Search Engine Optimization (SEO) continues to change and evolve as times go by. However, the changes to Google’s algorithm and thus changes to the entire concept of SEO are more frequent than ever. When one thing changes, others usually follow soon after.
That can be said for keywords and keyword research in general. It is estimated that about 63,000 search queries are performed every second, so keywords have always been the core of SEO, and keyword research is the foundation for effective and efficient SEO strategies.
Although many experts argue over the relevancy of keywords and how they’re becoming obsolete, keywords are still here and in greater numbers, it seems. In comes keyword clustering.
So what exactly does keyword clustering mean?
Ever since Google decided to make search results more relevant to the search intent, they’ve been tweaking and updating their search engine algorithm to comply closely with their EAT principles. All in an effort to place a greater emphasis on content quality.
Keyword clustering is designed to place content closer to search intent and keyword clustering has been around for some time.
However, Google’s natural language processing (NLP) has gotten more advanced, which makes keyword clustering more relevant than ever and keyword research more complex and granular.
With that in mind, here’s a definitive guide on keyword clustering.
What exactly is keyword clustering?
Remember when individual website or blog pages were optimized for a single keyword? That’s no longer the case.
Keyword clustering is basically an advanced method of keyword research, and it has become the essential part of any digital strategy. Instead of opting for a single keyword, you search for multiple keywords that have similar search intent.
You then optimize website or blog pages to target those clusters of keywords instead of focusing on just one. The purpose is to drive more organic traffic to your website than a single keyword focus can provide.
More organic traffic means more qualified leads as well. Most of the SEO agencies recommend that businesses still focus on keyword research only now they should also focus on groping keywords together accordingly.
Google usually ranks websites for multiple keywords anyway so you might as well take advantage of that and use a strategic keyword cluster to get better results. This will help you ensure that Google ranks your pages for similar terms and intents that your target audience is frequently using.
Therefore, let’s dig into clustering keywords a bit further, shall we?
1. Researching and collecting keywords
The first step is to consider which keyword you’d like your website, blog or individual page to rank for. Once that’s done, you can search for long-tail phrases, auto-complete phrases and sub-topics for that keyword.
Keep in mind that you’re trying to determine similar keywords your audience members would use when searching for something specific. Here’s an example of what that might look like.
Let’s assume the keyword in question is “men’s sports shoes”.
- Sports shoes for men
- Men’s shoes for sports
- Basketball shoes men
- Sportswear men
- Men’s sportswear
You get the picture. Therefore, you search for all the possible variations of the keyword you want to rank for, as well as all the possible variations for a sub-topic, i.e., basketball shoes for men.
Any variation that searchers may use while browsing is worth exploring. There are numerous sources you can explore to get as many competitive keywords as possible. Here are a few examples:
- Conducting competitive keyword research
- Third-party analytics and tools
- Your own data extracted from Google Analytics or Search Console
- Brainstorming sessions
The key is to find as many related keywords as possible but at the same time to get rid of a lot of irrelevant keywords.
In layman’s terms, you separate the weeds for the wheat, or was it the other way around? In any event, the ultimate goal is to get a very long list of potential keywords you can group together into a cluster you’ll be ranking for.
2. Analyze the terms
Once you’re done with collecting and researching keywords, you’ll have a long list that usually consists of 1,000+ keywords. That’s okay, you may not have to use all of them but the more, the merrier. You should now analyze the terms and segment your keywords properly. Here are a few things to focus on:
- Semantic relevance
- Search Volume and CPC
- Organic difficulty
The more similar the terms are, the easier it will be for website crawlers to understand the context of keyword clusters. That is why search terms must be highly relevant because this is where natural language processing comes into play.
If your keywords aren’t similar enough, crawlers won’t be able to rank your pages well enough.
Pay attention to search volume while you’re at it. Terms with high-enough search volume prove that consumers are actually using those terms when searching online.
Last but not least is keyword difficulty. It’s not advisable for new websites to rank for keywords with difficulty larger than their domain authority. At least not until your website authority grows.
For starters, make sure you rank for keywords that have both high and low difficulty so that you can secure short-term rankings, at least for a while. Having a keyword tool would help you do all this much more seamlessly. Any keyword tool will do as long as it works.
3. Cluster your keywords
Once you’ve determined which keywords to use, it’s time to cluster them together. You should always aim to cluster three to four keywords together, not more. Anything above that number will be more difficult to optimize.
Once clusters are created, they will represent the core topics for your website or blog pages. They are also referred to as pillar pages. These pillar pages require that you create your own landing pages so that you can continue to expand your content from there.
Now it’s time to either incorporate these into your existing pages or create new pages that are focused on your core topics. You can either use a content optimization tool to do this or perform an on-page SEO audit. Either way, here are a few things you should focus on.
- Create long-form content that covers your topics in great detail.
- Create clear information architecture and make sure you include keyword phrases in H2 and H3 headings.
- Enrich the pages with elements, such as videos, images, jump links and so on, to improve user experience.
- Create at least one landing page per keyword cluster.
- Update title tags, meta descriptions and URLs once you include the cluster.
Once you’ve completed the audit, make sure you inform the search engines to crawl and index your pages again so that you can start benefiting straight away.
Just make sure everything is in order and that there are no errors, broken links or duplicate content before crawlers start indexing your pages.
4. Reinforce keyword clusters with additional content
Keyword clusters allow you to create a whole new content hierarchy for your website or blog. You can categorize pages based on topic, sub-topics filters and other criteria. You can then start creating additional content that will reinforce your keyword clusters.
The best way to actually reinforce your keyword clusters is to have as many internal links as possible lining back to pillar pages. Therefore, create your content with your core topics in mind. You can always add more clusters if you have more products or topics to cover.
The more keyword clusters you have, the more organic traffic you’ll have. If you continue with that practice, you’ll have lots of relevant content grouped with relevant keyword clusters. That means you’ll rank better for any related term your target audience may use to find products similar to what you have to offer.
Furthermore, internal links help improve time spent on page, meaning your website visitors will have more stuff to explore and they’ll ultimately stay on pages longer.
This will improve your rankings as well. If you also use PPC (Pay-Per-Click) alongside SEO, you can use a similar principle to create ad groups using keyword clusters. This makes your content more relevant to search intent.
Keyword clusters are basically a more advanced type of SEO strategy. A lot of businesses use this strategy to gain a competitive advantage. The main reason keyword clusters are so effective is that they respond well to natural language processing and unmatched indexing.
If Google can understand millions of keyword phrases, as well as notice the variations in those phrases, then Google certainly understands if those terms relate to each other or not.
Google aims to make their NLP models even more advanced so that they can monitor content quality and predict which website or blog pages best match the user intent.
When you use keyword clustering, you improve website authority and credibility, which shows Google that your content does, indeed, have the quality it seeks.
Keyword clustering is pretty much the future of SEO and it will encourage website owners to think differently about the content they produce.