Getting the coveted page-one spot on Google is becoming increasingly harder, especially for law firms.
Every so often, Google releases a new algorithm update outlining the factors it takes into consideration for ranking opportunities. These often have names of animals. Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird to name a few.
The reason Google does this is to ensure the right content is ranking. They change their algorithm with users in mind to improve the way the search works.
It’s important to keep track of these updates as failing to do so will see you with an outdated SEO strategy and your law firm will struggle to rank well.
One important new change to Google’s algorithm is the introduction of Topic clusters.
In this post, we’re going to look at exactly what Topic clusters are and how you can use them to ensure your website ranks as well as it should.
What are topic clusters?
One of the reason for the constant updates is because the competition is getting tough. When SEO first became a thing, all a user had to do was fill their page with keywords and they’d have a high-chance of ranking on the top page.
This led to hundreds of spammy websites that added no value appearing on the first page of search engines.
Obviously this isn’t good for Google, or the user. If a user searches for “law firms in illinois”, then they want to see “law firms in illinois”.
These changes and updates have led to what’s known as a topic cluster model. It works by users creating a “pillar” page which is the main hub of content for a particular topic. The pillar page should then link out to multiple other content pages all related to the overarching main topic.
Each individual page should also link back to the pillar page. Doing this tells Google that the pillar page is the ultimate authority on the topic and the other pages are supporting pages.
This way of organizing your website improves the sites architecture and tells the search engines you’ve taken careful consideration into what a user is looking for and have helped them find the information they need along the way.
Why topic clusters are important
If you think about your law firm’s website, it’s quite likely that many of your pages cover similar topic areas. What this means is that when Google crawls through your website, it’s met with a number of competing pages, all vying for the top positions.
What the search engine isn’t always able to do is work out which page or pages are most important and where it should start.
Hence the need for topic clusters. When you interlink your content and organize it through topical clusters, you are effectively telling Google which page should take priority and then it’s able to organize the rest of the pages related to the main topic into one cluster.
Making topic clusters work for your law firm.
Let’s choose the topic of Family Law. This is your core topic cluster. Within that cluster, you might have topics such as: divorce law, children law, prenuptial agreements etc.
So you create a pillar page for family law and this serves as the main hub. You then link to all the subcategories we just mentioned and on these pages you should also link back to the main topic cluster. The topic cluster pillar page for family law should broadly cover the entire topic. It needs to be obvious and make sense for the cluster content to link to it.
Then, each cluster content page should be an in depth exploration of that topic. The reason this approach works so well is because it forces you to think about topics you’d like to rank for, rather than just keywords.
If you think about the way you currently organize your content for your law firm, you likely pick a bunch of topics and just write about them. There’s often little-to-no logical organization of how these posts are related and which are most important.
How attorneys and law firm SEO benefit from topic clusters
When you start re-organizing your content in way of topic clusters, you are effectively deepening and improving the way your content is interlinked on your own website. Studies have shown the more you interlink, the higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) you appear.
As an attorney, you’re likely putting our content, either for yourself or on behalf of your firm. You will likely be producing content that answers your clients questions.
But the issue is, the search engines are recognizing the demand for users to receive the answers they want, when they want them.
Hence the rising popularity in topic clusters.
Your clients are now in control and they get to decide how they want to engage with your content.
For example, if you’re an employment law firm, does your potential clients want to read a broad overview of the whole employment space, or do they want to know specifics about a certain topic. You need both.
How to find topics
You might be struggling to know which topics to choose. Remember your pillar topics should be broad enough that you can create cluster content around that topic, but not too broad that it’s meaningless to create content around that.
One way to do this to do analyze your competitor’s content. You can use a tool like Buzzsumo to do just this.
First enter their URL and you’ll be presented with a list of blog posts from their website that have been shared a lot online.
This will give you a clear idea of the kind of content your audience resonates well with.
You can also use SEMrush to look at the top pages on your competitions websites. These are often pillar or pillar like pages that ranks for hundreds of keywords.
For example, FindLaw has a page on U.S. Constitutional Amendments that ranks for 2,126 keywords worth 65k a month if you had to buy them as Google PPC ads! It links to separate cluster pages on each of the amendments.
If you want to rank for “constitutional amendments” type of keywords, good luck doing with a 500 word single page when this pillar and topic cluster is out there for Google to gobble up like SEO cheerios.
Pillar page SEO
You’ll remember, at the beginning of this post, we spoke about Google’s updates?
We mentioned how search engines are getting smarter and website owners need to also become smarter at how they present their information for their audience.
So in order for your pillar pages to be effective, you need to inject some SEO keyword strategy into them.
Choosing which keywords to try and rank for largely comes down to the pillar topic you’ve chosen.
Use a tool like SEMrush or keywordtool.io to come up with a list of related keywords about your topic.
MarketMuse takes it a step further with topic research vs. keyword research. And I just noticed yesterday a podcast I did with them a ways back, is featured on this page…
If we go back to our family law example, we can see these related keywords:
Armed with this information, you can now start making a note of any keywords that are relevant to you. You will need to cover things like family court and divorce forms not just jam divorce attorney Boston MA in your practice area page. Google doesn’t respect that at all if keyword placement is all you do.
It’s important to keep note of these important phrases as it means you’ll have better quality pillar pages sprinkled organically with related / (LSI) keywords and phrases.
Spending time coming up with these ideas will enable you to have more blog post options when it comes to working on your cluster content.
Writing your cluster content
When you have created your pillar page, it’s time to start creating your cluster content. You might already have a lot of content on your law firm website that can be part of your clusters.
If you’re in this situation, all you have to do is make sure each cluster blog post or content links back to the main pillar page.
And then also make sure the pillar page has a link to the cluster content.
If you don’t have much content on your website, it’s time to start creating some. Luckily, because you’ve already created your pillar pages, it won’t be too difficult to come up with ideas for cluster content.
Simply go through your pillar pages and highlight any keywords, phrases or topics that would be worth going into more detail about.
Remember, your cluster content is your opportunity to really show your expertise on a topic and let Google know that your site is a well organized authority to speak on that specific topic of law.
There’s no doubt about it. With the increase in the amount of content being produced every single day and marketers becoming smarter about how they approach SEO, it’s getting harder to rank for specific keywords.
If you want to win at SEO in 2018, then your content strategy needs to include some element of clustering.
Using topic clusters helps you guide Google to your specific content and helps you reach your potential clients.
If you don’t use topic clusters, you run the risk of only covering parts of an important subject. Your readers and clients are looking for specific answers to their questions and topic clustering allows you to provide an overall explanation of a topic but at the same time specifically covering each related sub topic.