How to Choose the Right Keywords for Your Topic Clusters
Choosing Keywords that Deliver Results
When creating and implementing a topic cluster strategy, choosing the right keywords is vital. A proper, well-considered keyword strategy will ensure you cover all the most important topics, provide the most value for your users, and ultimately give yourself the best chance of success. But should you target short-tail or long-tail keywords? Transactional or informational? Well, in this guide, we’re going to explore how to choose the right list of keywords for your topic cluster pages. So let’s get started.
Understanding and choosing the right keywords for your goals
Before we start doing any hands-on research to generate a keyword list, we have to go back to thinking about what we want to achieve. We’ve discussed how to create your topic cluster strategy in-depth but for our purposes here, we need to consider our original goals. Whether you want more organic traffic, to increase overall conversions, re-engage old customers or expand into new areas, this will influence the type of keywords you choose and the areas you want to focus on.
We find it’s best to work backwards. If the goal is to encourage a user to buy your product then they will likely need to see some or all of the following:
- Information about the situation they find themselves in
- How to solve their problems
- Who you are and why they can trust you
- How your products or services help
- Other considerations
To make this tangible, let’s say your organisation sells sports clothing and equipment, and you want to increase sales of your long-distance running trainers. In this case, a user might be searching for common injuries, aches, and pains from long-distance running. They will also likely need to understand why these are caused and how they can cure/prevent them. You might even want to give them guides to specific exercises or training plans to help with this or explain how and why properly fitted running trainers are vital.
By creating content around these areas, featuring the target keywords people are using, you’ll naturally be encouraging them to find out more about you, building trust, and providing a context for how your products will help solve their specific issues. This will naturally give you a guide for starting the keyword research process, and how to target users at different stages of the buying funnel.
Undertake topic cluster keyword research
When starting your keyword research, don’t forget to check out our Free Keyword Research Template and Guide. It explains the importance of keyword research, a step-by-step guide, as well as explanations and definitions of some of the most important elements of keyword strategy. These include average monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, user intent and more.
To begin with, you’ll need to determine the seed keywords that you’ll use. Given you’ve thought about the types of content you’ll likely need, this is a good starting point. To use our running example again, you might choose ‘running injuries’, ‘running trainers’, ‘running exercises’ etc.
Use a tool like RankCaddy’s Content & Keywords functionality to streamline and take the effort out of the process. Not only do we provide potentially thousands of related relevant keywords for each seed keyword, but we also include Questions, People Also Ask, Auto-Suggest, Featured Snippets, Supporting Content Ideas and Topic Cluster insights. This should give you everything you need to inform your topic cluster keyword strategy and begin to plan the individual pieces to build topical authority.
Map your keywords
Next, you’ll need to begin mapping your keywords to the titles and pages you’re going to create. We find a Google or Excel spreadsheet is one of the best ways to do this. We recommend a column with your content titles and a column that contains all the keywords and search volumes. Review your keyword research document and identify trends, subject areas and pieces of information that people are searching for, and map them to specific pieces of content that correspond to the user’s intent.
You may also find that you can begin to form the basic structure of each piece of content here too. Don’t worry though! We’re only in the initial planning phase, and there’s plenty of opportunity to move things around and do further research later on.
If you’ve identified keyword clusters and trends that don’t naturally fit into one of your existing planned pieces of content but will be relevant to you and your audience, add a new content title to the plan and map them accordingly. Congratulations! This is exactly what the process is meant to do.
Identify SERP Feature Opportunities
We’ve mentioned SERP features such as People Also Ask, Auto-Suggest and Featured Snippets already, but this is another very important part of keyword research.
Creating content that appears in these SERP features can deliver large amounts of traffic to a website and supercharge your organic search performance. Typically, they are pieces of content that are focused on a very specific problem, question or piece of information that users need. Search engines like Google value these as they provide a great user experience, solving problems very quickly.
We recommend reviewing these as part of your keyword research and either factoring them into your planned content or if it is warranted, creating a whole piece around it. To go back to our running example again, below is the SERP for the query “how to stop shin splints when running”.
This has 140 UK searches per month and would be hyper-relevant for this topic cluster. Note also the People Also Ask elements, which provide additional context and a jumping-off point for you to create engaging and useful content.
Prioritise, Create & Publish
With your content plan roughly in shape, and the keywords chosen, it’s time to start prioritising which you’re going to create first. In an ideal scenario, you create all of the content, build the entire topic and keyword cluster, make sure all the internal linking is in place, and then set them all live at the same time.
Unfortunately, real life is often never that simple, and with limited resources or competing workstreams, an element of prioritisation needs to happen. With this, you need to loop back to the very start of the process again and think about what you want to achieve. With that in mind, think about all the pieces of content that are essential for you to complete your goals and make sure they are created first.
It’s very common for topic clusters to evolve and grow over time, but if they are not set up to achieve your goals from the outset then you will hamper your performance. You can help prioritise your content by thinking about what the user will need most, and where the biggest search volumes are.
Build the pages, create your imagery and graphics, and hit publish. It’s normal for search engines to take a while to index and rank your content. After around 4-6 weeks, we recommend reviewing your traffic and ranking data to determine where you have and haven’t hit your targets. Where you haven’t, identify areas where you could update or improve the content you’ve written, or consider creating additional pages for important topics.
For more information, explore the rest of our guides about topic clusters.
- What are topic clusters and why use them?
- How to identify cluster topics and create a topic cluster for content marketing?
- The importance of pillar pages and content clusters for SEO.
- Tips and tools for keyword clustering and content clustering in different industries.
- The topic cluster model and its three components: pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks.
- How to use topic clusters and pillar pages to increase user engagement and lead generation.
- Topical clusters vs keyword clusters, and how to balance them for optimal SEO performance.
- Examples of successful content clusters and pillar pages in different niches, such as education, health, finance, and technology.
- Automation and AI solutions for topic clustering and content optimization, such as Hubspot and Google.
- Common mistakes and misconceptions about topic clusters and pillar pages, and how to avoid them.