The Writer’s Dilemma (How to Create Your First Content Cluster)

As a writer, content clusters create a unique challenge. If I was writing an essay (or a white paper), all the pieces of my argument would be in one place so I could guide the reader’s experience as the unseen hand.

But with content clusters, the reader chooses their own adventure.

It’s the writer and content strategist’s job to craft a narrative that’s complete but gives the reader room to roam.

That’s why a complete content cluster is more than a few pieces of content linked together. You need to think through all possible angles of your topic. 

What Does a Complete Content Cluster Look Like?

Individual posts should completely cover the topic, and clusters should cover the topic at the next level of scale up. 

It reminds me of a well-plotted novel. In a novel, each chapter covers a simple value shift from A to B. For example, from happy to sad. 

But at the global story level, the novel will cover the entire theme shift from A to Z. For example, from life to death.

Imagine yourself as an adventurer who’s mapping the landscape for future travelers. Exciting? Yes. Overwhelming? Also yes.

What Goes Into a Content Cluster

Content clusters have four parts.

  1. Home page. This is where you’ll highlight the main idea you want to be recognized for. You’ll only have one home page.
  2. Pillar pages. These are pages that cover big topics related to your home page topic. You can have several pillar pages.
  3. Cluster content. These are posts that support the big topics in your pillar pages. You can have as many posts as you want. 
  4. Hyperlinks. This is the only piece of your cluster that isn’t its own content. The hyperlinks are simply the tool you’ll use to help the reader navigate your content and easily see the relationship between ideas.

As you can see, keeping track of this choose-your-own-adventure world you’re creating for your reader gets complicated quickly.

How to Build Your First Content Cluster with Existing Content

If you have existing content, that’s the best place to start.

Take your existing content and a fresh spreadsheet. Write down the title of the post in Column 1, the content cluster you think it might belong to in Column 2, and a link to the original post in Column 3.

Now, sit back and look at what you’ve got.

  • Do you have lots of posts on one topic but few on another?
  • Which posts seem like the best candidates to become pillar posts?
  • Which posts seem like they’re best served as supporting content?
  • Where are the gaps in your cluster? Or to use an example from fiction writing, did you leave out the best scenes by mistake? Can you write them back into your “story”?

The next step is to write any content you need to fill in the gaps.

Once you have your content written, begin linking everything together.

All supporting posts should be linked to their pillar page. That’s easy enough.

Then, cross-link the supporting posts to each other. This creates a web that gives the reader a guided experience where they have complete control. It’s a win-win.

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