Strategies for Structuring and Interlinking Topic Clusters
A Complete Guide
At the heart of any successful topic cluster strategy is internal linking. It’s what makes a topic cluster a cluster, rather than a collection of unrelated pieces of content on a website, such as a blog. There are several strategies for interlinking topic cluster pages that benefit both users and search engines, and we’re going to explore them in this guide.
The Importance of Topic Cluster Internal Linking
Fundamentally, internal linking is one of the most important parts of creating a topic cluster content strategy and demonstrating to your audience your expertise in a given field. It’s arguably second only to the content itself. It helps users and search engines contextualise the topic cluster and understand your authority better.
Secondly, it allows users to delve deeper into a given subject in a logical and understandable way, based on target keywords. From your perspective as a site owner, it’s vital to encourage the most desirable user journey and achieve your goals. That could be demonstrating authority on a given subject, growing your organic traffic, increasing conversions, or a combination of all of them. In short, internal links allow you to maximise the traffic you generate by giving the user something else to explore. Perhaps the ultimate example of this is the famous ‘Wikipedia Wormhole’.
For more information, read our guide The Importance of Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters for SEO.
Topic Cluster Internal Linking Strategies
By far the most popular topic cluster internal linking strategy is the hub and spoke model that you can see below.
In this model, you have a central content repository where all of your topic cluster pillar pages sit and are linked to and from. Think of this as your central informational hub. At RankCaddy, we call this Learn. You may choose a different name for it, and depending on the size of your site, you may even decide to put it on a subdomain.
From here, your pillar pages cover the main subject area and link to all the important cluster posts. Importantly, these also all link to each other, as you can see in the graphic. For simplicity in the diagram, we’ve just shown each cluster page linking to the ones next to it. So 1 links to 8 and 2 etc.
However, as many of these are likely to be relevant to each other, there’s nothing to stop you from linking Cluster Page 2 to Cluster Page 5, for example.
Our Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Topic Cluster Strategy covers this in more detail.
How to Link Cluster Pages
There are several ways to decide which pages should link to each other and multiple ways to put that into practice. But first, let’s focus on the why.
Your internal linking should have topical relevance and be both logical and useful to the user. If it meets the user’s needs, then it will also meet the search engine’s needs. A good way to think about this from the outset is to put yourself in the reader’s place and imagine what they might want to find out more about next to keep them engaged.
Let’s say you’re creating a topic cluster around golf, and you’re creating a piece of in-depth content about how to swing and hit the driver correctly. In this instance, it’s logical that a user may then wish to see relevant content about the best drivers for beginners/intermediates/pros currently on the market. They would also want to see additional cluster pages around the fundamentals of a golf swing, and perhaps content around irons, the best golf balls for distance, and perhaps even exercises that target relevant muscles.
Linking to these other pages makes logical, contextual sense. However, content about the best golf bags, rangefinders, or the top 10 golf courses in Europe, although valuable, would be less relevant in this context.
In the body copy, link to relevant pieces of content using anchor text that’s easy to understand and optimised for search.
Additional Topic Cluster Linking Opportunities
As you can see on RankCaddy, an additional way to guarantee effective internal linking is by using a sticky menu as you can see on the left of this page. This contains all the other pages that sit below the pillar page and offers an easy way for users to navigate to the content they like.
At the bottom of every piece of topic cluster content, we also recommend linking to related pages. This offers users who may have missed any body copy links the opportunity to explore further, and also provides readers at the end of their journey, a very clear next step.
Practically, this functions like a Related Content plugin on a blog but allows you more control over which content is displayed.
Link to Other Topic Clusters
Although creating topic clusters is a great way of grouping related pieces of content, they should never exist in a silo. There will be times when your content will be relevant across clusters, in which case, we encourage linking to it if it provides value to a user.
For example, let’s say you’ve got 2 topic clusters, one about running and one about weight training. On the surface, they are different subjects, but you may have created a piece of content in one that covers effective recovery after exercise. In this case, it would be relevant to both the runners and the weightlifters, so give them an opportunity to find it.
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.