What exactly is keyword clustering?
To cluster keywords means to group your long overwhelming keyword lists by relevancy.
I have done an article explaining keyword clustering in a most easy-to-understand way.
At the heart of it, keyword clustering is what it sounds like: you take relevant keywords and arrange them together into groups.
Use these keyword clusters to:
- Better understand your topic
- Optimize your content for several keyword phrases instead of one
- Discover more concepts and subtopics inside your niche
- Broaden your content to include more related terms and phrases
- Structure your content by turning related terms into subheadings
Before keyword clustering:
After keyword clustering:
Here’s how it helps:
Most importantly, keyword clustering helps to see concepts behind keyword strings.
Useful Keyword Clustering Resources
Goodbye Keyword Optimization: Welcome To The Age of Topical Optimization by Stoney deGeyter
Instead of optimizing your site for keywords and hoping to rank here and there, focus on building the site out to dominate a topic with multiple pages and blog posts.
Each page or post will target a tightly correlated group of keywords, but all built around a slightly broader topic. That gives you a chance to dominate a topic through multiple related pages, each focused on a specific visitor intent. That’s tough to beat.
We’re going to take all the keyword phrases that we discovered… We’re going to group them by concept intents. Like “best days of the week” could include the keywords “best days of the week to fly,” “optimal day of week to fly,” “weekday versus weekend best for flights,” “cheapest day of the week to fly…”
Then, we can group these together and decide, “Hey, you know what? The volume for all of these is higher. But these ones are more important to us. They have lower difficulty. Maybe they have higher click-through rate opportunity. So we’re going to target ‘best times of the year.’ That’s going to be the content we create. Now, I’m going to wrap my keywords together into ‘the best weeks and months to book flights in 2016.'”
This kind of model, where we combine the best of these two worlds, I think is the way of the future. I don’t think it pays to stick to your old-school keyword targeting methodology, nor do I think it pays to ignore keyword targeting and keyword research entirely. I think we’ve got to merge these practices and come up with something smart.
How to Cluster Keywords: Tools and Techniques
So how to cluster those keywords?
The simplest and most obvious way to group keywords is to identify a frequently used common word in those strings and find all the phrases that include that word. Looking back at the initial “healthy diet” example, a separate group to look into would be all the phrases that contain a modifier “men”. That group would include strings like this:
- healthy diet plan for men
- healthy 7 day diet plan for men
- healthy liquid diet plan for men
- And many more.
All of the above topics fit nicely into one article on all kinds of diets for men.
You can identify those groups playing with your keyword lists in Excel. Here are a couple of tutorials (both of them is a living proof that the technique is nothing new):
- Discover and Track Your Long Tail Patterns with Excel (from myself from back 2007)
- Creating Keyword Opportunity Lists with Excel Custom Sort (from Kasy Allen from back 2010)
Tools that can help you with modifier-based keyword grouping:
While a very useful exercise, this keyword grouping technique is a bit outdated and limited. Search engines have gone far beyond simple keyword matching. We need to look at closely related concepts and they don’t necessarily have exactly the same terms to describe them.
Thus, this group has no keyword modifiers in common, yet it would totally make a great article:
Serpstat is a great tool that takes a different approach to keyword clustering that goes beyond word matching.
They analyze Google search engine result pages, find similar (or same) URLs ranking for different queries and based on how many results overlap for two SERPs they make important conclusions as to how related those queries are.
This way they are able to create keyword groups like this:
Of course, I would still play with Excel when analyzing keyword modifiers and groups but I would definitely use tools like this on top of that to discover more connections and related concepts, simply because a new approach lets you look at your lists slightly differently and discover new previously undiscovered content opportunities.
The Buzz Terms
What I really like about our young quickly-evolving industry is how fast we come up with new “cool” terms to describe any technique (even the one that has been around for ages, like keyword grouping).
Keyword clustering is already a more complicated term that it should be. Keyword grouping would make as much sense and it would be much easier to understand.
Yet, we call it keyword clustering (which probably help us appear much smarter when we talk to clients).
Another buzz term that has come out of this is “pillar pages” which simply means that for any keyword group you need to create an indepth resource that would link to more specific articles going more indepth on each mentioned concept within this group.
If you try to dig deeper into the topic, you’ll probably find a lot more buzz terms that have simple commonsense and most often traditional technique behind them (like pillar page = creating indepth resource on a topic).
The bottom line is that keyword grouping is a smart thing to do. There are different approaches to it, and you need to try both of them. Creating content targeting a broader concept (group) rather than a single keyword string will help you diversify your rankings and create a solid resource. Skip the buzz terms if they confuse you and get to the point, that is creating solid content rocks and keyword grouping / clustering helps do that right.