In April 2020, I ran a small SEO experiment with a blog post and transformed a long-form article into a topic cluster (also called content hub). 

The goal: I wanted to see if I will get more traffic by splitting the long-form content into a set of smaller pages linked together and organized hierarchically in my website.

Each newly created page will focus on a specific section and a subtopic of the initial article.

I don’t want to keep the suspense too long (any way you’ve read the title, so you know the end of the story.)

Indeed, it was a successful update of a long-form article into a topic cluster.

Before the start of the experiment, the page generated about 50 page views per week. 

Now the topic cluster makes almost 2’000 page views per week and generated 16’000 page views between May 2020 and October 2020.

It is a growth of 1000% compared to the four months before the update.

This section of my website is now generating 10 times more visits, and it keeps on growing.

You can see that the results are amazing, a couple of week after the update I got an increase of impressions in Google Search (for the pages of the cluster) and more visits to my website.

the topic cluster makes almost 2'000 page views per week.

At the end of the article, I will share more statistics, the number of keywords won, the ranking of the page on Google, and the traffic growth. (If you are a data nerd, you will love it).

But before, let me give more details about the process:

  • How I analyzed the long-form article
  • How I defined the topic cluster model
  • How I used Google Search Console to unveil opportunities and do keyword research
  • How I managed the internal links between the cluster pages
  • How I published the page and handled the redirection and deindexation in Google

If you dont’ know yet what is a topic cluster and if this SEO strategy is worth it, this article will give you insights and a step by step approach.

Finally you will learn how to create topic clusters and boost your traffic.

What is a topic cluster?

A Topic Cluster (also called Content Hub) is a set of web pages within your website organized around a specific topic. Each page covers a particular sub-topic in-depth. The pages are all linked together to shape the topic cluster.

A topic cluster model is made of the following elements:

  • The main topic defining the purpose of the topic cluster
  • The pillar page acting as the top page of the cluster
  • The subpages covering subtopics and are related content 
  • Internal linking structuring the cluster
  • Hierarchical URLs reinforcing the semantic of the cluster for the search engines

To create a topic cluster model, you need to start with a core topic. Obviously this is the main theme of the topic cluster.

Then, each cluster page is articulated around the core topic and offer an in-depth perspective of an associated subtopic. In other words, each page of the cluster focused on a specific search intent.

The central element of the topic cluster model is called the pillar page. It is “the homepage” of the cluster. It introduces the main topic and redirects to the sub-topics via hyperlinks.

The pillar page doesn’t have to be necessarily very detailed as each subpage will cover a specific aspect of the central theme.  A good practice is to explain a few elements of the main topic and explain what the reader will find by browsing the cluster pages.

Every subpage of the topic cluster model redirects to the pillar page. Also, a subpage could have subpages. However, do not dive too deep into the site structure. Limit yourself to 3 levels.

These sub pages or cluster pages could be blog posts or any other kind of content on your website. There are related content and together cover a broad topic.

Finally, all pages are linked together in a more or less strict way.

This is how a Topic Cluster looks like.

What is a topic cluster?

If you want to go further, follow the link to understand in more detail what is a topic cluster. Or stay here to learn more about the SEO experiment.

What is the purpose of a topic cluster?

A Content Cluster has two purposes.

Firstly, it offers the reader an organized view of a topic. The reader can start from the beginning and go through all the sub-content to get a comprehensive understanding of the main topic.

Also, each cluster page can be viewed independently of the rest of the hub. 

For instance, if you create a topic cluster about “SEO Best Practice“, you could offer a subpage about “Link Building“. Someone could be only interested in this blog post and ignore the rest of the hub.

User experience is everything, and it should drive the way you structure your topic cluster model. Consider the buyer’s journey and all the stages of the funnel from information to decision.

By mapping your blog posts, topics, and content against the customer journey, you offer a holistic view of a topic and are visible at several steps of the buyer’s journey and you increase your brand visibility in the SERP.

The second purpose of topic cluster is to be optimized for search engines. 

Let’s called it SEO Topic Clusters: a group of pages linked together that helps the bot crawling a site and get a better understanding of what topics are covered.

Each cluster page is more aligned with the user intent. Each page targets a precise set of keywords and drives particular traffic (or answer a specific search intent.)

In other terms, each cluster page target a long-tail keyword and the sum of all the pages and their related content helps you to cover a large variety of search queries around a topic. You offer a broad and holistic view of a topic with this SEO strategy.

Examples of topic clusters

If you are in the SEO space, you might know Brian Dean. He built an incredible content hub around search engine optimization best practice with 50+ pages.

Here the pillar page of the SEO Content Hub.

Another great example is the Chatbot guide from Drift. The pillar page is rather long and redirects to each subpage via internal links in the content body and as well via links from a TOC-liked menu. 

Have a look at the content hub here.

Example of Topic Cluster

The French cloud computing company, OVH created a great content hub about public cloud offerings and the cluster pages span across the entire buyer’s journey.

For instance, you will find a page about cloud computing explaining what is it and the advantages for a business. This is a perfect “Top of the funnel” content driving traffic to their site. Then the reader is redirected to related content focused on their solution.

ovh cloud products

Finally, I can already show the content cluster I’ve built and the result of my experiment. I’ve built one around the main topic Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics setup

The purpose of this hub is to explain how to configure and work with the tools from Google. Each cluster page is a tutorial on a specific part of the configuration. The tutorials are created around the user journey and start with the installation of the tool and finish with advanced configuration.

The pillar page links to all chapters of the tutorial and each chapter link back to the pillar page—additionally, a chapter link to the next chapter of the tutorial.

More detail about internal links building later in the article.

Since you saw the final result, let’s see how I transformed a long-form tutorial into a topic cluster.

The experiment: Clustering a long-form content

If you follow my blog (and if not, please subscribe here), you might know that I’m a big fan of long-form content. 

Indeed, my usual article is long, more than 3’000 words and covers a topic in depth.

If you want to see an example of a long-form article, I invite you to read this one about the Core Web Vitals (a must-read for any SEO specialist, open it in a new tab, read it later and share it with your network – thanks 😉 ).

So now, you know what a long-form content is.

So what is this SEO experiment? 

Long-Form Content Clustering: Breaking apart a long-form article (3000+ words) into a set of smaller pages to build a SEO topic cluster. 

In a nutshell, I will divide into smaller chunk a tutorial about Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.

But why doing this?

I had the feeling that some parts of the initial article were under-exploited.

A person that is only looking for a small part of the tutorial (like setting up Goals and Event with Google Analytics) might feel overwhelmed by the length of the content and won’t necessarily scroll to the very bottom to read the part he is looking for.

My point is that, even though the tutorial is comprehensive and could be read entirely in one shot. It might be helpful to offer only a subsection of the tutorial in a more digestible way.

Then the reader could decide to read the complete tutorial or just the interesting part (for him).

The main driver for this change was to offer a better user experience before trying to optimize anything for search engines.

And what about the search engine.

Do you think that Google is reading the whole article?

It sounds silly. Google is indexing the whole page.

But what about the ranking? For which keywords does the article (passages) rank? 

I’ve noticed something. The first sections of the tutorial ranked better than the later parts.

Also, SEO experts recommend putting your main keywords early on your page to be sure to rank for it. 

So does it mean that Google bot is too lazy to go through the entire article? And I will rank only for content that is at the beginning? 

It’s time to investigate. Let’s analyze the long-form article and its keywords.

For which keywords do my article’s “passages” rank in Google’s top 10?

As the article is made of 5 distinct sections, I could easily see what keywords are connected with a section. 

I won’t describe the whole process here, but to achieve the following, I used Google Search Console and mapped the keywords with sections of my article.

The results are astonishing, the more you go down in the article, the less you find keywords in the top 10.

The first section got 59% of the keywords in the top 10, then the next section got 35% of the keywords, the third section got 6%, and the last section got zero keywords in the top 10.

Distribution of keywords over an article - SEO

As you can see, there are some things to improve. The last part could deserve more visibility in the search engine as well. 

So now that you get the genesis of this experiment let’s dig in the real stuff… 

Create a topic cluster step by step

Now I will explain how to create a topic cluster. Or at least how I did it !!

The starting point is a long tutorial (3’000+ words) about Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics. 

The page is not existing anymore, so the picture below illustrates the article and its table of content. 

long-form content

The page was created on the 30th of May 2019 and had 3500 words. Before it was unpublished, it generated 57 keywords in the top 10 of Google and 1600 pageviews (mostly organic) from December 2019 to April 2020. 

Before doing any change of the page, the very first step is to understand the structure and especially how people find the page from Google. 

Step 1 – Understand the content structure and user intent 

The first thing to do is to read the article. 

You need to understand 

  • The structure of the article, 
  • What the main topic is 
  • And what sub-topics have already been covered. 

In my case, it was a straightforward step, as I wrote the tutorial.

But if you are not the author and must audit the content, I recommend to put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

The second step is to understand user intent. 

Think user-first, see the content from the user experience angle:

  • What lead the user to the content 
  • What he tries to achieve
  • How could you improve his overall experience

In my case, I identified some topics of the page at this stage.

  • The main topic of the page is Google Tag Manager and Analytics
  • A user lands on the tutorial once he has the following actions to perform
    • Installing Google Tag manager with Analytics
    • Setting up environments in GTM
    • Setting up multi domains with GTM
    • Configure goals and events with Google Analytics

The next step is to use the data to understand the main topic and subtopics in detail.

Step 2 – Define the topic cluster with Google Search Console

Google Search Console (GSC) is a great free SEO tool to understand how your website is performing and what user queries lead to impressions (and clicks) of your pages on the Google SERP. 

Also Google Search Console is a great tool to do some keyword research and this is what I’ve done here.

At this step, GSC is helping me to:

  • Get an overview of every keyword showing up in the Search for the tutorial
  • How people search for the topic
  • And what improvements could be done on the content

What I’ve done?

In Google Search Console, I filtered the search results by Page and entered the URL of the page to analyze.

And then I click the Export function to get all the data in a Gsheet that I could manipulate.

Google Search Console

On the first tab of the Sheet, you find all the queries with impressions and other data.

I filtered all the keywords by impression

Why impressions and not clicks? Click shows me when people click on my article.

Impressions show me new opportunities

As you can the page was often printed on the users’ screens for the terms including “tutorial“, but I didn’t get a lot of clicks. 

Maybe something to do with this information later.

And now, what to do with this list?

I went through all the keywords and associated each of them with the topics already identified previously.

It helps me to build a view like the one below—a cluster view of the keywords for a specific sub-topic. At then end I’ve got 5 sheets with keywords categorized per sub-topic.

a cluster view of the keywords for a specific sub-topic

(I did all of this work manually. In case you want to do this at scale and use a tool to cluster all your keywords using a machine learning model, you should have a look at Keyword Cupid or Keyword Insights. You can as well cluster up to 1000 keywords in Google Sheets for free with this GSheet script.)

This preparation work is crucial. It will help me later on when I rewrite the article and headings.

Step 3 – Do keyword research and find new opportunities.

When you write for SEO, an essential step is to do some keyword research. In our case, Google Search Console gives us a good indication of the way to go and the keywords to use.

Also, with GSC you could identify new opportunities. While doing the topic mapping, if you see a bunch of keywords not mapped, it might mean that you unveil a new subtopic.

Another advice is to analyze the trends from the SERP, understand the articles at the top of Google Search and what topics they are covering.

With thruuu, a free SERP analyzer, you will get a complete overview of the pages from the Google search result. 

You can understand in one view the structure of each article, the number of words, the associated research and more hidden data like the page performances. It helps you with your keyword research around topics and search intent.

Step 4 – Split and update the content

Now that we have our cluster ready, keywords found. It is time to structure the content cluster.

I followed the topic cluster structure defined earlier:

  • One pillar page 
  • And one page per subtopic.

Finally, I have to create five new pages.

The Cluster Pages

For each cluster page, here the main actions performed:

  • Copy the corresponding content from the initial tutorial
  • Rewrite the page title and headings
  • Rewrite an introduction and a conclusion

The main effort stands in the rewriting of the introduction and conclusion. 

I have to keep in mind the user journey. A reader could come from the main parent page of the tutorial directly from Google. I have to invite him to continue reading the next chapter of the tutorial.

The Pillar Page

The pillar page took me more time to create, as it needed more new content. 

My approach was to answer the most common questions about the topic such as 

  • What is Google Tag Manager 
  • What is Google Analytics
  • What is the difference between the two tools
  • And if you can use both of them together

After these 700 words of introduction, I link to each chapter of the tutorial.

Anatomy of a pillar page

Titles and Headings 

Titles and headings is a critical part of the update.

I used the list of keywords to find what could suit the user expectation and what are the search trends.

The main title of the page helps to improve the CTR and then page headings give a good indication of the content of the page. These elements must be aligned with the user intent otherwise he will bounce back and leave the page.

The term “tutorial” was identified as a good opportunity from the data collected by Google Search Console. I added it to the main title of the pillar page.

Google Tag Manager tuto

Step 5 – URL and navigation

Defining URLs and navigation is another critical part of the creation of a content cluster – maybe the most important.

Navigation is vital, as stated by the Search Console help: “The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important. Although Google’s search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site

The navigation of a website is important

Please note: “Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site“.

Here my approach:

  • Each page will contain its target topic in the URL
  • The pillar page URL will prefix each subpage

Below, the final URLs structure. 

the final URLs structure

To finish with the user experience and navigation within my website, I tried something unusual.

The pillar page is located in the top navigation (under Martech Resources). Then each chapter of the tutorial is a blog post.

Why I did this? 

I assumed that somebody could visit the tutorial from the navigation and then start looking at the subpages. 

Or he could be on the blog and look at more articles and read one article about Google Tag Manager. 

In the end, it doesn’t matter. The navigation must stay easy to understand by the user. In most of the case, he will land after a search from Google and ignore the navigation menu.

Step 6 – Internal links

Linking the pages together let you shape your topic cluster and build a strong internal linking structure.

Some experts state that a topic cluster model must work like this:

  • The pillar page links to all the cluster pages
  • Each cluster page links back to the pillar

In my case, I did the following.

The pillar page links to all chapters. It makes sense, if you arrive on this page, you might want to have an overview of the offering and what tutorials are available.

As you can see, the anchor text is generic and uses a “Read More“. The CTA is necessary; a user has to read more.

The pillar page links to all chapters.

If you look at the subpages, In the conclusion of the article I explain that the article is part of a more extensive guide (in case the reader just landed on this page) and also I invite him to do the next step of the tutorial.

Each anchor is an exact match of the topic of the linked page.

Each anchor is an exact match of the topic of the linked page.

Each chapter follows the same approach. A subpage leads to the next step of the tutorial. That’s why the shape of the hub is circular.

A note on the last chapter of the tutorial, it offers links redirecting to all pages of the cluster.

I think it makes no sense: Somebody reaching the last step doesn’t need to go back and start over. However, it didn’t hurt to keep it like this.

Step 7 – Publish, redirect, unpublished and deindexed.

Finally, we are ready to publish. 

I get five new articles ready to be published, and one to unpublish.

This is what I’ve done:

  • Publish the main pillar page
  • Publish subpages
  • Unpublish the long-form content
  • Redirect the long-form URL to the pillar page URL
  • Index the new content with GSC 

For the redirection, I did a 301 redirect between the (now) old page long-form page to the pillar page. 

How to de-indexed the old page?

Indeed I did not mention this in my checklist, because Google will do its job and will deindex the page.

Keep in mind that if you perform a 301 redirect, Google will forget about your old content and replace it with the new one (this may take more or less time).

Also, backlinks always work with 301 redirections. Any links to your previous page will redirect to the new one.

Result and data

The updated tutorial was published on the 4th of May, 2020.

I was amazed to see promising results a couple of weeks later. I received more traffic from search engines.

In October 2020, the cluster is generating about 2000 pages view a week. To compare with the previous long-form tutorial, it was struggling between 50-80 page views per week.

For the data nerds, I compiled additional data for a period of 5 month, between May and October 2020. I’ll let you do your analysis.

Result and Data

And here you can find the traffic for each page of the cluster for a period of 5 months between May and October 2020.

Result and Data

Finally, you remember that one section was generating almost no keywords in the top 10; it was the section about “Goals and Event”. 

Now it is one of the best performing chapters in terms of traffic.

Regarding keywords, it also improved a lot, as you can see the query “set up events in google tag manager” jumped from the 25th position to the 10th in average.

Result and Data

Is it worth creating topic clusters?

Yes… The result speaks for itself. 

However, I don’t think that every long-form content can be transformed into a Topic Cluster. The tutorial was an ideal case. 

Keep in mind the following when you plan a content update or a creation of a Topic Cluster

  • What is the purpose of your hub and is it aligned with your audience buyer’s journey
  • Analyze the data to define the sub-topics
  • Define a neat internal linking structure and URL hierachy
  • Take en extra effort to rewrite title and headlines

Overall, if you provide something consistent, comprehensive and meaningful, you will get great results and boost your SEO strategy.

I hope that you have a lot of ideas and that my experience will help you to restructure your website and create your next Topic Cluster.

Do not hesitate to share your results with me.

82 comments

  1. Hey Samuel, do you feel like the topic cluster model will be impacted at all by the “passage indexing” developments at Google? Would you anticipate Google attributing more rankings to the larger long-form content piece naturally when this fully rolls out, or do you feel that separating the content will still be the winning strategy?

    Reference: https://searchengineland.com/what-passage-indexing-and-natural-language-processing-mean-for-the-future-of-seo-342711

    Great article & thanks for going thru all the details/results!

  2. It is a great case study for sure.

    I think that this hub could have more success as the query is mainly looking for tutorial. Then, the user would be mainly looking for a short straight answer.

    That is my main doubt about the efectiveness of the hub regarding other type of content. Anyway, the analysis of the keywords depending of their position in the original article is very enlighting.

    Thank you.

  3. Hey Samuel, referring to this: (I did all of this manually. In case you know a great tool to classify topics, drop me a line 😉 )

    I am actually dropping you a line 🙂 Feel free to mail me about that, I will leave my email as I make the comment.

  4. Hey Samuel,

    I’m glad that I found your article on Twitter, shared by SEMrush.

    I was searching online almost everywhere on the interent, but yours seems to be more of a practical guide with up to date results.

    And, I can say it’s worth reading this post from top to the bottom.

    Now, I have a question for you:

    When you converted your long-form content into pieces, did you make any backlinks after that or it’s a
    result of Content Cluster Structure only?

    Also, do you believe in Clustering content in sitemap as well? e.g. look at backlinko’s sitemap, he has created similar thing in sitemap also. I think he is organising silo/pages/posts using custom post types isn’t it?

    e.g. hub topic sitemap & hub resources sitemap

    Thanks for your answer in advance.

  5. Hi Cony,

    great question. And really hard to answer. 

    I think we should not care too much about the form of the content but about the information provided.
    It must be relevant and answer a search intent.

    So I don’t think that a performing cluster will under-perform once Passage is rolled out.

    However, maybe the “passage indexing” could “fix” the issue identified here.https://i0.wp.com/samuelschmitt.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Keywords-in-top10.png

    No keywords in the top10 were connected with the last section. 

    After the split into a cluster, the last section becomes a sub-page and was suddenly one of the most performing pages of the cluster. And with the same content… only the “shell” was different.

    I guess Google might fix this kind of thing with the passage indexing. 

    I will analyse more sections of my blog articles before the passages update to see if there are any changes.

  6. Hi Deepak,

    thanks for your question.

    I did only a few backlinks since the content cluster has changed.
    However I’ve noticed a lot of traffic coming from company using JIRA…

    I guess my article was often mentioned in JIRA ticket when companies were planning to set up GTM 🙂

    About siloing, I have no experience on this, but you are right this is what backlinko is doing with his cluster and it seems that it is generated a lot of traffic.

    Again, it is not only the fact that you change the structure of your site that will change everything, you should also comes with great content. And backlinko is a reference there.

  7. Are you using WP pages to create the content cluster?
    Does the heirarchy structure of the pages make any difference?

    I mean how about a flat heirarchy. Website/PillarTopicA and several Website/SubTopicA1-n with interlinking?
    I was using pages but I had some issues and it was a very long time back..
    I used to religiously treat each topic like a minisite on it’s own, but shifted to long form over time with more flat architecture for related sub topics.

  8. Hi Tony, 

    from a WP perspective:
    – Pillar is a Page
    – Sub Pages are blog post

    They are linked together via links.
    What matter is the URL.
    Each subpage is prefixed with the pillar URL.

  9. I don’t an option to reply to your comment so here I am:

    “from a WP perspective:
    – Pillar is a Page
    – Sub Pages are blog post

    They are linked together via links.
    What matter is the URL.
    Each subpage is prefixed with the pillar URL.”

    I get this.
    My question was if the prefixed URL structure makes a difference from Google POV.

    Meaning does site.com/hub/page1 site.com/hub/page2 vs site.com/hub site.com/page1 site.com/page2
    Linking structure being same.

  10. Toni,

    I assumed that site.com/hub/page1, site.com/hub/page2 gives more sense to Google of the cluster structure.

    However, give me a couple of month for a next experiment.

    The cluster described above (1) has an equivalent in french (2)

    (1) https://samuelschmitt.com/google-tag-manager-analytics-tutorial/
    (2) https://samuelschmitt.com/fr/google-tag-manager-analytics-tuto/

    They are the same, expect there is one difference.
    The sub pages URL of the FR cluster are not prefixed with the pillar URL.

    So they are like site.com/hub – site.com/page1 – site.com/page2.

    I will make the update soon and share the result here.

    Stay tuned.

  11. Hey, Samuel, for this awesome case study.
    I was just considering breaking up one of my major long-form page into pieces, but the upcoming “passages ranking” was holding me back, because long form content should benefit from it.
    After reading your case study, I’m beyond convinced I should indeed proceed.
    Thanks again.

  12. Hi Rok

    Nobody knows how “passages” will impact the search, and also it will take time to be rolled out fully + it won’t impact every query…

    Please, experiment, and I would love to hear about your result !!

  13. Great article Samuel. With regards to “I did all of this manually. In case you know a great tool to classify topics, drop me a line” then you should check out https://www.fatrank.com/keyword-clustering/

    There is many keyword clustering tools that can group the list of keywords into clusters to meet SERP intent. So your one long piece article could be best being broken down into six articles and these kw clustering tools will show you this to meet the serps.

  14. Hey Samuel

    Really an interesting case study with practical steps!

    Just one question! How you use a page as a parent for blog posts in WordPress. (to maintain cluster in URLs too)
    Is there any tool that you have used for that?

    Also, Is it a good idea if we don’t create clusters in URLs like nnn.com/yyy/ & nnn.com/zzz?

    Thanks
    Parveen

  15. Hi Ciprian, 

    To get all keywords for a page in the top, I used Google Search Console and filter by page URL.

    Then to map the KW with the sections, I did it manually.
    1 –  I defined the topic of each section
    2 – I mapped the keywords with the section topic

  16. Hi Parveen, 

    To manage the URL of the pages, I used the plugin Permalink Manager.
    Then I can prefix URL of a blog post with the URL of the pillar page.

    About create a flat structure VS a hierarchical structure in the cluster, this is a good point.

    I will test this very soon as my current cluster exists in EN and FR. In FR I have a flat structure of the pages, I will update this and check if it impacts the organic visibility.

    Stay tuned and you will get the update 😉

  17. Hello, Samuel.

    Really useful article and good analysis. Thank you for your time and efforts and sharing with us.

    I am thinking – splitting one big article into clusters looks like for me – like using category page and small article pages in the same category /like WordPress websites’s architecture /

    Does it make sense??

  18. I would love to see a third variant with long form again, but this time with filterable question/answer in the text. So initial visit (also Google) = long text, everything visible, then narrow down by asking questions what the user is interested (filter away unecessary content). Would be very interesting to see what the potential good user signals mean in terms of rankings, traffic etc then for this long form pierce which then had a very good UX still. You could even build different experiences with the same URL for other channels like PPC. (Just like a parameter or Hash Fragment in the ads url)

    Also I would love to see a index/directory like you had on your pages by automatically scrolling along the side as you read. Could also improve UX a lot.

  19. Hi Stephen

    Yes, it works with e-commerce. It works with any website.

    You could build a content funnel starting with informative content (listing/review of the product within your niche) and redirect to your money pages (e-commerce) where the transaction happens.The information content can take the shape of a topic cluster if it makes sense.

    The internal link building and CTA must lead the visitor to your product. 

    Once he got all the knowledge required, he might convert.

  20. Hi Boris 

    It could make sense it the category represent the main topic of your cluster.

    An important aspect is to give a sense of the cluster via URL hierarchy. So the category could work.

    I used the plugin Permalink manager to rewrite URL and add a prefix to the subpages.

    In the end, what matters is that you have the desired URL structure.

  21. Hi Nathan, 

    it works the same way.

    The main topic or user intent is to “Buy a home in Dallas”.

    1) Define the questions/subtopic around this intent (e.g Best area for a house in Dallas, What is the price of a house in Dallas, Is Dallas a good place to live…)

    2) Create one page per topic and add some great content

    3) Create a pillar page “The ultimate guide to buy a house in Dallas” where you link all the sub pages.

    This set of pages can be used as a vacuum to drive traffic. Then you can redirect to the list of “Homes for Sale in Dallas” you have available.

    This is just an idea… A thorough keywords analysis and understanding of the SERP should be done 🙂

  22. Thanks for the reply Samuel! What do the urls look like on this?

    Page you want to rank – bobsrealty.com/homes-for-sale-dallas-tx

    Blog post #1 – bobsrealty.com/blog/best-area-for-house-dallas
    Blog post #2 – bobsrealty.com/blog/price-of-dallas-homes
    etc…

    Those blog posts have a contextual link to bobsrealty.com/homes-for-sale-dallas-tx

  23. Hello Samuel,

    The content of the article is great, I have some similar evidence with a content related to finance.

    I did the same as you did in this case, when Bert came in I got down from positions a lot and by doing this I got over 50% of the losses again, Google recognizes very well the user’s intention and it is really useful to break each intention.

    But I see that it still has failures in Synonyms, try it and you will see how you get interesting things, I give an example:

    Reunify debts
    Canceling debts
    Restructuring debts

    All these keywords have the same purpose, but if you do 3 articles you will position by the 3 intentions, only with what you say, good titles and headings consistent with the words we are in Search Console.

    Waiting for your next tests, I really liked the article.

    * Before separating the parts of the financial guide, what I did was to give IDs to the sections as TOC does in WordPress and I linked those parts optimizing the url /#financial-analysis, at first it seemed that it had good results since they started to appear in the SERPS, but everything was a mirage, nothing like separating the intentions.

  24. Samuel would be good if you try to edit the anchor text of the links you have to the subpages, I think you can get a plus to the main KW if you change the “read the article” or putting a title to the link with the Keyword.

    This also works sometimes when I do an audit and look at the % of the anchor text, if you dare to try it I will be waiting.

    Thanks again for your content!

  25. Hi Samuel,

    Are subpages in your topic cluster also long-form or are they short-form content?

    I was wondering about the impact of content length on traffic performance.

  26. Congratulations. Great success! Do you think this works for all kind of topics? People (SEOs) still talking about holistic (longer) content if you know what I mean. 😉

  27. Hi Elias

    Thanks a lot !!

    1) I think it works with any topic.
    2) I don’t think a topic cluster is always the right approach.

    Let’s take the current article. Not sure it would have worked if it was spilt in several pages.

    The article was long and impressive. It generated a lot of views and share on social media due to its nature.

    My point is that both kinds of content must live within your website. Up to you to decide what is the right format.And as

    I did, sometimes it is good to start with a long one and after a while split it into sub-articles.

  28. Hi Samuel,

    You have nailed the topic! Great! Thanks for writing the in-depth article about Topic Cluster and I would like to implement it for my blog. Improving the organic traffic is the dream of almost every blogger and business and I hope it is highly possible through this SEO strategy.

    Internal linking works like a magic in boosting the search engine traffic and I used to do it. I’ll follow the other steps, thanks your in-depth case study. I’ll be back soon for your another great piece of content. Stay safe during this pendamic.

  29. Great case study Samuel, I think this may work well with topics that can be structured as tutorials, with several (and different) search intents on them.

    When there are ambiguous search intents, or the topic is too narrow, a long form content may perform better. I will try and share my results here 🙂

  30. Hi Samuel,

    Great in-depth post! Learned a lot from it. I recently wrote content to create a hub and spoke strategy.

    After reading your article I realized that improvements could be made in, for example, the url structure. They have just been picked up by the search engine.

    At the moment they are wp blog posts.

    Does it make sense to change the hub / pilar to wp page?

  31. Hi Sebastian,

    Great, happy to hear that you also have a content hub in progress.

    I changed the pillar page to a WP page because I wanted to have it display in the top navigation and not in the blog.

    From a pure SEO perspective, I dont think change it has an impact.. it is just how you want to organise the Content Hub within your site.

  32. Hi Eric,

    Dwell went down because, now I have 4 pages and they are smaller.
    So the user spent less time. But 4 minutes is still a good amount of time spend in average.

    For the bounce rate, we compare 49% to 52%… We are in the same range I guess 😉

  33. Bonjour Samuel
    excellent article très très détaillé.
    Cela clos l’éternel débat : vaut-il mieux une page hyper longue, qui ranke sur beaucoup de mots clés mais n’est peut être pas assez précis pour figurer dans le top 10, ou alors dispatcher cet article en 4 ou 5 thèmes (le tout saupoudrer d’un bon maillage interne) bien plus précis pour l’intention de recherche et donc avoir + de chances pour avoir un ranking dans le top 10 .

    Merci pour ce test

  34. Hi this is interesting. Great!!!

    One question, you said you used „read more“ as an anchor text. Doesn’t this harm your Seo since internally you normally use hard anchor text only? All the best

  35. Hi Jan,

    I dont guess it will “harm” that much the performance of the page. I rather focus on the user experience, and invite them to continue their journey with a big bold “Read More”.

    I focus first on user experience and second on SEO… 😉

  36. Hey Samuel, first of all thank you for this wonderful case study..

    I also want to create some topic cluster on my blog but i am little confused about URL structuring…

    Here is what i mean:

    For example if i want to create a content hub around the topic “SEO”.

    So my page structure should be:

    http://www.blog.com/SEO (Pillar page with in-depth content)
    http://www.blog.com/SEO/on-page-seo (sub page)
    http://www.blog.com/SEO/off-page-seo (sub page)
    http://www.blog.com/SEO/keyword-research (sub page)
    http://www.blog.com/SEO/technical-seo (sub page)

    Now for this kind of URL & content structuring in WordPress, I have currently two option.

    Option 1 – Create a category with title “SEO” >> add the sub page under SEO category >> Under WordPress permalink structure choose “domain/category/post” >> and finally redirect category page to custom pillar page created for SEO.

    Option 2 – Use Permalink manager plugin to rewrite URL and add a prefix to the subpages…

    Being a SEO guy which option is correct for SEO in long term if i have to create many content clusters.

  37. Hi Shivam,

    Thanks for your message. And great question about “How to create a content hub in WordPress”.

    Option 1 seems to be the more scalable, each time you create a new post it will have the right URL and belong to the cluster .
    Going this way means as well that sub-pages will be a blog post, and visible under your blog section.

    Maybe this is what you want.

    Option 2 offer more freedom… as you can rewrite any URLs.

    I’m thinking about creating other content hubs. I guess I will use the “Page” in WordPress to create the pillar and subpages and keep the Post just for a standalone article.

    I can update you once I’ve dug into this topic.

  38. Hi Samuel

    Great piece of content, thanks.

    As most of copywriters and content creators aren’t familiar with clusters, we can always talk first about “problem-solution” pairing and extend this to category level contains single articles. This strategy works for me with corporate and startups, as they already understand basics of site architecture.

    You are pointing to clusters build on GSC, thats first step, where you can use “low hanging {fruits|keywords}” to increase topical expertise. Second is to understand gaps in content, and then third potential of clusters. Knowing potential of each cluster and competitors visibility it’s easier to build effective CM strategy.

    During our tests with large corporates, best working scenario is “funnel clusters”, where we use split not only on semantical elements, but also on intent and product(s).

    We also push customers to implement GA4, as new, event based system of measuring content performance (or UX in general) in way better and scalable.

    For a clustering tool, try:
    https://app.cont.ai/tools/keywords-grouper
    Clusters up to 100k keywords under one minute.

    Have fun with content and SEO 😉

  39. Salut Samuel,

    thanks for your research & article, I have tried to study closely and got many important hints from it.

    However, still not quite sure on two issues, i dont fully understand

    1.) WordPress posts vs. wordpress pages – possible to go with “any depth” here, for example having two levels of pillar-pages before the blog-posts kick in

    for example:

    …./seo/on-page-seo/post-about-subtopic-1
    …./seo/on-page-seo/post-about-subtopic-2
    …./seo/on-page-seo/post-about-subtopic-3

    …./seo/off-page-seo/post-about-subtopic-1
    …./seo/off-page-seo/post-about-subtopic-2
    …./seo/off-page-seo/post-about-subtopic-2

    Or does this doesnt work with wordpress?

    It seems to me I would have to manually change the WordPress permalink setting each time i want to post into a certain sub-category. I think thats no to much of a hassle as long as it works. I get the feeling its better to do some physical siloing and not having a too flat site structure

    2.) That being said – if I will collect ALL my content under …./blog/…. as in domain../blog/seo/on-page-seo/post-about-subtopic-1 etc. – will I tell google that my blog page is pretty relevant for the several keywords which have been covered in the sub-topics-articles, do you have any thoughts on that?

    thanks

  40. Hi Alexander, 

    Thanks for your questions.

    1.) WordPress posts vs. wordpress pages Structure.

    You can set up custom permalinks using categories and tag.Then you might be able to create the desired structure without too much manual work.
    So far, I built my URLs manually with the Permalink Manager Lite module. It was the easiest approach for a small content hub.

    2) If you organise all pillar and cluster page under the blog, indeed you will tell Google a good signal that your Blog is about XYZ.But then I don’t know if it really matters that your different content hubs are under the blog or under the home page.Finally, Google (and any visitors) will see your website as a website speaking about “XYZ”…
    As long you have a clean structure and quality content, you will get success.

  41. Hello Samuel, I find your experiences on the topic of pillar pages very exciting. Do you think it also works with a completely new article or did it work so well for you because your “old” article was already listed on position 25 for your keyword?

  42. My friend Mayur shared this article with me in December 2020. I have multi niche site and I know I am confusing google. About this I tell to Mayur and he shared this article. I start applying above given all things for strengthen to my site topics.

    Nowadays I am getting 5x more organic traffics and 3x more pageviews. (Beat almost all competitors)

    I am thankful to you and my friend Mayur.

    Keep Sharing and Loving!

    Love from India ❤️.

  43. Thank you for this inspiring and very motivating post, Samuel. I will spend the rest of the day (and the coming weeks) working on optimizing my content…. 😉

  44. Thanks for this. It was really useful.

    Could you give more information what have you put into introduction part in the pillar page?

    Have you explained with a sentence or two each subtopic or?

  45. Dwell time went down, because before it was a very long page, and now it’s 4 pages that are smaller. So people spend less time reading a page.

    And the bounce rate is more or less the same 49% vs 52% 🙂

  46. Amazing information that I still find relevant in 2021. A 1000% growth is amazing. I understand that it is very important for each article to match the search intent to the maximum for this technique to work.

    I did not know you, but after reading this article and the How to grow a blog, I am hooked to your content.

  47. Hi Chloe,

    I assumed it could work the same way. You might have a specific topic / expertise to highlight and you can create several pages speaking about it – in a cluster way. For the “location” component, maybe a tactic will be to integrate the location entity in each page.

    Im my example I could have create a cluster explaining “How to setup GTM in ” … of course it is a silly example but I guess you got my point. 🙂

  48. Hi Samuel,

    You have nailed the topic! Great! Thanks for writing the in-depth article about Topic Cluster and I would like to implement it for my blog. Improving the organic traffic is the dream of almost every blogger

  49. Dear Samuel
    I found your article very usefull and developing. I found few things, which I’m going to implement on my company’s website. Also I’m doing internal linking and existing topic clusters audit (or something I though looked like topic cluster, now after your article I know it need improvement).
    Now when I’m doing audit I have a question:

    What if one subpage (for eg. blog post) is reffering to TWO pillar pages?
    Like:
    one team building scenario can be used on outdoor event and during integragtion trip.

    Now I have two links from subpage to two pillar pages. Ofcourse those two pillar pages has many other subpages besides that one.
    But it’s common across our website (event agency) – because we can mix event scenarios etc.

    What do you think, it’s ok or maybe we just should create unique subpage with almost the same content for each pillar page? If we do so, we might have cannibalization problem 🙂

  50. Hi Grzegorz

    I assume it is ok to link from a subpage to other pages (like another pillar page). 

    If a link make sense for your user, because it will give them extra information, then drop an internal link.

    My recommendation is that within your cluster you must have:
    – a clear connection between the pillar and the subpage within the cluster
    – a hierarchical structure of URL pillar/subpage

    At least this is what I will do 😉

  51. hi Samuel

    your article is very useful. I have two question.

    is there any limitation in link between cluster?

    i mean all cluster link to main topic and link to each other. this may create a loop, is that wrong?

    another question is

    sometime one of my cluster belong to more than one main topic

    for example I have two main topic,

    1)”SEO guideline?”

    2)”Image guideline for website and social media”

    I have cluster “how optimize image size”,

    this cluster belong to the two above pillars, is it correct?

  52. hi Samuel,

    I read you amazing article several time, and O find another question

    using same Anchor Text ink back to the pillar is not spammy behaviour for seachengin?

    i read this in Moz blog

    “be careful with the anchor text you use to link your own pages together. If too many links to a page all use the same anchor text, even if they’re on your own site, Google might sense spammy behavior.”

  53. Hi Ali

    Thanks for questions. I will try to answer to all of them 🙂

    From my perspective, a topic cluster is defined as follow:
    – 1 pillar page- several cluster / sub pages
    – the pillar link to every sub pages
    – each sub page link back to the pillar
    – the URL are organized hierarchically 

    About linking your cluster pages together, there no limit. Just do something that make sense for your reader.

    Im my example, I link the page 1 to the page 2, the page 2 to 3, etc… because it make sense as I offer a step by step configuration of a tool.

    About your page “how to optimize image size”, I assumed that it might belong more to a topic than to another. 

    So maybe put it into the cluster that make the most sense.

    However I don’t think you will be penalized or it will hurt your ranking if the page has incoming links coming from different pages or pillar pages.

    About the anchor text, if you have 5-10 times the same anchor text within your website, it cannot be considered spammy. Also, it is a good practice to come with variant terms for your anchor text.

    I hope I answer all your points.

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