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Pillar content. Pillar pages. You’ve probably heard one or the other. Why are they important for your digital marketing strategy — and why should you start writing them?
Pillar pages are topical touchstones that serve as portals to relevant content on your site.
We’ll walk you through steps to create your own and provide you with useful pillar page examples as well as a content pillar template you can start using today.
Pillar content refers to a web page that broadly but comprehensively covers every aspect of a core topic, one that resonates with your target audience and your brand. This type of content is written to address, at a high level, any question a user searching for that core topic could possibly have.
Lengthier than most blog posts, they often range from 2,500-5,000 words, though they can be longer depending on your topic and the level of detail your competition is going into on the same issue.
Pillar content commonly takes the form of one of the following:
Service pillar pages are used to provide information on a particular service offering or product category. This type of content can be used to address relevant subservices, benefits, examples and best practices, to name a few.
While this type of pillar content provides useful information, it’s more focused on building a credible hub of links to other relevant sources.
As the name suggests, 10x pillar page content is made to be 10 times better than the top-ranking search result for a given keyword. It can be likened to a guide or an e-book but it isn’t gated, so it doesn’t require users to enter contact details to view the content.
We can’t talk about pillar content without discussing content clusters.
What are they? Think of pillar content and topic clusters like a Ferris wheel. At the center you have your pillar content addressing a core topic. All around it are passenger cars, which we can think of as related blogs, or cluster content.
They are all connected to the center, the hub, the pillar content. And all these pieces are connected via spokes, or internal hyperlinks linking to and from each other.
Every part is interconnected to make the whole work.
It’s important to keep in mind that you can have several pillar content pages, each with their own content clusters.
According to a survey from Databox, 20% of marketers polled indicated they have between 11 and 20 pillar pages, about 24% have between 6 and 10, nearly 9% have 21-50 and slightly more than 2% have more than 50. Roughly 44% indicated they had fewer than 5.
These days, the majority of search phrases consist of 4 or more words. What does this mean? People are searching with more detail because they don’t want to wade through multiple sites to find the answer they’re looking for. They value accuracy and immediacy.
That said, Google is working hard to deliver. Welcome to the age of pillar content, which can increase your online presence.
Here’s how pillar content and internal linking to cluster content helps bolster search engine optimization (SEO):
The hub-and-spoke model of topic clusters and pillars is a great way to organize and optimize your web content.
It allows you to more clearly see what content lapses you may have and when you can create more content that fulfills the unmet needs of your target audience. It also leads to a cleaner website experience, allowing easier navigation for website visitors interested in getting more information on a particular topic.
The spoke component represents the internal linking to all relevant topic clusters at hand. From an SEO perspective, this makes it easier for Google to determine what your content is all about, helping provide the most accurate response to today’s more detailed search queries. It’s no surprise that internal linking for SEO is one of the reasons why pillar content works so well.
When executed well, pillar content can enhance your authority as a thought leader in your industry.
While Google’s search algorithm is constantly evolving, one thing is certain: High-quality content doesn’t get old. Position yourself as a credible, trustworthy source on a topic and the rankings will follow.
Lengthier content is reigning supreme. According to SEMrush’s 2019 “State of Content Marketing” report, content with 3,000 or more words earns 4 times the number of shares and 3.5 times the number of backlinks than articles between 901 and 1,200 words.
The report also found that these longer reads also benefit from the most unique monthly page views on average. This is just another reason to get a jump-start on your pillar pages.
Once you’ve identified what type of pillar page you want to create and what overarching blog categories you want to create pillar content for, it’s time to get to work.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take.
When you’re choosing a core topic, you want to first focus on your brand’s target audience. This will guide your pillar content strategy.
You also want to choose a broad enough topic that will allow you to link to your content clusters, whether they’ve already been published or could be in the future.
You might even find that you already have an existing blog post that could provide a solid starting point for a pillar page. Fleshing it out a bit might be all it takes to create the comprehensive page you’re looking to develop.
Review your existing content library to see what you already have that could work as supporting content. This is content that you’ll want to link to from your pillar page. Also, identify what supporting blogs you might not have yet that you’d want to create based on your pillar content topic.
For instance, a health and wellness website might want to develop pillar content on vitamins and supplements. Subtopic examples for supporting blog posts might include: best multivitamins, supplements to aid memory, vitamins for bone health and supplements with contraindications. You get the idea.
When you’re performing research for specific keywords related to your core topic, assess your competitors. Determine what keywords they’re using and which ones are ranking for them. Also, keep in mind keyword difficulty and your own site’s ability to rank.
Consider that one keyword could have high search volume but low competition. To make the most of your pillar content SEO efforts, you’ll want to find the sweet spot that makes sense for your brand. (Incidentally, if you’re planning on developing additional supporting content, you can perform keyword research for SEO topic clusters in the same way.)
Outlining your page is another element in any pillar content strategy. Here’s what you should include:
You’ll want to include an introduction as well as a table of contents, which should ideally hyperlink to the corresponding section when clicked.
You’ll want to define your pillar content core topic shortly after the introduction. Give it its own section for clarity.
Map out your sections and draft heading titles based on your secondary keywords. Your content should provide value to the reader and satisfy search intent.
Notate when it might be helpful to cite noteworthy sources to support your statements. Make a note of which internal links you know you’ll want to link to in the copy or where you’d like to include a call to action.
After you’ve drafted your outline, start writing.
Once you’ve written your copy, consider where you could add images, infographics, videos or other supporting visuals that could enhance the piece.
Also, be sure to identify your related cluster pages and add a link to your pillar content within those blog posts. This is a crucial component of the hub-and-spoke approach. Additionally, as you create new pieces of content that relate to your core topic, be sure to link back to your pillar content.
Moreover, while your pillar content should be ungated, consider including an option on the page for users to download a gated PDF version.
After completing your initial draft, proofread and review. In addition to checking grammar and spelling, ask yourself the following:
After you publish your pillar content, get the word out.
Market it on social media channels. Consider promoting it to contacts in your database via an e-newsletter. Tell your sales representatives about it so they can share it with prospects. Use data-driven insights to monitor page performance over the short and long term.
Once you start building out your pillar pages and content clusters, keep tabs on them. Stay organized with a spreadsheet shared among your team members. Ask and answer the following, jotting down details as needed instead of simply answering “yes” or “no.”
What is/are the ...
Have we ...
Are there ...
“Ultimate guides,” “definitive guides” and “beginner guides” are commonly used in pillar content titles. Here a few examples you can refer to when writing your own pillar content.
Check out the layout of Shopify’s “The Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce Shipping and Fulfillment.” Following a short introduction, you’re provided with an overview of the sections, which when clicked link you to the appropriate section within the content body.
The guide touches on practically any question that might arise when someone’s learning about ecommerce, including shipping strategy, packaging, labeling, insurance, tracking, pricing and customs declaration, among others.
There are clear sections and subsections, paragraphs aren’t too lengthy and bullet points are used throughout.
In addition to calls to action included throughout the body, there’s internal linking to other helpful Shopify pages that expand on a certain subject. The page also provides links to helpful external resources and offers users access to a free Shopify shipping calculator.
Moz’s “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO” is a great example of a pillar content that delves into SEO basics in a format that’s clean and easy to follow.
There’s a brief introduction followed by chapter overviews with clear headings, each linking to the full chapter.
The content has relevant hyperlinks and helpful images that expand on the copy, which is chunked into short paragraphs. There are also bullet points and subheadings.
Additionally, an SEO glossary provides definitions of key terms discussed in the pillar content, broken up by chapter.
This pillar content is so effective that it has the top ranking on Google for the keyword “SEO” and the phrase “keyword research.”
HubSpot’s “The Ultimate Guide to Software as a Service (SaaS)” is another example of top-ranking pillar content, earning the No. 1 spot for the keyword phrase “SaaS guidelines” and ranks third for “learn SaaS development.”
Since HubSpot offers customer relationship management (CRM) software, covering this topic as pillar content makes sense for them. The content covers all aspects of software as a service, including what it is, what SaaS companies do, types of SaaS products, how SaaS relates to sales and marketing, pricing models and resources.
They broadly answer any question a reader might have on the topic, saving more detail for follow-up blog posts that will link to and from the pillar content.
Here’s a layout you can refer to when writing your pillar content.
Remember to use internal linking to connect your cluster content. Be sure to link your cluster content back to your pillar content, too. Also, backlink to authoritative sources you’ve cited.
Now that you know the essentials of how to write pillar content, it’s time to get to work creating your own.
Start making comprehensive pages that meet the needs of your target audience, keep your content organized and increase your authority on the given topic. Make your Ferris wheel a memorable one.