Keyword Clusters: What Are They and How They Boost SEO Success

keyword cluster
When it comes to digital content planning, keywords virtually always factor in because searching and sharing are the building blocks of a successful content initiative. But have you modernized your keyword planning by properly utilizing keyword clusters?

Single-word SEO is out and keyword clusters are in.

You might have heard this term before but it’s not as scary as it sounds. Here’s what you need to know about up-to-date keyword planning techniques so that your keyword ideas can go from struggling to gain traction to continually producing results.

What Is a Keyword Cluster?

Keyword clustering is the act of optimizing web pages for different variations of keywords and keyword strings. It’s an efficient and crafty approach where keywords are grouped then categorized by either common secondary keyword modifiers or the variations that best resemble your search engine of choice’s results for the core search string. Web pages are optimized for these different variations of search terms as opposed to creating multiple web pages for just one term.

For example, if you own a pet care business in New York, it doesn’t hurt to have multiple blog posts about pet grooming with posts specifically for different breeds of dogs. But in the old days when single-word SEO was still king, it’d be mandatory to have different pages optimized for “dog groomers in New York” and “New York dog groomers” not to mention the numerous pages and posts for different breeds and services offered.

Keyword clusters then have soft or hard clusters followed by clustering levels (weak, medium, or strong.) Soft clusters are made from keyword pairs where any keywords share common URLs. Hard clusters are created only when all of the keywords share common URLs. Weak cluster keywords share least three common URLs among the top 30 search results while medium shares at least five and strong at least seven.

To Cluster or Not to Cluster?

WordPress and other content management systems still have plug-ins based on this “single-string” strategy with the Yoast plug-in being the most notorious for its robotic obsession with a single-string keyword. But were you aware that Google and other search engines have actually outgrown this method as far as search algorithms are concerned? Search algorithms have become more sophisticated and the most successful sites no longer reliant on hitting that target of saturation and popularity, so keyword clusters are the new black.

Everyone wants to get on that first page of Google results, right? The Content Marketing Institute says that even getting those top results matters less today. As counterintuitive as it sounds, getting in the top results does not guarantee the link visibility that it used to. The top position of your webpage on a Google results pages nets about 21% of total clicks, the second one 10%, and the third result 7.5% of the clicks.

Clearly, organic and paid search still plays a role in getting people to come to your site but these numbers used to be higher before Google changed their algorithm. Being visible multiple times from coming up in the search results for more than one keyword through a cluster is how you’ll go beyond those dismal click-through rates despite ranking well for a single-string keyword.

Having medium or strong clusters ensures higher visibility of the same URLs which is going to leave a stronger impression on visitors than just coming across a link once while searching just to forget about it later. This is particularly important in light of the changes to Google’s algorithm, where there are now more search elements than just clear blue links: there are shopping links, paid placement, pictures, and more to distract people from clicking. The shopping links alone can effectively push a #10 placement to #1!

Focusing on clusters opposed to single keywords spreads out your arsenal, so to speak. The old way was about thinking vertically for one search terms. Clusters are the new horizontal approach.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as keyword clusters are concerned, but your keyword planning and editorial plans need to account for them. Single-string just doesn’t cut it anymore and just because your plug-ins may still be focused on this method doesn’t mean that search engines are. Keyword clusters themselves aren’t a totally new strategy, but the way that the marketing world discusses them is. Check out the wide array of talent on WriterAccess to find the perfect writers and strategists for your project calling for writing and SEO skills!

Rachel P is an indie game developer, writer, and consultant. She is also a content strategist here at Writer Access and would be happy to help you with keyword maps, customer journey maps, and buyer personas in addition to writing for you. If you would to like to hire Rachel to devise a content strategy for you, please contact your account manager or send a direct message.


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