Blog Post

A Holistic Approach to Blogging: Contextual Content Clusters

November 17, 2016
Table of Contents

By now, most of you are familiar with content marketing – what it is, how it works, and that it is king (or queen, as I like to call it)  in the marketing world. Content marketing has been one of the most popular trends driving digital strategy in recent years. In fact, content marketing was even voted the top marketing activity used to drive commercial results in 2015 (take that PPC!).

However, ever since it’s surge in popularity a few years back, content marketing strategy has remained largely unchanged. Publish content regularly, optimize your posts with the appropriate keywords, and ensure that what you are putting out there actually provides some value to your target audience – this is content marketing strategy in a nutshell.

Sure, there have been a few exciting variations – using interactive content in the form of quizzes and polls or creating eye-catching infographics to accompany your blog posts. However, in terms of written content, we haven’t seen much change in terms of best practices and strategy.

Well content marketers, get ready for a shake-up! Through months of trial and error, we’ve discovered the latest trend in content marketing – contextual content marketing and content clusters.

What Is A Contextual Content Cluster?

Don’t let the name scare you off. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, contextual content marketing is pretty logical. Basically, a contextual content cluster is an ecosystem of blog posts created to answer the “Who, What, Where, When, and Why” around a specific transactional page on your site. Each of these blog posts dives deep into the topic of the transactional page and utilizes internal linking to strengthen the authority of that page.

Confused? Here’s an example:

Let’s say you own an exercise studio. You offer spin classes, yoga classes, crossfit classes, pilates classes, and barre classes. On your website, you have a landing page for each type of fitness class – describing what the class is like and how to sign-up. In order to strengthen the SEO-value around each of these landing pages, it is important that you publish relevant blog posts that link to the landing page. This is where the content cluster comes in.

Related: The Top Three Reasons Your Content Marketing Strategy is Falling Flat

Let’s say we want to strengthen the Spin Class landing page. We would begin by developing a content calendar with topics that answer the “who, what, where, when, and why” questions surrounding spin. For example, we might write blog posts about “What To Wear to Spin Class?”, “Why Should You Start Going to Spin Class?”, “What To Expect at Spin Class”, etc.

Each of these blog posts will link to the main Spin Class landing page as well as link to each other, forming sort of a spider web of interconnected blog posts all working together to strengthen each other. This is what we mean by “holistically”. Instead of focusing on optimizing each individual article, we focus on the whole content ecosystem to create a self-sustaining content strategy. Search engines love content, and having a content strategy behind your products and services will help drive up your authority in whatever verticle your business is in.

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Integrating Content, PR, And SEO

Disclaimer: in order for this strategy to work well, it is essential that you are utilizing digital PR and SEO. Work closely with your PR team to build high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites that point to your target transactional page. Your PR team should also be working to secure coverage on authoritative sites with links pointing to your premium pieces of content in the cluster. By building these links, you will begin to see the authority from those sites being transferred to your target pages.

Related: Content, SEO, & PR – Three Peas in a Pod

And don’t leave your SEO team in the weeds. You need them to optimize your target pages for the correct keywords and ensure that your internal linking strategy is up to par.

So, now that you have a basic understanding of the content cluster strategy, let’s dive into how you actually make it happen!

Selecting Your Clusters

Before you begin brainstorming topics, you have to decide on a transactional page to target. Think about all of the core transactional pages on your site in terms of your target audience. What topic is most relevant to your business and ties easily into your core conversion points/metrics?

Back to the fitness studio example above. Before coming up with any topics, we want to consider: which fitness class do we want to grow right now? Some may choose the class that already generates the most money in order to establish themselves as a thought leader in the industry. Others may choose the class that generates the least amount of revenue in order to draw attention to that service and gain a new customer base. Either approach works – your ultimate decision will depend on your business goals.

Once you decide on a few transactional pages you’d like to target, it is time to find out if there is actually search volume around those topics. Let’s say you can’t decide between choosing Spin Class or Pilates Class for your first cluster. Turn to the numbers. If there is higher search volume around pilates than spin, there’s your answer!

Note: just because you choose to target one page now doesn’t mean you won’t be covering other topics in the future. So don’t get too antsy!

Leveraging Content To Support Transactional Pages

Once you’ve decided on which transactional page you want to focus on, you can start  brainstorming topics. However, just like with everything else you do in digital marketing, you want to have a strategy. Don’t just pick topics that you think other people might find interesting. Rely on the data! (It never lies).

Use tools like Google AdWords or Answer the Public to find out what questions people are asking about your target topic. If the search volume is high and the question makes sense based on your target audience, you can use these long-tail queries to build out your blog content.

For the pilates example, we may write blog posts answering questions like:

  • Which pilates method is best?
  • What does pilates do for the body?
  • Why does pilates work for weight loss?
  • How does pilates help runners?
  • Are pilates classes hard?
  • Who teaches pilates?

As you can see, through content clusters, we are able to answer a few of the many questions that potential customers have about one topic. By diving deeply into one topic, you are not only establishing yourself as a thought leader in the space by providing helpful resources to your target audience, but you are also bolstering your SEO strategy.

Related: Market Muse Review – Semantic Search Optimization Tool

After you’ve decided on the topics and written the blog posts, you want to ensure that you are optimizing them using topic-modeling tools like MarketMuse. This tool allows you to move away from keyword stuffing (which Google hates) and move towards optimizing your content contextually (which Google loves).

External Link Building & Internal Linking

By this point, your topics are generated, the blog posts are written, and you’ve optimized them based on SEO best practices. Now it is time to publish your awesome content for the world to see!

However, your work doesn’t end once you hit “publish” in WordPress. Now you need to develop a strong internal linking strategy within your network of content up to your core transactional pages. As each blog post in your cluster goes live, make sure that they are linking to the transactional page andeach other. This is where the strategy really comes to life!

Related: Link-Pocolypse 2016 (aka Penguin 4.0)

In addition to internal linking, you also want to develop an organic link-building strategy amongst sites relevant to your business. Work with your PR team to develop a great pitch about your content in order to gain highly authoritative backlinks. These links will be the juice that brings your pages to life!

Wrapping Up

…And that is the contextual content cluster – the hottest new thing in content marketing (at least in my opinion)! When implemented correctly, the content cluster has the ability to bring your digital marketing game to the next level. Ready to give it a whirl?

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