To get the most out of this guide; please, take this quote to heart…

Your “life (and business) WON’T change if you only modify the content; Your life (and business) WILL change if you’ll dare to alter the context.” — Santosh Kalwar. 

So my question is: WILL you dare to alter the context of your content strategy in 2019 (and beyond) to increase traffic, leads, and sales?

Good.

To do that, consider using something new: A content topic clusters’ strategy.

Sounds strange? Don’t worry, you’ll learn how to create one today.

Buffer’s Alfred Lua used the very steps I’ll expose and went from 27k to over 40k unique visitors for a single content topic cluster under 5 months:

content topic clusters strategy
Image source.

This new context (coupled with the checklist I’m giving away) can transform your entire traffic, leads, and sales efforts.

As you can see from the screenshot above, it works. 

Rest assured, I’ll cover all the steps to help you work it. Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • Intro: Why Content Topic Clusters are Important
  • What Content Topic Clusters Really Are
  • How Content Topic Clusters Affects Content Strategy
  • Two Simple Steps to Create Content Topic Clusters’ Strategy
  • Conclusion & Bonus (get the free promotion checklist)

Already know how to create a content topic cluster strategy?

Then, download my contextual promotion checklist below to start getting results now.

Intro: Why Content Topic Clusters are Important

Google’s recent 2019 update yearned for more contextual contents, according to Neil Patel’s analysis.

Add that to Web FX’s report, which revealed content marketing gets 3X more leads than PPC, and it’s clear that content marketing (done right) still works. 

If that weren’t the case, 81% of B2B companies wouldn’t be using content as a core marketing tactic. 

Hence, if you’re not getting the results you desire (traffic, leads, and sales), that problem could be your lack of a content topic clusters’ strategy.

Again, there is data to prove my point. 

Demand Gen’s study exposed that 47% of customers viewed 3-5 content pieces before activating the sales process. 

Now pause and think.

If half your prospects need between 3-5 contents before initiating the sales process, what does that mean?

Lemme help you explain the new implications. 

Firstly, it highlights the increasing importance of topical content buckets that comprehensively addresses a topic relevant to your business and the needs of your customers. 

Take note of the last ten words, “relevant to your business and the needs of your customers.” 

That’s vital. Content without context is useless. 

Also, it underscores the need to have a contextual content strategy to cluster a topic with related pieces. 

In short, content clusters are how you can develop, create, and promote contents that add up to not only please the search engines 

…but educate your prospects enough to drive, and stick with them, down the sales pipeline. 

HubSpot’s 2017 research brought topic clusters SEO into the limelight. 

However, since SEO thrives on or dies with content marketing, the need for applying context to create content strategies with topic clusters also became paramount. 

Makes sense?

It should. I’m not talking fiction here.

I used the same steps I’m exposing to rank my agency, DigitalSproutNG, on Google’s 4th spot in just 6 months (just below Clutch and Sortlist).

And that was for our most-profitable and competitive keywords, customer experience agency in Nigeria:”

content clusters

What Content Topic Clusters Really Are

Since content topic clusters are a direct result of topic clusters SEO, let’s start by using the original definition from HubSpot’s research: 

“The topic cluster model, at its very essence, is a way of organizing a site’s content pages using a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture.”

Hence, in a nutshell, content clusters are an arrangement of contents into a thoughtful structure where your target topic is comprehensively covered, both for informational and transactional keywords.

The real magic plays out in the strategy phase, which I’ll thoroughly dissect from chapter three.  

For now, the illustration below outlines the required arrangement of your website to hack content marketing with content topic clusters:

content topic clusters example
I created this using Edraw MindMaster

Below are lessons from the image above. 

Content topic clusters give your site orderliness. You’ll link relevant content together, yielding a more effective bunch. 

When you deploy content topic clusters on your website around informational and transactional queries for a particular topic… 

You’ll skyrocket your chances of delivering prospects the 3-5 content pieces needed in that topic cluster before initiating sales talks.

That’s not all. 

Another significant win is that you’ll more easily interlink these contents under a topic relevant to them (the cluster point).

Doing that creates strong signals to the search engines that your website is rich with content pieces comprehensively covering that topic. 

Why it matters so much?

At the end of the day, Google just wants to show the best answer to a user’s query. 

That’s why it’s RankBrain update in 2015 (the introduction of Semantic Search) went beyond the key queries people Googled to mind-map the intentions behind searches. 

According to Ammon Johns, commenting on the impact of Google’s 2015 algorithm change, in a report by Search Engine Watch, the search engines now:

“Subverts and nullifies the use of keywords. Instead, it is all about ‘key concepts’ – analysis beyond matching the words into understanding the words.”

Ammon Johns.

That update also birthed the concept of topical SEO, where Neil Patel researched over 9.93 million words of content and recommended the creation of a single content piece that covered a topic exhaustively. 

As you can imagine, covering some topics entirely in one content piece would require over 20,000 words in some cases (like the example I’ll use below). 

Well, that also set in another problem, which only a content topic clusters’ strategy can solve. 

How Content Topic Clusters Affects Content Strategy

I’ll explain why, before how.

You see, you can’t cover some topics (especially very profitable ones) in one exhaustive content without boring your readers. 

Bored readers don’t get inspired. Bored readers don’t take action. 

Bored readers increase your bounce rates, which ends up hurting your SEO and your ability to rank that giant, I-have-all-the-information-you-need in this ONE content piece. 

The solution?

Please, roll the carpets: A content topic clusters’ strategy comes to the rescue. 

Again, I have evidence to show. 

Both content and SEO pros are already implementing this content design style. 

Take Brian Dean of Backlinko for example.

He’s so good he could’ve covered the topic of SEO in one breathtaking massive content. 

Instead, he deployed a content topic clusters’ strategy, where he created an SEO Marketing Hub with contents covering different sub-topics under SEO. 

See the image below: 

Brian created different contents clustering under the SEO topic, helping to push his site, Backlinko, to rank for tough keywords like:

And before I forget, this content topic clusters’ strategy has other essential impacts:

  • By its very nature, it builds your internal link profile. Thereby, improving your credibility to the search engine around topics you cover. 
  • Secondly, it keeps users on your site. That’s because by linking to other relevant articles in the topic cluster, a reader can easily navigate to the most relevant one without scrolling down 100+ pages (or bouncing off). 
  • Finally, and very importantly, the more readers move from one content piece to another, the more you gather data points to arm your sales team. 

Have I stressed enough how content topic clusters work and why they’re important?

Thank heavens. 

Now, let’s demonstrate how to create one, covering both informational and transactional keywords. 

Two Simple Steps to Create Content Topic Clusters’ Strategy

Again, like topic cluster SEO, things you’ll need to crush this are:

  • A pillar content
  • Sub-topic contents
  • Links

And the three (3) steps that’ll help you address both informational and transactional keywords of a chosen topic, across those requirements include:

  • Research.
  • Contextual content creation (where the magic happens).

Wanna know the good part before we dive in?

If you don’t have traffic but want instant results (leads and sales), you can do so by promoting your content topic cluster, using a contextual promotion tactic. 

Click below to download the promotion checklist for free.

Step 1: Researching Content Topic Clusters

As the name goes, you want to identify a topic worth covering. 

That is, one with enough width for cluster pieces. 

Not all topics are born equal. 

You’ll have to prioritize one that’ll be very helpful to your prospects for different search intents and cumulatively profitable to your business. 

Any topic you can cover for 2,000 words or less isn’t worth the investment.

For such topics, you can just focus on creating one content piece with topical SEO implementation

For this guide, let’s take a hypothetical example.

Assume I’m Dennis Brown, a top teacher for people who want to market themselves/brands on LinkedIn to attract qualified leads and get sales. 

Like 92% of all online searchers in the world would do, I’ll start my research from Google and look up the auto-suggestions: 

As a reminder, our goal is to find the term with the highest search volume. 

In this case, “LinkedIn marketing” has over 8,100 searches per month compared to other related terms like:

  • “LinkedIn marketing strategy” (~1,300 searches/month)
  • “LinkedIn marketing solutions” (~2,900 searches/month) 
  • “LinkedIn marketing tools” (~320 searches/month)
  • “LinkedIn marketing course” (~searches/month)
  • Etc. 

We can’t rely on Google’s autosuggest alone, so we scroll down to find more related keywords. 

Scrolling down to the “People also ask section,” we have: 

  • “How is LinkedIn used for marketing?”
  • “Is LinkedIn effective for marketing?”
  • “How can I market on LinkedIn for free?”
  • “How does LinkedIn use B2B Marketing?”

Depending on how much you’re willing to go, clicking on each “People also ask section” query produces more inventory of keywords. 

The tool providing us search volume estimates, Keywords Everywhere, doesn’t capture the search volumes of search terms under this section. 

So, let’s leave that for now and add those queries and ones below the SERP to our list: 

content topic clusters strategy
Source: Google.

So far, we’ve just found “LinkedIn Marketing” has the highest search volume. 

That may be our topic to cover. 

However, I’ll continue to investigate the top pages on Google ranking for this topic. 

Getting interesting?

Wait for the magical moments from step 2. 

Here, paid tools like SEMRush, Ahref, and others have more in-depth data, but you can use a free tool like UbberSuggest

Just type your target keyword into the tool, scroll down to the top pages for that keyword to discover the keywords they’re ranking for. 

In this research, I found HootSuite and Top Dog Social Media ranked for different variations of this topic. 

They were the same pages on UbberSuggest’s top-ranking pages (meaning the tool does a fantastic job for free).

So, I clicked on them to discover the top keywords on these pages.

HootSuite’s page: “LinkedIn for Business: The Ultimate Marketing Guide:”

Top Dog Social Media’s page: “The 5 E’s of LinkedIn Marketing Strategy:”

https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/
Source: UbberSuggest.

There are more ways to find more keywords, but for the sake of your time, let’s leave it at that for now. 

From the research so far, we’ve discovered “linkedin marketing” as the topic. 

Why?

  • It had the highest search volume. 
  • It had many related queries seeking information relevant to it. 
  • It had informational and transactional search queries reflecting different search intents. 
  • It’s relevant to our supposed business (so creating content that helps our target audience would be mutually beneficial). 

The last point is critical. 

Businesses don’t invest in things that’ll not help anyone. 

Good? 

I’ll then proceed to open a spreadsheet to sort these keywords for informational and transactional keywords: 

https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/
Want to use this spreadsheet as a template? Get access here.

Why do you need to sort these search queries? 

Simple. 

Step 2: Contextual content creation (where the magic happens)

Examining the search intents behind those queries, I was able to group them accordingly. 

Some queries had traces of informational and transactional intents. That’s what the topical queries usually resemble.  

These are top-of-the-funnel searches by people wanting to learn about the topic without necessarily deciding on what to do immediately. 

Informational queries are further down the funnel from people who have some knowledge but seek more info or free DIY hacks. 

Transactional queries are those with the intent of taking action. 

For example, buy a course, hire a LinkedIn marketing agency, find LinkedIn marketing solutions, etc. 

If you look closely at the numbers, you’ll also see it resembles what happens in a typical sales funnel. 

High volume searches at the top-of-the-funnel and fewer as they get closer to sales. 

The goal is to have relevant content at each phase of the buyers’ journey because as of 2018, about 72% (up from 66% in 2017) of all B2B clients noted that they consumed blog content on their journey to purchase. 

Now, why did I say the magic happens here? 

Good question.  

Remember when I talked about context?

This is when it comes into play and helps you to create a content topic clusters’ strategy. 

Here’s how it’ll work. 

You’ll create a pillar content (between 2-3k words) to provide a top-level coverage of the topic. 

Create content pieces (as many as needed) addressing the informational and transactional queries, respectively. 

Develop content upgrades you’ll use to capture, segment, and established a contextual relationship for pulling leads into your sales pipeline. 

The upgrades could also be case studies or lead magnets, whatever works for your audience. 

See if the second illustration below captures what you just read: 

content topic clusters strategy
I created this using Edraw MindMaster.

What you’ll achieve with this strategic arrangement?

First and foremost, you’ll have your topic exhaustively covered and linked together for related informational and transactional keywords to boost the credibility of your website around that topic. 

Your site’s user experience would increase, reducing bounce rates in the process.  

How?

If a prospect finds your top-level topical pillar content, in it they’ll find links to related informational and transactional content pieces, as well as your upgrades. 

This way, they can go ahead and click through to what they want without you coercing them. 

However, the way you’ll create each content piece must be contextual. 

That is, it must be engaging enough to influence a reader to proceed accordingly. 

Many pointers prove that deploying this strategy will work for you, too. 

Firstly, having these contents bundled together, with links directing readers to proceed to other content pieces relevant to their goals, means they’ll become more educated prospects. 

And that’s good for business. 

Writing for LinkedIn, Ed Calman, Founder & President of Seismic, observed that: 

“As a seller, an educated customer prepared with a strong knowledge base in advance means that the conversation is much more likely to be productive.

Ed Calman.

There’s even more supporting data. 

Over 52% of customers agreed strongly, in a 2018 study by Demand Gen, that relevant content pieces packaged together helped them expedite the research phase. 

Unfortunately, in the same year, only 39% of content marketers had a documented content strategy, with just 42% of them trying to understand the content buyers need. 

Don’t be among that odd number.

Conclusion & Bonus (get the free promotion checklist)

I thought this strategy only worked for top enterprises like HubSpot, Buffer, and others. 

I was wrong. 

How?

Implementing it helped us rank our CX agency, DigitalSproutNG. 

But I needed more proof. 

Out of curiosity, I asked a random executive if they ever tried the content topic clusters’ strategy and the results they got. 

The screenshot below captures his response: 

content topic clusters strategy
Source: LinkedIn

So, hear it from Darryl Praill, CEO of VanillaSoft, a Sales Engagement Software

“Since implementing these pillar pages with supporting content clusters, we’ve achieved higher ranking for target keyword concepts and increased inbound leads by offering associated downloadable items for each pillar page.”

Darryl Praill.

I wasn’t satisfied. 

I needed numbers to support his claim, so I pressed on for that.

Not because I didn’t believe him, but to kick you into action.

I pressed Darryl for more substantial proof. 

Sorry, Darryl, I’m that kinda guy. 

He went on to reveal the results achieved using this strategy: 

“Year over year blog traffic is up >60% and social traffic up >600% … And we were already enjoying crazy traffic and results.”

Again, as you can see, it works!

Want to get the most of this strategy immediately after implementation?

You’ll need to promote it the right way. 

I mean the contextual way. Still, remember how I introduced this post?

Good.

Get the promotion checklist to crush it below.

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Published by Victor Eduoh

- a B2B, SaaS long-form content strategist & research analyst: Skills he combines to craft compelling SaaS content pieces.

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