How to Drive Traffic By Establishing Topic Authority: The Pillar Cluster Model


Search engines these days – Google, in particular – are giving priority to websites and blogs with pages that apply the “pillar cluster model.” Great… another new term, next to countless others to wrap your head around if you’re involved in digital marketing. But actually, the concept isn’t that hard to grasp. This article explains it and discusses its importance.


What Is The Pillar Cluster Model?


By using this model, rather than producing blog articles that are intended to rank for certain long-tail keywords, you organize these posts into specific subject categories. These categories are then anchored together by a “mother” (pillar) webpage providing an overview of the main topic.



The idea behind the pillar cluster model is that, as the “mother” or pillar page hyperlinks out to other blog posts that dive deeper into relevant sub-topics, that forms what is called “topic clusters” – which Google looks at quite favorably. And when those other posts link back to the pillar page, the result is a chain activation of acknowledging the relevance of several pages of the site to the topic.


Given the rapid developments in search technology and people’s increasing propensity for searching online, it’s safe to say that pillar-cluster content is now more important than ever. Here are the reasons why:


Reason #1: Google Is Evolving & Becoming Smarter


It’s no secret that in the world of digital marketing, it’s imperative to keep up with Google’s changes. Recently, Google’s announcement about updates in its search algorithm reflects the need for topic clusters in websites that are intended to rank high. The advances in Google’s ranking technology help the ‘crawling’ bots better understand the relevance of specific passages within the overall webpage, and furthermore, better understand sub-topics around a broad interest using neural nets.


Bear in mind also that as technologies have advanced, so has the way people search for what they need on Google and other platforms. One study reveals how 20% of Google searches on mobile or Android devices are now performed through voice search. It’s constantly a back-and-forth between the growth of artificial intelligence and the existence of new ways people make use of their gadgets. So now that many of us prefer to speak out a question or phrase, Google and other search engines powered by AI algorithms are better at interpreting the meaning of terms to unearth the best-matching content. Therefore, to stay ahead in the search engine game, that calls for structuring your site so as to make it more expert-sounding, comprehensive, and filled with a wide breadth of subsections of the main topic.



Reason #2: Pillar-Cluster Pages Enhance Authority & Relevance


You may already know that in search engine optimization (SEO), Google bots extract meaning from various on-page elements like the URL, page title, headlines, and meta description. However, they also draw meaning from certain on-page elements that hyperlink to your content, as well as the anchor text used for such links.


With topic clusters, you grant your website or blog the ability to establish greater authority and relevance by creating many opportunities for sensible hyperlinking. You can view topic clusters as concentrated buckets of relevance, and provided the pillar page is perfectly organized, all of this allows Google to easily determine the main subject matter plus sub-categories that your content is capable of answering and expanding on (with links to the other pages). And when Google considers you more relevant, you’re rewarded with higher rankings.



Reason #3: Pillar-Cluster Pages Improve Web Traffic & Engagement


Well-organized content is surely not just beneficial to search engines but also to your readers. Do you want your audience to stick around and browse your site – and products or services you offer – as opposed to just coming for the answer they need without bothering to learn about your business? If so, that’s the advantage gained from pillar-cluster pages, given how they organize information around broader topics and link out to more detailed content from relevant passages.


Timely, well-constructed pillar pages can attract a lot of attention, boost web traffic, keep site visitors around for longer periods, attract more backlinks, and maximize your chances of converting audiences into subscribers or customers.




How To Construct Your Pillar-Cluster Page


1. Determine Your Core Topic


The first step to forming your pillar page is choosing the main topic that you’ll be building topic clusters around. You shouldn’t rely on guesswork here. Given you’re running a business, it all boils down to your customer personas:


● What are your customers’ pain points that your website can address?

● What do they commonly search for? (Conduct keyword research and use platforms like Answer the Public)

● What do your competitors write about for them to read?


Pick a strong core topic that underpins the foundation of the business you run, and it streamlines your ability to plan out a topic cluster that will allow both searchers and search engine bots to easily navigate your site.



2. Choose The Right Style Of Page


You’re more likely to build a successful pillar-cluster page if it’s based on one of the two styles explained below.


Style A: “What Is” Page


Many people start a search query by typing “what is...” after hearing a term that’s interesting, controversial, or even trending on social media. Use this page style to tap into such desires to learn more about a particular topic that you’re in a position to examine. The goal is for that page to become a stand-alone resource, linking to related pages and developing different aspects of the subject in great detail. For your reference, here’s a page titled “What Is Artificial Intelligence?” that presents sections of text on machine learning, the history of AI, cutting-edge AI applications, and how AI can be used to revolutionize health care.



Style B: “Ultimate Guide” / “How To” Page


If you’re well-placed to showcase true expertise on an activity or undertaking, this is the page style to utilize. You can design a 101 guide for beginners or perhaps a higher-level piece targeting a specific industry segment. Here, you want to link to cluster pages that elaborate further on various stages of the process you’re covering (which ideally are related to specific keywords). For example, check out this “Ultimate Guide to Remote Meetings” published by Slack. See how the page contains lots of interactive elements besides the text itself, such as the floating navigation bar for skipping between sections, which helps engage readers more.


3. Optimize Your Content Accordingly


Lastly, remember that the body text should be worked both properly and strategically. You want to pay careful attention to feasible keywords related to your core topic and also new search engine content types, as gone are the days where you’ll get by rankings-wise if you rely solely on words. Moreover, think about areas of your future content that you can potentially target for “Position Zero” on Google because guess what – coming up #1 on results might not be enough nowadays.




Times keep changing in the digital space. Hopefully, this helps you figure out what is worth modifying for your blog or website. Remember: adapting is the only way to stay competitive online.