Keyword clustering is one of the most powerful SEO content tactics you can deploy on your website.
Used correctly you can dominate your niche without relying heavily on backlinks. We proved this in our affiliate marketing case study (from 0 to $10k / month), and we've done it again in this case study.
Below I've set out the exact keyword clustering process we followed to help a tech startup, called PerkUp, go from near 0 traffic to 30,000 monthly searches in under 6 months.
Let's get started.
PerkUp is an awesome funded start-up based out of San Francisco. They help companies reward employees in unique and fun ways that go beyond gift cards.
Thomas, their Founder and CEO, contacted us in early September 2021. He was looking for a scalable content strategy to drive serious traffic.
The PerkUp site in September '21 had very little content and even less traffic. Here's a snapshot from Ahrefs taken on the 1st September 2021.
And here's how things stand as of February 2022. That's six months from engagement, which in the world of SEO is fast.
Here's the organic traffic chart from Ahrefs that shows that stunning hockey stick growth that we all dream of.
And the same numbers reflect in Google Analytics.
So, how did we get here?
The truth is, there's been a lot of work from both the PerkUp team and ours to generate these results.
SEO is hard and complex.
To simplify the results to a single strategy would be disingenuous and misleading.
But if I had to distill the three most important components, they would be:
- A keyword clustering process that helped us formulate a topical authority content strategy
- Bulk content creation and publishing system to drive fast indexation
- A streamlined on-page SEO process that prioritised silo'ed interlinking
Let's look at each.
Keyword Clustering -> Topical Authority
The idea behind keyword clustering is to become a topical authority in your niche.
Google rewards websites that create deep and insightful content that covers a topic area in its entirety.
For example, the invoicing software company, FreshBooks, has 292 articles that talk about invoicing. You can assume they have covered this topic more thoroughly than most, if not all, sites on the web.
From templates, formats, designs and samples, to more specific topics like PO numbers on invoices, chasing outstanding invoices and making an invoice in Google docs, Freshbooks has gone deep on invoicing and it's paid dividends.
According to the Ahrefs report above, they get around 146,000 visits a month from these articles alone. When you become a topical authority it's hard for Google to ignore you.
For example a big silo in the employee rewards niche is content related to Work Anniversaries.
With this broad silo in mind, we generated keywords for Work Anniversaries using Ahref's Keywords Explorer. Ahrefs found 7,118 keywords with matching terms related to work anniversaries.
After refining the keyword list to remove very low volume keywords, we were left with around 630 keywords to upload into KeyClusters.
KeyClusters runs each keyword through Google, identifying and grouping ones where 3 or more URLs are shared. The rationale here is that if 3 pages in the Google SERP can rank for the same set of keywords, then you only need to create one article to rank for this group of keywords.
Here's a snapshot of the insight KeyClusters gave us. Each row shows a unique article we can write to target the primary keyword and all its variations.
Armed with the keyword cluster data we not only had our list of articles for the Work Anniversary silo, but we could instruct our writers on the exact keyword variations to use in the article, and the search intent of the keyword group.
We followed the exact same process for 5 other silos in the employee rewards niche to create a massive content strategy for PerkUp.
Bulk Content Creation -> Publishing Velocity
People often ask, "how much content do I need to create?"
The answer is a lot, and it should be published as fast as possible.
To become an authority in a niche it is no use publishing 3 or 4 articles on a topic. This just doesn't demonstrate niche expertise.
Instead, you need to try cover a topic area in its entirety. This can often mean creating 50-200 or more articles.
Content at this scale requires a slick content writing machine, which of course we have (our team produces around 1 million words a month!).
Lots of content, also means you will end up creating some articles that are very broad and top-of-funnel. Some may not even make sense for your niche. Don't panic.
Remember, the idea is to cover the topic area in its entirety. See each article as part of a wider matrix that covers the whole knowledge base on a topic area and supports your position as a subject authority.
For PerkUp, we knew we needed a lot of content to become a niche expert on the broad subject: employee rewards.
Our keyword clustering analysis identified lots of articles across 6 main silos. We prioritised these into a list of 150 article ideas. We then ran every article through Frase, an on-page SEO content optimisation tool, to get a rough estimate on word count for every article.
This came in at around 200,000k words. Here's a snapshot of our article tracker.
Creating lots of content is just one piece of the puzzle, though.
You also need to accelerate publishing velocity. The faster the better.
It can take Google months to index new content, especially on a new website. And then it can take many more months after indexation to actually rank.
Say you publish an article today. If your site is relatively new it may take 2-3 months to index and then, assuming you do an amazing SEO job, another 6-12 months to rank.
Drip feeding a few articles every month will take years to see results. The faster you publish the quicker you'll rank.
Look how things took off for PerkUp as new pages were published.
On-Page SEO -> Silo'ed Interlinking
The trick to publishing fast is having a streamlined system and slick on-page SEO process.
Complex templates and lots of bureaucratic processes for signing off articles slows down the whole process.
Try remove all friction.
Focus on the 80:20 of on-page SEO when publishing.
Specifically the following:
- URL slug -> targeting primary keyword
- Header Title and Meta Title -> targeting primary keyword
- Headers (H2, H3) -> hierarchical and targeting keyword variations
- Images -> every 250-350 words with keyword variation alt tags
- External links -> to authoritative (non-competitive) sources
- Internal links -> to other articles in the same silo on exact or close match anchors
The last point is worth pausing on.
I can't stress enough the importance of internal linking within a silo. The idea here is to connect up your articles on anchor texts that signal to Google what each article is about.
Not only does this help with indexation, but when you start scoring backlinks, these authority signals will flow throughout your site and help other pages rank (see our article on link juice).
PerkUp have done an amazing job to connect their articles with silo'ed internal links.
Here's a snapshot from one of the articles - see how 3 internal links have been placed on good anchors within just a few paragraphs.
Publishing fast really helps with this as you can see all the internal linking opportunities in one go, as opposed to forgetting about internal link opportunities when you publish sporadically.
Bringing It All Together
As you can see, there's a lot that goes into a winning SEO content strategy.
In the case of PerkUp, it's clear that quality content at scale works a treat.
To create a big content plan you should really use keyword clustering. It will help you identify article ideas, group keywords based on semantic relationships, and avoid keyword cannibalisation.
Keyword clustering will also give you full visibility on the scale of a content project. How much content do you actually need to effectively cover a subject area? This will help define budget.
Once you have a plan and the machine to create content, remember to publish fast, focusing on the 80:20 of on-page SEO, and interlink articles intelligently.
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