Launching and operating a blog certainly has its fair share of ups and downs. Chances are, you had the idea to start a blog when you were super jazzed up about a certain topic or overarching subject. Or, you were excited to expand your business’s online presence. Regardless, you probably started your blogging journey with a bunch of ideas for posts you want to crank out and promote to the masses. 

However, the “honeymoon” phase usually ends – sooner or later.

This can result in a brutal struggle to find inspiration, followed by a humbling stretch of writer’s block. This is NOT where you want to be. To avoid this nasty downward spiral into the blogging doldrums, you are smart to adopt topic clustering into your ideation strategy.

What is topic clustering?

Topic clusters are a collection of posts linked to larger, generalized topics known as “content pillars.” Say you run a travel + lifestyle blog. You might have broad topic focuses like “Music Festivals” or “Traveling in Europe.” These two ideas can be your broad pillar content. Topic clusters for these could be specifically related to jam band music festivals or navigating Europe by train, respectively.

There are many advantages to topic clustering. Most importantly, it gives you a good direction for the posts you will create on your website. Having several broad topics is a great starting point to find inspiration for posts that explore the granular details.

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Additionally, doing this helps users and the search engines get a better idea of what your blog is all about, which in turn, boosts your site’s SEO value.

Let’s talk about how you can make topic clustering work for you!

Plan Out Pillar Content Before You Launch the Blog

Now, let me start by saying it is never too late to start planning out your pillar content. Even if it’s in hindsight, there is a ton of value to be gained by doing so. If you haven’t launched your blog yet, establishing pillar content will help both readers and the search engines quickly understand what your focus is.

Whether your blog is about fashion, art, marketing, or anything else, mapping out your pillar content early is awesome for gaining a better understanding of your long term goals, as well as what your blog might look like in a month, a year, or even five years down the road. 

The key here is to look into the SEO value of your pillars. For example, if you are starting a fashion blog, pillar content should be created around broader keywords with higher search volumes like winter clothing, summer clothing, fall clothing, spring clothing, etc.

The Keywords Everywhere extension makes finding search volumes super easy.

To expand to more focused articles, you could create specific posts around the best up-and-coming summer clothing brands, tips for starting a fall clothing line, how to make custom shirts, best fashion fails of the spring, and so on.

Think broad with your pillar content. The goal is to lay the framework for far-reaching (yet focused) ideation in the future.

2. Develop a Topic Hierarchy

Once you have picked your pillar content topics, you need to have an understanding of how your content calendar will progress. Developing a hierarchy of topics will do a lot here to help your creativity, as well as improve ranking potential on the search engines results pages (SERPs). As you create the hierarchy, do so with search volumes in mind.

Let’s go back to the travel blog example.

If one of your pillar content topics is based around the keyword “Travel to Europe,” a topic hierarchy might look like this:

  1. Travel to Europe (14,800 searches/month)
    1. Traveling in the United Kingdom (3,600 searches/month)
      1. Tips for Traveling in Ireland (450 searches/month)
        1. X Awesome Sites to See in Dublin (90 searches/month)

Now, after you create the pillar content, you are wise to start off writing the clusters around the ones with lower search volumes. As a new website, it would be much easier to rank on the first page of Google for topics around “sites to see in Dublin,” as opposed to “traveling in the United Kingdom.”

As you build up credibility for the more focused and granular posts, Google will see your website as a trusted source of information as you expand to broader topics with larger search volumes.

3. Let Search Intent Define Your Clusters

When looking at the entire concept of blogging, or creating any other sort of content, everything needs to be about the user. Ok, so that might be the most overused, cliché line in the marketing world. However, it’s amazing how many content creators miss the mark here.

In a nutshell, search intent is the keyword-focused end goal that a person has when they approach a search engine. As you plan out your content, you need to have a good understanding of this and how you can bridge the gap between the searcher’s question and their end goal. The more you know about your readers’ search intent, the more interested traffic you will get!

The key to creating topic clusters around search intent is pinpointing the questions being asked related to your topic focus. Ahrefs recently rolled out a “Questions” feature within their keyword explorer tool, which is insanely helpful here.

So, let’s say you are looking to write a post around resorts in Italy. Using this keyword as the starting point, you can see what types of questions people are asking and form your clusters accordingly.

Given what we found here, you could potentially create user intent-focused posts like:

  • Luxury Resorts in Italy that Won’t Break the Bank
  • The Most Desirable Resorts in Southern Italy
  • Awesome Italian Resorts Near the Beach
  • Best Resorts for Your Italy Ski Trip

As a general rule when creating topic clusters, let the search trends guide your inspiration!

4. Interlink Clusters Wisely

To reiterate, a major purpose of topic clusters is to help the search engines get a better understanding of what your website is and the value it offers.

As you plan out and create your topic clusters, you need to have a good idea of how it will all be interlinked in a way that demonstrates your expertise of the pillar content. Keep in mind, Google is all about relevancy. That being said, it’s a good bet to keep most of your interlinking within the same pillar content. For instance, it might not always be super relevant to link pages related to winter clothing within content about summer clothing.

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. If you have a post about spring fashion trends for the year, linking to a piece about up-and-coming brands promoting spring clothing would likely be valuable to the user. Now, if you are experiencing writer’s block, go through your existing posts and look for tidbits within the content that you can turn into a future post, then link to it! For example, let’s look at this article here:

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The highlighted text could potentially be turned into a post like When to Use Tags (And When Not to), of which could then be linked to this article.

Smart internal linking shows search engine robots that you are an expert on a focused topic, and in turn, improves your chances of gaining search visibility.

Wrapping Up

Writer’s block is the bane of every writer’s existence. If you play your cards right, you can avoid this altogether with a healthy topic clustering strategy. Additionally, it can help your site’s SEO value and get your content in front of more eyeballs!

Again, it’s never too late to start clustering; even if your blog has been around for years. Hopefully, this post has given you a good idea of how you can start the process and make writer’s block a thing of the past!

This post was written by Kevin Svec. Kevin is the Chief Content Strategist at E2M Solutions Inc. He is highly experienced in planning, creating, and distributing blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers, and any other sort of educational content. Kevin is also a seasoned copywriter, with a lot of experience writing website copy and ad content. When he isn’t rock climbing or enjoying one of Southern California’s gorgeous beaches, Kevin is writing for Impulsive Wanderlust, a travel + leisure website he created. Connect with him on LinkedIn!