In case you haven’t noticed, the machines are getting smarter. And while we’re not at Terminator levels of intelligence yet, some of the tools we use to search and market every day have begun to understand search context and speech semantics. As Google’s search capability improves, search engine users are able to submit queries that are more natural. The average user these days feels totally comfortable asking Google a complete, complex question, because the search engine can now parce semantics, and is able to provide results that answer those questions directly. What does that mean for inbound marketers?
Basically, it means that our content can be more intuitive. As Google continues to make user-focused improvements to their algorithm, their search bots are favoring content that’s written for people over content that’s written to rank well. That means that keyword-stuffed content is definitely out, and it also means repetitive, keyword focused content isn’t going to be as valuable as content that’s genuinely helpful. Search algorithms have reached a point where they can understand what keyword your content is centered around, even if you don’t use that specific keyword anywhere in your blog. This is where topic clusters come in.
What’s a Topic Cluster, and How Can it Help Inbound Marketers?
Topic clusters are a new method of content marketing designed to capitalize on newer consumer search habits. Created and announced by Hubspot—a leading inbound marketing authority—topic clusters work to boost your website’s ranking power, and help your site users reach your content more easily. Topic clusters take note of new search algorithm behaviors, and propose a more effective way of tailoring your content marketing strategy for higher SERP rankings and better readability for search engines and human users.
If your company has a blog, implementing topic clusters can help you improve the authority of your website, as you simultaneously improve the user experience of your blog for your clients. Essentially, topic clusters are dedicated clusters of information that all relate to one central “pillar page.” Let’s use the Evenbound website as an example. We’ve been optimizing our blog to take advantage of topic clusters lately, and at this point, have our blog centered around 7 major topics, or pillar pages:
PPC and Paid Advertising
If you’re familiar with Evenbound, you’ll know that each of these topics is a service that we provide for our clients. Each one of these topics also has a dedicated top-level page on our website, that answers all of the basic questions a consumer might have about the topic. For us, each of these pages is a separate pillar page, forming the central point for each content cluster. The rest of our blog posts are linked to the pillar page they’re the most relevant to.
Inbound marketing is the pillar page. Cluster content would be any blog that’s related to inbound marketing, but gives our audience more in-depth information about a specific aspect of content marketing. Some cluster content for inbound marketing would include:
Content Creation Tools
How to Write a Content Calendar
An In-Depth Guide to Inbound Marketing
Why Blogging is Important
How to Shift Your Sales Team from Outbound to Inbound
Each one of these blogs then links back to our pillar page: Inbound Marketing
This method of organizing our content strategy helps search engines catalog our site. Since each cluster topic links back to the pillar page, we boost the authority of that pillar page. This organization strategy also helps search engines better categorize our site. Since each blog that’s related to content marketing links back to the content marketing pillar page, search engine bots can more easily crawl each of those pages, understanding that each blog that links to that pillar page will offer more, in-depth content about the topic of content marketing.
Implementing Topic Clusters
The point of topic clusters is to help you rank highly for keywords you have the most authority on. Before topic clusters, you may have chosen a keyword, and then written a number of blogs about that same keyword. While this used to work well in the past, with today’s algorithm, you’ll just end up with a bunch of blogs that are competing with each other for the same keyword. This makes it confusing for search engine bots to decide which of your pages deserves the higher rank, and it doesn’t do much to collectively boost the power of your website. With topic clusters, you can essentially pool all of the authority gained from each of your blog posts and content-rich site pages, for a higher rank overall. But, how do you do it?
Start with Pillar Pages
The best place to start building your content clusters is your pillar pages. These are going to be pages that provide a lot of information, but have a very general keyword. Don’t pick a page with a long-tail keyword here, go for something more generic that speaks to your target audience.
For example, one of our pillar pages is Inbound Marketing. The page provides a ton of content, and answers basic questions that anyone would want to know about inbound marketing, like what it is, how it works, and who uses it. If you’re not sure what a pillar page would look like on your website, think about the services you provide. Do you have a page for each of those services, explaining what it is, and how it works? If you’re a home services contractor, you might have separate services pages for roofing, decks, and kitchen renovations. Each of those pages would make a great pillar page to center the rest of your topic clusters around.
Brainstorm Cluster Topics
Cluster topics should be related to your pillar page, but should each be focused on a different, more specific topic. If you chose roofing for a pillar page, potential cluster topics might be: “how to fix a leaky roof,” “when it’s time to replace your roof,” or “10 ways to choose the right roof for your home”. These topics are all about roofing residential homes, but they offer your site viewers more information that’s relevant to their everyday questions about roofing.
Write, and Link
Once you’ve got some solid topics for your topic clusters, it’s time to write and post that content to your website. Don’t forget to link to your pillar page! The most important part of topic clusters is proper linking, because that’s what tells search engines that a blog is related to your pillar content, and helps ensure that the authority each blog gains is passed onto your pillar page. This is the best way to build your site’s authority, and make sure you’re ranking as highly as possible for the keywords that are most important to your company.
Pro Tip: Choose the same anchor text to link to your pillar page in every topic cluster post. For example, when we write subtopics for our Content Marketing pillar page, we always link to that page with the words “Content Marketing.” This helps your readers, and search engine bots, identify where the link will take them, and it can boost your ranking for those keywords.
Reorganizing an Existing Blog
What if you already have a blog, but you want to take advantage of this new, totally helpful, very powerful way of content marketing? Do you need to delete all of your content and start over?
Thankfully, no. But you will have to put a little time and effort into restructuring your content so that it all links together in a logical way. The more straightforward your internal links, the easier it will be for search engine bots to crawl and categorize your site.
Start With One Pillar Page
Decide what just one of your pillar pages will be. Then go through your blog’s existing content, and be sure to link any blogs that are relevant to that pillar page. If you have multiple blogs on the same topic, consider combining them together for one longer, more helpful blog that’s easy to find and offers a wealth of information to your readers. When you’ve made it all the way through your blog by combining similar posts, deleting duplicate information, and linking relevant content to your pillar page, then you can start on another pillar page!
Once you get the hang of it, topic clusters are actually surprisingly easy, and they can do a lot to help you boost your blog and website’s overall ranking power. It’s a new method of content marketing that capitalizes on current consumer search trends, and new search engine categorizing technology. By implementing topic clusters, you’ll be providing your site viewers with an easy-to-navigate content strategy that simultaneously boosts the search engine ranking of each of your pillar pages.
If topic clusters still seem a little intimidating, check out the helpful diagrams provided by Hubspot for a visual explanation of topic clusters, or get in touch with us! Inbound marketing is kind of our thing, so we’re always happy to help if you’ve got questions about your blogging or topic cluster linking strategy. If you’re looking for help with your inbound marketing strategy, see how we helped this company rise to the top with our unique strategy:
By now, you know that content marketing is an important part of any company’s inbound marketing strategy, even for B2B manufacturers who in the past may have done very little marketing at all. But it’s not enough to just do content marketing. Here are some things you should be doing to improve and simplify your content marketing strategy for success:
Create the Right Content
While it can seem like quantity is hugely important in inbound marketing, especially when it comes to SEO and generating organic search traffic—the quantity of keywords you use and the number of times you use them—but as ever, quality reigns supreme. Rather than trying to churn out as much content as possible, instead focus on creating good content that is relevant to your audience and provides value. That’s what will make a successful B2B content marketing strategy. (Here are 5 steps to successful content for industrial and manufacturing B2Bs.)
Use the Right Platforms
You can create amazing content, but if your target audience doesn’t see it, it will all be for naught. You need to meet your audience where they are, so to speak, to get your content under their noses. This means using social media advertising and promotion, and for manufacturers and other B2Bs, this will likely mean LinkedIn, the professional networking site. Not only can you connect with industry leaders and potential customers, you can use LinkedIn ads to target very specifically your ideal clients. (Read more on LinkedIn ads and B2B marketing and easy ways to make LinkedIn work for your B2B marketing strategy!)
Video is one of the most compelling media, especially when one considers how we consume media daily: in quick snippets, on smartphones. For a B2B content marketing strategy, video is a way to demonstrate your capabilities. Sure, your product may not be more exciting than it is practical, but what your product does or enables or how it’s made can be fascinating and compelling to engineers and your potential customers.
Have a Plan
Don’t just write content willy-nilly and think that you’ll start attracting tons of new visitors to your site and acquiring new leads. Content marketing isn’t about attrition, it’s about strategy. It’s about creating the right content (see above) at the right time, promoting that on the best platform, integrating the right keywords, and more. And those things aren’t happy accidents. Performing research on the keywords and topics that will interest your target audience and that audience’s needs and behaviors is critical, and your B2B content marketing strategy should be using that information to ensure your content and delivery are as effective as possible.
A well-planned B2B content marketing strategy that is based on extensive research and combines compelling content with targeted promotion can enhance your marketing efforts manifold. If you want to improve upon your existing content marketing efforts, we should talk.
As a digital marketing company that believes strongly in the power of content marketing to draw in qualified leads, we get a lot of questions about how to write content effectively. Probably the most asked question when it comes to creating content is, “but won’t we give away company secrets?” And the answer to that is sometimes, yes. Creating compelling content often means creating content that divulges how your company got to be where you are, and what it is that makes you special. But that’s not a bad thing, and we promise it’s not going to ruin your company or give your competitors a leg up. Here’s why:
If you’re looking to create compelling content, the first thing you need to do is forget everything you think you know. Giving away your company’s secret isn’t going to lose you money or turn clients away.
If You’re Worried About the Competition:
Don’t worry about the competition. At least not when it comes to content marketing. Unless you have some highly prized product like the Google search algorithm that no one could never engineer or produce or that is so top secret your business would literally crumble if one extra person knew it, your competition probably already has the formula. We hear it all the time: “I don’t want to put out too much content, because then my competitors will know how I do what I do.” If we’re being honest, they already know. All lawyers go to law school. All roofers know what products are on the market, and which ones are the highest end. All manufacturers have access to a wide variety of manufacturing methods. What really sets you apart is how you conduct business, and how you interact with potential clients.
If you’re a roofer, it’s not how you put on shingles or what shingles you put on that makes the difference. What makes the difference is that you’re respectful to homeowners, you complete projects quickly, and you make sure your crews clean up after themselves. What might make you stand out even more is an extra-spectacular warranty or service program, but people will have to know about it if you want that to set you apart. When you get down to it, your secret sauce isn’t all that secret. Heck, even McDonald’s has given away the recipe to their secret sauce:
But, if you’re still not quite comfortable with a company tell-all, there are still plenty of ways to write compelling content that endears you to followers and generates quality leads. Start by identifying what makes your company different. Is it your product? Is it your service? Or is it how you interact with clients that truly makes your company better than all the rest. Then, write content that speaks to that exact point.
Tell the What and Why
If you’re genuinely worried about revealing too much, focus on just writing about the “what” and the “why” and leave out the how. What is your product or service, exactly, and why are you the best provider for that good? What’s your elevator pitch? Content doesn’t have to tell how you make your super awesome product, but it should tell potential buyers why they should purchase it from you, and what exactly they’ll get out of working with you.
If you think about it, Panera Bread doesn’t necessarily give out the recipes to their food items, but they do tell you what’s in each of their dishes. This helps people choose healthy meals that they’ll feel good about, but it doesn’t mean they’re giving away their product for free. And even if Panera did give out their recipes, would that mean they’d no longer have customers? No, because people really go to Panera because it’s a fast, healthy lunch option they don’t have to feel guilty about eating.
Address Legitimate Questions and Fears
One of the best ways to get a consumer’s attention is to answer a question they’ve had about your product for a while, or resolve a fear they might have about your product or service. Today’s consumer needs to be fully informed before they’ll even consider making a purchase. They’ll analyze every pro and con of a product, and if they can’t find that sort of information, they’re less likely to purchase it. By creating posts and blogs that answer some of your target clients’ most frequently asked questions, you’ll be able to a) create content that’s genuinely useful, and b) draw in more qualified leads with the content that your target audience is already searching for.
Sell your Process
Consumers are absolutely obsessed about how things are made. Take one look at Youtube or Reddit, and you’ll see streams of videos that show how even the most common household products, like mascara and Pop-Tarts, are made:
You’ll notice that very few of those video-watchers are likely to start making their own Pop-Tarts from scratch, or designing their own, custom mascara. Most of these consumers just want to know what’s going into the products they purchase and use every day, they don’t care about making them themselves. What’s more, it’s just plain cool to see hundreds of Pop-Tarts sliding across the screen. If you want to create compelling content, you can’t go wrong with a short 1-2 minute video that shows how you do what you do. Even if you sell a service, clients want to know what to expect at each step of your service, which is why breaking down what you do into easy-to-follow steps grabs people’s attention.
A great way to generate content that turns site visitors into clients is to demonstrate your capabilities and your results. For home services pros, this often works best with before and after pictures, showing the old (really ugly) kitchen, and the new, shiny kitchen that you’ve renovated. For anyone who’s results aren’t necessarily visible, case studies are your best friend. People interested in what you have to offer will love a case study because they show measurable results for clients just like them.
For us, we’ve found that digital marketing sometimes throws off clients who aren’t tech-savvy. Since you can’t immediately see, with your own two eyes, the results that our services deliver, some people are wary of what we have to offer. We’ve found case studies to be exceptionally helpful in solving this problem because they give cold hard facts: how many leads we delivered each month, how much traffic our clients now see, where that traffic is coming from, and most importantly, how much revenue our efforts generated.
When you can provide hard numbers like that, people are more likely to respond, because it’s specific and honest. Consumers are tired of the same, general marketing statements like “this will change your life” or “massively increase your returns” that companies boast about, but never prove. People want to see cold hard facts, and they’re excited by content that delivers that, so if you want to draw in qualified traffic, put up a few case studies showcasing the results you’ve delivered.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get emotional. There’s nothing consumers connect with more than a great story, so be sure to tell them yours. The more a consumer knows about your company and about you, the more real you feel, and the more likely they are to reach out to you. With the rise of internet and technology, there’s been a loss of genuine human connection in business, so if you can find a way to show your clients that you’re more than just a building or a product, you’re likely to have content that more people connect to.
Creating compelling content can be a lot easier than you think if you just identify that thing that sets your company apart. Because in the age of the internet, there isn’t much the consumer doesn’t know or can’t find out. The best way to build a content marketing strategy that delivers legitimate leads is to be honest and helpful, and create a connection with that potential customer. Because when a consumer has their choices narrowed down to you and a competitor, they’re going to pick the option they feel they have the greater connection with, and if you’ve been helping them along by answering their questions directly and providing content that helps them figure out what their options are, they’re going to choose you.
Content marketing is what we do. If you’re struggling to finesse your content marketing or larger digital marketing strategy, we can help. Get in touch by sending us a message at your convenience.