Topic Clusters: What They Are and Why School Marketers Need Them

January

12

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Topic clusters are a new search engine optimization (SEO) paradigm. In the past, SEO was focused on keywords, but today, if you’re looking to attract more traffic to your website, creating content based solely on keywords won’t be enough.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to discuss pillar pages and topic clusters as ways to boost your traffic and improve your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

In today’s sophisticated online environment, when users submit a search query to Google, they aren’t thinking about keywords. Instead, they are trying to find the answer to a question or solve a problem. At the same time, Google wants to solve their problems and answer their questions. Your goal, as a marketer, is to ensure Google shows your webpage to people searching for schools that meet your criteria. The best way to do this is to use topic clusters.

What are Topic Clusters?

The Topic Cluster Model, invented by Hubspot, is a method for organizing main topic content and sub-topic content. By organizing your website content in this way, you make it easier for people to navigate your website while also making it easier for search engines to index your site.

There are three main components of the Topic Cluster Model: pillar pages, topic clusters, and hyperlinks.

What is a Pillar Page?

A pillar page is a single piece of long-form content that gives a broad yet complete discussion of your chosen topic. Pillar pages are based on a single, comprehensive topic that can be broken down into many different sub-topics.

The topic you choose for your pillar pages should be a topic you’re trying to rank for in search engine results. This is very important because this will tell the search engines what your website is all about. Pillar pages should be related to your school offerings. For example, pillar pages for an independent school might look like:

  • Primary and Lower School (K-5)
  • Middle and Upper School (6-12)
  • Athletics
  • Arts
  • College Counseling
  • COVID-19 Resources

How to Choose a Pillar Page

In order to choose pillar pages for your school, think about broad topics you can write about generally, relate to what you offer, and are topics parents are interested in. Then, try to relate the topic to a keyword you think you can rank in Google for in search engine results.

What is the Ideal Length of a Pillar Page?

Once you have a keyword in mind, it’s time to start writing content for your pillar page. Typically, your pillar page content will be significantly longer than most of your other pages and posts on your website. While there’s no magic number of words you should be aiming for when writing your pillar page, your main goal should be to thoroughly explain the topic so visitors reading the page will fully understand the topic when they’re finished reading.

While you’re writing, don’t think about your content as a collection of keywords. Instead, just focus on answering parents’ questions and writing on topics you want to be ranked for.

What is a Topic Cluster?

A topic cluster is a more detailed, specific content page or post that supports your main broad topic or pillar page. Sub-topic content should be big enough that it can be its own broad page, post or video while being able to fit into a bigger theme that includes your pillar page and other supporting topic cluster content.

For example, if you were to make a pillar page about Primary and Lower School, ideas for topic clusters might include:

  • Kindergarten program
  • Curriculum
    • Reading and Literature
    • Language Arts and Writing
    • Mathematics
    • Social Studies
    • Reference and Study Skills
    • Art
    • Library
    • Enrichment Programs
  • Character Education
  • Social-Emotional Learning

These are all sub-topics of Primary and Lower School, but they are too specific to explain in-depth on a pillar page.

You can have hundreds, even thousands, of cluster pages and sub-cluster pages that support your pillar page content. They typically take the form of a sub-page, blog post or video.

Just like pillar pages, each cluster will be based on a keyword, but the most important thing when writing your content is that you fully answer parents’ questions and provide value to the reader.

Hyperlinks

The final component in the Topic Cluster Model are hyperlinks. Hyperlinks connect your pillar page to your sub-topic content. Your sub-topic content should always include a link back to your pillar page. This helps readers easily navigate through your website and more importantly, search engines can crawl and index your website.

Along with always including a link back to your pillar page, you can also choose to include links to other relevant topic cluster content pages.

Why is the Topic Cluster Model Important for School Marketing?

How does using the Topic Cluster Model help bring in more traffic and inquiries to your school website?

The Topic Cluster Model helps Google understand the intent of your website.

Read more: 7 Tips to Demonstrate E-A-T and Rank Higher in Google

While Google’s algorithm is a little bit of a mystery, we do know that, in the past, Google used to rank content using keywords. But those days are over. Google’s artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms have gotten better at understanding what searchers are looking for when they submit a query.

And, they have gotten much better at assessing whether a webpage will be able to answer that search. This is why school marketers need to create content based on families’ needs, not just keywords. By doing this, you’re better matching the users’ needs and thus playing by Google’s rules.

SEO is an essential aspect of school marketing. You’ve probably already taken some measures to help your site rank higher in the search engines. In fact, you are most likely using SEO tactics even if you don’t realize it. It’s also likely you find SEO confusing. Even if you are familiar with some of the strategies, you may not understand how or why they work. Plus, search engine algorithms are always evolving.

If you’re overwhelmed by SEO or would like to improve your ranking, consider SEO Coach for School Marketing. When you sign up for our DIY (Do It Yourself) SEO Coach Software or for one of your DIFY (Do It For You) SEO monthly packages, we’ll help you optimize your school’s website and Google My Business listing for higher Google rankings and more traffic. Read more…

Are you using the Topic Cluster and Pillar Page Method on your website? Please share your experience with the rest of the school marketing community by leaving a comment below. I’d love your input!

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