Inbound Marketing Building Blocks: Exploring Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages

A crucial piece to marketing your business is having an updated search-optimized website that attracts visitors. Your firm could have the best looking, most informative website in the financial industry, however, if people can’t find your page, what good will it do?

That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. SEO is the process of getting web traffic to your website organically via search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Many of the tactics that feed into SEO involve keyword optimization and back-linking. Even with these tactics in full swing, your competitors may still be beating you in search engine rankings.

Better Structuring for Search

SEO and the way people search are rapidly changing, and Google knows this. Since the birth of online search, people have learned how to find answers quickly – whether they type out full questions or speak to search – most users rely on Google search results.

One way in which Google’s algorithms have evolved is through the recognition of topic clusters and pillar pages. Topic clusters and pillar pages are rooted in the Inbound Marketing Methodology and are a means by which your site structure can be organized to help visitors get answers to their questions quickly and easily.

Topic Clusters

Topic clusters are multiple pieces of content grouped by a shared topic and related subtopics. Topic cluster pages offer comprehensive coverage of a specific subject. This helps site visitors more easily find answers to their search queries. Topic clusters help organize websites using a cleaner structure which creates a better user experience (UX).

Topic clusters are important because, as mentioned, the way in which people search has evolved. Instead of searching for “financial firms Chicago” a potential client may now be searching for “which Chicago financial firms specialize in investment advisory?” This means that people are using longer form search topics — both because of how search engines have transformed and partly because of the rise in voice search like Siri and Google Assistant.

Topic clusters aren’t a best practice just because of how people search. Each day, more and more junk content fills the internet, making it more difficult for us to find what we’re looking for. Long form searches give us the ability to weed out the useless information quicker.

Given this information, topic clusters help more pages rank by providing relevant answers to searchers. Most blogs are structured to have individual posts rank for specific keywords however this makes for a disorganized web page, creating a poor user experience. It may even create a problem where your own blog posts are competing against each other in search, especially if you frequently write about similar topics.

The topic cluster model solves for this by choosing broad topics you want your firm to be known for, then create content based on targeted keywords related to each topic which will all link to each other giving you more reach on search engines.

To visualize it, think of each broad topic being a page and having specialized topics as subpages connected in the cluster using hyperlinks. Topic clusters are built with three main components: pillar content, cluster content and hyperlinks.

Pillar Pages

A pillar page is the base on which a topic cluster is built. It covers every aspect of the topic on one page leaving room for more detailed content in more focused cluster blog posts that link back to pillar pages (HubSpot).

Think of a pillar page as being about a broad topic like investing. Within the pillar page, there is cluster content which revolves around more specific keywords within the respective topic.

For example, if investing is your pillar page topic, then maybe your cluster content would have subpages for stocks, retirement planning, saving for college, options, annuities and more.

Since deeper discussions revolve around investing, that page (the pillar page) will be much longer than the content clusters and acts as a crash course about investing basics. Links at the top of the pillar page can direct users to the corresponding topics almost like a microsite within your web page.

Creating pillar pages is simple however it does require a different way of thinking. Instead of viewing your site in terms of just keywords, think about the topics you want your firm to be known for and how you can provide the most value. A tip is to have pillar pages provide answers to any questions your website visitor might have so try to be as detailed as possible.

Constructing These SEO Building Blocks

Knowing this, you may be wondering where to start. Perhaps your team gets together to brainstorm a few core problems your client persona has, and then groups them into broad topic areas.

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Once you have the core topics you can create subtopics using specific keywords that are optimized for search engines. From there, draw a sitemap of how your ideal page will look and begin writing down content ideas.

A combination of marketing, technical, and financial knowledge will make the process more effective and efficient. It may be best to include a third-party marketing team in your conversations to help guide you through this process.

Interested in learning more about pillar pages and topic clusters? Contact us.