Advanced On-Page SEO techniques: Skyscrapers & Clusters & Topic Authority
Everyone in the digital marketing sphere and their cousin’s nephew’s pet goldfish has heard in some way or another about SEO in 2022. SEO techniques evolve every time Google releases a new update.
SEO is a vast topic, and its basic theory has been recycled millions of times in the past decade. Tens of thousands of SEO writers apply them to various successes.
In this article, you’ll get advanced practical On-Page SEO tips that go beyond the usual ‘make a checklist and stick your keyword everywhere you can’ approach.
In this article:
Table of Contents
SEO Principles behind the techniques
Seeing the big picture of SEO helps you avoid getting bogged down in technical details, and there will be many of them down the road.
If you only think of SEO as a method to get your content to rank higher on Google, you’re likely to end up falling into an endless loop of completing small tasks and tactics, such as stuffing your keywords from the title to the conclusion.
SEO is nothing more than a series of best practices that help search engines understand the content and serve it to the right person at the right time. Yes, there is a checklist involved in the process, but you can go so much further beyond it.
Understand Google before you ask it to understand you.
Google officially stated that its mission is to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ Thus, it’s actively trying to serve the most relevant results every time a person looks for information on Google.
Your big-picture goal should be to provide practical, relevant, and exciting content to your users while helping Google understand what your content is about by following their best practices and finally applying the dreaded checklist.
On-Page SEO in a nutshell
Whenever Google tries to understand what a page is about, it sends a tiny little robot spider that reads it and determines what it is about. Certain elements help it orientate itself better, such as your titles, subtitles, tags, and links. To learn more about it, you can check this definitive guide on On-Page SEO.
Instead of thinking about SEO as taking advantage of the algorithm, you can see it as helping Google and your users easily understand what your content is about. Traditionally this involves a checklist that reminds you to put your keyword in the:
- Meta Tag
- Meta Description
- Image File Names
- Image Alt Text
- H1, H2s, H3s
- Link anchors
Let’s go beyond these necessary formatting formalities.
Topic Authority – the freshest SEO technique from 2022
Keywords have defined SEO for over 20 years. But it’s getting harder and harder to rely on them alone. Google is starting to prefer websites that are specialized in a specific niche over generalist websites that try to catch a variety of topics.
In the last few years, topic authority has become one of the new buzzwords around SEO. But, instead of storming a keyword head-on, think about the topic it belongs to and build content around the entire topic, including subtopics, related topics and related queries.
Rank Ranger explains topic authority in great detail:
‘The way to become an authority on a topic is to create a network of quality content that not only covers the topic completely but also covers every sub-topic and answers every question.’
It\’s all about the subtopics
Discovering subtopics is relatively easy, and Google already gives you a lot of direction. For example, whenever you start typing a query in Google, it tries to finish your question with a number of suggestions. All of these can be subtopics. Moreover, you’ll almost always find a ‘People also ask’ panel on the results page, which contains supporting information about your main query.
Google is already trying to accommodate queries by giving them several related topics, subtopics and other questions. If you follow the same strategy, Google will start seeing you as an authority on your main topic and prefer showing your website on the said topic over other websites.
Example of Topic Authority
An example can be a website that talks exclusively about coffee. For example, coffee types, history, coffee recipes worldwide, fair trade coffee, how to start a cafe, health effects of coffee, physiological effects of coffee, can you sleep after drinking coffee, best coffee brands, coffee taste and taste, and so on.
Topic authority makes intuitive sense. So, for example, you are likelier to listen to a doctor for medical advice, a mechanic for car advice, an architect for designing your house, and so on.
Content Clusters -the tactical execution
If getting topic authority is your strategy, content clusters are a tactic which can help you achieve it. As defined by Plezi, ‘Content clusters are an SEO strategy designed to optimize a website’s structure and internal linking by organizing content around topics into pillar and cluster pages.’
The idea is to create a single (pillar) article that explains a broad topic and a bunch of smaller articles that explain the subtopics from the pillar article in great detail. You should make sure that the pillar article links to all the cluster pages and have the pillar page mentioned on each cluster page.
The bottom line for content clusters is that they help you tackle big topics in an intuitive and user-friendly way. Offer more explanations at the right moment and naturally link into the subtopics. This creates a great user experience as it answers their questions the moment they arise, which further cements you as an authority on the topic.
Skyscraper SEO Technique
Brian Dean introduced the skyscraper technique in 2016 as a method for creating high-quality content and attracting a large number of links. He explains it in three simple steps:
- Step 1: Find link-worthy content
- Step 2: Make something even better
- Step 3: Reach out to the right people
Link-worthy content is usually the one you find as the first result for a given search query in Google. To take the first spot from them, you need to create better content in some way than theirs. For example, you build a higher two-floor house if they have a house. If they have an apartment building, you create a skyscraper.
An added benefit of this concentration of value is that you’re creating a number of link-worthy assets which you can popularize through email outreach.
Skyscrapers also help link-building
An advanced strategy is to use an SEO tool to see everyone who linked to your previous competitor and let them know that a better alternative exists.
Usually, people are interested in linking to the best content in order to improve the user experience of their own audience. Thus, by getting their support, you silently dethrone the previous competitors.
The Skyscraper technique is a natural continuation of the content cluster tactic. However, instead of having just any pillar article, you make sure to create the most valuable and exhaustive article on your main topic, which would naturally give you more opportunities to create cluster articles around it.
The Skyscraper article is a tall pillar around which you can cluster several articles to get some topic authority.
Final Thoughts on SEO Techniques
This article went beyond the checklist thinking of On-page SEO and discussed three valuable tactics that help you plan and organize your content in advance to maximize your SEO results. Topic authority, content clusters and the skyscraper technique are invaluable tools for anyone who wishes to grow their brand organically.