How topic clusters are redefining SEO in marketing for manufacturing

Written by Jeremy Knight  |  27, February, 2018  |  0 Comments

The way that we search online is evolving. And for many manufacturers, there's a growing realisation that the traditional, keyword-centric, SEO methods that we’ve typically used to drive our content creation efforts may not be delivering the same results that they once did.

So what’s changed? One answer lies in the intent of our online search queries.

When we ask a search engine a question we’re looking to solve a problem. But these days we’re also being increasingly more specific about what it is we want to know.

The growing popularity of virtual voice assistants such as Google Home, Alexa and Siri, also means that, more and more, our manual online searches are being replaced by conversational ones.

According to Location World, 40% of adults in the US now use voice search at least once per day. While the Global Web Index reports that 25% of 16-24 year olds currently use voice search on their mobile.

And leading media consultancy firm Activate predicts that 50% of all online searches will be voice-activated by 2020.

As voice searches become more prevalent, search engines are also having to get better at understanding the context, and the intent, of what it is we’re asking.

In the midst of this evolution of online search habits, it’s possibly not surprising then that the inbound marketing and sales platform, Hubspot, has announced the decision to “sunset” its keywords tool at the end of May 2018. In its place will be a new content strategy tool based around the concept of “topic clusters.”

So what are topic clusters and why do they matter? And what does this new approach to online search and SEO mean for our ongoing B2B content creation efforts within the landscape of marketing for manufacturing?

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What are topic clusters?

A topic cluster is a collection of interlinked content focused around a common subject or “pillar page.”

We’ve written about pillar pages in previous blog posts. But here’s a brief summary of their key attributes:

  • Pillar pages are an SEO friendly site offering ungated, long-form, content (at least 2,500 words) that is comprehensive and authoritative
  • They are linked directly from your website's main domain and sit on the main menu
  • They typically feature an anchor-linked table of contents for ease of use
  • They offer frequent conversion opportunities
  • They encourage social sharing

A simple way to visualise a topic cluster is to think of the wheel of a bicycle. At the centre of the “wheel” is our primary topic or pillar. In this example, let’s take the core theme of “outsourcing electronics manufacturing” as our pillar.

Branching out from the centre of our wheel, are the individual “spokes” - an assortment of relevant pages (or subtopics) that all relate back to our central theme.

Subtopics are more specific, longer-tail, versions of common search queries around a subject.

So using “outsourcing electronics manufacturing” as our pillar, relevant long-tail subtopics that expand on this topic could include “end-to-end outsourcing,” “how outsourcing can help my business,” “how to find an EMS partner,” “top questions to ask an EMS partner,” etc.

The purpose of creating topic clusters is to help you better organise your content and to make it easy for search engines to determine exactly what that content is about.

So how do you go about creating a topic cluster?

Review your existing content

Your topic cluster should aim to answer all the most pressing and frequently-asked questions that your customers may have about that subject.

However, the good news is that if you’re already committed to the inbound marketing methodology, then you’re likely to have accumulated a wealth of useful, relevant and authoritative content based around those key subjects.

Fill in the gaps

Once you’ve identified your subtopics, the next step is to shore up those topics by attaching relevant supporting material such as blog posts, eBooks, white papers, web pages and case studies.

As you sift through your existing content you may also discover areas that need to be added or expanded upon. If there are relevant subtopics you haven’t already covered, then this is the perfect opportunity to create new and useful content which will further position you as an authority on your subject.

Interlink your content

Search engines are looking to see how all your content relates to each other. So as you’re planning out your subtopic pages, it’s vital to consider how they link back to your pillar page. And just as importantly you'll want to ensure that your pillar page links out to each of your subtopic pages.


There's no doubt that the SEO landscape is undergoing some significant changes. However it's also a great opportunity to revisit your unique areas of strength.

What do you want to be known for? In what areas do you want to be considered the most authoritative? And how can you make your company, and its combined knowledge, an invaluable resource for your prospects?

In identifying the core topics that are relevant to your business and that matter to your customers you can sharpen, demystify and supercharge your content creation strategy.

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