Online marketing has never been an easy game, and with more and more businesses joining the fight to reach top positions in the search engines, it’s only getting more difficult.
While there are various tactics you can consider when researching how best to get yourself ranked, one of the newer, more strategic ways to increase your exposure and generate traffic is to use what’s called a Content Cluster.
1. What is a Content Cluster?
The general aim of the Content Cluster is to provide multiple exposure opportunities. Traditional SEO is no longer enough, and it is becoming clear to many successful agencies that a more content-focused strategy is what is going to be most effective when it comes to generating targeted leads, traffic and sales.
1.1 It starts with a key phrase
To start mapping out an effective Content Cluster, you must begin by carrying out detailed, focussed keyword research. This can be done with the help of various online keyword researching tools (some of which are free) including Google Search Console, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer.
1.2 How it works
Your selected key phrase will sit in the centre of your Content Cluster bubble, with various text, video and other content suggestions dotted around to create a ‘map’ of ideas. Carefully planning how you’ll be using different types of content in your Cluster is vital, as your strategy promises to be far more effective and worthwhile if each part of the Cluster is fully thought through with ultimate precision.
Below is an example of a Content Cluster map that was created for an insurance company, LowerHire:
While this all seems relatively simple, one thing that many businesses using this model have trouble with is deciding how to use the various platforms on which you can create keyword-enhanced text. Particularly when considering budget, time and other limiting factors, choosing the right platform and the right type of content can be a real challenge.
2. The content planning process
In a Content Cluster, what you can write isn’t limited to web copy and blog posts – there are so many more opportunities out there. All you need to do is decide how you can best emphasise the quality of your business and your product to your target market. For some businesses, videos will be the best option, whereas others will benefit the most from long-form blog posts. However you decide to split up your capacity while mapping out your Cluster, remember that the primary focus is to generate exposure opportunities – the more platform variety, the better.
2.1 Types of content
Here are some of the options available when it comes to mapping out your Content Cluster:
- Landing pages
- Blog posts
- Sales pages
- Case studies
- YouTube videos
- Social media posts
Choosing a number of different platforms for your online content can give your business a real head start in the online marketing industry. By spreading your work in this way, you could end up with multiple opportunities for exposure in Google’s rankings. For example, while your blog post might appear in position eight, your infographic might appear in position six, meaning that already you are appearing not once, but twice in page one – all for this one important key phrase.
2. Successful examples
Once you understand the key phrase selection and mapping process, this whole strategy can start to seem relatively straightforward – but does it really work? Here are some of the most recent, successful examples of how a carefully planned Content Cluster (based on the perfect key phrase) has generated numerous exposure opportunities, resulting in more targeted leads and of course, sales.
3.1 Case study 1: Walkabout Florence
WalkaboutFlorence is a tour company that provides day trips from Florence, and they needed an online marketing solution to encourage their customers to buy tours direct from their website rather than booking via Tripadvisor and Viator.
As always, the first step was to choose the right key phrase before mapping out types of content. In this case, it was important to recognise the difference between transactional (the kinds of phrases for which websites like TripAdvisor are usually ranked) and informational phrases (less competitive, and perfect for this strategy). The reason why informational phrases are ideal for a Content Cluster is because the people using them will likely be looking for informative content, for example, blog posts and infographics. This will eventually have an impact on sales as the brand will become more memorable to a potential customer as it is being exposed more in Google – that’s the power of the Cluster!
Here are a few examples of both informational phrases and transactional phrases. While transactional phrases are more sales-focussed, in the long term, informational phrases used for blog posts and other types of informative writing could have an even stronger impact on the traffic generation and overall effectiveness of your site.
|Informational Phrase||Transactional Phrase|
|Things to do in Tuscany||Tuscany tours|
|Wineries in Chianti||Chianti tours|
|Best places to visit in Italy||Italy tours|
|Tuscany vineyards||Italy wine tours|
Once the perfect informational phrases were chosen, a series of long-form blog posts (1,000-1,500 words) were written. As well as being expertly optimised, it was equally important to have CTAs and the client’s tour advertisements in the margins of the posts for marketing purposes. Adding to the Cluster, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram content was also used, increasing exposure opportunities for the onsite blog posts as well as generating traffic directly from the social platforms.
3.2 Case study 2: Logistics exchange
Courier Exchange and Haulage Exchange, two logistics exchange brands, were simply looking to outrank their competitors when they decided on a Content Cluster approach. Working in a highly competitive industry alongside hundreds of other brands offering similar freight solutions, it was clear that this client was going to need a powerful Content Cluster.
In this case, a range of pages were created that were optimised for a strong, individual phrase, ‘courier jobs’. These pages were then customised for multiple platforms. Eventually, the client’s website, YouTube videos, blog and infographics were appearing on several positions in page one. The client held multiple, high positions in Google for 2 years thanks to the power of this carefully planned map.
4. The main benefits
The results of expertly designed Content Clusters cannot be disputed, and the tactic is also quite the money saver. Having your work planned out in this way means that most of your budget can be spent on writing quality content rather than strategizing and keyword research. Of course, as mentioned previously, the
main benefit of the tactic is that it allows multiple exposure opportunities with just one key phrase at the centre of it all. The exposure will ultimately lead to more traffic – across a balanced mixture of traffic sources – more targeted leads and of course, the grand prize: sales.
4.1 Potential problems
While marketing using this strategy has numerous benefits, many businesses worry about the cost and sustainability. To have such quantities of content being produced on so many platforms can be both costly and time consuming depending on the size of your business, and at first glance it might appear that a different expert will be needed for each element to avoid the risk of having mixed messages being published about your brand or product.
The advantage of pre-planning a Cluster is that you can not only have a clear idea of the goal you want to achieve and how you’ll achieve it, but you can also ensure that each element of your Cluster works together to deliver an integrated marketing message. Plus, by choosing just one key phrase and using the same tactic across a number of platforms, you save plenty of time and money.
Generating exposure opportunities in today’s online marketing world is no mean feat, and the competition will only get tougher. But, if you have one (or perhaps several) well-planned Content Cluster strategies, there’s no reason why your business can’t win its key phrase battles and be found in multiple positions in page one of Google.
Laura Bolick is head of content marketing at LeadGeneratorsDigital, a boutique online marketing agency specialising in the travel industry.