Feeling stuck when it comes to creating content? Here’s a simple guide to streamlining your content and SEO strategy with pillars and clusters.

Life’s busy, right? I don’t know about you, but I feel it’s getting busier by the minute.

You know there are soooo many things you ‘should’ be doing. Your ever-expanding to-do list is a testament to that. When you’re busy juggling daily tasks, the struggle to create consistent, valuable marketing content can be a burden. Especially high-quality content that connects with your ideal customer and helps move you up the search engine ranks. 

Enter the content pillar and cluster content model. If you’re struggling with content creation and Google rankings, you’ll want to incorporate this strategy into your content marketing ASAP.

Why? Because the pillar and cluster approach helps you streamline your content creation process. Done correctly, you can map out your content strategy a couple of months in advance and improve your search engine ranking.

How? To understand how it works we need to look at the individual components. So, let’s dive into the ins and outs of how this model can streamline your marketing strategy and work toward improving your search engine rankings.

What is the pillar and cluster model, and how can it help your SEO strategy?

The pillar and cluster content strategy involves grouping your content into related pieces of information. Each article delivers your message in digestible, interconnected chunks. When linked together these articles provide an in-depth answer to the question your customers are asking. The SEO superpower in this strategy is internal linking. The connected content helps Google identify new content when it crawls your site and builds on your authority of a subject.

The strategy gains its magical powers when you combine three elements:

Pillar pages + cluster content + hyperlinks.

Before we go any further, it’s important to state that you need to do keyword research with any content you create for your website. A strong keyword strategy is vital for this content model to work. Start by researching and deciding the key topic and sub-topics you want to communicate to your target audience. You can find a list of free and paid keyword search tools in my SEO content writing article.

What are pillar pages, and how can they help you?

Ok, let’s look at pillar pages first.

Pillar pages are the foundation of this strategy. This topic should centre on a short-tail keyword you want to rank for. Tip: this doesn’t have to be one that you can easily rank for – when linked correctly, your cluster pieces will help to build your authority on the topic and help to grow your ranking organically.

In this pillar article, you explore the topic in depth. A pillar page is a long-form (1000 – 1200 words, minimum) article that covers a broad topic you want to communicate to your audience.

This content should be evergreen and high-quality. While you want Google and other search engines to like your site, you want your audience (i.e., prospective clients) to LOVE it. Remember – you need to write for humans first.

You format this article with lots of sub-headings that include the long-tail keywords relating to the pillar topic.

These sub-headings should be one or two paragraphs long and will link to the cluster article that explores the topic in-depth.

Next, we have the cluster topic articles.

Cluster articles are short-form (600 – 800 words) articles that cover the long-tail keyword sub-headings from the pillar article. These are the meat on the bones of this strategy. Each cluster article should explore the topic in-depth and answer your ideal customer’s question.

Cluster articles serve many purposes, including:

Help establish authority. Creating content around a topic (especially if it’s highly searched) that answers your target audience’s needs helps establish you as an authority. By diving in-depth, you position yourself or your brand as an expert.

Improve search engine rankings. When information is logically connected, search engines can better understand your content and see the value it offers — and so it improves your content’s visibility. When linked to your pillar page, cluster content allows you to target relevant keywords, improving your chances of ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPS).

Enhances user experience. Structured and organised content improves the user experience. It keeps them engaged for longer (you want people on your site for as long as possible, as this indicates to search engines that you deliver helpful content). Related articles help your audience navigate and find answers quickly.

Increase engagement. Various content formats within a cluster, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social media posts, help keep your audience engaged and interested in the topic. This can lead to increased shares, comments, and engagement.

Easy content repurposing. Clustered content is easy to repurpose into different formats across different platforms. You save time by creating a bank of content around a particular topic.

Now, give your strategy superpowers with links.

Linking is the superpower that connects all the topics and helps your search engine rankings. Linking related content pieces through internal links can help increase website engagement, boost your SEO, and establish you as an authority.

It won’t happen overnight, but connecting related content whenever you create it means your content will do the heavy lifting for you. You’ll have in-depth content that talks to your ideal customer and shows them how you can solve their problem. They see that your site contains helpful information and explore it to learn more.

They may not convert to a buyer immediately, but they will see that you are a trusted authority on the topic they need help with. And that’s half the battle won.

Benefits of using a pillar and cluster content strategy

The pillar and cluster framework can help you:

  • streamline your content creation strategy, making it easier for you to produce high-quality content that resonates with your target audience consistently
  • identify any content gaps or content that duplicates keywords. Creating articles on a specific topic helps reduce repetitive content
  • improve your search engine rankings. An SEO strategy that focuses on topics rather than keywords makes it easier for Google to determine that your site is credible and you’re an authority on the topic
  • drive more organic traffic to your site (less need for paid ads)
  • establish you as an authority in your industry (Google loves EEAT!)
  • create targeted marketing campaigns. Identifying key topics that show how your products or service solve problems for your target audience enables you to provide valuable, helpful content for them
  • measure campaign success. Linking content makes it easier to measure campaign success by tracking key performance indicators, such as website traffic and behaviour, engagement, and conversions

A quick recap…

Step 1: Do your keyword research. What question do you want to answer for your ideal customer?

Step 2: Decide the topic for your pillar page based on a short-tail keyword.

Step 3: Plan your cluster articles based on the long-tail keyword sub-headings in the pillar article.

Step 4: Link your articles whenever you create a new cluster article. Ensure you update the pillar page with the link to the cluster article too.

Step 5: Share your content. You can share as:

  • Short text posts
  • Infographics
  • Video snippets
  • Instagram tiles
  • Q&A posts

So, when you’re next at your desk, pulling your hair out trying to decide your next content piece, apply a strategic approach. Though it takes a time investment at the start, the pillar and cluster model can be a game changer for delivering high-quality content that helps your ideal customer and your search engine rankings.

I’m Doing What? The Bumpy Ride to Becoming a Freelance Writer

As a newbie on the freelance writing scene, I was a bit overwhelmed when trying to figure out what to write in my first blog. Unlike those who come before me, I have no words of wisdom to impart. I can’t offer ’10 best tips to make your content pop’ or ‘5 tried and true strategies to write killer prose’. Well, I probably could, but nowhere near as well as the myriad of professionals with years more experience already have.

So I thought I would write just a little about my journey to becoming my own boss and touch on some of the inspiration and support networks that help keep me sane.

First, the emotions. I don’t know if anyone agrees, but the manic fluctuations of feelings such a career change incites are like being stuck on a malfunctioning sideshow ride! Has anyone else experienced the merry-go-round of elation and terror?

Elation as I feel like a boss because I finally took the leap to do something I love, even when it meant leaving a steady, secure income to go out on a limb–well before I was ready (yep, you read that right…crazy, huh?).

Then terror as reality hits.

I’m doing what?!

What if I’m no good?

What if I fail?

What if people see me for what I am…a fraud? (of course, the sane me knows that’s not true but try explaining that to the curled in a foetal position, questioning my sanity, me. There’s no getting through to that maniac).

Then as the calm returns, I look to the sources I drew inspiration from to give me a gentle reminder of why I am doing this.

I did my research. My Business Plan was feasible. It’s time to Just.Do.It.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

This saying is commonly misattributed to Mark Twain. However, it’s believed writer H. Jackson Brown Jr is the correct author (ref: Quoteinvestigator)

I’ve always loved this quote. I used to have it stuck on my wardrobe to remind me every morning not to be afraid to take chances.

Inspiration that helped me start my freelance journey

Aside from having a trusty inspirational quote to motivate me, I also drew immense inspiration from two champions for female entrepreneurs whose books changed the direction of my life. 

Image: Goodreads

Winging It by Business Chicks Global CEO, Emma Issacs. Emma’s book taught me to stop thinking about it and just do it.

Image: Goodreads

Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. Marie’s book taught me to believe in what I have to offer and reinforced Emma’s message of just getting on with it. Don’t wait for the right minute because there is never a right minute.

Freelance support networks I can’t live without

I also subscribe to professional networks to bounce ideas off and keep myself accountable. 

I laugh when I look back to when I started on my own and what I thought I knew about running a business. Especially a copywriting business. Thankfully I stumbled across the brilliant Clever Copywriting School early in my market research. Headed by one of the most generous, supportive and kind (not to mention funny) people, Kate Toon, this community of like-minded copy beasts is an endless source of support, inspiration and it’s a safe place to laugh, cry or scream about the joys and despair of being your own boss. Besides this wonderful community, Kate also heads up The Digital Masterchefs and The Recipe for SEO Success. In her own words, Kate is: “…an award-winning misfit entrepreneur who works with small businesses and big brands to transform their online presence: through powerful SEO, captivating content and all the right digital marketing moves.”

Another inspirational powerhouse is Karley Beadman. Founder of the Findher online business directory, Karley is a Certified Practising Marketer with a Master of Marketing. Karley established FindHer Online Business as an online networking community for women-led businesses in Australia and the FindHer online business directory to drive website traffic. She is selfless with her time and constantly provides tips and tricks while encouraging women to support each other in business. She is a true gem.

I’m a member of the fabulous networking group, Business Chicks #businesschicks. The support from this bunch of talented, caring, generous women is great. And the access to online masterclasses, professional resources, and events is well worth the small annual investment to become a premium member.

I can’t recommend accessing a support network strongly enough. Make sure you have a strong network you can call on for support. Whatever form that takes. One of the best remedies to those inevitable bouts of self-doubt is to connect with people in similar positions. Knowing you’re not alone makes all the difference in the world.

Oh, and my fantastic network of personal supporters – my family and friends who provide an abundance of support, encouragement and love. I honestly would not be here without them. I’m eternally grateful for their love and support.

How about you? What was your journey to self-employment like? Are you still heading toward that path? Where did you draw your inspiration from? 

Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about your experience.  

Disclaimer: I have not received payment from any of the above sources. These are purely my saviours on my freelance journey!