Search engines are changing.
The way that we search for things online is changing.
And if you want to drive interested parties to your website, your content strategy must change, too.
Influential search engines like Google no longer look at just specific keywords and have gradually altered their algorithm(s) to favour topic-based content or more accurately, topic clusters.
Search behaviour has changed. In the past, if we wanted to find something on Google (or any other search engine for that matter) we would have to use specific keyword terms and fragmented sentences for search engines to understand our query.
Nowadays, search is far more conversational and semantic, and voice assistants like Siri and Alexa have facilitated the means for us to execute search queries wherever, whenever.
When we use voice search, our queries are different and far more natural. Instead of fragmented sentences based around specific keyword terms, we ask questions like: “How do I get to London Bridge?”, “What are the best restaurants in London?”, “How do I open a bank account?”. By posing these questions, we can cut through the rubbish online and be confident that the search results we receive are accurate and related to our initial search query.
This shift in search behaviour has been replicated across organic search, too. We – as searchers – expect to receive accurate results regardless of how complex our queries are and as a result, search engines have altered the way in which they evaluate search queries.
Search engines today are far more concerned with understanding the context and intent of a search: “What is HubSpot?”, for example, is a request for information, whereas “How do I purchase HubSpot?” signals an intent to purchase. Both search terms have the keyword “HubSpot” but indicate different context and intent.
To understand these queries, search engines look beyond just the keyword terms and use natural language processing (NLP) technology, lexical connections, previous search history, user behaviour, location, device, proximity and a host of other factors, to interpret user search queries and deliver the most accurate and relevant search results.
But what does this mean for your content strategy?
What it means is that keywords alone are no longer enough. While they can help you to identify the terms your prospects are using to find you, new strategies are required in order to stay ahead of the competition. You need to be thinking about a searcher’s intent and the context of their search, as well as what they would actually like to know.
Your prospects have questions – and instead of typing in, for example, “Marketing Automation platforms” – they want to know: “What are the best Marketing Automation platforms?”.
Individual blog topics targeting specific keywords, regardless of how good the content is, are gradually losing their effectiveness.
For your content to be successful and found by your prospects online, it needs to be built around a question or topic – one which you answer with clear expertise. To attract and engage your prospects, you must create a library of content that answers all the questions they have or may have… a resource they can readily turn to when they need help…
A topic cluster.
What is a topic cluster?
A topic cluster, according to our guide and mentor HubSpot, is where a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content for a specific topic and multiple sub pages (cluster content) related to that same topic link to and from the pillar page.
By linking the sub topics to the pillar page, you signal to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic. Over time, as more and more people visit that page, the pillar page will rank higher for the topic it covers – any value attributed to the pillar page will be shared amongst the connected sub topics, improving their ranking on search engine results pages as well.
The idea is that your pillar page addresses a specific question your prospects have – perhaps, “How to set up HubSpot” – and then includes a series of sub topics related to that question on other aspects of the process, for example: “Setting up your HubSpot CRM” or “Setting up lead management” – and so on.
Topic clusters represent a smarter and more efficient way of structuring and delivering your content, and make it incredibly easy for search engines to understand your website.
In our eBook, Topic Clusters: The next step in your content marketing strategy, we take a look at why search engines are changing and why any content marketing strategy needs to be built around a topic cluster approach.
Download our eBook and find out how SEO is changing, what you need to do to adapt, the importance of topic clusters and how they work, and the benefits of using them.