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Use Blogging to Expand Topic Clusters

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The concept of using blogging as a core element of your content marketing strategy is nothing new. For decades now, companies have been using an active blog to publish content, establish topical authority, hit on countless keywords, engage with the audience and more. The benefits of a quality blog in your content marketing strategy are many, and you probably don’t need to be convinced of that point. 

What has shifted somewhat in the digital marketing landscape, however, is how blogs are used within the context of a bigger content marketing methodology. For many businesses, a blog has served as a standalone solution—a place to publish SEO-focused pieces that bring in traffic to the site. However, these days, you may want to think about using your blog as a place to target longtail key phrases that connect to content clusters or pillars you’ve built on other pages. 

This article is going to break down this concept and how it can be executed to serve SEO needs of the average business. It might sound a little complicated at first, but it’s actually a rather straightforward strategy with the potential to pay off in a big way.

An Integrated Content Strategy

Let’s get started by zooming out and looking at how you approach content marketing from a big picture perspective. If you are like most organizations, you are maintaining an active blog of some kind, but you are probably using static pages as well to draw organic SEO traffic. These static pages can be things like pillar articles on important areas of your niche, instructional articles on specific topics, etc. These kinds of static pages are extremely important for the foundation of your SEO work, but they might not get you all the way to where you want to go. 

That’s where using your blog strategically enters the picture. If you have established topic clusters within your collection of static pages, you’ll have generated large lists of keywords to target in each of those clusters. This idea of topical relevance has been a big focus in recent years in the SEO world, and for good reason. By demonstrating your authority in specific areas, and keeping those areas clustered together logically, you may be able to boost your rankings for searches that relate to such topics. 

But those huge lists of keywords are probably going to generate more ideas than you can realistically fit within your various clusters. Weighing down your clusters with long lists of pages could harm the user experience and cloud your message. So, instead, consider using your blog as a way to build up the volume of those clusters while still keeping things neat and tidy. In this way, you can have blog posts that target keywords that didn’t make it into your main clusters but are still worth going after with a quality piece of content. 

Applying the Topic Cluster Concept

Let’s walk through an example of how this content strategy could be applied to a business that uses both static content and blog posts to reach SEO goals. For our example, we will discuss an HVAC business that offers services like furnace and air conditioner maintenance, repair, installation, etc. This business is focused on serving residential customers, so its content is structured around keywords and phrases that would be used by homeowners who need HVAC help. For the purposes of this example, we’ll say that our business is located in Las Vegas. 

One of the many topic clusters this business has built on its site is aimed at residential air conditioning in Las Vegas. As the center of that cluster, the site has a pillar article titled “Everything You Need to Know About Home Air Conditioning in Las Vegas”. This is a long piece of content with ample resources for the reader, CTAs to learn more about the business, etc. To support this pillar page, there are several other pieces of static content that address things like how big an air conditioner should be for a given house, how much air conditioning costs, on average, etc. 

This topic cluster is a useful part of the website and it drives a significant amount of traffic. But it could be better if it was supported by targeted blog posts that are meant to feed into the cluster. There is practically no limit to the keyword phrases that could be chosen for these blog posts, but here are a few hypothetical examples:

  • Heat pump or air conditioner Las Vegas
  • Best HVAC companies in Las Vegas
  • How often should Las Vegas air conditioning be serviced
  • What size ac for 3000 sq ft Vegas house

Whatever your market happens to be, there are sure to be countless longtail key phrases that you can target with your blog content. These are the ones that show up on your keyword research reports near the bottom, where the search volume is relatively low—but so is the competition. If you can relatively quickly produce blog posts on these low-competition phrases, you can gradually pick up traffic and rank for more and more terms that are being searched by your target audience.

Links: The Special Sauce

Creating these blog posts in a vacuum and posting them to your site could still be effective, but you’d be missing out on a big opportunity. Instead of just letting the posts exist on an island in the blog section of your website, you’ll want to strategically link them to other pages to maximize their impact. Internal linking is an often-overlooked but extremely important part of running a good SEO campaign. 

Consider using each blog post as an opportunity to point an internal link to the pillar page that sits at the top of the relevant content cluster on your site. After all, that page is one that you have spent a lot of time building, and it probably generates plenty of leads for your business. So, by steering this traffic towards that page through the use of a link or two in the blog content, you can expand the reach of the pillar page and cause it to be even more valuable for your site. 

When adding internal links to your blogs, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Make it natural. Do your best not to force these links into the content. Find places to add them where they fit in naturally and will add value for the reader. Remember, even when working on an SEO initiative, you always want to keep your human website visitors at the top of your priority list
  • Link to multiple pages. In addition to the links you add to the main pillar page for the cluster, also look for chances to link to other supporting pages in that category. The more opportunities you find to direct visitors to your valuable resources, the better you’ll be able to serve those visitors
  • Do periodic maintenance. Every so often, go through your site and check that your internal links are still pointing to the correct URLs. Over time, things will change with a website, such as URL structure, and you might accidentally break some of your old links. Make it a habit to check on your links from time to time to make sure they are all still working as they should

With so much SEO time and effort spent on building backlinks, it’s easy to forget about the importance of internal links. And, since these are entirely under your own control – you don’t need to convince someone else to give you a link – there is no reason not to take full advantage of the opportunity to properly interlink the content on your site.

Developing Topical Authority

Getting back to a point we made earlier in this article, a big part of this whole exercise is about topical authority. Whether it is HVAC in Las Vegas or any other type of product or service you need to promote, you’ll want to stay on topic and keep the content in your clusters logically organized. 

It’s easy to get into trouble on this point, however, when you are trying to write content for specific keywords you want to target. If you simply write to the keyword without thinking about the topic cluster you want to support, things can get off track. For example, one of the theoretical keywords from our example above was “best HVAC companies in Las Vegas”. This is the type of keyword that could take you in a lot of different ways for a blog post. But if you wanted to support your content silo that covers residential AC in Las Vegas, a couple of good options might be the following:

  • How to Pick the Best HVAC Companies in Las Vegas for Residential Projects
  • What the Best HVAC Companies in Las Vegas Know About AC in the Desert

Each of these blog posts would target the right keyword and also stay very closely related to the silo you are trying to support. By writing these kinds of posts regularly, and then linking them to your clusters, you can work in far more keywords than you could with just static pillar pages.

Just One of Many Benefits

Finally, we should wrap this up by reminding you that blogging is useful for more than just building your clusters. Yes, keywords are vital for SEO success, but you also want to make good connections with your audience, and blog posts might help you do just that. Each time you publish a post, promote it on your social media channels and give it a featured spot on your website’s main pages. Rather than treating your ongoing blog as an afterthought that lives in the background, bring it to the front and use it as a mouthpiece for your organization. 

Also, be sure to mix in blog posts that have nothing to do with SEO goals. You can publish to your blog when you simply have something to say to your audience, want to share a lighthearted story, or are getting ready for a big event. A healthy blog is one that mixes up types of content to serve many different ambitions at the same time. Good luck with your blog and here’s to many new organic visits in the months and years ahead!

Morgan Staples
About Morgan Staples:

Morgan Staples has the tools and talent to create compelling content for clients. Morgan leads all written and verbal content efforts at Sanctuary for digital marketing projects and campaigns, delivering highly effective copy that drives leads and sales.

Learn more about Morgan.

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