Search engine tech is continually evolving but one thing that has been a constant over the last two years is the subject of AI and machine learning.

Back in 2019, Google launched what it called “the most important new algorithm in five years”. BERT is a form of natural language processing and was said to influence around one in ten Google searches in order to help Google better understand user intent. Since then, AI and machine learning have only grown in importance, which means that as their applications and level of sophistication have evolved, so too has the way in which SEO is approached.

With BERT directly affecting which search results are presented to the user, simply ignoring this next generation of search is not an option. Keyword clusters are a way to bring your optimisation activity into closer alignment with Google’s smarter algorithms.

The old way

Traditionally when dealing with on page optimisation, you’d select a single keyword to be your main focus. This method limits your search exposure because you’re only likely to rank for that single phrase.

The new way

Google’s smart algorithms now know that search users vary greatly in how they look for the same thing. That means if you have a group of say 10 people all looking for the same thing online, they each might use a slightly different phrase or search term, despite all having exactly the same search intent.

Let’s say you’re looking for a dog bed for your pet Labrador. You might tell Google you’re looking for a dog bed, or, you might use longer tail search terms such as dog bed for a large breed or large dog bed or dog bed for a Labrador.

Now, put on your business owner hat. If you’re a pet store and you sell dog beds, you naturally want to appear in search results for all of those search terms. If your SEO activity has followed the old approach and much of your efforts have been focused on optimisation for the term ‘dog bed’, you could be missing all of the traffic available for the longer tail variations.

The answer is to create keyword clusters; groups of keywords that are closely semantically related but cover the different ways that search users may express that same purchase intent.

How to decide on keyword clusters

The first step to creating keyword clusters is to conduct thorough keyword research. The most effective way to do this is to use a specialist keyword tool, but you may also want to refer to your own Google Analytics and Google Trends to complete that list.

Once you have a large list of keywords, and have them sorted by search volume and SEO difficulty level, you can start creating small clusters of related keywords.

Look for search terms that are very similar and group them together. Aim to have a mix of short and longer tail keywords in each cluster plus a mix of high and low search volume. Three to four keywords per cluster is a good rule of thumb.

How to use your keyword clusters

Your keyword clusters should inform how your content is created and organised on your site. The primary keyword within each cluster can be turned into a pillar page; a piece of long form content which deals with the subject in depth. The less competitive or lower search volume keywords can then be used as the basis for associated clusters; shorter pieces which sit beneath the main pillar.

Changing how you think about keywords can be a challenge, but it also represents a wonderful opportunity to give Google more of what it’s looking for, become relevant for more search queries, increase your traffic and improve your rankings.

Adrac’s experienced SEO team can help you device keyword clusters and put them to work for your site. Contact us to find out more.

Author Rebecca

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