Content clusters, also called a B2B pillar content strategy, consist of related groups of content on a website. This content may be a group of articles and blog posts, or multiple types of content, such as blog posts, articles, presentations, videos, infographics and so on. No matter what type of content pieces are featured, however, they are all grouped under a main idea or topic – an umbrella, if you will, or a pillar, whichever visual works for you – and are related through a series of logical, connected keywords.

Why Develop Content Clusters?

I’m not exactly sure when the term content cluster came about, but over the past several years, it’s become apparent that using big, long form content pieces (pillar posts) with layers of related yet separate content pieces works wonders to boost a site’s organic search traffic.

How Search Engines Work – How Content Is Discovered

If you think about how search engines work, the answer to “why develop content clusters?” readily becomes apparent:

  1. Search engines send scouts, called spiders or bots, to scour the internet for new content.
  2. They follow links from page to page to find and review new materials published online.
  3. Materials are indexed according to keywords – what the bot considers the main topic of the content piece.
  4. Google and other search engines use an algorithm to rank the content according to usefulness, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (the infamous E-A-T formula).

When search engines encounter content, they look for links as they scan the web page, and then they follow those links, and so on…and that helps the content rank well. We know from experience and data tracked over many years that the more your website interlinks in a logical, helpful way to the visitor or reader, the better.

B2B Pillar Content Strategy

A B2B pillar content strategy starts with pillars, or big concepts related to the heart of your website. On my gardening website, Home Garden Joy, pillar topics include vegetable gardening, composting, and seed starting, all basic concepts for new gardeners to master. On a fashion website, pillar topics might include capsule wardrobes, choosing flattering colors, or classic pieces to add to your wardrobe.

Each website’s pillar content varies according to the theme, unique spin, or ‘tilt’ as Joe Pulizzi calls it, of your site. A B2B pillar content strategy focuses on key concepts a business might be marketing to other businesses. Each topic, or pillar, in a B2B pillar content strategy should be broad enough to cover the idea thoroughly. Keyword-rich articles, linked from the pillar topic, create an ecosystem of content pieces related to a single concept or thought.

How to Begin a Content Cluster or B2B Pillar Content Strategy

Newcomers to content clusters or B2B pillar content strategies often wonder where they should begin. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What questions does my audience ask that my business is unique positioned to answer?
  • What key search terms do these questions relate to?
  • What is the search volume for this term?
  • Are there synonyms or related topics? If so, what is the search volume for those topics?
  • What has my competition published on this topic?
  • Have I published anything on this topic? If so, how many visits does it get?
  • Could my previously published pieces on this idea benefit from a rewrite?

The Seven Oaks Consulting Technique of Building Pillar Clusters

At Seven Oaks Consulting, our team of professional B2B content marketers uses a technique we call spider mapping to develop content clusters.

  • We put the main idea or big concept for the pillar content strategy in the middle along with its search volume, competition, and links to the top 3 content pieces into the big center circle.
  • Then, we brainstorm ideas around the big idea. These ideas go into the little surrounding circles.
  • We then conduct additional keyword research to develop out the shorter articles in the circles that looks like planets orbiting the sun.

Here’s an example from my own gardening website, Home Garden Joy. The primary idea is how to grow beets. We then spun off “beets” into multiple interlinked concepts, including recipes, to build a content cluster around growing beets.

example of content clusters

And then – voila. We have a content cluster. Writers receive their assignments, with the pillar content piece (the big idea in the middle) a long form topic and each orbiting topic developed into a supporting yet unique article.

We make sure that the pillar links out to the shorter pieces, and the shorter pieces link to the pillar. Then, we make sure that there are other links from our website into each piece.

Tools to Help Develop Content Clusters

There are a ton of SEO tools available to help you develop content clusters. I’ll share some of our favorites here.

  • SEM Rush – the big daddy of SEO tools. On the expensive side but you get a ton of great tools in one monthly package. It will help you assess keywords, compare competitive sites, and develop ideas.
  • Moz – another great SEO tool to help you find keywords and develop your strategy.
  • Keysearch – a low- priced yet feature-rich keyword search tool that also helps you pinpoint the top sites currently ranking for keywords you’re hoping to use and rank for.
  • Yoast – I absolutely love the paid Yoast plugin and it is worth every penny. We use it on all of our sites. It finds orphan content, or content that is not linked to anything else on the site and thus harder to find for search engines. It also helps us see if our content is readable and hits the right SEO buttons to rank well. Lastly, a paid Yoast subscription provides access to their library of educational materials, which is also great if you are new to SEO!
  • AnswerthePublic – this tool used to be free but is now a reasonably priced paid tool. It lets you assess keywords and develop conceptual lists around keywords.

Again, there are dozens more platforms and tools just like these out there, and every content marketer will have her favorite. I recommend starting with free or low priced tools (Google search analytics tools, Keysearch, AnswerthePublic) if you’re just starting out.

2B2 Pillar Content Strategy Part of Our Services

We provide B2B pillar content strategy creation as part of all of our content marketing packages, so if you’re reading this and feeling overwhelmed, give us a call. We worked with technology and manufacturing companies to develop robust content marketing strategies to boost website traffic, brand awareness, leads, and sales.

Our content clusters include keyword research, content topics development, writing and editing for proper organic SEO, and our unique subject matter expert review (which no other content marketing agency provides!).  Please contact us for a free consultation and discussion of your content marketing goals.


Video: Content Clusters, Creating B2B Content Pillars