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The concept of pillar content is nothing new, although it has gone by several names including cornerstone content and power pages over the years. The idea behind this type of content for your website and blog is simple. The “pillars” are essentially what holds up the rest of the structure in many types of architecture.
You’ll find that the same holds when it comes to content on your website. There need to be certain pieces of content that help to hold up all of the other building blocks—content—on your site. The pillar content brings in visitors to the site and the other content can keep them coming back time and again. The pillar pieces also help your site to rank higher in Google and other search engines.
Times Have Changed
In the past, to rank on Google, the only thing that needed to be done was to search for the best keywords for your topic and create content around those topics. Although keywords are still certainly important, the content today has to go beyond merely being stuffed with keywords. It needs to be quality content that will continue to attract visitors and provide them with genuine information that will educate, entertain, and ultimately convert those visitors into customers.
Naturally, if you want your site to rank well today and have a large number of visitors who ultimately convert, you need to put a lot of thought and effort into the content you are creating. This includes your pillar pages. Let’s take a closer look at these types of pages to get a better understanding of what they are, how you can create them, marketing them, and building a strong site with pillars as your foundation.
What Are Pillar Pieces and Why Are They So Important?
A pillar piece is essentially a blog post. However, it’s not just any blog post. They have to be on the most important topics for the site and they should be in-depth. Ideally, you’ll want them to be between 4,000 and 5,000 words. This provides a substantial amount of content all tied to the main focus of your site and business.
The pillar content will be focused on and organized around topics that are related to the core topic of the article. These are generally known as cluster topics. These topics are important enough to include in your pillar pieces and will also have other pages dedicated to them. These can then be linked to from your pillar page. The links help to draw your visitors deeper into your website to learn more about the content that interests them the most.
Sophia Bernazzani, formerly of HubSpot, said:
“A pillar page is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page. Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth.”
Benefits of Pillar Pieces
Creating pillar pages, particularly since they are so long, can seem like a large investment of time and potentially money if you outsource. However, you have to consider all of the benefits that they provide. The pieces of content are responsible for helping convert your visitors into customers. Their length and depth help visitors to start seeing your site as a trustworthy source and you as an expert in the field.
Better than the Competition
The pillar pages are a place where you can outshine your competitors. Provide readers with value and solutions to their problems. They are perfect places to answer some of the common questions and concerns that your visitors might have. When you are creating content, you are competing with what similar sites and businesses are doing. Your pillar content ensures that you are in the same league and are worthy of attention from visitors.
Lack of pillar content will allow the competition to paint themselves as experts in the field. Naturally, customers will want to work with the company they believe to be the best. Having high-quality pillar content of your own helps to ensure you can compete.
Pillar Pages Are Often Shared
Pillar pages have a substantial amount of content and are often shared by visitors. This helps to get more attention to your site. The content that’s shared can then draw visitors back to your website.
Because the pillar content will have links to your cluster topics to reach the other posts on your site, it can draw in visitors to those specific pages when they click. Good organization and linking on your pages and throughout your site can help guide readers and help them find exactly what they need.
Rank Higher in the Search Engines
Pillar pieces are also ideal for helping you rank higher on Google and other search engines. Google tends to favor longer, detailed content. The company wants to make sure that visitors who are using their search engine find the best content available, so pillar pages tend to do quite well. Couple quality content with smart use of keywords and it’s a recipe for success.
Keep in mind that today, exact keyword searches are not as important as they used to be. This can provide you with some additional freedom in the way that you create your content. Since 2015, Google has been using Rankbrain, which utilizes machine learning as a means to deliver the best results for a search. This artificial intelligence interprets what the true intent of the search was and provides those results, even when the exact words may not have been used in the search bar.
Content does not need to have keywords stuffed into it to achieve good search rankings. Stuffed keywords are frowned on today and could result in having your page ranking reduced. Google believes that pages stuffed with keywords do not have much actual quality content. Often, this is the case.
The natural use of keywords throughout the content is all that’s needed. This leads to material that reads more easily for visitors, as well.
Longer Content is Better for Pillar Pieces
It can’t be stressed enough just how important the length of the content is when creating pillar pages. The pages that rank highest on Google’s front page will have at least 2,000 words. As mentioned, most will be closer to 5,000. Keep this in mind when creating your pillar pages.
The other content that’s on your site doesn’t have to be this long, of course. It is often impossible to consistently create content of this length for all of the smaller topics in your cluster. They can be around 500 to 1,000 words or so, as long as you have pillar pages that are much longer.
Even though the other content might not be as long, you should always adhere to the rules of creating high-quality content for your site. We’ll discuss some of the most important things to keep in mind later in the post.
Better Page Organization and a Better Site
You’ll also find that when you incorporate the pillar page strategy, it forces you to think more about the content that you are creating. Not only do you need to have a firm understanding of the most important core concepts that you need to have covered in the pillar pages, but you also need to think about all of the cluster topics that you need to cover.
This also means you need to think about how it will all be organized across your site including the links, the user interface, and the navigation. Needing to organize properly helps to ensure that you don’t rush into the design or redesign of your site. You put more thought and care into it, which ultimately leads to a better site for your visitors.
Use the Pillars to Help Create a Content Hub
Pillars are essentially content hubs. They have a wealth of content and then have the aforementioned cluster content that can link out to other pieces on those specific topics in the cluster.
Main Types of Pillar Pages
Pillar content has a lot of potential. However, you need to understand the different types of pillar content that you should be creating. The three types of content include:
- 10X Content Pillar Page
- Subtopic Pillar Page
- Resource Pillar Page
Let’s get a closer look at each of these.
10X Content Pillar Page
This type of pillar content is likely to be the highest-value pillar content you will be creating for your site. This is because they are tied directly with the problems that your visitors need to have solved and will provide a substantial amount of information.
This is a single page that includes all of the aspects of your core topic. It’s called a 10X page because it’s meant to be 10 times better than other content available on the same subject.
The page needs to be a solution that answers the questions that your visitors are most likely asking and need to have answered, as well as answers to questions they haven’t asked yet. This is the standard type of content pillar, and we’ll be discussing how to create a quality 10X page for much of this post. First, though, it’s important to understand the other types of pillar pages you might want to include on your site.
Keep in mind that the pillar pages, as well as all of the pages on your site, need to be easy to read and to navigate. You want your users to have a simple experience of getting around your page and site to the content. Having a “back to the top” button they can click to get them back to the start of a long pillar page is a good example. The page should be easy to use regardless of the device they might be using, too.
This is why it is so important to develop for mobile devices today. Whether they are on their PC, a phone, or a tablet, the site and your pages must always be easy to navigate. The design needs to consider the overall user experience.
Subtopic Pillar Page
Subtopic pillar pages are important, too, and they share similarities to the 10X pillar page. These pages are meant to provide deep dives into certain topics for your site and cover them fully. The only real difference will be in just how important they are to your business. The 10X pages should be linked to the problems that your business solves, which makes them important for top-level navigation through your site.
These subtopic pages are still related, but they don’t have the same level of importance as the topics on the main pillar page. Another term for these might be long-form blog posts. These could be 1,000 to 2,000 words or even longer. They are meant to be authoritative guides on certain subjects and answer all of the questions a visitor will have. They will be longer than the typical blog posts, and they will also have bidirectional links that lead to other subjects on your site.
How many of these subtopic pillar pages should you have? Every business and site will be different. It will depend on the nature of your business and what’s needed. There are not any limits as to how many you could have. Many believe that the more you have the better, as it can help to increase your Google rankings and help more people find your site.
As with the 10X pillar pages, you want the subtopic pillar pages to have excellent navigation. Sticky navigation can be helpful. This could be at the top of the screen or along the side of the screen based on your preferences and what you test and find works best for your visitors.
Resource Pillar Page
This is another type of pillar page you’ll want to consider adding to your site. These pages are substantially different from the other types of pillar content we’ve discussed, but they are no less important. These are similar to other resource pages that you might see on a website. However, they’ve been optimized to make it easier for search engines to understand. Naturally, you want the search engines to have an easy time categorizing your pages.
The resource pillars should be in the top-level navigation of your site. This will make it easier for visitors to find the resource page without needing to hunt for it. Simply calling this page “Resources” is fine, as most visitors will be familiar with what this means and the type of content they should expect.
How to Optimize the Resource Page
Even though they might appear like a regular resource page to the untrained eye, they are different. Rather than just having a list of available resources with hyperlinked text, you need to be sure that your resource page includes more information.
This includes not only the hyperlinked text but also a thumbnail image that can make the link easier to spot on a page. You will also want to include a sentence or two of descriptive text. This ensures the reader knows what they will be clicking on and reading. It also makes it easier for the search engines to understand the resource pillar to help with your ranking.
Another good tip for creating your resource page is to group the resources by the problem they solve. Don’t group them by product, product type, or service. Keep in mind how visitors are most likely to use this page. They are looking for content and resources that help them to answer a question or solve a problem they have.
By keeping the resources grouped by those most common problems, it makes things easier for your customers to find. They don’t have to wonder, guess, and hope that they’re clicking on a resource that will help them with their needs.
The resource page should include gated and ungated content alike. Include all of your resources on this pillar page. Make sure that the resource page includes all of your pillar pages and subtopic pillar pages. It doesn’t need to include all of your blog posts, just the pillars that are most important to your business.
Tips for Making Better Content for Pillar Pages
For each of the pillar pages that you create, you’ll need to start with your core topic. Remember, this needs to be intrinsic and vital to your business and your visitors. It should also include all of the most important elements of that topic on a single page. You can have multiple pillar pages, as well as subtopic pillars, as you need.
Ideally, you’ll want the page to be evergreen, as well. This means that it will continue to be relevant and perform for years to come. However, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the page once you have it up and running. Make changes to reflect deviations in your business or your field. Add updates, lengthen it if needed, and add links. Check the links regularly, too, so you can be sure they’re still working properly.
Developing Your Pillar Page Topics
When it comes to the topics that you’ll be covering on your pillar pages, you know better than anyone else the types of items your visitors will want to read. Make a list of the most important elements and determine how many pillar pages you’ll need and then consider how the type of format that you want to use.
Guide pages are popular because they are easy to understand and they can provide the readers with a substantial amount of information. Readers will know going into the piece that it’s a guide and the type of content that can help them answer their questions. You could opt for a beginner’s guide or even a definitive guide. These different types of guides will set your reader’s expectations right away on the type and depth of information they can glean from the post.
Why It Matters and What It is Pages
These types of pages start by answering the single question of why something matters or what something is. Naturally, the item in question is your product, service, or the main topic of your business. You start on these pages by answering a single question, which leads to more questions and subjects all related directly to the topic. The page aims to answer all of these questions while providing links to other pages on your site.
Many times, you’ll have visitors who are trying to solve a problem related to your main topics, and they’ll want to know how to do it. Therefore, a pillar page could be framed as a post on how to do something. When you organize the page as a how-to article, it lets them know right away that you’ll be walking them through a process.
These pages can also contain content that delves into the concepts behind the steps and can provide a substantial amount of information and detail.
Top and Tips Pages
Another option is to create a pillar page that includes tips, strategies, or facts about your topic of choice. This could include a top 10 or top 20 page that simultaneously answers questions, provides tips, and educates the reader. As with the guides, it’s easy to add links that head out to your other content in subtopic pillars or your regular blog.
Building the Pillar Page
What are some of the elements you should have on your pillar page? We’ve touched on some of these in the content, but this is a handy list that you can keep in mind when designing a page.
- Main website navigation
- Table of contents
- Back to the top button
- Links to other content on your site
- Reputable outbound links
- Page title
- Easy to read, well-organized content broken into sections and headers
- Calls to action
- Download option
- Contact information
- Website footer
What Are Topic Clusters?
A topic cluster is simply a group of interlinked webpages. They are built around your pillar pages and will relate to the content that you’ve covered there. These other pages and posts can go into even more detail or tackle the subject from a different perspective. They tend to have a much narrower focus that can provide a way to narrow down the broad topic discussed in your pillar content.
The posts that are part of the topic cluster need to have bidirectional links just like the subtopic pillars. These links will go to and from the pillar content and subtopic pillars you’ve created.
How to Identify Topic Clusters
What should you do to better define the topics to include in your topic clusters? The first thing you’ll need to do is research your buyer personas and determine what their key problems will be. Think about the visitor behavior and the types of information that they’ll be looking for on a site like yours. Understanding your potential customers helps you to better understand what you should be focusing on with your topic clusters, along with your pillar content.
Determining your topic clusters and understanding your customers will help you get a better sense of the keywords that you should be using, too.
Create a map of your topic clusters and determine how they will relate to your pillar content. This can help you better categorize them and create a good linking strategy. If you already have existing content that you plan to continue using, now is the time to map that out and potentially revisit your keywords. This way, it can more easily be integrated with your pillar pages and redesign.
Audit and Look for Gaps
Never stop identifying new opportunities for cluster topics. Regardless of your field, it’s likely that you’ll continue adding topics over time. Keep abreast of potential cluster topics that you can add and make changes to your pillar pages if needed.
Audit your site regularly and listen to what customers are talking about in comments and on social media. Listening to your customers and other customers on competitors’ sites can be a good way to learn more about what they truly need. Add this information and these topics to your site.
What Do All of Your Posts Need?
Regardless of whether you’re creating a pillar page, a subtopic pillar, or topic cluster pages, the content all needs to have certain things in common. To create quality posts, you need to have several things.
First, you need to have clear writing that’s easy to follow and high-quality. The writing doesn’t need to be groundbreaking and award-worthy, of course. Instead, it needs to be serviceable. Clarity is important.
The content should also be focused on the subject at hand. Rambling about other subjects that don’t have any relation to the topic at hand is likely to lose readers. The content should have some personality in most cases. When talking about serious topics, of course, keeping a professional demeanor in the writing is important.
With all of the posts that you create, along with your pillar pages, your goal should be to create trust and to build a relationship with the readers. Being honest and providing quality content helps with that.
Promoting Your Pillar Content
As much time and effort as you are putting into the creation and writing of your pillar content, you’ll end up spending more time promoting the content and making sure it’s fully optimized. Consider all of the different things you need to do to ensure that your pillar content is doing its job.
First, you need to be sure that you are linking to that pillar post from all of the other content that you have created and that you will create in the future. Keep in mind that the pillar content will need to have links that go to all of the related topics that you have posts about on your site, as well. This may mean returning to the pillar content whenever posting a new blog post to ensure that the relevant links have been added.
You should also have an email list for people who come to your site. Email lists are an excellent way of courting customers, sending our advertisements, information on sales, extra posts, etc. The emails should always provide value to the reader, of course. They should also be used to advertise your pillar content.
Having a link to your most important pillar content or pillar content that’s related to the topic of the email is a good way to get some added visitors to your pages.
Social Media Promotion
Companies today need to be on social media. It’s no longer an option for those who want to remain competitive. Social media is a great way to interact with readers and potential customers. It’s also a good way to let people know about your content. Create occasional posts with links to your pillar content.
Another benefit of social media is that it becomes easy for your readers to share that information with others who follow them on various platforms. When they share content, it means even more people can see what your site has to offer, resulting in more visitors and potential customers.
It’s easy to spend too much time on social media trying to connect and trying to get your customers to visit your site. You may want to consider a marketing team or social media specialist who can dedicate their time to this endeavor if you don’t already have them on your team.
Although there are many ways to get the word out about your site and pillar content without spending much money, you will likely still want to pay for some advertising. PPC ads, for example, are a good option. You can advertise through Google, social media outlets, and more. The online ads allow you to narrowly target the right demographic and potential customers, so they have a better chance of clicking and visiting your site.
Getting Links from Sites with Related Content
Another way to help spread the word about your content and to help get higher rankings is by getting backlinks from high-quality sites. Keep in mind that you don’t want backlinks from just any site. They need to be from a relevant site that is trusted by Google, as this will hold more weight with your own rankings.
Having your content linked to from other sites also means that the readers of those sites will see it. When it’s on a site with relevant content, the readers on that site are more likely to click the link. If they already trust the site they were visiting, they are more likely to trust its recommendations and links.
Examples of Quality Pillar Pieces
Many companies have found success using pillar pages, and your company can do the same. Below are a couple of pages that have stood out and that perform well.
HubSpot knows and understands how to create quality pillar pages and quality content in general. The Ultimate Guide to the Best Productivity Apps is a prime example of this.
The pillar page is focused on productivity apps, which is a subject they know their readers want to know more about. It’s set up to look similar to a blog, but it provides a wealth of information that is important to their readers, as well as people who are simply searching online for the topic. They have a good internal linking structure, a focused piece of content, and graphics that help to make it visually appealing. It is also easily shareable, which is important for pillar content.
Population Healthier is a pillar page from The Atlantic that combines data, interesting visuals, in-depth content, graphs, charts, plenty of links, and a great overall design. It’s an impressive page that serves its purpose well. It also features an accessible table of contents if needed, and overall, it’s easy to navigate.
Although it may not be possible to emulate this look and feel entirely for all pillar pages, it can provide you with some ideas you may want to incorporate.
Spot on provides a relatively simple but highly effective pillar page that focuses on building a digital marketing strategy for healthcare software. It is a well-written page that features a table of contents near the top, making it easy for users to navigate.
The page is well organized, easy to read, and contains links that will take the user back to the top of the page, to different content pages, etc. It covers a wealth of topics that should help anyone interested in the topic to get answers to their questions. It also provides a download to a PDF version, so it can be downloaded and read later. To get the download, the reader needs to provide their name, email, and other information. Giving someone the convenience of a PDF like this is a good way to capture visitors’ emails.
Tracking Your Success with Pillars
It’s important to have a quality marketing campaign in place that will measure the leads and the sales that are generated from your pillar over time. The marketing team should be able to look at the analytics of your site to see the customers who visited and spent time on the pillar content and your other content. They can see how long the visitors stayed on different pages, the links they clicked, and whether they converted and became a customer.
The data gleaned from marketing professionals can be valuable when it comes to your content marketing campaign. It allows you to see where you’ve made the most progress, which posts are working, and which posts need work to compete. Knowing the number of leads and sales you are getting from each pillar over time will be highly valuable.
You need to implement metrics that are easy to use and understand. The tools you use should provide you with an easy way to understand what’s happening with the content you’ve created. Proper data ensures that you can improve your content and actively improve it and all of your future content going forward.
The Goal of Pillar Pieces
What’s the ultimate goal of pillar pieces? The content needs to do several things for you and your site. They need to ensure that you’re getting ranked well in the search engines for starters. They also need to provide quality content that your readers want and need. The content should also include calls to action, links to more information on the topic, and it should take your readers closer to signing up for more content through your email list or a newsletter, so you can make a sale at some point.
Get Help with Pillar Content and Marketing from Professionals
The idea of creating pillar pages can be overwhelming for many businesses and individuals. Having just a few pillar pages on your site that cover your most important topics and that are filled with cluster topics can be difficult. It could require the addition of 10 or 20 thousand words of pillar content, not to mention all of the other posts.
A single pillar page might take as much as 10 hours including the time for writing, research, editing, revisions, and proper linking. You can’t ignore the need for pillar pages, but it can be difficult to find the time.
Since you likely have many other aspects of your business you need to handle, you may not have full-time writers or a marketing team that can write all of the pillar page and other posts, which can be time-consuming and requires a special skill set. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to consider working with professionals who can take care of it for you. Get in touch and learn what we can do to help. We can put it all in action, so you can benefit from having quality pillar pages and a great overall site.