Topic Clusters for SEO: What They Are & How to Create Them

Rachel Handley

Jul 17, 20237 min read
What Are Topic Clusters?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Are Topic Clusters?

Topic clusters (or content clusters) are groups of webpages used to establish authority around a particular subject, particularly in the eyes of search engines.

Each topic cluster includes a pillar page that provides a broad overview of a topic. 

This pillar page links to (and is linked from) cluster pages that cover associated subtopics.

For example, a travel site might have a topic cluster around Disney World vacation planning:

infographic showing an example of a topic cluster for "Disney World Planning"

What Are the Benefits of Topic Clusters?

An effective topic cluster strategy can help with your SEO.

Why?

Because the more quality content you publish on a relevant topic, the more keywords you can rank for. And the more topical authority you can build.

This is important because Google wants to rank sites that demonstrate Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

infographic explaining what E-E-A-T stands for

Side note: In the news sector, Google uses a dedicated topical authority system to prioritize results from “news teams that are intimately familiar with the location and topic.”

Plus, establishing a reputation as a subject matter expert can help you attract and engage users.

Creating SEO topic clusters also places related content into an effective site structure.

By linking to and from a pillar page, you help users and Google to find related content. And understand semantic relationships—i.e., how the content fits together.

All of these factors can lead to better engagement and higher search engine rankings.

How to Create Topic Clusters

Learn how to create topic clusters that drive organic traffic (unpaid search engine traffic). And improve user engagement.

1. Choose a Core Topic

First, you need to choose a topic to base your content cluster around. 

Start with a simple brainstorming session, asking yourself:

  • Which topics are relevant and important to my brand? 
  • Which topics have worked well for me in the past?
  • What content do we already have?
  • Which topics does my target audience care about?
  • Which topics do my competitors talk about?

Your chosen topic should be broad enough to warrant several pieces of content. But not so broad that the cluster becomes oversized and unfocused.

The right approach depends on your goals and audience.

For example, a travel company covering many destinations might create one topic cluster around Disney World planning.

Whereas a dedicated Disney World planning website might have separate clusters for hotels, itineraries, and so on. So they can go into more detail.

Understanding the level of interest in your topic and subtopics will help. So, let’s perform some keyword research.

2. Perform Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of finding queries you want to rank for (i.e., target keywords). And collecting data that helps you evaluate ranking opportunities.

This is key to identifying the best topic cluster ideas. And creating SEO-friendly content.

With Semrush’s Keyword Manager, you can easily find popular topics and subtopics. And associated keywords.

Click the green “Create list” button to get started.

Semrush’s Keyword Manager tool

Then, enter a seed keyword to base your search around (e.g., “plan a trip to Disney World”).

Add your domain and click “Create list.”

Creating clustered list for "plan a trip to Disney World" in Keyword Manager

The tool will collect relevant keywords. And organize them into groups based on topic.

These groups are called keyword clusters.

results for "plan a trip to Disney World" in Keyword Manager

The idea is to assign one keyword cluster (rather than one keyword) to each page in your topic cluster. Then optimize your content accordingly.

This helps you rank for a wider variety of relevant keywords.

Find Keywords for Your Pillar Page

First, find the keyword cluster that best represents your core topic. This contains keywords that you can target on your pillar page.

To evaluate the overall search opportunity, look at the following metrics:

  • Intent: The types of keywords in the cluster. Topic clusters are often built around keywords with informational or commercial search intent.
  • Volume: The combined search volume (average number of monthly searches) for keywords in the cluster. This indicates the potential reach of your pillar page each month.
  • KD %: The average keyword difficulty score. Generally, the higher the number out of 100, the harder it will be to rank in Google’s top 10 organic results.

Tip: The “high ranking potential” tag indicates that the topic has a relatively high volume and low difficulty.

"plan a trip to disney world" keyword with “high ranking potential” tag highlighted

Click the arrow to review the individual keywords in the cluster—and their metrics.

Take a look at the “Content references for the cluster” on the right side, too. This helps you understand what type of content you need to satisfy search intent. And rank highly.

"plan a trip to disney world" keyword with “Content references for the cluster” section opened on the right side

For example, to rank top for “plan a trip to Disney World,” you’d need to create a page like the one previewed below. But better.

example of a page for “plan a trip to Disney World”

Once you’re happy with your core topic’s potential, you can start to build a content cluster around it.

Find Keywords for Cluster Pages

Go back to your list and look for clusters that represent relevant subtopics. 

You can target these on your cluster pages.

For example, it would make sense for our “Disney World planning” pillar page to link to pages that target these keyword clusters:

  • “How many days for disney world”
  • “Disney world tips and tricks”
  • “How much spending money for disney world”
example of keyword clusters for “How much spending money for disney world”

To find more subtopics for your topic cluster, perform another search in Keyword Manager.

Or use Semrush’s Topic Research tool.

Add a topic, choose your target country, then click “Get content ideas.”

Semrush’s Topic Research tool with an arrow pointing to “Get content ideas” button

Once the report is ready, click “View content ideas.”

You’ll find a list of subtopic ideas. Look out for those labeled “Topic Efficiency: High”—this suggests the keyword’s volume is high relative to its difficulty score.

content ideas for "disney world vacation planning" labeled “Topic Efficiency: High”

Click “Show more” on any subtopic to see popular headlines, questions, and related searches.

This can help you better understand search intent.

clicking on “Show more” for "Packing List" subtopic opens section with headlines, questions and related searches

You can then go back to Keyword Manager to build out the keyword cluster. Or use Keyword Magic Tool to find related keywords yourself.

In the end, you should have an SEO topic cluster made up of keyword clusters.

3. Create Quality Content

Once you’ve planned out your topic cluster, you’re ready to create and publish quality content. 

Generally, it’s a good idea to start with your pillar page. This is the page that provides a broad overview of your core topic and a foundation for your topic cluster.

You should create it with links to your cluster pages in mind. For example, the heading structure of our Disney World planning guide might look something like this:

  • Disney World Vacation Planning: The Ultimate Guide for 2024
    • 1. Plan Your Budget
    • 2. Decide When to Travel
    • 3. Choose Where to Stay
    • 4. Create an Itinerary
    • 5. Book Restaurants
    • 6. Create a Packing List
    • 7. Learn Disney World Tips & Tricks

After publishing your pillar page, you can create cluster pages at your own pace. (Of course, the sooner you publish your content, the sooner you can start seeing results.)

Remember to add internal links from the pillar page to its cluster pages. And vice versa.

infographic showing "topic cluster linking example"

For help creating search-friendly content, use Semrush’s SEO Content Template.

Enter the target keywords, choose your focus country and device, then click “Create content template.”

Semrush’s SEO Content Template tool with target keywords in the search bar and arrow pointing to “Create content template” button

The tool provides suggestions based on your top 10 rival webpages.

This includes a recommended text length. And ideas for domains you can earn backlinks from.

(Backlinks are links from other websites pointing toward your website. Google treats certain types of backlinks like recommendations. So, they can boost your topical authority even further.)

"Key recommendations (based on your Google top 10 rivals)" page

When you’re ready to start writing, head over to the “Real-time Content Check” tab.

And click “Open in SEO Writing Assistant.”

“Real-time Content Check” tab with an arrow pointing to “Open in SEO Writing Assistant” button

Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant scores your content’s readability, originality, SEO, and tone of voice in real time.

In addition to improving your content’s quality and SEO potential, this tool helps you maintain consistency across your content cluster.

SEO Writing Assistant shows scores for content’s readability, originality, SEO, and tone of voice

As you review the tools’ recommendations, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose a primary keyword: Pick the main keyword you want each page to rank for. Try to use this in your page’s title tag, meta description, URL slug, H1, and first paragraph of body content.
  • Include secondary keywords: Use the other keywords from your cluster within the content where natural. Be careful to avoid forcing keywords in, as this can harm your SEO.
  • Analyze competing content: Look at rival pages so you can work out how to create something even better. This will also help with the research process.
  • Write for people first: Make sure your content is created primarily for your target audience, not for search engines. Providing genuine value should improve rankings and engagement.
  • Be clear and concise: Make it quick and easy for readers to get the information they need. Structure and format your content thoughtfully to make it more digestible.
  • Build internal links: Link to other pages in the cluster so users can easily navigate between them. And use keyword-rich anchor text to enhance Google’s understanding.

Note: If you already have content that could fit in the topic cluster, improve that rather than creating a similar page. Near-duplicate content can harm your SEO.

Measure Results and Keep Building Authority

Monitor your content’s performance to see how topic clusters (and individual pages) perform.

You can then:

  • Expand top-performing clusters with additional content
  • Review and improve low-performing content
  • Adapt your topic cluster strategy for the future

There are many content marketing metrics you can track. But content clusters are primarily used to generate organic rankings and traffic.

Try adding your target keywords to Semrush’s Position Tracking tool. You can track your positions, estimated traffic, and more.

an example of a report in Semrush’s Position Tracking tool
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Rachel has over 11 years of content writing experience. She built her SEO knowledge at digital marketing agencies before working as a content strategist for an AI startup. At Semrush, she performs in-depth research and collaborates with our talented team to give fellow marketers advice they can trust.
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