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What Is Keyword Clustering And How To Do It

Keyword clustering consolidates your SEO efforts and helps you answer search queries in greater depth.

It's a simple yet powerful strategy to get your pages to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

In this guide, we dive into everything you should know about this practice and how to implement it effectively.

What you will learn

  • What keyword clustering is
  • The benefits of a keyword clustering strategy
  • How to create keyword clusters manually
  • How keyword clusters differ from topic clusters

What is keyword clustering?

Keyword clustering is the process of grouping similar keywords based on user search intent. It lets you target related keywords on one page instead of spreading them across multiple pages and content pieces.

This way, you can maximize the page's visibility in search engines and rank for various keywords at once.

You can group together similar keywords that address the same search intent, are synonymous, and are long-tail keywords derived from the primary keyword.

For example, the following keyword list can form a cluster.

  • Best CRM systems
  • Top CRM software
  • Best CRM software in 2024

Despite the slight variation in wording—where two use "software" and the other "systems"—they all share the same commercial intent: users are seeking recommendations of CRM solutions considered the best in the market, with the last one having a specific temporal focus.

Instead of targeting these keywords on separate pages, you can group them into one keyword cluster.

Why keyword clustering is important

Keyword clustering enhances user experience and content relevance by encouraging the creation of comprehensive content that addresses a broader spectrum of user queries.

This approach increases the chances of fulfilling user intent with in-depth content that covers all aspects of the topic.

Moreover, by clustering related keywords, the article can rank for multiple search terms, amplifying its visibility and driving increased traffic to your site.

For example, following the keyword clustering approach, our article on avoiding AI content detection ranks for multiple related queries.

5 ways to do keyword clustering

Now let's get into the practical things. Here's how to create keyword clusters and implement them into your content strategy.

1. Create a list of keyword ideas

Before you create a keyword cluster, you need to do some thorough keyword research to identify as many relevant search queries as possible and build your keyword list.

The best way to go about this is to use a top-down approach—start with a seed keyword and then look for related secondary and long-tail keywords.

Let's look at a practical example using "surround system" as a seed keyword.

Enter the keyword in the Google search bar, and the autocomplete feature will suggest keywords and topics like so:

For more keyword ideas, you can scroll down to the People also ask section, where you'll uncover a few more long-tail keywords.

As you click on the questions, more of them will pop up to uncover new keywords and topics you can cover in your content.

The final place in SERPs that can uncover more keywords is the Related searches section, which you'll notice as you scroll down the page.

Many of those searches will resemble those from Google's autocomplete, but you might stumble upon a few fresh ideas and synonyms.

If you want to expand your search beyond SERPs, you can use a free keyword research tool like Keyword Surfer.

When you perform a search, Keyword Surfer will automatically show you the related queries on the right of the search results.

Export all these keywords to a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets. Here's a simplified version of what that can look like.

2. Cluster your keywords

Once you have your list of keywords, it's time to start the keyword clustering process. You'll use two main criteria to group keywords into clusters:

  1. Search intent
  2. SERP similarity

First, you should cluster together keywords with the same search intent.

There are four types of search intent: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Google's natural language processing (NLP) algorithm does an excellent job of distinguishing keywords according to them.

You shouldn't combine different types of intent within one cluster, as doing so might confuse search engines and prevent your piece from ranking high.

For example, "best surround system" is a keyword with commercial intent, while "what is a surround system" indicates informational intent, so these keywords shouldn't go into the same cluster.

Secondly, you should group together keywords with high SERP similarity. This refers to keywords that reveal similar results in SERPs.

For instance, let's look at the search results for the keyword "Best surround system".

And here are the results for "Best home theater system".

While both these keywords share the same commercial search intent, their SERPs are not similar. They belong to different keyword groups, so it's best to cover them in different articles.

Meanwhile, the keyword "Top surround sound system 2024" shows similar SERPs to the "Best surround system" keyword—these two can be grouped in one cluster.

Use your spreadsheet to keep track of the above, like so:

As you can see, manually clustering keywords can be time-consuming.

With Surfer, you can fully automate the keyword grouping process.

Enter your seed keyword into the Keyword Research tool and choose your target country.

Surfer automatically identified 63 articles for this keyword.

You can see the search intent of each cluster and the keywords that go under each.

Related keywords with the same intent are clustered together.

3. Group related content together

Each tile represents a separate article you can write. The next step is to decide which clusters to tackle and in what priority.

The best approach is to plan your articles around content hubs. Also known as topic clusters, each hub has a pillar article that offers comprehensive information on a topic and supporting pieces you'll connect to the pillar using internal links.

Choose a broad keyword as your pillar page and map the rest of the keyword clusters as supporting pages.

Just look at this topical map example that Surfer created, with "in home sound system" as the pillar page and 17 supporting cluster pages.

Consider these factors when choosing which keyword clusters to turn into hubs:

Keyword volume and difficulty

Look at the keyword data, such as the search volume and keyword difficulty.

While high search volume keywords have the potential to bring in a lot of traffic, they also tend to be more competitive. This is the case for the "sound systems home" cluster.

Instead, you can choose to prioritize a less competitive cluster like "surround sound apartment".

Don't ignore keywords with a lower search volume - they are typically less competitive, giving you the opportunity to rank higher.

See the keyword difficulty and prioritize those with a lower score that still have decent search volume.

Business relevance

Despite how lucrative a particular keyword cluster may be, if it doesn't align with your business offerings and audience interest, there's no point covering it.

For instance, while "best headphones for gaming" might be a lucrative keyword, it's not directly relevant to a business that sells surround sound systems.

Targeting this keyword would divert resources from more relevant content efforts and dilute the brand's focus on home audio experiences.

Use these factors when developing your content strategy, and focus on the pieces that take the least effort while having the highest impact on your SEO content strategy.

4. Create quality content

When you're done with keyword grouping and content planning, it's time to roll up your sleeves and write well-optimized pieces according to your keyword clusters.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when writing your content.

Add the primary keyword in the meta title and meta description, URL slug, and H1 heading.

Adding the keyword to these elements will ensure consistency and show Google's crawlers which topic and intent your article addresses.

Secondary keywords should be placed in other headings (H2, H3, etc.) and the body of the content. No matter how many keywords you have, it's crucial to include them naturally.

Keyword stuffing goes against the search engine's spam policies and is bound to result in penalties and a lower rank.

If you're using Surfer, inside the Content Editor you can  see which cluster keywords to include in each article and at what frequency.

As you write the articles of a content hub, make sure to connect them through internal linking.

Your pillar article should link to all supporting pieces and vice versa, as this shows both Google and users that you've covered a topic comprehensively.

Also, link supporting pages with each other when it makes sense.

It's best to cover the articles within one hub before jumping to another one.

You can leverage AI writing tools such as Surfer AI to make this process faster.

Follow the on-screen instructions, and within 20 minutes you will have a fully optimized article that covers all the keywords in your cluster.

5. Audit your keywords

Lastly, you have to monitor the performance of your keyword clusters regularly.

Regular monitoring  provides insights into their success in SERPs and highlights potential optimization areas.

So what exactly should you look for, and how to find it?

The easiest and most cost-effective way to track your keywords is to use Google Search Console. Here's how:

  1. Sign into Google Search Console
  2. Go to the Performance tab in the left-hand menu
  3. Scroll down to the Pages section.

Here, you can see how the pages you created keyword clusters around are ranking.

You can compare impressions and clicks to get an idea of your content's performance. For example, if you have lots of impressions but not enough clicks, you might want to make the meta title more enticing.

To dig further, click on a specific page and look at the Queries for which it ranks.

The best-performing keyword will be placed at the top by default, so check whether you've made it for your primary keyword. If not, tweak the page accordingly.

With Google Search Console you can monitor your pages, but it won't tell you what you need to do to optimize them.

Surfer can help you with that.

Head to the Audit report inside Surfer to check the performance of your cluster pages and how to optimize them.

Enter the URL of the page you want to check and the primary keyword.

The audit will point out how you can optimize your page, focusing on elements like:

  • Internal linking opportunities
  • Missing keywords
  • Word count
  • Content structure
  • Page speed
  • Backlinking opportunities

This way, you know exactly what changes you need to make to boost the performance of your keyword clusters.

What is the difference between a keyword cluster and a topic cluster?

Keyword clusters focus on grouping keywords according to relevance and intent within a single article, while topic clusters are made out of multiple content pieces organized around a central theme.

These two concepts are often confused because they involve overlapping keyword research practices, and they're typically used in tandem for the best SEO results.

When building your SEO strategy, keyword clustering should come first, as it ensures each content piece contains all the relevant search terms. You can then organize your keyword clusters into topic clusters, as shown in this article.

Combining keyword and topic clustering will speed up the process of building your website's authority.

You can ensure that each piece of content satisfies user intent and your website demonstrates the depth of expertise necessary for ranking high.

Key takeaways

  • Keyword clustering is the practice of grouping keywords based on their SERP similarity and search intent.
  • It lets you synergize the traffic potential and SEO value of several keywords to rank a single article higher, as opposed to splitting related keywords into different articles.
  • The first step in the keyword clustering process is in-depth keyword research. The goal is to create an extensive keyword list around a specific topic, which you'll then pull from to create clusters according to semantic relevance and user intent.
  • Each cluster will have the primary keyword you'll target, as well as secondary keywords that will support the article's rank.
  • You can either cluster keywords manually through a spreadsheet or use keyword clustering tools.
  • When you have your keyword clusters, you should group related content into hubs accordingly. Doing so gives you a chance to cover a subject from as many angles as possible, which results in higher topical authority and page relevance for the given keyword.
  • Make sure to place the primary keyword from your cluster in the H1 heading, URL, meta title, and meta description.
  • Secondary keywords should be placed in other headings and the article's body. All keyword placement should be natural to avoid keyword stuffing.
  • After you've published your content, conduct regular audits to determine its performance and identify optimization opportunities.

Conclusion

Keyword clustering can significantly enhance your content's visibility and relevance.

By grouping semantically related keywords based on user intent and SERP similarity, you can cater to a wider audience and increase the likelihood of ranking for numerous search terms.

In this guide, we walked you through the essentials of keyword clustering—from understanding its importance to implementing it in your content strategy.

Remember to continuously monitor the performance of your clusters. Focus on the aforementioned metrics, tweak the clustering strategy accordingly, and you should climb SERPs much faster.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics