This One Thing is Derailing Your Content Clusters

Taylor Bunkers
By Taylor Bunkers

So you’ve tried the newest strategy in content marketing, the content cluster, but it doesn’t seem to be producing the results you were hoping for. It is important first to note that this strategy isn’t going to guarantee you overnight success.

It takes time to see the impactful results as content and SEO take time. But, there might be an underlying issue as to why your content cluster strategy isn’t performing to the best of its ability. Before getting into what could be derailing your content cluster let’s first recap the content cluster strategy as a whole.

The Content Cluster Strategy

A content cluster is a content marketing strategy where you produce a cluster of content around one overarching topic. As you can see in the graphic below, you choose one main topic and then create a group of content that all relate to that main category/topic. In addition to creating this content you will also want to link each piece of content in the cluster to one another.

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There are many benefits to utilizing the content cluster strategy for your brand. Some of these include building authority, improving search results, growing revenue, and growing top of funnel traffic.

Related: Benefits of a Content Cluster Strategy

Out of all of those benefits though, one of the main reasons why brands employ this strategy is to help support SEO efforts. Google looks favorably on this strategy, but for your brand to fully take advantage of the SEO benefits, it is essential to craft a strong internal linking plan.

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What Is Derailing Your Clusters?

You may have guessed it by now, but the one thing that may be derailing your content clusters is your internal linking strategy or lack thereof. Having a well-planned internal linking strategy is essential to the success of a cluster. You may have created excellent content for your cluster, but if you forget to craft an internal linking strategy, then you are not doing everything you can to ensure your strategy performs at the highest level possible.

Related: What Can You Do To Elevate Your Content Marketing Strategy

Internal linking is actually quite simple in premise. It is when you link web pages together through anchor text. In the cluster graphic above, you’ll see a link icon on each line that is connecting each piece of content. That link icon is showing how internal linking works. It is important to not only link each piece of content to the overall category page, but also try to link it to every other content in the cluster. To make the biggest impact with this strategy you MUST develop and implement an organized internal linking plan.

How To Build & Execute A Strong Internal Linking Strategy

By now you understand how important internal linking is to the success of the content cluster strategy. There are certain aspects that come together to make a well thought out internal linking strategy. We are breaking down these components and will explain how to create a link strategy of your own.

Choose The Right Anchor Text

When you are building your internal linking strategy, an important piece is choosing the right anchor text to link to. The anchor text is the words that are included in the hyperlink. It is the text on pages that is highlighted in blue and underlined. When a reader clicks on the hyperlink, they will then be lead to another piece of content that connects with the initial article. This anchor texts needs to align with the target topic of the page you are linking to.

So, for example, if I were to hyperlink the anchor text ‘easy workouts’, it would take the reader to an article titled “5 Easy Workouts To Sneak In During The Day”. You need to be mindful of where your hyperlink is going so that the audience knows exactly the kind of content they will get before clicking the link.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Internal Link Building Strategy

The anchor text needs to match the page it is linking to, but it also needs to be a keyword you are trying to rank for on that certain page. So, with the example above, we would be trying to rank for the keyword ‘easy workouts’. You can try to rank for multiple keywords on one page, but usually there will be one main keyword that is your target or a variation of the main keyword. By using the same anchor text or keyword on each piece of content when you are linking to that specific page it will help increase the chance that the anchor text will rank for that article.

Because it is so important to keep track of what anchor text you are using for each article, it is recommended to track all of these in an excel document or any other document that makes the most sense for your brand. You can have one column that shows the article/page and then the one next will show the various anchor text you are using to link to that page. This will make it much easier to track and continue your organized internal linking strategy as you create more content.

Link Relevant Content

Another important piece of a strong internal linking strategy is linking to relevant content. We briefly touched on this above, but especially with a content cluster strategy, it is important to link the content in the cluster to the main category page you are targeting as well as the supporting articles in the cluster. With the knowledge learned above you’ll know to have a specific anchor text for each of those supporting article that you will use when you want to link to them.

On top of linking to the category page and supporting articles in the cluster, another best practice is to find additional internal linking opportunities with existing content you have. The easiest way to do this is to perform a site search. The way to do this is to type site:www.yourwebsitehere.com into the search box of google. In this example, the www.yourwebsitehere.com is just a placeholder for your actual website.

You can then input whatever topics you are trying to find content on after the forward slash. So if we are taking the same example with ‘easy workout’, I would type into Google, site:www.yourwebsitehere.com/ easy workout. It would then pull up any content on your site that is relevant to the search query ‘easy workout’.

This is one of the quickest ways to find other relevant content that would make sense to link to in your current article. Once you find the most relevant pages that align with your search query you can identify anchor text for each article and then add that anchor text with the hyperlink in the article you are adding links to. By linking to pertinent content you are not only giving your readers more valuable content, but also giving Google an idea of what that page is about.

Related: How Content Clusters Benefit SEO

A final note to reiterate when implementing your internal linking is that you should only link to relevant content. There is no complicated science behind internal linking, you just have to be intentional. Don’t just add links to add them. They need to be relevant to the content and lead your reader to other valuable information. In addition, it should be a natural transition for the reader. When your audience clicks on the hyperlink it should be a natural transition from one piece of content to the next.

Pro Tip: Don’t stuff your content with too many links. It is important to keep the links on each page to a reasonable number. There is no one number that is ideal, but you’ve seen those webpages that are completely filled with links. It looks spammy doesn’t it? A good baseline is to have somewhere around 3-10 links in each post. This of course depends on how long your content is and if there are enough relevant links to include. It is better to link as much as you can instead of only a few links. But, the most important thing is that those links are relevant to your content. Again, don’t just add links to add them. They have to have a purpose.

Benefits Of Internal Linking

As you can see, having a well-planned internal linking strategy is essential for the success of your content clusters. Did you know that Google uses internal linking to see what a particular web page is about? Internal linking helps Google rank the pages and let’s them understand what the content is all about.

In addition, internal linking between different articles or blogs on your site shows Google that your content is related which will then allow you to pass authority between the content. This fact alone is why it is important to link your content to the overall category pages as well as link to the other content in your cluster.

When you link the supporting articles in the cluster together you are letting Google know those posts are related and are a cluster. This not only helps build your site’s authority, but also shows Google that you have an in-depth bank of content on that topic. Google likes when sites have valuable and extensive content on a certain subject. Google will take note of this valuable content and you will see this reflected in your keyword rankings.

The content cluster strategy and internal linking strategy work hand in hand with each other to improve SEO. The content produced in the cluster will alert Google that your site is creating valuable content and then employing the internal linking will help your keywords rank for those pages.

The benefits don’t stop there. Executing a well-planned internal linking strategy helps promote click-through which then influences behavior metrics. If you are promoting additional relevant content within the content your audience is reading it will influence them to continue clicking through.

This in turn will lead to customers staying on your site longer and decreasing bounce rate. As everyone knows, these are important metrics to track and it is important to continue to see an increase to the time on site numbers.Circling back to choosing the correct anchor text, another benefit of linking is that it can help boost your keyword rankings. By linking a specific anchor text to a certain page, it increases your chances of ranking for that specific keyword on that page.

Keeping Track

Making sure your internal linking strategy stays organized and on track will take a bit of work and practice. Use an excel document to map out each page and which anchor text you will use to link to that certain page. This will enable you to keep everything organized and track those keywords and how they are performing.

Is there a way to measure the impact your content cluster strategy and internal linking is having on your SEO efforts? Of course! Keep track of all of the anchor text/keywords you are trying to rank for and have been linking to throughout your content.

That way you can see if those keywords are moving up in the rankings. By keeping track of all of the keywords you are able to notice which keywords are steadily improving and which ones need additional help to move up. If a keyword is needing an extra push, go through article that are relevant to the keyword and add the anchor text and link to the applicable content.

Related: Content Marketing Metrics: How to Measure Performance

In addition to tracking your keywords, you can look at the organic traffic growth. One way to do this is to create segments in Google Analytics for each cluster. You will then be able to see how each cluster is performing and how your internal linking has had a direct impact.

Although creating an internal linking strategy will take time and effort, it is not extremely complicated. The time and effort in the beginning is well worth the payoff you will receive. If you internally link using the strategies outlined above, you will improve your SEO and have a stronger link profile. Take a look at your current content cluster and audit to see if they need any improvements on the internal linking front. If you aren’t seeing the kind of success you want with your content clusters, a weak or no internal linking strategy at all may be the thing derailing it.

Taylor is a Content Marketing Account Manager at Power Digital. Originally from Oakland, CA she moved down to San Diego for college to pursue her love of marketing. From experience working with large brands like Kaiser Permanente to working with smaller E-Commerce clients, she is here to take your content strategy to the next level!