When it comes to content marketing, everything is constantly changing – from search engines and searchers, to the way in which search results are displayed.
If your business doesn’t keep up with these rapid changes in the search landscape, then you’ll have a really hard time competing online.
There’s a massive shift in how people are discovering content online these days.
These huge changes are a result of a number of contributing factors such as new, more sophisticated search algorithms, different ways of using search engines, and marketers are coming up with totally innovative ways of developing content.
Having said that, it’s also very clear that a lot of online marketers are still facing the exact same pain points from years ago.
- They have a hard time measuring the ROI of the content they create
- They create amazing content but still struggle to rank high on the SERPs for their target keywords
- They do their keyword research and don’t know how to turn that data into actionable intel that gets results…
And their response to these and other similar problems?
They create MORE content!
Unfortunately, creating huge volumes of under-performing content doesn’t help. It only creates more expense, more overwhelm, and more frustration.
If your content isn’t performing well, don’t create more content because you’ll just be adding content to an already poorly performing site architecture, which will make it much harder for Google to find and ultimately rank your content.
The answer to your problems, and what you want to do instead, is to get to the core of the real problem by developing and organizing an effective content marketing strategy.
As SEO changes, you need to change with it, and in this post, we’re going to look at some of the tactics and processes that you need to incorporate into your content strategy going into the new year so that you can achieve high-performing results from your content creation efforts.
But before we dive into how you can keep up with the ever-evolving state of search, let’s take a deeper look at the forces that are driving that change.
1. Search Engines Are Changing
In recent years, updates to the methods of processing and evaluating content have created big changes for search engine optimization. Because of this, the metrics of success that were used in previous years are no longer quite as reliable today.
For instance, content producers evaluate how their content performs by looking at their keyword rankings in the search engines. But, keyword rankings aren’t a credible metric, because your rank is going to change depending on the context of the search.
Simply put, you will see a different search result according to HOW you search, as well as WHERE you’re searching from. This makes it extremely difficult to evaluate the success of your content based on just keyword rankings alone.
Aside from the keyword ranking issues, search engines are also dictating the ways in which marketers should structure their content, as can be seen in the ever increasing featured snippets.
Google is presenting more and more of these in the search results, where they do their best to answer the question asked by the searcher without them having to click through to the actual content.
In reality, content that ranks in featured snippet sections gets much larger shares of traffic for those given queries than content that doesn’t feature there.
This means that now you have to restructure your content so you can appear within those featured snippets (where Wikipedia is reigning supreme… for now).
On A More General Note
Google has made some big investments in AI and machine learning.
They have introduced RankBrain into their core algorithm, and use it for indexing and ranking content. This is what ultimately allows Google to understand the actual intent behind queries without it being explicitly stated in the search query.
The goal of all this?
To create a better user experience by providing searchers with more relevant results.
Which brings us to the second driving force behind the massive change in search:
2. Searchers Are Changing
Even more significant than the evolution of search engines is the way in which searchers now communicate with them. Queries are now a lot more conversational, and this has been amplified by the rise of mobile search and voice search.
While up until recently, people were entering fragmented search terms into the search engines, now they use full sentences to ask more and more complex questions.
That’s why Googles updates in the past two or three years have been focused on better understanding such queries through natural language processors (most notable in the Hummingbird that rolled out a few years ago).
This search algorithm started analyzing whole phrases instead of relying solely on keywords, and this marked Google’s major switch to SEO that is focused on topics as opposed to mere keywords.
By now you certainly must be wondering… ‘What does all this mean for me, as a blogger and online marketer?’
Well, the takeaway here is that you can no longer have a traditional view of keywords when it comes to search.
Whereas just five or so years ago, you’d find ten or twenty ‘big’ keywords that were sought after when trying to rank within a topic, now there are hundreds – possibly thousands of long-tail keyword variations and phrases that users regularly search within each topic.
And, as previously stated, those actually change depending on the searcher’s location.
This means that you may no longer get the successful results you desire in your business by simply dominating a few keywords.
So now that we’ve heard all the problems – What are the solutions?
How do you craft an effective content strategy that will drive organic search and deliver improved results for your business in 2023 and beyond?
The best approach is to look at your visibility across any particular topic in your niche instead of individual keywords.
Organize your content into topic clusters and not disjointed posts, and you’ll be able to capture huge amounts of search traffic that covers a wide (and increasing) range of relevant keywords.
This will also enable you to align your brand with a number of recognizable core topics.
We’ve discussed the importance of topic cluster models previously on this blog, and embracing this as part of your overall content strategy will allow you to completely transform the way you create and organize your content.
Why Build Topic Clusters?
Basically, the premise behind topic clusters as part of your overall content strategy is to allow you to have a deeper coverage of different core topic areas, and in the process, create an effective information architecture on your blog.
If you’re already thinking that this sounds too hard to implement, you’d be wrong.
I’ll admit, it does sound more complex than it is, but it’s actually quite simple to incorporate the content cluster model in your content creation efforts.
Let’s simplify it a bit more:
A pillar page can be defined as an overview of a particular topic – a sort of roadmap or summary. You need to build pillar pages for every one of your major focus areas.
Each piece of content you create after that to cover those individual, more specific sub-topics will be linked to the pillar content and that whole creation is called a content cluster.
Every cluster topic page linked to a pillar post is focused on providing even more detail for specific long-tail keywords that are related to the core topic.
You use the same hyperlinked keyword to link the pillar to the cluster page, and vice versa.
What Are The Benefits of The Content Cluster Model
You may be wondering if it’s worth all that extra work to create a content cluster around your blog’s main topics.
The fact is, in addition to helping you organize your site’s architecture properly, a single high-performing cluster page actually elevates the search rankings for all other pages on your site that are linked to that same pillar post.
When you align sets of pages into topic clusters in this way, it also allows you to more efficiently manage internal linking between web pages, boost your rankings on the search engines, and provide a better overall user experience for visitors to your blog.
A solid information architecture is vital for ranking high in organic search over a wide range of topics.
Create super-focused content clusters around specific topics and you’ll not only get better rankings, but you’ll also find it easier to create content that your readers actually care about.
This means improved search marketing, and less time wasted on creating repetitive content that does not help you meet your search goals.
How To Create A Content Cluster
Here is an example to show a simple way that you can structure your topic cluster:
Create a large piece of content or pillar post that broadly covers the main topic. For example, ‘Weight Loss Routines’.
Create many subtopics that focus on a specific part of the core topic.
- Weight loss routines that actually work
- Weight loss routines to do at home
- Weight loss routines for new mothers
- Weight loss routines for beginners
- Weight loss routines without equipment
- Weight loss routines for the gym
- Weight loss routines for over 50
- The list goes on.
In this example, ‘Workout Routines’ is the core topic and each of the subsequent topics is focused on more specific branches of the main topic.
The pillar content has a specific conversion goal (brand awareness, visitors into leads, sales, or whatever it is for you), but the content cluster also sends a signal to the search engines that there’s more in-depth information available on the topic.
This, in turn, gives the pillar page a level of authority that is even higher, with regards to that specific topic – all the while gaining you higher placements in the search engines thanks to orderly linking.
The Bottom Line
The beauty of the content cluster model is that you get to spend more of your valuable time optimizing the pillar content on your blog for conversions, and the cluster content for driving traffic.
This will save you tons of time when compared to the traditional content marketing model where you attempt to optimize each and every post that you create.
It’s also an easier way of ensuring that you give your readers an improved user experience while, at the same time, giving the search engines positive signals with your site architecture.
For instance, my blog is mainly focused on Internet Marketing, and I have organized a few focus topics on my site as follows:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media Marketing
Each of these has tons of posts on various sub-topics that are associated with and linked to it.
Using this model helps me to avoid repetitive and overlapping posts, and I also let Google know that I provide in-depth information on those topics.
By adopting this model on your site, you will get a considerable boost in traffic, as well as substantially increase the number of new leads that you get every month.
Just remember to make your pillar content evergreen and extremely shareable.
Important Note: What You Need To Know Before You Create Your Content Cluster Plan
Before creating new content clusters, first ask yourself the following questions to determine if this approach is right for your particular site:
- Is there enough search volume in the topic you want higher rankings in to justify your time and effort?
- Is there already content on your site that covers that topic? And if so, maybe you should use what you already have and only add internal links.
- Is that topic one that you want to cover in great detail?
Depending on your answers, you can now start to create your topic cluster.
Begin now to create content clusters around all pillar posts on your blog.
Prioritize the generation of content ideas and content production, and you will be able to structure your content marketing editorial calendar for this model so you can start experiencing phenomenal results from your organic search.
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Updated: Originally published November 29th 2018