Keyword Clustering: How to Group Keywords for a Killer Content Strategy

Keyword clusters can help you optimize a single page for many keywords and improve your ranking potential. Learn how to create a foolproof content strategy with this advanced guide to keyword clustering.

keyword clustering

*Special Note: This is part 1 of a 4 part series by featured guest author, Jasmine Melikyan, so stay check back tomorrow.

Remember the days of one keyword-optimized pages?

Well, they are long gone, and if you’re still practicing that method, it won’t get what you want.

And what is it that every SEO specialist or content writer wants?

Silly question, of course, it’s all for having high rankings in SERPs, getting more visitors to read our content and thus achieving our goals.


BUT… Time never stops running and the technologies never stop evolving. Search engines are not what they were 10 years ago, they can identify the search intent, the context of the words and what exactly users are searching for.


Besides that, the competition is so intense, there are hundreds and thousands of brands which write about the same things as you. So, if you really want to succeed, you need to change your keyword strategy.


How? By creating keyword clusters of course. 


But wait, what is keyword clustering about? And how to create clusters?


Let’s start with one question at a time, and don’t worry we’ll explore every detail.

What is Keyword Clustering?


First, let’s start with the definition.


Keyword clustering is grouping keywords with the same search intent and topic and using these related keywords to optimize a piece of content. You can group keywords by different categories and they can give many new content ideas.


Besides, you’re losing so many opportunities when you optimize for only one keyword. Users search for the same thing using different words and phrases, but they want the same thing. For example, the search terms “casual outfit for women”, “women everyday clothes” mean the same thing and if you optimize for both and their similar versions, you can get more organic traffic.


Keyword clustering is more than just about getting more traffic. It’s about creating better content for your audience, after all, that’s your end goal: create relevant content for your customers (or future customers).


Keyword clustering is closely related to topic clusters. A topic cluster is a group of content that is created around one main topic and each piece of content is linked to the pillar content. Usually, there is one main topic that covers everything in general, and many subtopics that cover the specific details of the pillar topic.


So when you have keyword clusters, in the end, you’re going to have thematically related content. And it’s better to have more structured content by creating one main topic and many subtopics.


Why You Need it


Well, keyword clusters give you an opportunity to appear on more search results. But besides that, it is essential for SEO.


Have you heard about semantic search? As opposed to lexical search, instead of simply focusing on single words, search engines bring the results focusing on phrases. And apart from that, machines started to better understand the context of the words and phrases and they don’t bring the results based on exact word matches, but by the meaning of the phrases.


By targeting several related keywords, you’re optimizing not just for keywords, but rather for a topic. And search engines will see that you’re not just stuffing keywords into your content but you’re providing valuable information for users.


You’re also showing your topical authority. Your blog posts, keywords are linked to each other and are about the same topic. It shows that you’re an expert in your sphere and your information can be trusted.


And don’t forget about the users. They’ll see that you’re offering high-quality content and will come back to you more and more times.


How to Create Keyword Clusters


Ok, ok now we’re getting there. Let’s view in detail all the steps for creating keyword clusters.


Step 1: Collecting Keywords


And of course, the first step is to collect all your target keywords. For this particular example mainly focus on competitor keyword research as it’s a lot more trustworthy than random suggestions by a third party tool. 


The number of initial keywords actually depends on your industry and niche. The average number to aim for would be 1000-5000 and don’t worry if it’s more than that. It’s better to have a lot of keywords to work with when keyword clustering than risk missing some great opportunities.


Getting back to collecting the keywords. Here are some sources that could help you find them:


  • Your initial target keywords, that you are already using
  • Third-party tools (Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz, etc.)
  • Your competitors
  • Data from your paid ads (including Amazon)
  • Google Search Console, Google Analytics
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Autocomplete suggestions on Google Search (and “Search related to”)
  • Keywords your competitors are missing (Semrush Gap Analysis)
  • And all the keywords and their combinations you want to rank for.


Find out all the possible places you can get new keyword ideas, collect them all on one spreadsheet and your keyword list is ready. There are so many sources to look for keywords, so try everything you can.


Include all the related, mashed-up versions of the keywords you found and all the related questions, search terms, etc.


After collecting the keywords, you need to remove the duplications and low-performing ones. But don’t remove all of them, especially the long-tail ones. If the keyword perfectly matches the search intent, let it stay.


Also, you can add information about keyword volume and keyword difficulty, it might be handy later.


Step 2: Keyword Analysis


Now it’s time to analyze everything we’ve collected. Don’t worry you don’t need to go through every keyword and group them one by one, as it would take you ages. There is a shorter way to do it manually, but there is also a way to group keywords using online tools. We’ll discuss both options.


Let’s understand how to do it manually.


So, you have a spreadsheet full of thousands of keywords. Now we need to analyze them and see which terms are appearing more frequently. Each keyword consists of several words or terms, e.g. “keyword research tools” consists of 3 terms. You need to break all the keywords into their component parts to analyze them easily.


Then we’re going to count the term frequency. You can use this free tool or any other tool you want to count it. Copy-paste your keywords, click submit and you’ll get the numbers of how many times each word has occurred. Then paste this data to your spreadsheet by removing terms like “is,” “for,” and “to”.


Single terms won’t always give you what you want, so we’re going to look at two-word or three-word phrases to gather more information. Then add all this data to your spreadsheet.


Phrases are actually more valuable than one-word terms. When a two-word phrase occurs more frequently than a one-word phrase, it means it’s more valuable.


Next, we’ll need to count the number of terms in each phrase. For that, you can use the COUNTA function. We’ve already discussed that two-and more-word terms are more valuable and we’re going to show it in numbers. To get them more weighting you need to use this formula: (number of terms^2) * frequency of its occurrence.


This shows the significance of a two-word phrase that occurs less frequently over a one-word phrase that occurs more frequently. You can raise the power several times to find out the most important terms and phrases.


Now you’re going to see what terms are actually important. It will show you what people are really looking for, and you’re going to understand searchers better.


Mark the important terms, try to keep the number around 50, but not more than 75, so that it would be easier to sort it out later.


Step 3: Preparing for Keyword Clustering


Now you need to identify the most important words – hot words. Look for the highest frequency and most relevant terms from the list that you made during the previous step. These are the most important words that describe your industry and topic the best.


Then we need to narrow down the list of the hot words and remove the negative ones or keywords that are not important for you. After narrowing down the list, you need to group these words into broad topics. (You can group them by colors so that it would be easier for you later.)


When grouping keep in mind that you can organize the words with the same stem as one. For example, the words “creator”, “creating”, “create” have the same stem, and when you’re grouping them as part of the same cluster, use the words “create” for all of them. You can do the same for synonyms as well.


Now we’re getting closer to our keyword clusters.


List all your hot words horizontally on a spreadsheet. Then list your keywords vertically in the first column. And now we’re going to find out whether a hot word is in a keyword or not. To do it, use this function: IF(RegExMatch(keyword,”hot word”),”YES”,”NO”).


You will get a table of YES and NOs. YES shows that the hot word is present in that keyword, and NO shows the reverse. We need to get rid of the NOs. Copy the data and paste values only. Then use “Find and replace”, find the NOs and replace them with nothing. You’ll get a table of keywords and hot words, where you know which hot word is present in each keyword.


Step 4: Grouping the Keywords


And now comes the most important part – creating the keyword clusters. To do it right you need to have a good understanding of your audience, target groups, search intent and marketing funnel. This is a bit tricky as there is no right formula for it. But you’ll get better with time.


Here you can keep or add information about keyword volume, keyword difficulty so that your keyword clusters have different kinds of keywords.


We can start by counting how many times each stem has occurred in the keyword list. Use the COUNTA function at the top of the sheet to find that out. This can make your job a lot easier, especially if you start by segmenting out the most niche topics.


Start with the least occurring stems and niche groups. They don’t have a large amount of overlap. So, find these keywords and paste them into a new tab and you will have your first keyword cluster.


Do the same process for the rest of the keywords and you’ll get many different keyword groups. Some groups might contain too many keywords, and you’ll need to subdivide them into smaller groups. You can do it again by using the stems or other criteria such as:


  • Search intent
  • Search volume
  • Keyword difficulty(include both low-competition and high-competition keywords in a group)
  • Marketing funnel


And now you have made keyword groups that you can use to create awesome content for your readers.


Using Online Tools


When you do the whole process manually you make sure that all your keyword clusters are reviewed in detail and created the way you want them to be. Though, it requires a lot of time and effort and not all of us have it. Luckily, there are online tools that can group keywords and do the whole process, like Keyword Cupid or SE Ranking. You just need to do the first part, which is collecting the keywords, and then you simply add the file or keywords in the tool and get your groups


Keyword Cupid, for example, uses machine learning to group keywords into clusters. It creates the groups based on Google SERPs and thematic connections between the search terms. 


So if you don’t have time to divide all these keywords into groups manually, then choose your favorite tool and you’re all set.


Step 5: How to Use Your Keyword Groups


When you have all your keyword clusters in front of you, it might seem a great idea to stuff them all in your content. But don’t hurry. Just because you have these keywords in a cluster, doesn’t mean you have to use them all. 


Keywords are some sort of a guide for new content ideas. They show what questions and worries your audience has and give you an idea of what content to create. Choose the most important keywords for each of your content and start creating. If a keyword doesn’t fit with your content, don’t use it. No need to target every single keyword and create keyword-stuffed content. People won’t like it, nor will the search engines.


And don’t forget to update your content. You might have some good pieces that weren’t targeted with the right keywords, so use your opportunity, target some high-performing keywords and you’ll have a fresh piece of content in very little time.


Summing up


So, we’re all set now, you have everything you need for keyword clustering and to create your next outstanding piece of content. Just remember that you’re writing every piece for users first and only then for search engines.


And don’t forget that you don’t need to target every single keyword. Choose those that fit best with your content and you’ll get the results you expected.


Good luck with your content strategy!

Oh, and d0n’t forget to check back tomorrow for my next post in this series on competitive keyword research.