Have you ever tried to discover the common denominator of SaaS companies hitting all the right traffic, leads, and sales targets?
You’re in for a surprise.
From HubSpot’s Swetha Amaresan’s list of 36 of top-performing SaaS brands, I scrutinized each (I have years of experience as a Research Analyst, btw), and found most of them leverage content marketing at scale.
You’ll probably be wondering:
How do these top SaaS brands actually make content marketing their most reliable demand generation and customer acquisition channels?
That’s what I’ll beam light on in this post.
In the content marketing red ocean of over 10 million new blogs per day, my close observation revealed that the topic clusters strategy is how top SaaS brands get the most out of every published content piece.
If you’ve read Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne’s global bestseller, “Blue Ocean Strategy,” you’ll know businesses don’t survive in red oceans.
In growing your SaaS company, the topic clusters model is a free ticket to thrive in new, blue oceans devoid of wild sharks.
Haven’t read Kim & Renée’s book? Please, do.
Eager to see how topic clusters can drive growth for you? Please, read on.
What is the Topic Clusters Model Specific to SaaS?
Literally, and as the name suggests, the topic clusters model involves clustering a topic with content pieces.
HubSpot first detailed this methodology in 2017.
Whenever you hear “pillar-and-cluster” or “hub-and-spoke” in content marketing, they both refer to the topic clusters model.
Top SaaS brands that leverage this methodology either pioneer niche categories or dominate the search engines for topics (and search queries) relevant to their products.
For instance, topic clusters-inspired content marketing powered Grammarly’s marketing strategy to over 20 million daily active users.
More examples later.
Anchored by a pillar content, the topic clusters process involves the purposeful creation and linking of relevant content pieces around a topic your SaaS business should be showing up for.
But, not just that.
The profound benefits of topic clusters shine when, linked together, the content pieces you create answer all questions across the theoretical SaaS sales funnel, which your target audience has on their journey to becoming a customer.
By all questions, I mean informational & transactional direct and related search queries, as well as short and long keyword phrases.
Implemented effectively with tightly-linked TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content pieces (as shown above), the topic clusters model powers your SaaS website to rank higher on the search engines even when search terms aren’t directly related.
Why Your SaaS Product Needs the Topic Clusters Model
The most important answer is that it can drive growth for your SaaS business.
Before I explain, I won’t deny it that a lot goes into the SaaS growth equation:
- Product/market fit
- Scalable pricing strategy
- Growth-focused team, and that, which ties them together,
- An effective content marketing strategy.
You may be asking, how does content marketing tie the SaaS growth engine together?
To start with, content marketing generates 7.8x more site traffic for businesses, which includes SaaS than all other marketing channels.
And there are even more reasons why many rely on its potency.
On average, a typical B2B buyer reads 3-5 blogs before talking to sales about becoming a paid product user.
According to the first statistic, content marketing apparently performs better than other marketing channels.
However, as per the other data, your prospect will need to read a series of blog posts before they consider becoming a customer.
With that last data in mind, it’s only logical that the series of blog posts needed to get prospects talking to your sales team must combine well to move them from visitor to lead to customer.
The topic clusters model shines in that regard.
In the creation part, it enables you to identify, outline, create, and link content pieces, covering every aspect of a topic.
In delivering the content to your site visitors, it allows you to score longer on-site sessions and boosts customer experience, as readers can navigate more easily to related content pieces linked together.
There’s even more, and this one is key to getting visitors to your site.
The topic clusters model builds a robust internal link structure for your site, which does two critical things:
Generally, internal links have proven to improve search rankings.
And by clustering relevant content pieces on given topics, Google understands your site better.
Due to these, Google (and other search engines) will rank your domain higher for not just search terms related to those topics you’ve built clusters for, but also for semantically-related search query concepts.
Topic Clusters Examples: How 5 SaaS Brands Use it to Drive Growth
Using the topic clusters strategy to power your SaaS content marketing, you can build topical authority or new categories and drive Growth faster.
Some SaaS brands have used this method to do both, while others narrow in on one, respectively.
The examples that follow will show how other SaaS companies leverage the topic clusters model, and I’d detail how you can do the same.
1. HubSpot (Using Topic Clusters to Pioneer a Category)
HubSpot’s research brought the topic clusters methodology to limelight in 2017, so it’s only natural that they’ve gone in on it extensively.
And as the image below indicates, they have done just that.
The SaaS company, notable for pioneering the inbound marketing category, leans on topic clusters to dominate the search engines for most direct and indirect search queries involving “inbound marketing.”
They are Google’s undisputable top-spot holder for the keyword, “inbound marketing,” “what is inbound marketing,” “how does inbound marketing work,” and others.
However, HubSpot retains that top spot and shrugs off the competition because they have rigorously implemented the topic clusters strategy.
They have topically-related cluster content pieces, which ranks highly on Google’s first page for closely related queries like “inbound marketing tools,” “inbound marketing examples,” “inbound marketing strategies,” etc.
And to make the most of this model, each content piece on this topic includes internal links to related content pieces, covering both informational and transactional queries across the sales funnel.
This way, HubSpot keeps visitors longer on their site and makes it easier for them to find other relevant content, which improves customer experience and drives website visitors further into their sales funnels.
2. HubSpot (Using Topic Clusters to Build Topical Authority)
Not only does HubSpot leverage the topic clusters model to pioneer its inbound marketing category, but they also depend heavily on it to build topical authority and rank for several keywords.
For example, they have topical authority for the keyword, “marketing case studies,” which has a very high search volume, as people are always finding how others drive growth.
HubSpot ranks No. 1 on Google for this search term:
But, it isn’t by having one large content piece of 25 marketing case studies they’re able to pull this stunt.
They also have other cluster content pieces related to this topic, driving them to dominate the search engine for this term.
For instance, their content piece also ranks for “SaaS marketing case studies:”
However, when you scroll to the end of this article, not only does HubSpot publish this content under the marketing case studies topic and link to related content pieces, they also include a MOFU lead magnet to pull readers into their sales funnel:
3. Grammarly (Using Topic Clusters to Generate & Convert More Traffic)
Overall, Grammarly’s marketing strategy helped the company reach over 20 million daily active users, as of 2019.
In creating the case study of how they did – mainly through content marketing – I also discovered that the topic clusters model was integral to their success.
Unlike HubSpot, Grammarly doesn’t have a niche category created by them due to the nature of their SaaS product.
However, their ability to cluster relevant content pieces on the themed topic of helping people communicate better through writing powers their growth.
First, they have several articles ranking on Google’s No. 1-4 spots for queries with very high search volumes.
Affect or effect:
Canceled or cancelled:
Whether or weather:
Then, within each article, they link to several articles related to helping people write and communicate better:
Finally, they boldly use the free version of their product’s browser extension as both MOFU content, lead, and customer acquisition channel:
Grammarly’s case shows that you can use your product as the pillar content of your topic clusters model, as all of their articles point to Grammarly’s free browser extension.
You can read my entire research findings on how the topic clusters model drives the content marketing of Grammarly’s marketing strategy here.
4. HotJar (Using Topic Clusters to Dominate a Topic)
As I stated earlier, the topic clusters model is also used in creating the “hub-and-spoke” methodology.
HotJar’s examples will show you how this one works.
The “hub-and-spoke” pattern involves the creation of a very comprehensive pillar content with its related content pieces bundled together on the same page with clickable links.
When effectively implemented, search queries for both the main topic and its supporting content pieces rank on search engines, but they all redirect to the same page.
If you type “grow SaaS startup” or “SaaS startup guide” in Google’s search engine, you’ll find HotJar’s content ranking on the No. 2 spot:
Also, if you research related search terms like, “SaaS product/market fit,” “funding SaaS startups,” and others, you’ll still find the same content piece by HotJar on Google’s top pages.
However, while “grow SaaS startup,” which is the primary topic, will redirect to the first section of HotJar’s content, others will take you directly to their corresponding sections on the same page.
As the image below shows:
5. Typeform (Extensive Coverage of a Topic, Using Topic Clusters)
This one is an honorary mention.
You won’t find this exhaustive content piece on Google’s first page if you search for “customer success,” but if by any means you discover it (like you’re about to), you’ll learn all there is to know about the topic.
Typeform did an incredible job, creating one of the very best customer success guides on the web.
And the fact that iMPACTBnd listed it among its top 5 pillar pages examples goes to show that your topic clusters mustn’t rank on Google to get eyeballs on it.
So, what does that tell you?
Once you create an excellent, exhaustive content piece, using the topic clusters model, you can use different ways to promote it to your target audience, while waiting for organic ranking.
The reason is that it takes time and grit to produce great content, using the topic clusters model, as so much research and writing goes into the process.
To give you a clue, take a look at the snapshot of all Typeform covered in their customer success guide:
You don’t create this level of value and wait for Google to give you the traffic nod.
You promote it massively.
Conclusion: How to Create Topic Clusters for SaaS
As a reminder, you can use the topic clusters model to create a new category for your SaaS product.
Just like HubSpot did with inbound marketing and Drift did with conversational marketing.
Or you can use it to dominate an existing topic.
Where possible, you can also use this model for both.
Whatever the case, powering your SaaS content marketing with topic clusters is one of the best ways to drive predictable growth.
But how do you create it?
You need five steps, and they include:
- Research topics & concepts your business needs/should be ranking for.
- Note all the keywords and queries related to each topic or key concept.
- Examine the user intent of keywords & search queries, and group them to form TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content pieces.
- Create your pillar content and the corresponding content pieces related to each topic.
- Link each pillar post to your TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content pieces.
However, if you want to make the most of the topic clusters model like the SaaS companies highlighted above, you’ll need a strategy to guide you.
And you’re in luck.
Or subscribe to download the ebook version of it for keeps by clicking below:
Get the SaaS Content Topic Clusters Strategy Guide