Topic Clusters and Competency Pages for Law Firms

When you are thinking about starting a new website for your law firm, or you’re planning to create a legal blog in order to market your firm, you’ll need to do more than just think about the type of content you want on the blog. Certainly, you’ll want to give your legal blog a significant amount of thought, from the specific topics to the publishing calendar.

And you’ll want to be sure that you’re doing all the necessary pre-planning to make certain that your strategies for marketing your firm are as successful as possible. For many law firms, online marketing might begin with a legal blog, but the marketing practice should expand to corporate information from your blogs onto your website. Ultimately, you want to create the content that your target reader seeks. Here’s where Competency Pages (also known as Pillar Pages) and topics clusters will come into play.

For example, you can head over to our Guide to Law Firm Marketing page to see this idea in practice.


Thinking About Search Engine Optimization for Your Law Firm

Both Competency Pages and topic clusters should be considerations in a broader plan to improve search engine optimization (SEO) and to use your content writing, including the material in your blog posts, to target specific readers. There are many different facets of SEO, such as:

  • Getting search engines to find your website and accompanying pages;
  • Developing content that gives your target reading the information they want;
  • Posting content that is cited by other online websites and pages, and to which other internet pages link (i.e., another website links to one of your blog posts);
  • Improving the rate at which internet users click on your links and pages (increasing your click-through rate); and
  • Using keywords to bring readers (those searching on the internet) to your website, pages, and blog.

One important aspect of SEO is creating content that readers want. Competency Pages and topic clusters can help you to think through this process, and to develop pages that ultimately bring more attention to your law firm.

home-office-336373_1920What is a Competency Page?

A Competency Page is a particular website page that provides readers with a significant amount of in-depth content about a specific topic, and it usually providers readers with a variety of useful links related to that topic. As Hubspot explains, Competency Pages are often known as “content pillars,” and it’s incredibly important to differentiate them from landing pages. We’ll explain more about the distinctions between Competency Pages and landing pages in just a few moments, but first, it’s important to learn more about the different types of Competency pages you might consider creating. While the term "Pillar Page" is often used, we prefer the term "Competency" as it's a more apt description of the comprehensive roadmap and display of competency that the page offers. But both are rather interchangable.

According to Hubspot, there are two major types of Competency/Pillar Pages: paraphrasing their descriptions, the Resource Pillar Page and the 10x Content Pillar Page. What’s the difference between these two kinds of Competency/Pillar Pages? A Resource Pillar Page will typically be a reference tool for a reader, and it will likely include a variety of useful links—both internal links to blogs written by your firm, for example, and external links to sources that can be helpful to the reader. Differently, a 10x Content Pillar Page is used to give the reader a “deep dive on a core topic.”

What might these different types of Competency Pages look like for a law firm? Imagine that you have a law firm that specializes in commercial law in Chicago. A resource Competency Page might provide information for a potential client who is considering starting a new business. That resource page might provide key information about the different types of business structures available, necessary steps to file business paperwork and to rent a commercial space, and other practicalities of opening a new company. On that page, the law firm might include external links to filing articles of incorporation in Chicago and specific statutes concerning commercial lease agreements. At the same time, the page might include internal links to blog posts about negotiating a commercial lease agreement for a new business, and how to choose the best business structure for your needs. Differently, a 10x Content Competency Page might take a “deep dive” into the history of corporations as a business structure, the process of forming corporations, the ways in which corporate structures and entities have been considered in court cases, and information about some of the most successful corporations across time.

Now what’s the difference between a landing page and a Competency Page? If you’ve read this far, you know a little bit about what a Competency Page includes. A landing page, differently, is designed to get more leads for your business—to get readers to make contact. While Competency Pages provide the reader with specific types of content without requiring any commitment from them, landing pages usually ask a reader to provide their name or contact information before they’re eligible to get the content you have to offer.

What is a Topic Cluster?

The term “topic cluster” refers to a model of organizing the various pages of content on your website. Your Competency Page will be the primary place where your content “lives,” so to speak, and various pages and blog posts that fall under the same topic will link back to that page. To put it another way, a particular topic cluster will contain many different pieces of content that are contained within your website, grouping those pieces of content by a shared topic.

To return to the examples we gave you above, topic clusters for a commercial or corporate law firm might include “business structures” and “commercial real estate agreements.” You can create various other topic clusters as you develop more content, and the topic clusters can make it easier for your target readers to locate the information you have to offer them.

Planning Online Content for Your Law Firm

For most law firms, blogs are just one element of a much larger online content marketing strategy. As we’ve explained above, blog posts can help you to develop Competency Pages for specific questions or issues your readers might be searching out, and within those Competency Pages, topic clusters can help you to organize material that ultimately will allow your reader to obtain the information she’s seeking by visiting your website.

When you’re just getting started with online marketing for your law firm, the specifics of blogging and content creation can feel overwhelming. Many law firms realize that it can be incredibly beneficial to hire a marketing company with experience setting up new SEO-friendly pages and managing content on a weekly basis. Yet it’s certainly not impossible for law firms to learn how to engage in online marketing themselves.

If you’re already familiar with SEO and the ever-changing face of what search engine optimization means, you’re already a step ahead. At the same time, if you’re only learning about these online content marketing terms for the first time, you should know that you’re certainly not alone! Just as each field of law has its own specificities and nuances, so does the world of online content marketing. And when it comes to online content marketing for law firms, it’s important to know that there are specific practices that are particular to law firm marketing within the larger world of business marketing.

The more you read and learn about online marketing for your law firm and drawing your target reader to your sites, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Since SEO tips and guidelines change over time, you should also acknowledge that your online persona—created through Competency/Pillar Pages, topic clusters, downloadable content, blogs, etc.—will need to be updated and revised. Ultimately, by discovering more tips and tools for marketing your law firm, and by remaining flexible as you craft pages and blogs, you’ll be able to gain some control over how your website gets found and who reads your work.

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Writer and academic in Brooklyn, NY. Law and literature specialist. Collector of rare books and post-punk music ephemera. Cinema lover. Global traveler. Language and translation enthusiast.

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