A Practical Guide to Keyword Clusters & Search Behaviour

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There’s a new gang on the SEO block – or, to put it more accurately, a new cluster. The term ‘keyword cluster’ is self-explanatory: take related keywords and position them in groups to match the distinct aspects of the topics they are aimed at.

Think about it like this: “what is X’, ‘how to find X’, ‘how to find cheap X’, ‘compare X quotes’, ‘best X’, ‘best X europe’ etc – not forgetting the core topic of straight-up ‘X’ itself.

Search Is Changing

Users are changing their search behaviour, so it makes sense for search engines like Google to alter their algorithm to favour topic-based content. Gone are the days of consumers awkwardly patching together relevant terms for their search. Most users are now comfortable with the notion of intelligent machines, and so treat them as such, posing complex questions in the same way that they might with a human interlocutor – “how old is Barack Obama?” rather than “Barack Obama age”. And since algorithms are now developed enough to understand search intent to a greater degree than ever before, it makes sense to arrange content in interlinked themed groups.

Ringing the keyword changes (even if they’re all the rage) can be a relatively lengthy process, so is it worth it? A number of studies have found that the more thoroughly interlinked content was, the better that site ranked in search engine results pages (SERPs).

And it’s understandable that a closely knitted selection of good quality content builds authority and influence in the eyes of the search engine and its users – intensifying the depth of your content helps to establish expertise. You’ll also find that performance for the pages that make up the cluster begin to align with their counterparts, pulling each other up the rankings chart and owning multiple SERP positions for a single keyword. So, although they do mean overhauling the structure of your approach, keyword clusters present a chance to boost your reach and develop your content strategy.

Structuring Your Keyword Cluster

The most effective and straightforward way to go about structuring your keyword cluster is to identify a common word, and identify all the relevant phrases that incorporate that word using an Excel spreadsheet. This formula is particularly handy:


Where the value in column K is the text string in the keyword to search for, and the value in column L is the label to apply in the cell containing this formula when the text string is found.

Remember to arrange your text strings with the most common strings at the top of the list e.g. insurance, and the more topically distinct ones at the bottom e.g. commercial owners, so the keyword ‘commercial owners insurance’ would be tagged with ‘commercial owners’ rather than ‘insurance’.

From there, you’re likely to find associated groups, and so on.

If you started with the phrase “exercise routines for women”, for example, you’d string together phrases such as:  “Exercise routines for women”, “Women’s home exercise routine”, and “30-day exercise challenge for women” – to name a few.

You’ll want a minimum of three subtopics clustered around the core subject, but the more the better, and listing your topics in an Excel sheet can help you play around with combinations. You’ll find a number of fairly comprehensive tutorials online.

It’s helpful to think of the clusters as grouping around a central ‘pillar’ of content, which covers a broader subject which the keywords in the sub-clusters are related. It’s a good idea to select and match your content from the perspective of the user, so that you’re creating a cluster that’s in line with possible search intents.

Keyword clusters can be taken to their full, ingenious potential when you ensure they constantly evolve, attaching fresh content to the core topics and catering for changing and further reaching searches in so doing. There are plenty of tactics to explore when it comes to grouping keywords, and it’s worth test driving the various options before deciding on a methodology that works for you and your content. But the bottom line is that you’ll end up diversifying your rankings and creating a genuinely useful resource for consumers if you do it right.

If you would like to see how we can use search clusters to better improve your SEO, get in touch – we would love to help you!