Have you ever sat down to write for your website, only to get stuck staring at a blank screen wondering what to write? We've all been there. Luckily, there is a way to help drive your content production to avoid writer's block AND improve the SEO of your website. That's what we in the industry call a "win-win" scenario.
So, let's take a look at my favourite site structure technique... Content Clusters.
But first, a disclaimer. I did not come up with the concept of content clusters, I just put the strategy to the test and tailored it to my own style. HubSpot refers to content clusters as 'topic clusters', and their approach is best explained in this image.
Image Source: HubSpot
1. Identify Top-Level Themes
The first step to creating content clusters is to identify the top-level themes that your content will address. These are the broad themes that other topics could be grouped under.
Top-level themes need to be broad enough to support 25-30 topics that can be covered underneath them.
I prefer to provide examples of the strategies I write about in action, so to see a top-level theme that is currently being built out, check out our pillar post "How To Improve SEO: 21 Tips To Improve Your Site's Ranking". This post has 21 topics (with a few bonus topics) which will be built out over time so that every tip has a dedicated blog post.
The above is a content cluster already unfolding, but let's create a brand new content cluster as part of this post. A key theme in my business that I want to write more about in the future in marketing automation, so let's park that as a top-level theme and work through the rest of the process.
2. Brainstorm Topics For Each Theme
Once you've identified a top-level theme, it's time to brainstorm the topics that will form the basis for your content. This can be done by reviewing your previous content to pick up topics and group them under the top-level theme, or you could brain dump everything you know about a topic into a spreadsheet. Another strategy to uncover topics for each theme is to do some competitive analysis. Check out what your competitors are writing about your high-level theme and add that to your spreadsheet.
Go through each of your top-level themes and add as many topics under each as you can. Don't stress if the list isn't as exhaustive as you'd like in the beginning... you can always add to it over time.
Now, back to our example-in-progress. In step 1, we identified marketing automation as a top-level theme. So, now it's time for me to identify some topics that I could cover under marketing automation:
- Email drip campaigns
- Welcome sequences
- Re-engagement campaigns
- Onboarding sequence
- Workflow automation
- Goal-based automation
- Task automation
- Lead magnet delivery
- Site tracking
- Dynamic content
- Website chat sequences
- Lead scoring
- Custom audiences
- Landing pages
- CRM system
- ... and much more
The above is a list that I gave myself 3 minutes to come up with. With a bit more time and thought, I'd be able to expand this list out some more. For now, it's a good starting point.
Even if you get started with content clusters now, you can always come back to existing posts while you're updating old content to improve your content over time.
3. Plan Your Content Clusters
Now that you have your top-level themes and topics listed down, it's time to start planning your content clusters. It's good to start by writing a comprehensive pillar post that covers a theme broadly. Once you've got your pillar post, it's time to start planning topic-specific posts that will support the pillar post.
Conduct some keyword research and uncover how people are searching for your themes. Assign each topic an SEO-friendly keyword so that you know how best to write your content.
This post gave you a brief overview of content clusters. The planning process of pulling together content clusters will help you overcome writer's block since you would have identified several topics to write about before you ever sat down to create some content. Once you've got content clusters planned out, all that is left to do is schedule time to create the content around the themes and topics that you identified.
An added bonus of having a structured approach to producing content for your site is that it will improve your search rankings over time.