Pillar and Cluster Content: Tested a number of times and verified that it works.
In the good old times, you could write content, just one piece of content and fill it up with your keyword of choice that you are keen to rank on Google search engine result page (SERP). Some fellow SEO’s suggest a number of word count when it comes to creating content. Let’s say: 2000 words. It might be working in the past.
Now and more than ever, Google values searcher satisfaction. So if let’s say, you are searching for “iPhone” it’s highly unlikely that you would like to read an article stuffed with the keyword “iPhone”.
Here’s a great example of keyword stuffing:
In this article, I’ll be briefly sharing what we have suggested in terms of pillar and cluster content and the results we have seen in the rankings.
Table of Content:
- Understanding searcher intent
- A giant pillar and it’s baby clusters – Wait, what?
- Let’s link them with each other
- Results (Shadowed)
1〉 Understanding searcher intent
First thing’s first. Not everyone searching for a specific keyword would like to read a long article. Most of the time, especially people working on UX would tell you (actually shout at you because they are fed up) that you can not assume, but you should test your idea if it’s going to work on your website or not. And I agree 100%. This does not apply when you are choosing the topic that you are going to create.
About choosing your content topic, you don’t have to assume or test anything. Writing content for testing would cost a decent amount of money and that money could be saved to spend elsewhere. Google SERP is there, go on, search for your target keywords and look at the results.
- Do you see articles? If yes, great, you may have a chance with creating text content.
- Now, look further deeper. How long written are they? What are the titles, descriptions and sub-titles?
- Do you see any image results or videos on SERP? Maybe searcher intent is to see models of wedding gowns. If that is the case, writing one or more content about “the history of wedding gowns” would not work if your target is to rank for “wedding gowns”. It might work for “the history of wedding gowns” though.
Not every topic is meant to be a text content. Just writing about a topic does not work.
2〉 A giant pillar and it’s baby clusters – Wait, what?
Pillar content includes clusters in itself. Cluster contents are written around a specific topic and the pillar content summarizes them in a slightly longer post.
Choosing a pillar content may be tough due to your niche. Generally, what I’d like to look for: Do that topic/question/keyword has high search volume with information search intent and a good number of related sub-topics, “People-Also-Ask” questions, related searches that have meaning? Because a pillar content should be giant, it should illuminate each corner about that specific topic in order to work better than its competitors.
If it’s confusing for you, let’s share a couple of examples:
a) Beard Model: Beard model related terms have 8.000 monthly average search volume just in Malaysia. When searched there are images on SERP and these images require huge SERP real estate. So, no, even if it has high search volume, writing a text content about beard models would not work well even if you create the best text content about beard models. Users want something more visual. They want to see.
b) Beard Care: It has 15.000 monthly average search volume (again just in Malaysia). When searching there are, in fact, a number of text contents backed up with video results. So, yes – on one condition, writing a pillar about beard care would work, but you may need to back it up with video content. You can do that by embedding a video on your pillar content page.
c) Rent a Car: The keyword “rent a car” has 3.600 monthly average search volume just on its own for Singapore. When searched there are no content pages ranking though. Users are searching for a service, their intent is simply renting a car. In short, that’s a no.
d) Should I rent or buy a car?: It has lower search volume, but when searched on Google, you can definitely see content pages. Users are searching to decide, so their intention is informational. There are not much sub-topics or meaningful PAAs. In short, no, this can be a great article. But it’s not cut out to be a pillar.
e) Eyeliner: It has 60.500 monthly average search volume in Malaysia and India combined.
There are a number of questions that users’ ask about eyeliner:
- How to choose the right one?
- How to do a cat-eye make-up with eyeliner?
- How to clean your makeup if you are using waterproof eyeliner?
- What about permanent eyeliner? (OK, I feel most of the gentlemen are getting bored at this point.) In short, yes, a pillar content can be written about eyeliner.
As you can see, finding a pillar topic in your niche can be quite challenging. It has to have multiple specialities in order to perform well as a pillar topic. But, don’t worry, the right idea will come to you. And if not, tweet or DM us at @AgencyConverged and we can think together about your pillar content topic.
After you choose your topic, you can address your clusters.
Let’s use the “eyeliner” example again:
Pillar Content Title: All About Eyeliner
- Eyeliner styles
- Eyeliner product types
- Choosing the correct eyeliner for you
- Eyeliner prices
- Celebrities with iconic eyeliner makeup, etc.
To find the best cluster topic ideas:
- Write down your own ideas. This is your niche. If you feel confident on the subject, don’t be afraid to include your thoughts and ideas into your pillar and cluster.
- Look at the SERP. You can get inspired by “People Also Ask” questions, related searches, your fellow competitors. Don’t copy and paste any of these, that is not what I’m suggesting.
- Answer-the-public. This website works great for English keywords. Turkish or Bahasa is not working quite well. So this is recommended to use in English and get inspired to write content in your target language. You simply enter a keyword and it gives you a full list of what people have searched about it.
- Google Keyword Explorer. Last but not least, this is to see how much search volume do your target keywords have. Don’t overlook the power of longtail keywords or any type of keywords that might have little search results. If your niche is about, let’s say, cybersecurity, you won’t be seeing tens of thousands of average search volume anyways.
3〉 Let’s link them with each other
Not writing just one, but creating multiple content pieces is to signal Google that you have more than just a page about your topic and show-off that you are the expert in your field. In order to achieve this, you’ll need to link them internally with each other with appropriate anchor texts.
“I’m panicking because I don’t know what an anchor text is.”
Chill out, anchor text is this one. “one” is the anchor text in this example. You can click on it, it’s text.
Choose your anchor texts for users. For example, selecting only the keyword “beard care” within your cluster contents and link them to your “beard care” pillar content URL would look non-sense. Don’t just choose your number one target keyword, choose something meaningful within the context.
Let’s say you have a cluster content with a title “how to grow a beard” and you want to link it from your pillar content. Your anchor text maybe something like this: “If you’ like to learn more on how to grow your beard, we have another article that you may enjoy.”
We tested this for most of our clients. And I can say it works! Only the time needed to see the organic performance increasing changes due to the competition, but results look pretty much the same. Not ranking keywords started to rank after publishing-related pillar and cluster contents. Already ranking keywords started ranking even better.
Unfortunately, we are not able to share the results without shadowing them, even if I shadow the numbers at the rankings column, I have to shadow the keywords as well since we have NDAs signed and keywords may tell something about their online strategy. (Sorry!) But you’ll be able to see the increase on Google Search Console in terms of organic traffic.
This screenshot is from Client X:
This is from Client Y:
In both examples, there was no backlink outreach taking place. But it would be nice to underline there were also technical implementations which are on and off during all this time. So, sadly, we can not say “Well, this is the success of writing strategic content” At least it’s not 100%. But we strongly believe that it helps quite a lot.
Here are the basics on how to write pillar and cluster contents on a specific topic. If you have any questions or comments, please shoot them in the comment section below. And if you’d like to ask anything you can reach us via;
- Twitter: @AgencyConverged
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Important note: The keyword and topic examples I used in this article are “imaginary” and chosen in a little short order. They are not related to our clients. (Not asking for any trouble or losing the trust we earned in years.) Please do not copy and paste what you have seen here when you are planning on your content strategy if you are selling beard oil or eyeliner.
Thanks for your time!