The author's views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Keyword clustering is the SEO tactic if you want to seamlessly optimize your SEO content and streamline your workflow at the same time. The best part? Keyword clustering is fairly simple, and Google SERPs give you all the information you need to make an informed decision on exactly how to do it.
It’s a timely process, but trust me, it’s worthwhile. Done well, this tactic will pay dividends to your SEO and marketing strategy for years.
So, how do you do it and why is it important? Let’s find out!
Keyword clustering has as much commercial value as it does for SEO and marketing. Although its primary purpose is to assign keywords to content pieces and content types in a bid to secure organic ranks, what it also does is lay down the foundation for your marketing team’s efforts in the next six months (or more!).
Through keyword clustering, a business can expect to:
Write content that better serves the buyer through a deeper understanding of search/keyword intent through Google’s data.
Create a content architecture or plan that feeds into other marketing efforts through content repurposing. Done well, keyword clustering can support PR, PPC, social media, newsletters, marketing automation, and more.
Increase productivity within the business by aligning marketing teams. Expect SEO and writing teams to have a plan of action for over six months.
Reduce the risk of cannibalization — since you’ve already mapped your keywords, there won’t be any duplicates, and you’ll know what to link where and by what anchor text.
Createa clear plan of action for SEO content that provides long-term scalability, since you have keywords to target over time that can be scaled indefinitely.
Increase visibility in the SERPs through on-page optimizations.
Increase chances of earning featured snippets by analyzing SERPs and finding what other articles rank for, what they cover and, as a result, what you should include within your own content.
While conducting SERP analysis, the first thing to determine is the content vertical — what’s ranking for your desired keyword? Is it generally home pages, product pages, service pages, collection/category pages, or articles? Whatever it is, that’s the type of content you need to create. If Google SERPs present eight articles and two product pages, then it’s most likely that your site will rank with an article. If it’s ranking product pages and you’re not selling anything, then no matter how relevant it seems, this keyword is not for you.
Once you know what you need to create and you’ve determined that you can create that page on your site, dig a little deeper and find out what type of content is featured within the top pages of websites that are most similar to yours in terms of niche and domain authority. Think about topics covered, headings, images, videos, and GIFs.
This investigative work provides you with an opportunity to understand exactly what your audience wants so you can serve them in the most meaningful way. It also ensures that you always create content with search volume, which has the possibility of ranking.
Pictured: an example of Google SERP for keyword: “how to complete a Rubik’s Cube”.
Another tactic for discovering what content to create, as well as new content opportunities, is through the SERP features and the prioritization of them.
Check for features and formatting such as featured snippets, video, images, knowledge panels and “people also ask” (PAA). PAA is especially useful; it’s a trove of questions, many of which can be answered within your content. Other questions may need a new article or page altogether, so you can start building out your content architecture and forming your internal linking strategy.
Additionally, by integrating these features, you’ll be covering more on your chosen topics, thereby increasing keyword density and closing the gap on your competitors. Plus, your content will use the language of your audience as opposed to your assumed keywords.
Keyword clustering is powerful. The graph below shows one article’s journey in Google SERPs. It ranks for 50 clustered keywords and includes questions from PAA. This article quickly achieved a featured snippet, image rankings, 9.37k clicks, 68.9k impressions, 13.6% CTR and an average of six minutes spent on the page. Oh, and this was achieved before a single website back-linked directly to the article.
Snippet taken from Fortune and Frame’s Google Search Console showing an article's journey in the SERPs from publication. This particular article is about messages to write in a book (see point #3 to understand what I did with this link here).
Keyword clustering presents you with opportunities you may have otherwise overlooked. If you pull together multiple keywords that all sit within one article or web page, you can determine the best angle to write in order to suit your focus keyword and your online presence.
You will have a selection of keywords and you can use their search volume, competition and your website’s domain authority to determine the best keyword for your site to focus on right now.
Additionally, it means that you can write meaningful anchor text as part of your internal linking strategy. Taking the example from the graph above (“This particular article is about messages to write in a book gift…”), the anchor text “messages to write in a book gift” is not the focus keyword. The focus keyword is: “what to write in a book for a gift”, which doesn’t sound natural at all in the context above.
Thanks to a selection of clustered keywords, an internal link using relevant keywords, was easily slotted into a grammatically correct sentence. Ultimately, you can fit your keywords into your content instead of writing your content around your keywords.
You could argue that you can avoid keyword cannibalization without clustering keywords, but can you?
If you know which keywords you’ve used where, then you should, in theory, have no (ok, there might be a little bit) keyword cannibalization. You won’t fall for the mistake of assigning a focus keyword to two content pieces - or more subtly - creating two content pieces for keywords that should’ve been clustered and covered within one article.
By clustering keywords and analyzing SERPs, you might be surprised at what belongs within the same content piece.
Let’s take these two keywords: “Rubik’s Cube method” (260 searches/month) and “How to complete a Rubik’s Cube” (590 searches/month).
Without looking at the SERPs, one might be tempted to assign “Rubik’s Cube method” as a focus keyword for an article that shares different methods, whereas “‘how to complete a Rubik’s Cube” would be a step-by-step guide. Thankfully, Google SERPs is quite clear that these two keywords can be used—and should be used—on the same web page to avoid cannibalization and poor performing articles because they simply don’t cover the topics in full.
There’s no shying away from keyword clustering. Whilst it does add a whole lot of time to the keyword research process, it saves a lot of time long-term. The more keyword research and clusters you can create early on, the more it pays back in Google ranks and seamless marketing strategy.
The main benefit is objective planning for content. If you use keyword clustering to create a clear plan of action for SEO content for every single page on your website and jot down suitable content ideas for the future, you’ll be left with long-term scalability, since you have keywords to target over time that can be scaled indefinitely.
Your team can work from one document detailing which keywords live where, which content needs to be created in order to achieve a rank, and also, how that content can be repurposed for use across the marketing landscape.
You can think of keyword clustering as the preparatory work that takes place before you execute SEO. An analogy, shared with me by Adriana Stein, is that keyword clustering is like the shopping and preparation of ingredients before cooking. If you skip this crucial step you might find yourself a bit flustered later on with a dinner that wasn’t quite what it could have been.
Ultimately, what keyword clustering does is insist that you take a step closer to your marketing strategy. Through SERP analysis, you will understand your customer on another level—you’ll know the Google SERPs for your desired keywords inside and out and exactly what you need to work towards in order to secure that page one rank.
Then, you’ll be rewarded with a full, scalable content plan, an entire team working in pursuit of the same content goals, and most importantly, seamlessly optimized content!