Content that evokes an emotional tug or offers pain point solutions to motivate buying behaviors is a marketing staple. It serves as the foundation for connection and communication between people who have a specific need and those offering a pathway to fill it.

This tried-and-true approach to content isn’t going away, but it is getting richer and more nuanced. Say hello to content clusters built around a central pillar, the new modern twist on taking the power of content and SEO to a new level.

Marketers are already tuned in to algorithm changes and how they impact the way we create and deliver content. To get beyond that creation process, we also need to see how specific content interacts with other pieces within our own websites, with competitors, and with the online world overall.

Let me explain.

With so much dynamic content available online in a variety of forms, including blog posts, videos, podcasts, social media, and more, algorithms have to adjust to the larger library of reference material.

Content clusters offer both strategic and SEO value—simply put, it is a bundle of content that provides nuance about a particular topic for the person searching. The interesting part is that content clusters go beyond keyword dominance. They deliver related search results and have SEO relevance but are more focused on delivering the most options of content related to a topic in a specific way, demonstrating authority on a topic or idea, not just keyword optimization.

Part of the algorithm changes are influenced by the introduction of AI and voice-activated search, which is becoming more mainstream. Users want specific content of the highest value and authority, not random content that might be a fit because of keyword relevance.

The other part is the marketing engine itself. Companies and consumers want to do business with a brand that has a proven level of knowledge and authority. Content clusters do just that, while a creating an opportunity to rank higher than you competition for specific keywords and phrases in your industry.

Reshaping the Content Ideal

Knowing that the algorithm for search engines favors content clusters (at least for now), it’s important to review the big picture process for how you create content in the future.

It’s not just about the words you put together and how, but why it’s so essential to intertwine a very specific SEO strategy as part of your overall content strategy. Building on this foundation makes it easier to create content pieces that are relevant and support each part of the buyer’s journey. When done well, the content clusters you create will be and feel organic while also helping your brand build the level of authority online that sets you apart from the rest.

Here’s a quick example of how to think of creating a content cluster:

You’ve created core pillar pages that include general keywords that broadly outline a general topic, such as visiting London. Content clusters developed around this core topic can be about more specific aspects of that topic using long-tail keywords such as “Big Ben in London,” “Tower of London,” “London Nightlife for 21 and Older.” The pillar page links to all of these content cluster pages and each cluster page links back, using the same hyperlinked keyword in the text. When one page gets a click, they all get a boost in the search engine rankings as a group.

It’s a simple, yet easy thing to do—if you’re working as a team to map out content in a way that provides this type of content in general marketing outreach and throughout the buyer’s journey. This move towards content clusters also reinforces how important it is to have your content strategy and SEO strategy aligned, making every word in each content piece count.

Looking at content as lots of smaller cogs that make up a big wheel also ensures you’re strategically mindful in building a puzzle where every piece has its place. The best way to start is to break down how you would create one core content pillar, and build outwards. Insights on how to use an initiative template (link here to templates) effectively to create a content cluster base can go a long way, and get you thinking of ways it can be implemented into a larger marketing campaign long term.

Building Content Clusters with Punch 

It’s kind of a given but bears repeating – focus on creating content that is evergreen, relevant, interesting, and educational. Building a content cluster is not about writing random content around an abstract keyword just to get ranked for it anymore. There’s a balance of long-term need and use of the content resource itself, as well as the opportunity to capture an under-served or growing audience that result from leveraging a content cluster strategy.

Now that you know content clusters are on the rise and help improve online relevance, how can you create content that maintains SEO relevance, generates authority and packs a punch on your target market?

1. Content Pillars Set the Stage

At the center of a content cluster is a pillar: the largest, meatiest asset that most of the other content either points to or repurposes.

A content pillar is a substantive and informative piece of content on a specific topic or theme that can be broken into many derivative sections, pieces, and materials. Examples of content pillars include eBooks, reports, and guides.

2. Pump Up Content Clusters with Templates

Utilize templates for the content cluster development process.

Building from what you already know is one thing, but mapping it out clarifies the content you need to create or fine tune. A visual tool to plug and play ideas, topics, and keywords helps marketing teams visualize the big picture and inspire new potential ideas for content built around keywords and phrases.

Recommended for you: Content Marketing Templates

3. Diversify Content Cluster Media

Get creative with how you build a content cluster by diversifying the types of content included. Some people may only like to read blog posts, but why not also capture those who listen to podcasts or want to watch a video from a speaker with industry authority? Try to feature a few content styles, and include a transcript for those who like to skim rather than view certain media.

Don’t overextend your team by making each asset brand new. If the primary pillar is an eBook, use screenshot some of the best pages to do a “Key Takeaways” blog that has a CTA to download the full asset. You’ll ultimate expand the number of resources for your audience without having to write the same sentiment five different ways.

4. Share the Spotlight

Sharing is caring, as they say. If you have an industry partner who is relevant and willing, build a content cluster of authority that benefits you both. Partner marketing efforts ultimately have double the resources and more than double the audience, simply because the quality of the content is higher.

5. Storytelling for the Win

Use a story to draw traffic to a larger content cluster.

Everyone likes a good story, even when they know they may be getting sucked into a sale. To inspire people to move towards a content cluster for more in-depth insights, a story can help paint a more approachable picture of your brand or clarify what makes you stand out as a leader in the industry.

Final Thoughts

Taking the opportunity to really leverage the power of what a content cluster can offer gets you two things. It provides a way for a brand to think about content creation differently, moving towards a level of authority rather than just keyword ranking. Marketers also start building a content vision that’s organized and creative as they create diverse assets to honor the buyer’s journey while delivering a more collective punch.

Katrina Pfannkuch

About Katrina Pfannkuch

Katrina Pfannkuch is a creativity consultant specializing in writing, editing, strategy & coaching. She's a bit of a data nerd & loves seeing how pieces of the informational puzzle come together to paint a creative picture. Catch Katrina & her insights on kick-starting creativity at @creativekatrina on Twitter.