Two people brainstorming on a whiteboard

Yohei Guy - Thursday 9th January 2020

Why content clusters and pillars are important for SEO

The idea of content clusters and pillars have been floating around in SEO for a while now and for good reason. In an increasingly competitive landscape, they offer a path to rank for difficult and challenging keywords dominated by strong individual posts.

We thought we’d explore some of the reasons why content clusters and pillars are so important for SEO today.

Organising your content ideas

One of the main benefits of content clusters and pillars is a self-serving one, in that it forces SEO Specialists to consider and organise their ideas in a thoughtful and pragmatic way. Traditionally, one would target high volume/value keywords in isolation, typically via a standalone blog post. With clusters and pillars, a layered approach is required and a hierarchy established.

This naturally forces you to organise your ideas and think carefully about the relationships between them. In doing so, you also improve and bring order to your own site’s architecture, making Google’s job of interpreting it much easier. It also means Google will be more accurate in determining what your content is about and how it relates to other pieces of content too.

Man typing on a keyboard for an iMac

Creating content depth

Another thing content clusters and pillars do is they also force you to really focus on rich content and depth. This happens in a number of ways. The first is through your pillar piece that all the clusters branch off. The pillar piece has to be the most in-depth piece in the hierarchy. This will be because it’s the piece that’s optimised for the main primary keyword(s) being targeted in the first place, usually also the most competitive.

It also has to be relevant to the clusters being linked to and Google has to be able to identify and make sense of the links through the copy you write. If these connections are tenuous and arbitrary, the integrity of the pillar/cluster relationship will break down with your time and efforts wasted.

The cluster posts themselves also have to have a degree of depth as well. These pages are just as important as they need to be seen as legitimate posts in their own right, again to preserve the integrity of pillar/cluster relationship. They will also typically be targeting their own long-tail keywords which could in some instances, be just as competitive as the primary one(s).

An improved user experience

One of Google’s more recent priorities is to provide the best user experience through its search engine. This is done through its own services and development of things like featured snippets but it also considers the user experience of the sites it ranks and recommends.

Well-organised and well-written content clusters and pillars can provide a very satisfying user experience. By nature, they arrange large, in-depth and relevant content pieces in a format that is easy to navigate and digest. This allows the user to satisfy the intent behind their queries in an efficient and positive way.

This positive experience not only reflects well upon your own site but also, perhaps more significantly (from an SEO point of view), reflects well upon Google as the means by which the user has arrived at the site.

Two people brainstorming on a whiteboard

Content clusters and pillars will improve your metrics

Content clusters and pillars, if done well, can improve some important metrics from an SEO (and overall website) perspective. One of the main metrics it can improve is the ‘Avg. Time on Page’. An in-depth and engrossing pillar post, in particular, written with detail that covers its clusters will naturally take the average user, longer to read. Pages with longer ‘Avg. Time on Page’ are generally seen as more engaging and authoritative by Google.

A metric that can decrease is the ‘Bounce Rate’. Because pillars and clusters bring relevant and related content pieces together, there’s a much greater chance of a user interacting with another content element on the page. This is typically going from pillar post to a cluster post or vice versa. From an SEO perspective, you never want a site that’s dominated by pages with high bounce rates so it’s a great way to counter this.

This also has a positive effect on the ‘Pages Per Session’ metric with a structure set up that encourages users to engage with related pieces of content. If Google sees that your users are following these paths between content pillars and clusters, it will see those links as genuine and authentic which will only help its prospects for ranking in search engine results.

Content Cluster and Pillars are a great solution for SEOs

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to invest some time and energy into creating strong content clusters and pillars. They are time-consuming endeavours but if done successfully can help you rank for strong primary keywords as well as relevant and related keywords as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *