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How to Build a Topic Cluster in 10 Minutes



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.


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.



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* 


*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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SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend



SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

The SEO industry will be forever changed with the loss of Bill Slawski, owner of SEO By The Sea, Director of Search at Go Fish Digital, educator, mentor, and friend.

Bill was a great many things to a lot of people. He has been a contributor here at Search Engine Journal since 2019, and a friend and mentor to many of us for decades more.

It’s not often you can say that someone has influenced and shaped an entire industry. But this is one of those times.

On May 19, 2022, the SEO industry learned that Bill Slawski had passed away.

The loss and sadness across our community were palpable.

Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend
Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

Remembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & FriendRemembering Bill Slawski: SEO Legend, Mentor & Friend

A search patent expert, colleague and mentor to many, and a friend to many more, Bill influenced the lives of everyone in the search industry.


If you hadn’t read one of the thousands of articles he wrote or contributed to, watched one of his interviews, attended one of his talks, or listened to a podcast he was a guest on – I guarantee that someone you work with, learn from, or work for has.

This was due in no small part to Bill’s vast knowledge and expertise, combined with an unequaled passion for the nuances and technological advances that make search engines tick.

I spoke with Bill a few weeks ago as we were planning a feature article on the patents he felt are most impactful for search marketers.

In that interview, he explained his love for patents.

“One thing I always say about patents is they’re the best place to find assumptions about searchers, about search, and about the web. These are search engineers sharing their opinions in addition to solving problems,” he said.

He loved getting to see what engineers were thinking, and what they had to say when it comes to different problems on the web.

“One of my favorite types of patents to look up is when they repeat a patent and file a continuation,” Bill explained. “I like to look at these continuation patents and see how they’ve changed, because they don’t tell you, ‘This is what we’re doing.’”

That innate curiosity and true passion for unraveling the complexities of the search algorithms we work with each day made talking with Bill and reading his work a real joy.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to Bill or referenced his work in mine over the years, as have so many others.

He had a real talent for making complex concepts more accessible for readers and marketers of all stripes. As a result, his contributions to our collective understanding of how search works are unrivaled.

Bill Slawski’s work and knowledge are foundational to the practice of SEO as we know it today.

I speak for all of us at SEJ in saying we’re incredibly grateful for what he generously shared with each of us.

He was a close friend and respected colleague to our founder, Loren Baker, as well.

“Bill Slawski was a true friend of mine in more ways than one. First of all, he was a surprising mentor who helped me out quite a bit early on in my career, even before the days of social media or Search Engine Journal. He was my buddy and workmate,” Loren said.

Loren Baker and Bill Slawski

Loren Baker and Bill Slawski

Bill and Loren worked together for a couple of years and spent a lot of time out in the parking lot in Havre de Grace, Maryland, smoking cigarettes and talking about Google patents.

“If anything, I would say that Bill taught me that there was much more to SEO than just ranking alone,” Loren explained, adding that Bill taught him the importance of incorporating a narrative into all of the work that you do.


“He taught me the ethics and workmanship behind creating a piece of digital art that people will want to read, will want to share, and will ultimately search for and click on–touching their lives,” he said. “I will miss Bill deeply. It’s very difficult losing friends.”

Having started in 1996 and launching SEO By The Sea in 2005, Bill was the go-to source when you wanted to understand how search engines work or how they change the way we search or live our lives.

But it was so much more than that.

Bill was generous with his time and eager to share his knowledge of search, information retrieval, NLP, and other information technology with any and all.

He had a gift for taking complex patents, algorithms, concepts, real-world behavior, and search engines and explaining how the world of search and information retrieval worked in a way that everyone could understand.

Bill seemed to have an instinct for understanding what you knew and didn’t know or where you were confused. He could fill in the gaps without making you feel silly for having asked. Even if it was the millionth time he’d answered that question.

You didn’t have to be an SEO rockstar or an experienced professional, either.

If you didn’t understand something or had questions, he would happily spend hours explaining the concepts and offering (or creating) resources to help. And as many in the industry who encountered Braggadocio can attest to, you always felt like a long-lost friend, even if you had just “met” him in text.


“It’s like when you go to a conference and you’re one of the first people there. And all the seats are still empty and there’s not a lot of discussion going on. That’s what the SEO world was like back then…I remember happening upon an SEO forum and just being a lurker. Just looking at what everybody was talking about and thinking, ‘this is a strange career. I’m not sure I can do this.’ In the end, I did it.

I started out working and promoting a website for a couple friends who started a business. And so helping them succeed in business was a pretty good motivation.” Bill Slawski, cognitiveSEO Talks interview, April 5, 2018

Bill’s wealth of knowledge extended far beyond search, too.

With a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware and a Juris Doctor Degree from Widener University School of Law, Bill spent 14 years as a court manager, administrator, technologist, and management analyst with the Superior Court of Deleware.

He loved nature and plants, and the ocean. He loved traveling and search conferences, but he ultimately found peace in nature and took advantage of it often. And he shared it with us all.

Bill pushed everyone to look beyond the headlines and keywords.

He was quick to add words of support and congratulations when someone shared an achievement. He encouraged everyone to explore the possible, to not be intimidated by new things, and to better understand the search ecosystem, not just the technology, so we could better serve our families, communities, colleagues, and clients.

His kindness, generosity, loyalty, and love of the industry knew no bounds.

The King of Podcasts on Twitter

The King of Podcasts on Twitter

Marshall Simmonds on Twitter

Marshall Simmonds on Twitter

Here at Search Engine Journal, Bill was a familiar face on social media and a VIP contributor, but he was much more than that.

Matt Southern, News Writer

One of the things I’ll miss most about Bill Slawski is the outdoor photography he shared on Twitter.

As deeply entrenched as he was in SEO and online marketing, he always took time to step back from the keyboard and admire life’s beauty.

I think that’s something we could all benefit from doing more of.

Roger Montti, News Writer

I knew Bill Slawski for almost 20 years, from the forums and search marketing conferences. He created a stir with all the things he discovered in the patents, which went a long way toward demystifying what search engines did.

What impressed me the most was his generosity with his time and how encouraging he was to me and to everyone. I feel privileged and honored to have been able to call him a friend.


He will be profoundly missed.

Brent Csutoras, Advisor and Owner

So much of our marketing journey has been in understanding not only how something works with Google but what they are trying to accomplish over the coming years so we can be prepared and ready to pivot when needed.

Bill’s work with patents provided valuable insight very few individuals were capable of distilling and yet everyone benefited from.

He was instrumental in getting us to where we are as SEOs and digital marketers today.

Bill Slawski Was A Man Of Quiet Impact

“My first interaction with Bill Slawski was on Kim Krause Berg’s Cre8asite forum. I was trying to learn what SEO was all about, so I just lurked, soaking up knowledge from bragadocchio, Black Knight, Grumpus, Barry Welford, and others. I know that Bill started more 10,000 threads there during his time as one of the admins and one of the first things that struck me was his willingness to patiently share his knowledge. At the time, I had no idea who he was, but it quickly became obvious that he was someone who was worth listening to. ”

~ Doc Sheldon, Facebook

That he was.

Atul Gawande once wrote that life is meaningful because it has a story–one driven by a deep need to identify purposes outside of ourselves and a transcendent desire to see and help others achieve their potential.


This was the very essence of Bill’s life.

Not just in the wealth of unparalleled knowledge and resources he has gifted to us, but in the inspiration, guidance, and encouragement he has instilled in us all. That is his legacy and one that will live on.

It’s been difficult to hit Publish on this piece as I don’t feel anything we share could do that legacy justice.

Search Engine Journal will leave Bill’s library of content here untouched in perpetuity, and we’ve left comments open below for all to share your contributions to this memorial for Bill.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your intelligence, passion, and knowledge with the SEO community.

You will be sorely missed.

Written in collaboration with Angie Nikoleychuk.



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