By now, you probably know that content is the foundation of a successful SEO strategy.
The problem with content is when companies put too much emphasis on the number of blog posts, rather than the value of the information inside.
Assaulting your readers with a barrage of meaningless posts each day won’t drive more traffic to your site.
When people search the internet, they aren’t really looking for products or services.
They’re looking for solutions to their problems.
Long-form content that provides answers will be more useful, which resonates with customers and earns you higher search engine rankings for increased visibility.
More than 70% of marketers claim content is very or extremely important to their marketing strategy.
However, only 27% rate their efforts as very or extremely successful.
Why is that?
The answer is simple: Crafting quality content is harder than it seems.
Any business can crank out a host of mediocre, uninspired blog posts. But quality content doesn’t just fall off a conveyor belt in an assembly line.
One way you can develop content that engages readers and serves as an invaluable resource is by creating pillar content.
Exactly what is pillar content?
Pillar content is content that establishes your reputation as an authority in your industry, builds trust among your audience, and generates sales for optimal business success.
Let’s learn how.
What is Pillar Content?
Pillar content is significantly informative content that provides invaluable knowledge about a particular subject. It can be separated into sub-topics that continue to provide readers with additional information.
Any business can crank out a host of mediocre, uninspired blog posts. But quality content doesn’t just fall off a conveyor belt in an assembly line. 🏭 Learn more about pillar blog posts #contentmarketing 💡 Click To Tweet
According to Rand Fishkin, all content should be 10x content (as in, it’s ten times better than the average blog post).
But pillar content must be substantial enough to build your brand on.
Think of pillar content as a broad subject, like digital marketing.
Beneath that subject exists a bunch of laser-focused sub-categories, like SEO, social media, and paid advertising. This is known as cluster content.
Pillar content delivers thorough answers to the questions online searchers ask about that main subject.
Then, it links to that cluster content for more focused information.
Let’s look at a real-world example.
I recently wrote an insightful piece about Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines.
Not only does this article outline and explain the key points of the guidelines. It also teaches people WHY they need content, a critical factor in the buying decisions surrounding content.
This pillar piece brings value to readers through its main subject (Google’s guidelines) as well as the cluster content (why content is necessary), all while earning high search listing placement.
That’s the sole purpose of pillar content.
Pillar content stands out from similar content and is engaging, reliable, or helpful to your readers.
It allows you to:
- Eliminate Redundancy: Comprehensive content prevents repetition of material throughout your site.
- Plan Future Content: Pillar content can lead to sub-topics within that category.
- Connect the Dots: Link within your own content to provide helpful resources to your audience.
Since pillar content provides a well-researched, authoritative piece that links to offshoot sub-pages, it’s extremely effective for SEO.
It not only provides tons of content to align with keyword searches and relevancy.
It also links to other expert sources and expands reach exponentially.
All of this positions your brand as an authority on a specific topic, building trust and loyalty among your audience and leading to a higher conversion rate.
Because it’s so in-depth, pillar content tends to be among your site’s best material.
You know that old adage, “Put your best foot forward”?
That’s what pillar content does. For that reason, it’s typically where you’ll direct new visitors.
But pillar content is evergreen, so it also has a long shelf life.
It’s authoritative information about a topic that will continually gain interest. Visitors will check it out (and other sites may link to it) long after it’s been posted.
With continual updates, edits, and maintenance, it will always be meaningful and relevant.
Pillar content can consist of anything from infographics and videos to blog posts and articles.
It’s simply a way to support foundational content for a specific niche.
When executed well, it can be timeless, continually useful for readers, and eternally gain you higher search engine rankings.
Why Should You Use Pillar Pages?
There are two main reasons pillar pages should be part of your marketing strategy.
First, they help you organize your content so readers can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
Let’s face it. People love convenience, and there’s very little that’s more convenient than pillar pages.
They provide a one-stop shop for all of the important information users are looking for online.
It’s like digging for treasure and finding a gold mine. ⛏
But businesses also have a lot to gain from pillar content, and that brings us to the second reason you should use pillar content.
From a marketing perspective, pillar content is also a gold mine, but for SEO.
Pillar pages help your SEO efforts in several ways.
1. Cut Through the Clutter
To provide the most consistent, relevant, and useful results to its users, Google likes to know exactly what’s happening with your website’s content.
When Google sees your articles link back to pillar content that all relates to the same subject, it’s clear what that subject is and Google understands how to rank your pages.
Not only does this help clarify your website’s relevance for Google’s search engine guidelines. But the more your website mentions a certain subject, the better you’ll rank for that subject in particular.
Organization isn’t just beneficial for Google.
It also helps readers navigate your site and effectively consume all of your content, providing a better user experience.
This, incidentally, also helps boost your search engine rankings.
Pillar content helps you cut through the clutter of all the information Google has to crawl and helps to place you in a more prominent ranking position.
2. Develop More Quality Content
With a word count of 2,000 to 5,000, pillar pages are longer than a typical blog post, so they create tons of content for search engines to scan.
The shared research that goes into a single piece of pillar content allows future pieces to sprout from that topic, which creates even more content for SEO.
Pillar content can become video scripts, individual blog articles, and social media posts.
Since pillar content is so thorough, it takes dedicated research to develop it.
This results in more high-quality, comprehensive messaging with focus points aligned throughout the piece.
3. Drive Traffic to Your Site
Because pillar pages are so rich with quality content, they offer lots of opportunities for strategic keyword placement, so people will naturally be directed to your site.
This not only results in an increase in traffic.
It provides chances to remarket to an audience who, for whatever reason, may not have engaged long enough to convert.
You can send retargeted ads or links to other pillar pages they might find useful.
These efforts drive traffic to your site and give you another chance to entice prospects to become customers.
4. Increase Engagement
When you publish lots of comprehensive content on your site that resonates with readers, they’ll be tempted to binge-read your material.
They’ll want to find answers to as many of their questions as possible.
The more quality content you host on your page, the more time people will spend on your site.
Since visitors won’t be bailing out to find information elsewhere, you’ll see lower bounce rates.
(Incidentally, that’s the fourth most important ranking factor for SERPs.)
By serving as a valuable resource for readers, you provide a positive experience that is rewarded with prominent search engine rankings.
With some dedicated time and effort, you can create pillar content that will resonate with readers and help boost sales growth and set you on a path for continued success.
4 Common Types of Pillar Content
Pillar content can deliver invaluable information in lots of ways.
There are two important things to keep in mind when creating your content:
- How can you most effectively cover your subject matter?
- How would your audience prefer to consume the information?
Information that teaches someone how to do something should be presented differently than a piece that explains a general concept.
Some information is better processed as in-depth paragraphs, some as skimmable bullet points.
As you plan your content, here are four common types of pillar content to consider.
1. “What is” Pillar
The internet has empowered people to be constant learners.
At the touch of a button, people can conduct their own research on any number of topics.
A frequently searched phrase is “What is ____”.
If someone hears a word they don’t know or a product they don’t understand, they simply type this phrase into a search box to find out more.
Pillar content can address this trend by giving a detailed explanation about a subject.
Thus, “What is” pillar content is a helpful stand-alone resource that takes people to other pages with useful content. It also helps you to craft a page that aligns with a popular interest, something people have heard about in the news or from friends and want to explore further.
If you can generate a sense of your subject’s importance, you can generate organic traffic to your page.
2. “How-to” Pillar
When a reader finds a “how-to” page, they expect to learn how to accomplish a goal.
These pillar pages are great for creating content that specifically addresses your audience’s needs.
Do some research and find out what it is your readers want to learn.
Then, create authoritative content that delivers tutorials, illustrations, and step-by-step instructions to break down the information into digestible content that’s easy to understand.
3. Guide Pillar
One way to deliver authoritative content is through guides.
People who are new to a concept are drawn to beginners’ guides, because they know those pieces will contain basic information that educates them from start to finish.
A more seasoned audience appreciates definitive guides that fine tune the knowledge they already have.
Either way, guides serve as a destination for readers looking for comprehensive information on a given topic.
A guide that’s well developed and timely can attract lots of attention and drive traffic to your site.
More importantly, it helps to nurture your prospects and turn them into customers.
4. “Best-of” Pillar
Not all educational content is best delivered as a full, comprehensive guide.
Besides, search engines are inundated with ultimate guides.
Set yourself apart from the competition by creating a roundup of the best facts, tips, and techniques surrounding your subject.
Use this information to build pillar content that provides a helpful overview highlighting key points readers should know.
Through bullet points and categorical lists, readers see at a glance that they can quickly skim your content until they find a point that resonates with them.
Because “best-of” content is easy to scan and more manageable than a full-on guide, people see it as less of a time investment and are more likely to check it out.
Creating Pillar Content That Drives Traffic: Easy as 1-2-3
With some careful strategy, pillar content can be extremely effective in driving traffic to your website. Here are three main concepts to keep in mind when developing pillar content that pulls in leads.
1. Know Your Audience
All of the content you create should, ultimately, be for your audience’s benefit.
Sure, your motives may be to drive traffic and generate revenue, but none of that will happen if you don’t write content that your audience wants to read.
That’s why knowing your audience is a must.
Different buyers have different needs, and your content should reflect that.
To start, look at demographics. Gender, age, and general motivators can tell you a lot about your audience personas.
But that’s not the most important information. Look at more qualitative details, like:
- What questions are they asking?
- What pain points can your content alleviate?
- Based on previous behavior, what content has resonated with them in the past?
Once you have a better understanding of who your audience is, you need to find out how to best meet their needs with pillar content.
You might rely on your own experiences to determine what content has been helpful for you, and what might be applicable to your audience.
Next, head to social media. 3.96 billion people have a social media account, so it’s a great source of audience insight.
Monitor discussions and shared content to see what people are saying about your brand, your products, and your competitors.
When you understand their search intent, you can create pillar content that answers their specific questions and solves their particular problems.
2. Research Keywords
An important detail to know about your audience is the words and phrases they’re using to search for your products.
This information is helpful for pillar content for two reasons.
First, it tells you what keywords to target in your content to help boost your search engine rankings and generate brand awareness.
Second, it helps you quickly and easily link to future cluster posts that focus on those topics.
To find the best keyword rankings for your niche, do some research.
While there are tons of keyword research tools out there, the quickest, easiest, and free way to identify popular keywords is to simply do a Google search.
Type in your market and see what phrases auto-populate in the search bar.
These are the most commonly searched words surrounding your topic.
If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll see “Searches related to” which gives even more suggestions.
Consider using as many of these targeted keywords as will fit naturally into your pillar content.
The more you do to set your pillar content up for success, the less work you’ll have to do down the road.
If you need help writing for SEO, download our free e-book answering frequently asked questions about SEO keywords.
3. Scope Out the Competition
You know that phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses”?
It’s not a bad idea, especially when it comes to your competition.
Head over to your competitors’ pages and see what kind of pillar content they’re creating. This is especially helpful if you share a similar audience.
See what they’re doing well and where they’re falling short.
Find out their keyword traffic volume and see what topics are attracting lots of views.
Learn from their experiences. There’s nothing wrong with pulling inspiration from what other people are doing.
Keep an eye on social media networks to see what people are saying about your competitors.
If people are sharing other companies’ pillar content, see what topics are resonating with people.
This candid information can help shape your own content strategy and lead you to create content that audiences are eager to see.
What is Pillar Content Strategy? 5 Steps to Creating Pillar Content Google is Sure to Reward
Now that you understand what it takes to create solid pillar content, how do you go about actually doing it?
You wouldn’t start out on a road trip without mapping out your journey, right?
It’s the same for crafting killer pillar content.
Before you dive in, map out a plan to guide you to your destination.
Follow these five steps to create pillar content that will resonate with your audience and appeal to search engines.
Step 1: Decide on Your Subject Matter and Cluster Content
Think about all of the topics for which you’d like to rank and be known.
Then, from those ideas, choose a topic, or head term, that receives a lot of searches each month.
The head term should be broad enough to have plenty to write about in cluster posts, but not so overarching that its content is meaningless.
A quality head term should:
- Support your company’s products.
- Be a term searched for by your audience.
- Align with your content development efforts.
Remember, the ultimate goal of your pillar content is to convert prospects to customers.
If you’ve looked at keywords and competitors’ pages and still aren’t sure where to turn for topic ideas, there are two tools you might consider.
- Google’s Keywords Everywhere Plug-In: Type keywords into the Google search bar and see their monthly search volume. For optimal results, choose phrases with a minimum of 2,500 monthly searches.
- Ubersuggest: When you enter keywords into the search bar, you’ll gain insights like popular keywords, top traffic pages, links, and shares on social media.
Both of these tools can give you helpful insights and inspire ideas for effective pillar and cluster content subjects.
Once you’ve got your pillar content head term figured out, start thinking about your cluster content.
- Cluster content supports your head term and helps explain subcategories within your main subject in more detail.
- Cluster content is typically material you post on a weekly basis, like videos and blog posts.
- You can have anywhere from a dozen to thousands of possible cluster content articles.
- Their purpose is to provide readers with the most beneficial information based on what others found to be useful.
When determining potential subtopic ideas, think of terms as a question. After all, that’s how people typically search for information online.
Cluster content subtopics should also receive high monthly search volume. For best results, aim for somewhere between 10 and 400.
Side note: The great thing about pillar content is that you’re not limited to one topic.
If, as you’re writing, you see an opportunity for another subject, create separate in-depth blog posts and simply link them back to your pillar page.
This way, you’re creating more content for search engines to rank, and you’re providing even more valuable information for your readers. It’s a win-win!
Step 2: Create Killer Content
Armed with topic ideas and keyword suggestions, you’re now ready to begin crafting some really stellar content.
The beauty of pillar content is that you can either start from scratch, or you can take old blog posts, dust them off, and combine them into something new and fantastic.
However you go about it, be sure to write with SEO in mind to maximize your ranking opportunities and gain more visibility and brand awareness.
Remember, pillar content is authoritative content.
This means it’s thorough, engaging, and so useful that people are driven to save your page, read it again and again, and share it with others.
To achieve this goal, here’s a general outline to follow when building your article:
- Eye-Catching Headline: This is the first impression people will have of your content. Make sure it entices them to keep reading.
- Intriguing Hook: The article should begin with an interesting fact, a timely current events issue, or a catchy anecdote. Something that will resonate with readers and pique their interest to propel them deeper into your article.
- Compelling Story: A well-written article can be just as fascinating as a high-quality book. Storytelling techniques can help connect you with your audience to keep their attention through the very last word.
- Organized Structure: Help guide your readers’ journey with headers, images, paragraph breaks, and bullet points. Nobody wants to wade through a block of 4,000-word content.
- Use Stats: Pillar content is rooted in research. Use hard facts and give them credibility with links to your resources.
- Include a CTA: Every pillar content piece should drive the reader to take action. Whether it’s registering for emails or signing up for a lead magnet, tell your audience what their next steps should be.
Chances are, your first draft will not be the article you actually post.
Take a step back, assess your work, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this comprehensive enough?
- Does it meet my audience’s needs and exceed their expectations?
- Is this more valuable than what my competitors are delivering?
Allow yourself several revisions. Do some copy editing. Tighten up wording. Double-check those facts.
Remember, pillar content is your opportunity to put your best foot forward.
Wow your readers with content that they can’t wait to spread around like confetti. 🎆
Need inspiration for fantastic blogs? Get our free guide here!
Step 3: Create Links Everywhere
Links are pillar content’s super power.
They allow you to literally connect the dots for your reader, providing as much useful content under one overarching topic as possible.
Any time your website references that topic, the page should direct people back to the pillar content.
It doesn’t matter if it’s old content or new, or if it’s technically beyond the pillar’s cluster subtopic.
As long as the information is relevant to the article and provides useful resources to your readers, you should link to it in the pillar content (and vice versa).
These links not only help your readers gain more insight.
They help search engines paint a clearer picture of your site’s content and its relevancy for users who are searching for those subjects.
This will boost your rankings, leading to higher visibility and increased traffic to your site.
Step 4: Shout It from the Rooftops
It can take a long time for pillar content to begin ranking on search engines.
Move the process along by promoting the heck out of your articles.
Include it in your email campaigns, on social media with Facebook ads, and as part of your prospect onboarding process.
After all, it’s invaluable information about a topic they’re interested in and is presented in a comprehensive way.
You might even consider doing some paid advertising to get the word out initially.
Once your content begins to rank, you’ll begin receiving quality traffic and free qualified leads.
A little money up-front might be worth it in the long run.
But the most obvious place to promote your pillar content is on your website itself.
Link to your content from:
- Home Page: Since this is the first place people go on your site, it makes sense to promote your content here for increased visibility.
- About Page: This is a frequently-visited page, so again, more people will see it.
- Current Posts: Link internally within your most popular blog posts.
- Sidebar: Feature a list of most-viewed posts on one of your web pages and link to your latest pillar content.
Don’t feel weird about promoting the same content over and over.
After all, this is high-quality, expert-level information you’re providing.
If you’ve done your research and followed this guide, your articles are worth being shared.
They’ll continue to provide value to your readers long after you initially post them.
The more you can get the word out about your content, the more likely you’ll increase readership exponentially and earn higher search listing placement for continued success.
Pillar content. 🏛 How do you create it? 5️⃣ steps: 1) Choose your subject + cluster content. 2) Create killer content. 3) Create links everywhere. 4) Promote like crazy. 5) Keep pillar content updated. Read the full guide ⏩ Click To Tweet
Step 5: Remember, Pillar Content is Always Under Construction
Because they provide in-depth, knowledgeable, timeless information about a particular subject, pillar pages are intended to serve as evergreen content.
To make sure they’re a useful resource that remains relevant over time, you have to be willing to do some upkeep to maintain the integrity of these articles.
New research may affect some of the facts and figures you cited in your original article.
Changes in the industry can cause your articles to become outdated.
Periodically, go back through your website and update old content that has become irrelevant.
After all, you want this piece to be something people continue to reference for years to come.
Maintenance is even more important if you’re promoting your articles on a regular basis.
Sending people to a pillar page with incorrect information can hurt your reputation and negatively impact your search rankings.
It’s not enough to simply edit the body of the content.
You’ll also want to adjust the date on the article and in any headers so search engines will realize the content is current and continues to provide value to its users.
Develop Pillar Content Today to Invest in Your Future
Creating pillar pages isn’t just a way to build an email list or drive traffic to your site.
Developing this kind of content is an essential way to identify what your audience needs, what you want to be recognized for, and what benefits you provide your prospects.
Pillar content doesn’t just impact your business now.
It shapes your future marketing plans as well.
It’s true that pillar content takes more time and effort than the average blog post.
But then again, you don’t run an average business.
Think of pillar content as an investment.
When crafted with your audience in mind, it can help you solidify your position as a valuable resource to your followers.
It helps to build trust, establish customer loyalty, and develops lasting relationships with your followers.
What is pillar content? It’s not just an invaluable tool for your audience.
It’s an invaluable tool for your business.
Need help developing authority content that builds brand loyalty and drives revenue? Check out our Content Shop today.