We all know that Google is getting smarter every day, but many businesses are still stuck in the past when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).
For years, website owners have been optimizing their pages with only a single keyword in mind. But with Google’s natural language processing (NLP) capabilities continuing to evolve and its understanding of how on-page content interrelates deepening daily, this approach is becoming increasingly outdated.
If we want our landing pages to rank for hundreds of keywords instead of just one or two, then our on-page SEO strategy needs an upgrade.
One way to level up your optimization game? Keyword clustering – a powerful tool that helps you get more out of each post you write without stuffing keywords into your text ad nauseam.
Let us explain what keyword clustering is and why it matters for your SEO content strategy.
Topic Clusters and SEO Content Basics
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of keyword grouping, topic clusters and SEO, let’s first discuss some of the big terms we’ll mention throughout this guide.
What Is Natural Language Processing?
At its core, NLP is artificial intelligence (AI), enabling computers to understand and interpret human language.
So, what is natural language processing, really?
Put simply, NLP helps machines better “understand” what we’re saying by analyzing the structure and context of our words, phrases and sentences.
According to Google, NLP “uses machine learning to reveal the structure and meaning of text.”
It has many use cases, such as:
• Analyzing customer sentiment
• Automating document analysis and content classification
• Understanding financial data, such as receipts and invoices
Think of it as Google’s way of “reading” the content found on your website and making sense of it.
What Is an SEO Content Strategy?
If NLP is the technology that understands what we’re saying, then SEO content strategy uses this understanding to move our page up in search results.
Any SEO content strategy aims to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords for your business. This involves:
• Researching potential topics and keywords.
• Analyzing keyword difficulty and competition.
• Creating content that is optimized for those terms.
But if you want to take the next step in your SEO efforts, you need to look beyond single keywords and start grouping related terms into keyword clusters.
What Is Keyword Clustering?
This leads us to our primary topic: keyword clustering.
Keyword clustering is a technique that involves grouping related keywords into logical clusters.
This helps you create content that targets both the original keyword and all its related terms, increasing your chances of appearing in more search engine results pages (SERPs).
Let’s say you want to optimize a page for the keyword “juicing recipes.”
Clustering this term with related keywords like “detox juice recipes,” “green smoothie recipes” and “fruit juice smoothies” allows you to create content that covers all of these topics in one single post.
Keep in mind that creating SEO topic clusters require more than just guesswork and intuition. You must have the right data from the right tools to make this work, such as:
• Google Keyword Planner
• Google Trends
• Answer The Public
• Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
You can use other tools like Google Sheets and Excel to organize your keyword clusters.
How They Work Together
NLP, an SEO content marketing strategy, keyword clustering – they seem to make sense at a glance, but how exactly do they fit each other?
The idea is to create SEO content that ranks in multiple searches as long as they are related.
These days, you can’t create an effective content marketing SEO strategy without taking a step back and analyzing your keyword clusters. Similarly, keyword grouping wouldn’t work if you don’t consider Google’s way of processing language.
As you can see, these three elements form a cohesive SEO content marketing strategy. Used separately, they may help you get some short-term traffic, but when used together, they can give your business a long-lasting boost.
Is It Worth It?
It takes a lot of work. You’ll spend so much time brainstorming and listing down keywords. There are so many pages and content to write for each topic cluster.
So should you bother with keyword clustering?
Our short answer is yes.
Our long answer involves looking at the numbers. If you manage to get your content on top of search engine rankings, you’ll likely experience increased website traffic and a corresponding boost in revenue.
The easiest way to do this is through long-tail keywords that get the least traffic but have the highest conversion rate and are less competitive. In a study by Ahrefs, about 0.0008% of keywords get around 100,000 monthly searches.
While that may seem like a bad number, it’s actually quite good. Those keywords are more likely to convert because they’re usually in a specific niche. Keyword clustering allows you to target such search terms, giving you an excellent chance to rank for them.
It’s also worth noting that NLP and keyword clustering are not trends that will be obsolete soon. As more people start using them, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition by implementing an effective SEO content marketing strategy now.
Take a look at this multi-location dermatology practice group.
They needed to migrate their main website to smaller micro-websites to rank in several service locations. Their goal is to rank on location-based keywords, such as:
• Cosmetic dermatology
• Skin cancer
Part of their SEO strategy is to rank for high-intent keyword searches like “skincare exam” and “local dermatologist.” This involves creating SEO topic clusters to highlight their services while appearing on search results. On top of that, their SEO partners implemented strategies like domain linking, link-building and local citation management.
The results are pretty impressive:
Another excellent case study for the successful implementation of content marketing SEO strategy is this multi-location reconstruction and restoration firm.
They identified topic clusters for high-quality blogs, built links for their location-based services and optimized Google Business Profile listings, among other SEO strategies for increased visibility.
Here’s how it worked out for them:
These results show that applying keyword clustering to your SEO strategy pays off significantly.
How To Create an SEO Strategy With Keywords and Topic Clusters
Now that you know why keyword clustering is essential, here’s a short guide on how to create an SEO strategy charged with keyword clustering.
Step 1: Build a Keyword List
Keyword grouping and clustering always start with a list. And this list will have to be as comprehensive as possible.
Start by listing all of your services and products, then add words related to them. Remember to include highly specific long-tail keywords for each niche you target.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with keywords, though. Just take a good look at your competitors and see what’s currently working for them, where they rank best and how they use keywords. Then take all that insight and start building your own keyword list.
You can use a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner to further expand your list and get more specific with your keywords. Document and organize all your findings so you don’t lose track of them.
The best tool we found for SEO documentation is Google Sheets because it’s free and easy to use.
As you start, you may be stuck with only a hundred keywords, but that’s okay. Without expert help, that would be more than enough to identify SEO topic clusters for your business.
Step 2: Cluster Your Keywords Into Groups
There are two things to keep in mind when building clusters: relevance and intent.
Relevance refers to how closely related the keywords are to each other, while intent relates to what type of search query is being made.
Generally, you’ll have four types of search intents, namely:
Take a good look at your keywords and identify patterns. Group them according to their relevance and intent.
Let’s go back to our dermatology practice example earlier.
We can create a cluster for cosmetic services, such as:
• Laser hair removal
• Botox injections
• Facial fillers
We can also have another cluster related to skin cancer treatments, such as:
• Skin cancer screening
• Skin cancer treatment
You can also create clusters based on intent.
For the dermatology practice example, we can make a cluster for informational searches (what is skin cancer?), navigational searches (“local dermatologists”), transactional searches (“skincare products”) and commercial searches (“microdermabrasion near me”).
Grouping irrelevant keywords on one page can confuse search engines and hurt your rankings. Keep related keywords together so that Google will know what they’re about.
Step 3: Identify Your Pillar Content
Your topic clusters are the blueprint of how your web content should look like. They’re your website’s core topics once you’ve successfully implemented your content marketing SEO strategy.
These core topics are also called pillar content or pillar pages, housing all relevant content for a particular subject.
For instance, you can create a pillar page about your dermatology practice’s cosmetic services. Include in-depth information on each service, such as laser hair removal, botox injections and facial fillers.
You can also have another pillar page for skin cancer treatments, with detailed information on screening and diagnosis and treatment options.
By doing this, you can prevent keyword cannibalization and create relevant content for related searches.
This also helps establish your website as an authority in the niche you’re trying to target.
Step 4: Branch Out With Blogs and Other Content
The content creation side of your SEO content marketing strategy would not stop at pillar pages.
Now, you must support your pillar content with high-quality blogs and other content. The goal is to provide more information about the topics you have already discussed in your pillar pages.
You can create a blog post on “the basics of skin cancer” or “how laser hair removal works.” You can also create videos, infographics, brochures, eBooks and much more.
Think of this SEO content marketing strategy as a complex web of interconnected content pieces, with pillar pages as the main nodes.
Each node has supporting topics surrounding it, providing detailed information on the core topics. It also provides readers with a comprehensive source of information that they can rely on.
Step 5: Build Backlinks for Your Topic Clusters
Google is a picky search engine that rewards the websites that have put in the effort. This means that naturally acquiring backlinks from high-authority sources will boost your website’s rankings.
Linking back to internal pages helps Google understand your website’s structure. On the other hand, linking to external (preferably authoritative) sources helps Google recognize your website’s credibility.
It also shows search engine crawlers that other websites have found your content valuable.
Charge Your Content With the Right Keywords
With Google’s NLP, SEO is more than just stuffing your content with keywords and hoping for the best.
It’s also about finding the most helpful topics and building a content marketing SEO strategy around them. This way, you won’t just be ranking for bypassers. You’ll be ranking for an audience with real problems looking for real solutions.
Thrive Internet Marketing Agency is home to expert content writers and SEO strategists who help you get started on the right foot. We develop bespoke content solutions to keep your website ready for new visitors.
Contact us today for sustainable, long-term SEO solutions.