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How to Build a Topic Cluster in 10 Minutes

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How to Build a Topic Cluster in 10 Minutes


How do you know an SEO is into topic clusters?

Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Lots of SEOs seem to be raving about the benefits of topic clusters at the moment. But do topic clusters live up to the hype, or are they just another buzzword?

In this guide, you’ll learn the following:

Topic clusters are interlinked pages about a particular subject.

People often get confused by the name variations. If there’s one thing SEOs love to do, it’s to create multiple terms for the same thing:

Topic clusters, content hubs, pillar pages, hub and spoke. Whatever you call them, they are all essentially the same thing: topically grouped pages designed to cover a subject and rank.

Simply put, a topic cluster consists of three components:

  1. A page focused on a topic.
  2. A “cluster” of pages covering related subtopics in more depth.
  3. Internal linking between all of the pages.

If you nail those three elements, you have a topic cluster.

Most people’s first encounter with topic clusters is via this graphic from Hubspot that illustrates the setup of a cluster:

Infographic showing how topic clusters are arranged and how they link to the pillar content

Why do topic clusters matter for SEO?

Topic clusters help search engines better understand the hierarchy of your website. As such, they may help search engines see your site as an authority on a specific subject.

Basically, a topic cluster is just another way of laying out your website’s architecture.

However, it’s worth pointing out here that Google has never specifically said to use topic clusters or mentioned anything about their benefits. The closest SEOs get to an official comment on topic clusters is this part from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines:

Design your site to have a clear conceptual page hierarchy.

This is open to interpretation. Like most things in SEO, topic clusters are a framework created by SEOs (not Google) to help get stuff done.

Topic clusters are effective for SEO because they:

  • Group relevant content together so that it is easier to find (for users and search engines).
  • May help to build topical relevance/authority for your site by fully covering a topic.
  • Help to create relevant internal links naturally.

So what do topic clusters actually look like?

Three examples of topic clusters in the wild

Below you will find three examples of topic clusters across different niches.

If you want more examples, check out Kane Jamison’s awesome 30+ content hub examples or look through Ahrefs’ Beginner’s Guide to SEO for inspiration.

All these examples below have the ingredients of a good topic cluster:

  1. Page focused on a high-level topic (online courses, wines, workouts)
  2. Related subtopics that go into greater detail
  3. Internal linking between all of the pages

Example 1 – Podia’s guide to selling a profitable online course

Excerpt of Podia's guide; title on top and video below

This is a classic example of a topic cluster: one main page linking out to subpages (or chapters, in this case). Most of this content is evergreen, so the subpages don’t need to be updated too often.

The best way to think of this cluster is as a long-form guide split into bite-sized chunks. In fact, that’s how Podia described it:

8 lines, each summarizing a step; each line is linked to another article with more details

Example 2 – Wine Folly’s beginner’s guide to wine

Excerpt of Wine Folly's guide

This content cluster is another overview page linking to evergreen resources. But this time, it lists out many supporting articles (each grouped under a subtopic).

As compared to Podia, which split its cluster into chapters, Wine Folly chose to group its keywords under subtopics and even created supporting text for each:

Excerpt of guide. Pictures of grapes and wine in glasses on left; text on right

This format works really well when covering a large topic (like wine). There are lots of different subtopics and keywords with different intents, so it makes sense to split the content this way.

Example 3 – Muscle and Strength’s workout database

Excerpt of M&S' page about free workouts. Man is lifting weights in background image

This cluster is massive. It’s set up like a visual database made up of hundreds of pages that are sortable and filterable (to an extent).

Each page is labeled and grouped under a relevant category (e.g., Workouts For Men, Workouts For Women, Chest Workouts, etc.). And on the main page itself, you can immediately see what each category is about.

3 pictures of different programs side by side, corresponding text below

And it looks like it’s working in terms of SEO:

List of URLs with corresponding traffic

As you can see, there are different ways to build your topic clusters. The important thing is to pick the format you think will best display your content for Google and users.

How to create a topic cluster in 10 minutes

Most articles about building topic clusters look like this…

  • Step 1: Choose the topic you want to rank for
  • Step 2: Select your content clusters
  • Step 3: Review your existing content
  • Step 4: Link your content together
  • Step 5: Profit?

But this article is going to be a bit different.

The following guide will walk you through how to use free tools and Ahrefs to go from zero to a fully planned out topic cluster strategy in 10 minutes. Oh—and in a niche you know nothing about.

DISCLAIMER:

If you want to build a comprehensive topic cluster, there’s no substitute for doing proper research. But that’s not always possible due to a lack of budget or time. So treat this method as minimum viable niche research.

Let’s get started.

Step 1. Choose a topic (to build a cluster around)

You need to pick a topic before you can start building a cluster.

Whatever topic you pick, it needs to be tight enough so that it focuses on a single concept. But it also must be broad enough so that you’re not limiting the amount of content you can produce.

Don’t overcomplicate it. The key here is to start thinking in terms of topics and not just keywords.

Here are some criteria that will help you make good choices. Topics should:

  • Satisfy informational search intent.
  • Have search traffic potential (just don’t get hung up on search volume).
  • Be broad enough to generate subtopics.

Struggling for ideas? Head over to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, search for a niche-related term, and go to the Overview report.

You can now look at Keyword ideas for—well, keyword ideas. This is a good place to start picking a topic to build a cluster around.

Just don’t use terms that are too narrow here.

For example, if you drop in a keyword like “personal injury lawyer for prisoners,” the results are not useful for the purpose of building a topic cluster:

List of keyword ideas

However, if you go a bit broader and drop in the keyword “personal injury lawyer,” you’ll get some good terms:

List of keyword ideas on left; list of "question" searches on right

These terms (in the “Questions” section) fit our criteria: informational, search traffic potential, and broad.

However, the Terms match ideas are more like commercial investigation intent keywords. So we may want to go broader and use “lawyer” as a seed keyword instead.

Why?

Because I don’t think you’d use keywords such as “best personal injury lawyer” and “atlanta personal injury lawyer” to build a topic cluster—much less an informational topic cluster.

Here’s what we get using the seed keyword “lawyer” instead:

List of keyword ideas on left; list of "question" searches on right

Once more, these terms fit our three criteria (and our original term “personal injury lawyer“shows up again).

The key here is to pick a topic that has the potential to unlock more supporting topics. If you pick topics that are too narrow, you’ll not have enough keywords to choose from. Too broad and you’ll have to filter through many unrelated terms.

Step 2. Do topical keyword research with Wikipedia

In this section, we will walk through how to use Wikipedia to understand the common talking points of a topic so that you can do better, more informed keyword research.

But first: Why use Wikipedia, though?

Well, because it is the ultimate topic cluster. Every Wikipedia article fully covers a topic and interlinks between supporting subtopics—just like an SEO topic cluster does. Treat it as a guide for choosing topics to pursue.

For this example, let’s build a topic cluster around the topic “personal injury lawyer.”Why this one? It’s because I know absolutely nothing about this industry.

First up, see if there is a Wikipedia page for the topic, which there is.

Now look for subtopics on the page. You can look at the internal links to find indications of subtopics:

Wikipage on personal injury lawyer

If you want to dig a bit deeper, you can run the URL through Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. Once you’ve done so, head over to the Organic Keywords report and review the keywords it ranks for.

(Hint: look for informational keywords here.)

List of keywords with corresponding data

You can even repeat the process for all the internal links on the Wikipedia page, as these will typically be related subtopics.

Depending on the page/topic, you may have enough information to get started on building a topic cluster.

If you don’t, move on to the next section to find more subtopics.

Step 3. Find more subtopics (if you don’t have enough)

In this section, we will walk through how to dive deeper into a topic and get more actionable data for building topic clusters.

MissingTopics is a great free tool for finding the most important topics and entities on pages. It allows you to extract data from URLs, see common headings being used, and find topics missing from your content (which your competitors have).

Copy the Wikipedia page URL. Then run it through MissingTopics:

Text field to enter URL
  1. Go to Topics
  2. Paste in the Wikipedia URL you want to analyze
  3. Hit Submit

You’ll now have a list of (you guessed it) missing topics:

Topic results

Copy these and save them to your list. You’ll need to clean up the output a little (remove numbers, brackets, etc.). Also, make sure to review this output to find any generalized terms that may skew your results.

In this example, one of the topics is “united states,” which will obviously skew your results:

Results with outliers highlighted; for example, "united states"

Once the output is cleaned, you’ll have some additional seed keywords to use in Ahrefs.

Open up Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Then paste in the missing topics as seed keywords.

From here, you’ve got a few different methods for finding a bunch of keywords, thanks to Ahrefs’ functionality.

Here are a few methods you can try:

Find high-volume “question” keywords:

Matching terms report results
  1. Toggle the Questions tab
  2. Select Terms match
  3. Set a minimum volume* 

Sidenote.

*Volume: Feel free to change this based on your topic/preference. Sometimes, you may need to set a minimum search volume for a client. Or maybe you only want to target keywords that get 100+ searches. Either way, update this accordingly or leave it blank. Do note that by default, Ahrefs sorts results by search volume.

Now you’ll have a list of question-based keywords with a minimum search volume for you to target. Combine this with the Terms filter, and you can quite easily start building out keyword-focused FAQ pages per term.

For example, filter by “tort,” and you’ll get enough keywords to build a useful informational post.

Matching terms report results filtered by "tort"

Find specific content formats

Matching terms report results with "Include" filter applied
  1. Toggle the All tab
  2. Select Terms match
  3. Add a modifier to the Include filter

By selecting a keyword modifier (“benefits” in the example above), you can drill down to find specific content formats.

Some modifiers to try:

  • Benefits
  • Tips
  • Best + Review
  • Examples
Matching terms report results with "SERP features" filter applied
  1. Toggle the All tab
  2. Select Terms match
  3. In “SERP features,” select Featured snippets

Given that featured snippets typically show up in informational search results, this can be a quick way to filter out the junk and get to the types of keywords that work well as informational content.

This method is also useful because it shows you informational terms, which you otherwise may have missed, outside of question-based keywords.

Step 4. Putting together a topic cluster plan

Now you should have a healthy list of keywords on a topic you previously didn’t know anything about.

You’ll probably have a bunch of keywords with similar meanings. So you’ll need to determine if you can target them all with one page or if you’ll need separate pages.

Group subtopics with similar intent

Here’s a quick method using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer:

  1. Paste the keywords you want to compare into Keywords Explorer
  2. Go to Traffic share and select By page
  3. Look for pages ranking for multiple terms
  4. Click to examine and look at how much the SERPs overlap
Traffic share by pages report results

(I definitely didn’t steal this tip from Tim Soulo.)

Once you’ve worked out how many pages you need to create and what keywords to map to them, you’ve got to now create your clusters.

For this stage, you may need a bit more than 10 minutes.

My keyword research process didn’t take too long. It’ll likely be quicker than spending the next week cramming enough information about lawyers (or whatever unfamiliar topic you are researching).

Despite being unfamiliar with this topic, I found a good number of keywords to create content around. When you are working in niches you don’t have a working knowledge of, you don’t know what you don’t know.

That’s where this method can help.

Still have questions about topic clusters? You’ll like the final section:

Here are answers to a few common questions you may have about topic clusters:

Are “topic clusters,” “content hubs,” and “pillar pages” the same thing?

However you want to refer to them, topic clusters, content hubs, and pillar pages are all basically the same thing: a single place to house content around a specific topic.

What is a topic in SEO?

Google’s main goal is to give people the most relevant answers to their search queries as quickly as possible. As an SEO, your focus should be the same.

Instead of thinking about an article as one that focuses on a keyword, think of keywords as topics. You want to try and cover everything Google expects to see within that topic in your content.

How many pages should you have in a cluster?

Stock SEO answer time: It depends.

There is no minimum or maximum number of pages you should create per topic cluster. Scroll up to the topic cluster examples. Some of those have a handful of pages, while some have hundreds.

What you should do is create enough to cover the topic fully but not so many that you are potentially cannibalizing your rankings.

That’s why the last step of the process (grouping subtopics with similar intent) is important. You don’t want to be building a topic cluster full of keywords competing against themselves.

Final thoughts

There you have it: how to build a topic cluster using Wikipedia, Ahrefs, and some SEO brainpower.

Is this going to be the most comprehensive content hub? No. But it’s a starting point. And it only took 10 minutes, which is not bad considering we know nothing about the niche.

Got a question on topic clusters or content strategy? Tweet me.





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How to Achieve 7-Figures with Your Law Firm Website

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How to Achieve 7-Figures with Your Law Firm Website

Many law firms are simply leasing space when it comes to their online marketing.

Whether it’s Google pay-per-click (PPC) ads, Facebook Ads, or social media, these channels often yield only temporary wins. Once you pull the investment, your results go away entirely.

Your website, on the other hand, can be a 24/7 selling tool for your law firm practice. It can effectively become your greatest asset, getting leads and cases while you sleep.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to turn your website into the ultimate marketing tool for your law firm practice and generate seven figures in revenue for your business.

A Well-Optimized Law Firm Website Can Yield Huge Results

With your law firm’s website, you can use content marketing to your advantage to generate lucrative results for your business. Content and SEO allow you to attract users organically and convert traffic passively into new cases for your law firm.

As an example, a high-ranking webpage in a competitive market getting 1,000 users per month can get huge results:

  • Convert visitors at 2-5% = 20-50 leads.
  • Convert even 10-20% of leads = 2-10 cases.
  • Average $8000 revenue per case = $16,000-$80,000 monthly revenue from one page.

Over the course of a year, this could lead to high six-figures to seven-figures in revenue!

The Foundations Of A Revenue-Generating Law Firm Website

At its core, your law firm website should serve to speak to the needs, struggles, and interests of your target audience. It should be laser-focused on your practice area, who you serve, and what you have to offer.

With this in mind, a well-crafted website content strategy should define:

  • Your business goals (the cases you want).
  • What competitors are doing.
  • What pages to write and keywords to target.
  • How to use your content budget.
  • Your editorial calendar.
  • The purpose/intent of each page.
  • PR and backlink strategy.

Below, we’ll dive deeper into how to develop this strategy, build out amazing content, and achieve your seven-figure revenue goals.

1. Define The Cases You Want

The first step to developing a successful website marketing strategy is to define the types of legal cases you want.

This activity will help you determine the types of people you want to reach, the type of content you should create, and the types of SEO keywords you need to target.

That way, you end up marketing to a more specific subset of potential clients, rather than a broad range of users.

Not sure where to set your focus? Here are a few questions that might help:

  • Which of your cases are the most profitable?
  • What types of cases are you not getting enough of?
  • In what markets are you strongest?
  • In which markets do you want to improve?
  • Are there any practice areas you want to explore?

At the end of this activity, you might decide that you want to attract more family law cases, foreclosure law cases, or DUI cases – whatever it is, getting hyper-focused on the types of cases you want to attract will only make your website marketing even stronger.

2. Identify Your Top Competitors

One of the best ways to “hack” your website marketing strategy is to figure out what’s working for your competitors.

By “competitors” we mean law firms that are working to attract the types of cases you’re trying to attract, at the same level at which your law firm is currently operating.

I say this because I see many law firms trying to out beat and outrank the “big” fish and this can feel like a losing battle. You want to set your sights on your closest competitors, rise above them, and then get more competitive with your strategy.

Here are a few ways to identify your closest competitors:

  • Conduct a Google search of your legal practice area + your service area (e.g., “family law Kirkland”, “DUI lawyer LA”, “Denver probate attorney” etc.). Take note of the top-ranking domains (i.e., websites).
  • Use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to search your domain name. These tools will often surface close competitors to your domain.
  • Using the same tools above, conduct organic research on your domain to see what keywords you are already ranking for. Search these keywords in Google and see what other domains come up.
  • Use these tools to determine the domain authority (DA) of your domain. Compare this to the other top-ranking domains to see which domains have an authority score that’s similar to your own.

Be sure to look at your known business competitors as well.

These may or may not be ranking well in Google Search, but it’s still worth a peek to see if they are targeting any high-priority keywords that your website should be targeting.

3. Conduct A Content Audit Of Your Website

Your next step is to conduct an audit of your current website. This will allow you to take stock of what content is performing well, and what content requires improvement.

First, start with your main service pages.

Use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs again to review the rank (position), performance, and keywords of each page. Identify any pages that are ranking low, or not at all.

Then, find “low-hanging fruit” pages. These are the pages that are ranking around position 5-10. They require less effort to optimize to reach those higher rank positions – compared to pages ranking at, say, position 59.

Next, use the same tools to conduct a “gap analysis” (most SEO tools have this feature).

This compares your website’s performance to that of your closest competitors. It will show you a list of keywords that your competitors are ranking for that your website is not ranking for at all.

Finally, create an inventory of what pages you already have, which need to be revised, and which you need to create. Doing so will help you stay organized and stay on task when developing your content strategy.

4. Plan Your Content Silos

By this step, you will have a pretty good idea of what pages you already have, and which pages are “missing” from your strategy (based on the list of keywords you are not yet targeting).

From here, you will plan what’s called “content silos”.

Here is the basic process:

  • Review an existing service page (if you have one) and optimize it as best you can. Ideally, this is a page that’s already performing well and is otherwise a “low-hanging fruit” page.
  • If you don’t have any existing service pages, create one based on one of your high-priority keywords. Again, these should be a keyword that is meant to attract your preferred type of cases.
  • Next, build a “silo” of content around your main page. In other words, create new pages that are topically related to your main service page, but that target slightly different keywords (ideally, “long-tail”, lower competition keywords).
  • Add internal links between these pages and your primary service page.
  • Over time, build backlinks to these pages (through guest posting, PR, content marketing, etc.)

Below is an example of a content silo approach for “personal injury:”

Image from author, November 2022

5. Identify Supporting Topics

As part of your website content strategy, you’ll then want to create other supporting content pieces. This should be content that provides value to your potential clients.

FAQs, blogs, and other service pages can support your main pages.

For example, if you are a DUI lawyer, you might want to publish an FAQ page that addresses the main questions clients have about DUI law, or a blog post titled “What to Do When You Get a DUI.”

There are a few tools you can use to research supporting topics:

  • Semrush – Use this tool to identify untapped keywords, content topics, and more.
  • AlsoAsked – Identify other questions people have searched for relevant to your primary topic.
  • Answer the Public – Use this search listening tool to identify topics and questions related to your practice area.

Below is an example of how the full content silo can come together for “Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer:”

Accident lawyer content siloImage from author, November 2022

6. Build An Editorial Calendar

Once you have all of your content ideas down on paper, it’s time to develop your editorial calendar.

This is essentially a plan of what content you need to create when you want to publish it, and what keywords you plan to target.

This can be as simple as a Google Sheet or as fancy as a project management tool (like Monday.com or Asana).

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Always prioritize main pages. These should be the first content pieces you create on your website.
  • Create or revise your main pages and monitor their performance. Use Google Analytics and other SEO tools to keep your eye on how your content is performing.
  • Depending on budget and urgency, you might start with all main pages, or go silo by silo. Determine which service pages are most important to you. You can create all of your main pages at once, or develop the entire silo as you go.
  • Keep a record of your target keywords. Just because you “optimize” for them doesn’t mean your content will automatically rank for your target keywords. In your editorial calendar, keep track of the keywords you wish to target – by page – so you have a record of your original SEO strategy.

What Makes A Winning Law Firm Website Strategy?

The key to achieving seven figures with your law firm website is content.

Content allows you to target your ideal clients, attract your preferred cases, engage your audience, and so much more.

A well-thought-out content strategy will empower your website to achieve more for your business than any other marketing channel could!

Above, I outline a few steps to developing this type of winning strategy. But, achieving excellence takes time.

I recommend keeping your eye on the prize, monitoring performance, and making updates as you go along.

This will help you reach your desired result.

More resources: 


Featured Image: PanuShot/Shutterstock



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