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Content clusters (also known as topic clusters or hubs) are a way of structuring the content on your website to demonstrate to Google that you have depth of expertise on distinct topics.
This matters for two reasons:
Google’s search algorithm has evolved – it started 25 years ago by counting simple keyword matches, nowadays it is far more sophisticated and prioritises sites with authority and expertise (an approach known as E-E-A-T).
Website users are impatient, abhor time wasters, and want supplementary answers to their questions at the point at which they are most useful – within the page being read.
The results of clustering can be spectacular. Recruitment platform Yello
doubled blog traffic within six months, while digital agency Campaign Creators increased traffic by 750% within a year.
The thing to remember is that Google’s business model depends on delivering good answers to searchers’ queries. In order to do this, Google has to understand what your site is all about, and to be comfortable that you know what you are talking about.
The Algorithm uses all sorts of clues to estimate these things. When it comes to structure, your navigation is important, as is your home page. But increasingly, the algorithm is trying to understand the organic structure of your site – what links between pages suggest is your most valuable content.
Most site owners are unaware of what their site looks like to Google. There are now tools like Sitebulb’s ‘crawl maps’ that model how Google crawls your site and what it learns about its structure.
It’s worth putting your site through such a tool to get a feel for how you come across – a bit like watching a video replay of one of your presentations. I’ve done this for the sites that I support, and I can only say that ‘crawl maps’ are invaluable in encouraging site owners to think afresh about their content.
Campaign Creators is a medium-sized site with a distinct shape
Runcible Content is a tiny site in the process of a rebuild around clusters
My site is tiny compared to Campaign Creators, but I’ve made a start on two clusters, which you can see in the crawl map.
What you see in these diagrams is what Google sees. It will see any clusters and their size as signals of expertise.
One crucial aspect of content clustering is that it helps site owners to understand what they have built and to consider what gaps there are.
A mind shift is required away from the production of individual posts and the identification of keywords they might rank for, towards a modest set of topics for which you can reasonably expect to be viewed as an authority.
The way to do this is simple: