more personal touch to your topic cluster. They can demonstrate how-to's, provide expert interviews or insights, or showcase real-life examples related to your topic. Videos can be embedded in your pillar pages and blog posts, or shared on social media.

Podcasts: Podcasts can be used to create audio content that can be consumed on the go. They can be used to interview experts, provide insights, or share real-life stories related to your topic. Podcasts can also help you build a loyal following of listeners who are interested in your topic.

E-books: These longer and more in-depth pieces can provide even more value to your audience. They can be used to provide a comprehensive guide on a particular topic or dive deeper into specific subtopics. E-books can also be lead magnets to attract email subscribers and build your audience.

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By incorporating these different types of content into your topic cluster, you can provide a variety of content formats for your audience to consume.

Wrapping up

Topic clusters can give your website a competitive edge by helping you rank higher than larger domain sites with many backlinks on the search engine results page (SERP). By becoming a subject expert and creating high-quality topic clusters, you can gain Google's recognition and reap the rewards.

But it's not just about SEO benefits.

Topic clusters can also greatly benefit your target audience by providing them with valuable information that moves them through the different stages of the marketing cycle.

To create an effective topic cluster, follow these five simple steps:

  • Identify your audience: Knowing your target audience is essential for creating content that resonates with them and provides value.
  • Select a main topic: Choose a broad topic that your audience is interested in and that aligns with your business goals.
  • Conduct keyword research for your topic: Use keyword research tools to find relevant keywords and phrases related to your main topic.
  • Analyze search intent for each keyword/keyphrase: Determine the intent behind each keyword and create subtopics that address each intent.
  • Group keywords into your customer journey phase: Organize your subtopics into different stages of the marketing cycle, from awareness to decision-making.

Don't miss out on the benefits of topic clusters for both your website and your audience. Start creating your topic clusters using these five steps today!

Chuks Wesley

Chuks Wesley

B2B Saas Content Writer

Chuks Wesley is a B2B Saas content writer fascinated with using SEO & storytelling to pull email signups, demo requests, and new purchases for marketing brands.

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