Keyword Clusters vs. Single-String Search: Are Your Web Pages Ready for 2019?
Keywords are an integral part of any content strategy, and site owners can often end up misusing them. There are several facets to the keyword planning process, such as determining search volume, ranking difficulty, along with where and how those keywords will be focused.
But as content marketing and SEO continue to evolve, so have search engines and the way that they process content. Are you ready to bring your content into 2019 standards by letting go of single-string SEO and properly utilizing keyword clusters?
What is a Keyword Cluster?
Keyword clusters entail optimizing web pages for variations of keyword strings instead of a laser focus on just one keyword. It’s a far more efficient and broad-reaching strategy than focusing on one word or phase because it utilizes groups of keywords that have common modifiers or variants.
Hard keyword clusters entail all of the cluster’s keywords sharing common URLs, while soft clusters can have any common keywords share URLs. For instance, if your brand sells reptile and amphibian care items in San Francisco, your focus keyword for a page or blog post might be something like “bearded dragon diet” or “bearded dragon care sheet” and it would be a hard cluster if this keyword pair was optimized along the same URL.
While it’s still prudent for this brand to have blog posts for different types of exotic pets and care issues, you don’t need to make two different pages to specifically optimize these utterly minute differences in bearded dragon general care and what they should eat. Those two keywords would be a little keyword cluster, while pages optimizing “bearded dragon diet” and “bearded dragon care sheet” as separate pages would be single-string, and this is how SEO used to operate.
You don’t need to do this anymore, this is a very dated web page creation strategy.
CMS Lag with Keyword Clusters as Search Engine Algorithms Evolve
Search algorithms are updated hundreds of times per year, but then there are material changes that take place which drastically shift how search engine results pages get generated. The shift away from single-string was one of them.
The massive changes made to search algorithms in recent years have outpaced the way that popular content management systems (CMS) like WordPress and the Yoast plug-in treat web content. Those systems are still relying on single-string output and it’s caused neophyte marketers and site owners to make costly mistakes with focus keywords.
Whether keyword clusters are hard or soft, they have weak, medium, or strong clustering levels. The more common URLs among the top 30 search results, the stronger the cluster is.
However, focusing on a single-string keyword isn’t going to get the results it once did–nor should it. You know those coveted top 10 results or so on Google that every SEO expert says you should try to latch onto with your keyword strategy?
Turns out it’s not as much of a be-all end-all as it used to be. It sounds totally wild, but getting in the top results just doesn’t guarantee the visibility that it used to grant a web page that made it into that desirable #1 slot.
Keyword Clusters Are More Effective Than the #1 Slot
Making clusters your focal point instead of single-string isn’t just about the keyword itself and the placement it has within your web copy or blog post. The magic is all in those URLs, hence categorizing clusters by strength level.
When you have a medium cluster with at least five common URLs or a strong cluster with at least seven, this causes the website to have greater visibility since it comes up in multiple search results instead of the results for just one keyword. With the changes made to Google’s algorithm in particular, there are multiple search elements at play aside from the keyword, like shopping links, images, and sundry that could end up deterring clicks– while a different shopping link that comes up in the #8 slot organically could get artificially pushed to the #1 slot.
Keyword clusters not only effectively combat search engine-related distractions by taking a horizontal rather than vertical approach, but they’re a much smarter approach than the single-string keywords that CMS plug-ins continue to rely on.