Episode #009: Strategic Language, Topic Clusters, and Google Search Results Exposed

Duration: 12 min, 36 sec.


 • “Languaging: The Strategic Use of Language to Change Thinking” by Nicolas Cole

 • “Topic Clusters, Pillar Pages, and 10X Content For Your Inbound Website”

 • “Now Google will display why it’s showing you its search results” by Rachel Kraus of Mashable


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Links from this episode:

 • Languaging: The strategic use of language to change thinking (theladders.com)

 • Topic Clusters, Pillar Pages, and 10X Content for Your Inbound Website : 46ALPHA

 • Now Google will display why it’s showing you its search results (mashable.com)

Rough Transcript:

The three topics for today are:

“The Strategic Use of Language to Change Thinking” by Nicolas Cole

“Topic Clusters, Pillar Pages, and 10X Content for Your Inbound Website”

and Google is opening the curtain, just a little bit, on its search results.

The date is Sunday, July 25, 2021.

The time is 2100 hours or 9 p.m.,  and you’re listening to Episode #9 of Communicate For Effect.

Segment 1

For today’s segment #1.

“The Strategic Use of Language to Change Thinking” – the title immediately sucked me in, after all, that is what many of us in the communications and marketing fields try to do.

It’s on the website “The Ladders,” I’ll of course have the link in the show notes.

The author, Nicolas Cole, talks about Category Design.

He says you are responsible for changing the way a reader, customer, consumer, or user “thinks.”

And you are successful when you have moved their thinking from the old way to the new and different way.

The way you do this (in our line our work) is with words.

He talks about Henry Ford.

When Henry Ford called the first vehicle a “horseless carriage,” as opposed to a “faster horse,” he was using language to get the customer to think in a new way.

The inventor of Spanx called her product an invention, not a product.

The makers of Viagra say that men have “erectile dysfunction” as opposed to “impotence.”

Netflix wanted to change the conversation to be “watch anything you want, whenever you want” instead of people asking “What time is my program on?”

So this article immediately brought me back to some of my SAMS instruction.

School of Advanced Military Studies, SAMS, you spend an additional year of your life at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, learning how to think and plan.

All of this, what the author is talking about, is framing and reframing.

So in the SAMS course, we covered design thinking and the environment frame.

Your current frame and your desired, or future frame.

How you get from where you are at now, to where you want to be, is the problem that needs to be solved.

The context of this course and the military, in general, is always some conflict.

How do we get from where we’re in this conflict to something better.

But the same planning methods we use in SAMS and the military are also used in business, and that’s what Nicolas Cole is talking about in this article.

When you or your company decide that you need to change things up, you are stuck in a rut, you’re stalled, you’re not growing, it may be time to reframe your product or service.

You’ve got a widget, and you’re probably trying to distinguish your widget from your competitor’s widgets by saying yours is better or it’s cheaper.

Perhaps you need to reframe how people think about your widget.

Look at different categories, different areas, do the whole “out of the box” thing.

Instead of a medium coffee, you’re selling a grande coffee.

You’re not a resume writer, you’re a career coach.

You’re not a fitness gym, you’re a lifestyle and health center.

The author talks about “Languaging” and how to reframe your product or service in words alone, which you may be able to do.

I will say you may not be able to just reframe how you talk about your product or service, it may require you to make some physical changes to your product, to your service.

Let’s take the gym that wants to reframe itself as the lifestyle and fitness center.

That will probably require some additional resources inside your gym besides cardio and weights.

But start with the language.

It’s cheap and only requires some thought and research.

And take a quick look at this article, it might help get you thinking differently about how you are framing your business and who you are targeting.

Segment 2

I started talking about framing and reframing, modifying your language, in order to communicate your business to a target audience, and now we’re talking about how to structure the language on your website to better reach your audience.

Topic Clusters, Pillar pages, and 10X Content are ways to help get traffic to your Website.

They are a method to organize your content and assist search engines when they crawl through your website.

There is some overlap between these three terms and some people use them interchangeably, but here they are in a nutshell.

Topic Clusters are a way to organize the content on your website.

The term became well known when HubSpot began using it on their site and in their training in 2017.

By combining specific topics and related blog posts into clusters, your content will be easier to find on search engines.

There is power in the cluster as opposed to a series of disjointed blog topics.

A Pillar Page is a page that is focused on one topic.

It broadly covers a single topic, while cluster content provides more in-depth information on that topic via links.

For example, you might write a pillar page about content marketing and then use clusters of blog posts to cover more detailed aspects of that broader subject.

The Pillar Page answers all of the questions customers might have about the topic at a general level of understanding.

However, it is not as in-depth as cluster content which provides details on certain aspects, aspects that are more in the weeds, on the topic.

When you hear 10X content.

10X content is content that is 10 times better than anything else on the web.

Rand Fishkin made this term popular when he talked about “good, unique content” in 2015 and why producing good, unique content is not the bar to entry for SEO purposes.

Instead of focusing on producing good, unique content, you need to focus on producing content that is way above and beyond anything else that is available on the web on your given topic.

So how do you use these three things to design your site?

Start by identifying the main topics you want to use for your Pillar pages, and then identify all the clusters of additional topics that will be your “supporting fires.”

There are images of this concept in the article of you are a visual learner.

Ideally, your main pillar page will be something that is 10 times better than anything else on the web.

So break break break.

Last week I mentioned I was in the middle of an organic search result experiment.

For the last 2 months, I have been producing daily articles on my site but I am not advertising them on social media or pushing them with PPC.

I want to see how they do just via organic search results.

I am slowly working on my own topic clusters and pillar pages, so my experiment is that I want to see how effective you can be just by using content and SEO techniques.

At a later date in the experiment, I’ll do some advertising on social media and PPC to see how much more my stats grow beyond just organic social.

Inbound marketing takes a lot of content to work and designing your pillar pages and 10X content is hard to do when you just get started because you’re looking at a blank canvas.

Just get started.

So I know where I want to be, but it’s going to take a lot of writing to get there, so I’m just grinding away at my list of topics now that I want to write about.

My own topic clusters are beginning to take shape.

It might be nice to have a grand strategy, everything designed out, but it’s also ok to just get writing and have the strategy evolve and emerge from the work you are doing.

Google the term “emergent strategy.”

I’m doing a little of both right now on my own sites, and you can do it however you want, just know that these methods – Topic clusters, Pillar pages, and 10X content – are a good way to maximize the effectiveness of the work you.

Segment 3

Finally, Google is beginning to open up the curtain a bit with regards to its search engine algorithms.

What they’ve done is they have started showing users why they’re getting the website recommendations that they receive.

It includes matching keywords and related terms associated with your search query that show up in the result, as well as whether other references and if it makes sense for your local area.

The article says that “Google hopes that showing users this information will ultimately lead to finding better results.”

“Giving even a (very simplified) window into its inner workings might help users become more active seekers of knowledge, as opposed to passive clickers on whichever website has gamed its Search Engine Optimization best. ”

This is of course, more important lately with all the COVID misinformation spreading.

They have an image with an example that shows the results of a query, and an information box that provides a simplified explanation of why they are showing the results they are showing.

So, good on them.

Wrap Up

So that’s a wrap on #9.

If you have any questions or comments for me, just go to 46alpha.com and shoot me a note.

On the site, you can subscribe to the Last 24 daily news summaries, you can follow my FlipBoard magazine if you want to find more articles I find interesting on digital comms, marketing, and technology.

I’m Mike Nicholson, and we’ll do it again next week.


Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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