How We Use the Pillar-Cluster Model to Transform Our Blog

If you haven’t already noticed, the HubSpot Blogs got a makeover this summer.

And while your last makeover might’ve included a new wardrobe or hair colouring, ours was different. We revamped blog.hubspot.com from the inside, out with the help of topic clusters.

And yeah, the beautiful new homepage design, easy click-to-tweet buttons, and video modules help, too. That’s all thanks to my colleague, Carly Stec, who worked tirelessly on the redesign of the HubSpot Blogs, along with talented each member of our graphic and web design and SEO squads. To learn more about the new bells and whistles you can see and test out on the blog, read her deep-dive into what’s new.

Even though you can’t see it, there’s a lot that’s new going on behind-the-scenes: We regrouped our entire blog infrastructure in agreement with the topic cluster model, which calls for the grouping of related blog posts around given topic — instead of writing blog posts to try to rank for different long-tail keywords. It was no mean feat — over the years, we’ve published tens of thousands of blog posts across the Marketing and Sales Blogs, and we lately started publishing new content on our Customer Success Blog.

Now that it’s done — or, at least, well on the way — we’re ready to tell you how we did it. Read on to learn how we changed our blog’s infrastructure, and how the topic clusters are helping us help our readers.

How We Utilized Topic Clusters to Transform Our Blog

Why: We Wanted to Make a Better Experience

We’ve told you before and we’ll tell you again: search has changed. And as it turns out, the style “were in” making our editorial calendar, targeting keywords, and publishing blog posts last year wasn’t optimized for the way people are searching for information this year.

So we blew up our entire blog infrastructure.

Just kidding( kind of ). Here’s the tale 😛 TAGEND

Before Topic Clusters

HubSpot Director of Acquisition( and general SEO genius) Matthew Barby introduced us to the idea of topic clusters — and why they’re so important to creating a good experience for searchers — as well as helping content rank in search more effectively.

You see, as technology has evolved and changed, so too has the style people search for the information they need on search engines like Google. Voice search on devices like Apple’s Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Microsoft’s Cortana has changed the style people search because, instead of typing, they’re having a conversation to find the information they need.

In fact, 20% of Google searches on mobile or Android devices are now conducted via voice search. And what’s more, search engine algorithms are getting smarter, and using machine-learning technology , now, when searchers ask questions or input keywords, search engines can construe the meaning of words to try to find the best possible answer.

What this all means? Well, your time spent writing blog posts designed to rank for specific, long-tail keywords could be better spend elsewhere. Namely, on making topic clusters.

Because your blog( and ours too) was dedicated to trying to rank for specific long-tail keywords in search, the infrastructure was a little … messy. Here’s a visualization of what it looked like 😛 TAGEND

So, yeah. While we had thousands and thousands of blog posts about everything marketing, sales, and advertising under the sun, they weren’t coordinated — and some of the posts were even vying with each other because they were so similar. Guess about it — when we had 10 different blog posts about “Instagram tips-off, ” some of them had overlapping content and similar URL structures that started to compete with one another in search engine results pages( SERPs ).

After Topic Clusters

The goal of coordinating our blog employing topic clusters was so our infrastructure would look a little more like this 😛 TAGEND

How was this beautiful accomplishment of blog architecture attained? By employing pillar pages and internal links to create those topic clusters.

Under the topic cluster model, instead of creating blog posts designed to rank for specific, long-tail keywords, we coordinated our blog posts into given topic areas — anchored together by one webpage that provided a broad overview of the topic, which then hyperlinked out to more specific, deep-dive blog posts that made up a topic cluster.

Having trouble visualizing it? Here’s what it looks like now 😛 TAGEND Topic: Instagram Marketing Pillar Content: Instagram Marketing Cluster Content: The Anatomy of a Perfect Instagram Profile, How to Write Good Instagram Captions: 8 Bookmarkable Tips for Perfecting Your Transcript, How to Use Instagram Narratives: A Simple Guide for Marketers What is your pillar page? Where are there content gaps? Where are content duplicates?

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