The Key Fundamentals Of Content Clustering

You’ve finally got your act together on the marketing front – or so you think. From paid ads to SEO, blogs, and email campaigns, you’re seemingly on the ball; proud of your carefully crafted plan, convinced you’ve solved the content puzzle.

So, when you come across a blog that highlights a new and effective marketing strategy – which you don’t have – it’s understandable if you’re a little miffed. But don’t worry.

In this case, we’re talking about content clustering. Marketing is always evolving and those that keep up are usually the most successful. In 2013, Google introduced the Hummingbird Update. This essentially made SERPs a lot more human and tailored to more specific searches. Since then, Google users have been able to access more accurate answers, relevant to what they’re actually searching for.

This is Google’s way of answering special requests – which means the content has to do the same. This is why content clustering is so important. It gives readers easier access to more specialist topics. While it can be tricky to get your head around, there’s no doubt that it’s an incredibly effective tool when you do.

What is content clustering?

Content clustering is a finely-tuned approach to content marketing. In simple terms, it’s a multitude of content pieces that all align under one common overarching topic – known as pillar content. If that doesn’t simplify things, then imagine it like this:

You’re a London SEO Agency, who want to write about email marketing (Pillar Content). Now, this is quite a broad topic. While you can produce loads of content for email marketing on one single page, there’s a lot to cover and your risk exhausting your reader or viewer.

Instead, it’s better to create a group of well-rehearsed and informative pieces that individually cover each specific area of email marketing and feed into the broader topic.

Pillar content and cluster content are also defined by different key words. For instance, a pillar page will pinpoint a much broader keyword; whereas a cluster topic will target a much more specific keyword, with a much smaller search volume.

You may be asking: what’s the point in all of this? Well, there are many reasons why content clustering is a must for agencies and marketers. The major reason, however, is to keep our old friend Google happy.

Why is content clustering important?

For a start, content clustering gives your website a really good structure. Not only does it look good, but it provides visitors with a seamless experience. They can easily navigate your content and jump from topic to topic, comfortable that what they’re reading is exactly what they were searching for.

But above all else, content clustering is there to impress Google. As with the majority of things in digital marketing, we must do our best to keep Google on our good side. Content clustering shows Google a well-structured and informative site, targeting specific keywords. If your content does this well, Google will reward you.

They’re looking for experts in certain areas. So, a tonne of different pieces of content on one specific topic is a great way to demonstrate this. Google has criteria that separate good from mediocre content, which determines how much trust they put into a certain brand or site. This is known as EAT:

Expertise – does the creator have the correct credentials and how accurate is their content?

Authoritativeness – how well do you stack up in that industry? Who’s been backlinking to your site and who looks up to you?

Trustworthiness – does Google trust you to provide honest and information? Who has backlinked or cited your site?

When creating your cluster content, your level of website expertise in your chosen field increases. Equally, as your blogs begin to rank your level of authoritativeness and trustworthiness will also be dragged up due to an increase in backlinks, citations, and regular informative information on the site.

How do you create cluster content?

  • Go Granular:

As mentioned already, cluster content should target smaller topics. This type of content is all about building up to a bigger subject – the pillar page. So when we start small, we have a much better chance to create this funnel system.

It’s a good idea to work out a topic hierarchy. Then, you can direct all of your sub-topics towards this broad end goal. This will only improve your rankings.

 

  • Understand Your User

It’s the number one rule in marketing: understand who it is your selling to. In order to maximise your cluster content, make sure you find out what questions your customers or viewers are asking.

This means you can target more specific and granular keywords which will ultimately get your content ranking higher. Google is always rewarding content that’s relevant to what users are searching for – so make sure yours is.

  • Interlink

Again, this helps point viewers to other relevant content of yours. It also ticks a load of boxes for Google. By interlinking to other pages, you show Google the link between pages, as well as their relevance and value. Do this, and you’ll soar up the rankings.

So, there you have it – another marketing instrument that’s sure to boost your digital presence. It’s worth mentioning that this may not be a strategy applicable to everyone; so double check before you start.

By clustering your content, you not only simplify your users’ experience, but you make your website stand out for all the right reasons with Google. It’s of course these two who we need to impress. While it may be a lot to take on board, cluster content is relatively simple once you crack it. When you do, it’s an incredibly effective long-term strategy.



 

The History Of SEO And What Its Future

HoldsSEO in 2021- is it worth it?

With the rise of paid media, ads and platforms like TikTok, there’s been a conversation around whether SEO is becoming outdated. However, irrelevant of how much websites now rely on alternative online advertising, being able to rank organically above your competitors, is an almost irreplaceable asset to your business. So, as long as people are still using Google – which they are, there are (40,000 google searches made every second)– then SEO will remain just as important as it is now, although it may come in different shapes and sizes as it has done over the years.

In the long history of Google influencing site rankings, there have been many changes to its algorithm. It has been important for SEO companies to keep up with all the various updates that have impacted how our pages rank. This got us thinking: can we look at what Google has done in the past, to gain insight into its future?

 

Where SEO all began…

Nowadays, we know how important Google is in the world of SEO with 3.5 billion Google searches being made each day. However, there was a time when SEO was independent of Google. We could say that the world of SEO began in 1991, when the first ever website was launched. But officially, the first use of the term ‘search engine optimisation’ was in 1997. This, however, was completely different to what it is now.

Keywords

As soon as people started using search engines, website owners began thinking of ways to get their site to the top of the SERP (search engine result page). At the beginning, this was purely how much the content of your site matched what the user entered in the search bar. In other words, for a website to be highly ranked, it just had to be filled with the keywords. The more often the keywords were used, the higher the website would rank, and thus keyword stuffing was born

Backlinks

In 2000, Google partnered with Yahoo and began controlling their organic search. When anyone searched in Yahoo (the more known and influential search engine of the time), they were faced with ‘powered by Google’, turning Google into a household name. They soon began ranking on and off-page factors – a revolutionary SEO move. Google realised that if people were talking about a site, it would act as an indicator for the importance of that site and so it deserves to rank high.

 

A collection of Tweaks

Over the next few years, Google added more and more changes to its algorithm to improve the user experience. In 2004, they began to include local SEO and started to personalise the user experience by looking at the user’s individual history and interests.

In 2005, they created ‘nofollow’ to combat spam and 2006 saw the inclusion of ‘Map Plus Box’, so that the user could easily navigate from their search, to a map of what they wanted. They even made it easier for site owners to track their progress, with the creation of Google Analytics and Google Search Console. In 2007, Google added to Universal Search – its biggest change since the Florida Update that added news, videos, blogs and images to the user’s search.

Florida Update

In 2003, Google got smart and realised the ways that businesses were getting their sites to rank higher. This update had a huge impact, causing some retail companies to go out of business.

Now, sites with an unnatural amount of keywords, invisible links and hidden links dropped massively in their rank. This update was to remove clutter for the user and although it seemed detrimental at first, it actually forced businesses to make more of an effort to rank their sites, by improving the user’s experience and adding useful content.

 

Brands

The 2008 Vince update seemed to favour bigger brands as they moved up the search rankings with more ease in comparison to new or smaller brands. Google claimed that this was not because they just wanted to praise larger companies, but because larger brands were popular for a reason – they were trustworthy.

Social signals

With the rise of social media, Google now considered this when ranking sites. Now, social signals such as shares, likes and tweets all mattered.

Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird

In 2011 and 2012, Google released two new updates that still have a major impact on how we as SEO’s operate today. With Panda, Google aimed to eliminate the use of ‘content farms’ which are websites that produce thin or scraped content.

The Penguin update was even more accurate in eliminating keyword stuffing and linking patterns. The user now had clearer results, with no auto-generated, low-quality content to sieve through.

The 2013 Hummingbird update was introduced which allowed search engines to reward more natural language. This was due to the rise of mobiles and voices search. Yet again, Google making it easier for users to get exactly what they want.

Mobile

2015 was the year that mobile searches overtook that of desktop which caused Google to launch its mobile friendly algorithm.

AI

Also in 2015, Google introduced RankBrain which was equipped to understand what the specific user’s intent was. For example, it can recognise whether the user wants to buy or read information, or whether they want a short or long answer. By 2017, Google was declared the world’s first total AI company, with AI in everything. Google informs and assists rather than just showing you a list of information.

BERT and EAT

2019 saw the creation of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), to better understand different languages. This improved the quality of international traffic. This update also focused on increasing the ranking of sites that had higher quality content, rather than its use of keywords. The 2020 updates introduced ‘E.A.T’ (expertise, authority, trustworthiness), which was used 186 times in their guidelines, showing their emphasis on providing good quality information for their users.

2021

What will likely be the biggest change for 2021 is Google core web vitals update.

This is the introduction of page speed to Google’s existing page experience ranking factors (such as mobile friendly, HTTPS, safe browsing and no intrusive interstitials). Page speed is something webmasters and business owners should be focussing on anyway, as it has a direct impact on conversion and bounce rate. However, with this now becoming major ranking factor, businesses should begin to use the likes of Google Search Console, Pagespeed insights and lighthouse to prepare for the core web vitals update. Along side side this, we predict that mobile compatibility will be more important than ever as phone usage continues to overtake the use of desktops.

Just as we see an ever increasing usage of mobile search over desktop, we are seeing more and more use of voice search, which will no doubt transform the way SEO is undertaken over the coming years. To prepare for this, two methods which businesses should make sure that they are undertaking, is aiming for rich snippets which are short and to the point (FAQ’s are an effective method to address this), as well as being setup across Bing, Google and Safari, so they are available for Alexa, Siri and Googles Assistant.

Some other useful things to consider, is content depth – as long as the information is relevant, it matters less on the actual content depth which has dominated how google ranks content over the last couple of years. It is also suggested that sites should be niche, so make sure your content is specific to your site’s main objective.

What can we conclude?

Despite the many different updates that Google has done over the years, there has been one that seems to be consistent: to improve the experience of the user. The various tweaks to its algorithm have always been to ensure that when you search in Google, you are met with the most appropriate product, service or information out there. We know that keeping the user satisfied means that they will continue to use Google and therefore Google makes more money. Because of this, Google will always do what it can to put the user first and provide them with the best result possible.

Because of Google’s increasing intelligence, it is wise to leave the easy, cheat ways behind. Instead, focus on providing good quality information on a well-functioning site. Use language that the user would use, and check your sites on tablets, mobiles and desktops to ensure a smooth web experience. Although we cannot predict the exact changes google will roll out to the world of SEO, we can be sure that UX will be the most influential factor over the next couple of years.

 

How Do I Optimise a Website For Voice Search?

In 2021, voice search is becoming more and more important in SEO. Devices like Amazon Alexas and Google Homes are becoming increasingly more popular and as a result, more people are asking virtual assistants questions, instead of typing them up. As usual, search engines are keeping up with these trends, and making compatibility for voice search an important factor in SEO.

What are the differences between voice search SEO and normal SEO?

The issue with voice search is that Ai assistants will only read out one result, instead of showing a whole page full. So, with voice SEO, getting that number one spot or rich snippet is even more important and influential. In the past, SEO’s have argued that rich snippets are not as beneficial as they might seem on the surface, as they have prevented top-ranking sites from gaining a wealth of traffic as searchers are delivered the answer they were looking for without having to click onto a website. However, with voice search becoming more influential, SEO’s will inevitable compete even harder for these snippets.

Although we use the term ‘voice search’ for anything asked to smart devices, there are actually two different categories regarding ‘Voice’. These are voice search and voice action.

Voice actions:

When you ask the device to do something, like “call a hairdresser near me” or “call a plumber in Manchester”. These are what you want to be targeting if you are a local business with a local SEO focus.

Voice searches:

These are information-based queries. This could be; “how often should I water my plants”, “why do you need vitamin C in your diet”, or “what is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile”.

So now that you have a good idea about the type of voice search, let’s run over the different approaches for ranking both voice search and voice action queries.

How to Rank for Voice Action:

If you are a service and location-based business you need to focus on optimising your site for voice action. This is done by making sure you are compatible for all different devices that do voice search. You may already have a Google My Business account, but what about the devices that do not use Google as their map service? This is why you must optimise your business profiles on all possible map sites that your potential customers may search on.

This means optimising for these four different sites:

  • Google My Business (used by Android phones and Google Home devices)
  • Bing (used by Alexas and IPhones)
  • Yelp (also used by Alexas and IPhones)
  • Apple Maps (used my IPhones)

So, how do you optimise on these platforms?

Just as when you are getting your google my business ranked, you need to place a focus on displaying as much relevant and useful information as possible. So within these sites and platforms, you must include:

  • photos (make sure to include up-to-date photos of the service you provide, members of your team, and your logo)
  • reviews (these are vital for letting future customers know that you are trusted by those who you have helped)
  • opening times (if people are unsure when you are open, they are less likely to use your service, and Google knows this)
  • descriptions with keywords (a well-planned keyword strategy will ensure that you appear when people ask for you what you do)
  • name, address and phone number (this MUST be consistent across all four platforms)

By including all the necessary details, the search engines will regard you as trustworthy and you have a higher chance of being elected for voice searches. Ultimately this is not much different to typical SEO which is broken down into E.A.T – the T being trust. So, in short, do what you were doing previously to gain the ‘Trust’ element, but across other numerous platforms for multiple search engines.

How to rank for voice search

Voice search is for those looking for information and answers to their problem. An easy way to do this is to add an FAQ page to your site answering common questions that your customers may be asking.

Make your answers short – about 40-50 words for each answer. This is because audiences asking their devices certain queries want quick, to-the-point answers, without their smartphone or speaker reading them an essay. To think about what questions your FAQ should have, think about the theory ‘they ask, you answer’. Whatever questions you think a potential customer might have should be inputted into an FAQ.

What does an X service entail? What are the benefits of buying X product? What is the average market price for X product? When it comes to Voice search intent, think about questions asking; ‘How to…’. ‘When do I…’, ‘What is…’ and ‘What do I do when..’. These types of conversational questions take up over 65% of voice search queries. Ultimately this means that you should be carrying out long-tail keyword research and prioritising the conversational type of queries which seem to be appearing.

When addressing these questions, you should focus on simplicity (like an 8th-grade reading level) whilst keeping it conversational as this is the type of content that voice search results will pull out. You should in theory be writing similarly to how your audience speaks, which means thinking about the industry you are in and the type of customers you interact with on a regular basis.

Schema Markup

Having a schema markup can greatly improve your page ranking. It can help you get on rich snippets and featured snippets. So, if you want that Position 0 ranking, you should be utilising schemas. Because 40% of voice searches come from featured snippets, getting your schema right is vital for voice search.

Search engines look at your schema and from this can understand the context of your website. Having a schema markup is the equivalent of you describing your site, with detail, to your search engine. This allows you to have more of an influence on how search engines should read your site and thus rank it.

Schema can come in many different forms. Although there are some universal schemas for all websites, such as organisational or breadcrumbs schema, the type of schema you use will often depend on the industry you are in and the type of website you run.

These include:

  • Creative Works
  • Article
  • Video
  • Event
  • Recipe
  • Local Business Schema
  • Product

You should choose the most relevant type for your content. There are so many types and properties (778 types and 1383 properties), so it is very important that you choose the right one. Having the correct schema can help your chances of being on the featured snippet, which as previously mentioned would increase your chances of being sleeted for voice search.

Last tips

Ultimately, you want to work on authority with voice action and voice search. So, remember to ensure that your content reads well and is not unnaturally crammed with keywords. Throughout the history of SEO, Google has become better at noticing what might be spam, so always try and be as helpful to the user as possible.

When you are writing this content, think about how people would speak. Matching what people ask with their voice means writing more naturally which probably means less formally. Finally, if you are providing useful information that matches what people are asking, then searchers will want to use your answers and give your site a high-ranking position.