- What Are Pillar Pages?
- Benefits of Content Pillars
- How to Create Content Pillars
- How to Structure and Write Content for Pillar Pages
Create awesome content, they said.
It’s an absolute miracle worker, they said.
More traffic, more engagement, more sales, higher authority, higher rankings, you name it.
But there’s content... and there’s content.
Most people fall into the trap of creating short mediocre articles on the daily that don’t age well and end up lost in a sea of similar content that never sees the light of day (umm, the light of eye?)
Basic intuition tells us that people don’t have the time to read extremely long articles because nobody is that interested in what you have to say.
I beg to differ.
And data has my back.
Long-form content beats short content any day.
Longreads of 3000+ words get x3 more traffic, x4 more shares and x3.5 more backlinks than articles of average length (901-1200 words). (Semrush)
On the flip side, creating high-quality content that is consistent, informative, super-targeted, well-optimized and caters to your audience is not an easy feat.
To top it off try creating this awesome content for a topic cluster strategy.
Yup, not a simple task that much is clear.
Good thing I am here to walk you through the hardest part.
So hold tight, don’t lose hope and let’s get started!
What Are Pillar Pages?Pillar pages are typically long-form content heavy pages that cover an entire topic.
Basically, pillar pages are the center around which topic clusters are built.
A pillar page broadly covers everything there’s to know about a certain topic leaving room for more detailed pages to complement it. Take it this way whether your site visitor has no idea what you are talking about or is someone very well versed in that particular topic you’ve got to offer both of them useful information.
The difference between pillar pages and any other long-form content page such as skyscrapers, 10x content, reports, etc. is that pillars are way more than a single page that’s created for the sole purpose of ranking. Pillar pages are part of a structure while these other types of long-form content sit on their own and only fend for themselves.
You should think of pillar pages as the gateway for your supporting articles.
Pillar pages are as the name suggests pillars you organize your blog around. They are not random pages created for the sake of targeting a keyword. These are pages that define your overall content strategy and website structure.
Therefore there’s no mistaking the importance of pillar pages and the obvious benefits that follow with having strong content pillars.
Benefits of Content Pillars
Topical AuthorityThe obvious benefit of creating pillar pages is topical authority.
Let’s look at it this way.
Your topic is a mountain and at the top is the fathead keyword everyone wants to rank for.
But what if directly going after that keyword you slowly move your way up the mountain by covering the smaller aspects of the topic first. Once you have everything and anything there’s to write about down, you can go ahead and create a page that sums it all up and links back to these targeted content pieces.
You can do the same in the opposite order but the logic stays the same. That’s why it’s called a strategy. Plan first, execute later.
Plus you can target that juicy keyword you’ve been eyeing knowing full well you’re going to leave your competition in the dust.
Why am I so sure?
The fact that you made all that effort to provide your users with the most complete information on that particular topic won’t go unnoticed by G.
By offering such detailed information around a certain topic you are basically positioning yourself as an authority, a thought leader one might say, who is a credible source of information within that niche.
Aside from gaining topical authority which directly impacts your rankings across the whole niche not just for select keywords your pillar page lifts up the rest of the pages within the cluster by spreading its authority across all of them with the help of carefully placed internal links.
Real ValueAside from higher rankings, traffic and more conversions, there’s smth more important: an enjoyable customer experience. Any content marketing strategy should have the customer experience in mind but it’s especially true for content pillars.
You are aiming to provide the most comprehensive, information-packed, problem-solving, easy-to-navigate content that actually answers their questions. And because of the unique structure of your page and the support from complementary articles, your visitors will feel very satisfied with their experience.
What does Google love more than awesome content?
Pleasing its users.
OrganizationProbably the most overlooked but no less important perk of topical clusters is organization: both for users and for you.
It’s often quite difficult to find the information you need in the sea of mediocre content available on the web.
The vast majority of blogs look like this:
This flat structure these content creators adapt is not user-friendly at all. It can get crowded real fast and no internal linking can save that mess.
While some marketers use topic clusters to properly structure and organize their content.
By creating pillar pages you are simply directing your visitors through your website ultimately making their lives a lot easier and streamlining their online experience.
This type of content structuring makes it very easy for your readers to navigate through your content and get the exact information they need without having to leave your site and make a new search again. This reduces bounce rate greatly and gets your audience to spend a bit extra time interacting with your content which signals search engines about the value you are offering.
But it’s not just the users that get the perks of content pillars.
This type of structure makes it so much easier for crawlers to find and index all of your webpages. The heavy lifting goes to internal links in this case but the thoughtfully written urls and the tiered site structure don’t hurt either.
How to Create Content PillarsAll that talk about higher rankings, more traffic, better user experience, topical authority is good and all but how do you actually make the pillar content strategy work for your brand?
Hint: ask your customers, they know everything.
Identify Buyer PersonasWay before even thinking about writing any content the first step has got to be getting your customer persona sorted out.
You might wonder why do I need to create customer personas when I only wanted to create content?
This is exactly where most people go wrong.
Content creation is not something to be taken lightly.
It’s a part of a wider marketing strategy that needs to be based on real data and research instead of guesswork.
In the past few years, the marketing landscape has changed a lot. Traditional marketing strategies and channels are pretty much nonexistent nowadays replaced by fancy alternatives.
And the mistake most new marketers make is focusing too much on whatever is trendy at the moment instead of the fundamentals of marketing that haven’t changed one bit since 1970.
Yup, they haven’t.
Our distribution channels have.
Back in the day people spent thousands of dollars on billboard ads and now they are replaced by digital banner ads for a fraction of the cost.
Instead of print advertising, we have digital media outlets, instead of radio, podcasts have taken the world by storm. And most importantly instead of the sales assistant, you have your website. She has all the information, persuasion and charm to get you to buy that dress you really don’t need.
People used to spend five, even six figures on tv ads and the like. That’s now replaced by content, in all shapes and sizes.
Digital is good and all but you can never forget the foundation any digital campaign should be built on: marketing. I mean I see countless businesses popping up who have no idea what they are doing, no strategy whatsoever, no sense of the market, no target customer base. They just rely on TikTok to sell their product.
Dream on. Cue Aerosmith.
These digital prodigies you see on social media unexpectedly growing to millions of followers is either pure luck (doubtful) or some dirty laundry nobody talks about.
I always say if you see words like instant, immediate, overnight, skyrocket, magic run away.
Basing a business on pure luck to go viral overnight is not a strategy, point-blank.
And I am 100% sure the people who believe that’s how marketing is done are not reading this, as they are too busy making their next ‘viral video’ to be bothered with creating an actual long-term content creation strategy that can work for years to come.
So who are you creating content for?
Your customers. Well, I hope your customers.
Who are they? Who is the real human behind the screen reading your post right now?
Do you know?
It’s important that any piece of content you create supports visitors becoming customers. That’s the end goal, right?
You might think ‘huh, I know exactly who my target person is’. But do you?
Prove me wrong.
Do you know what your target buyer does for a living?
Do you know their interests?
What do they do after work?
What sort of background do they have?
What about their pain points?
What makes them tick?
What causes them distress?
What makes them absolutely batshit angry?
What about something that puts a smile on their face?
Are you aware of their buying patterns?
You should be.
I’m not purposely making this sound super complicated so that you give up creating pillar pages altogether, I understand that’s what you came here for.
I just don’t want to be another Neill Patel (no shade, no tea) giving you watered-down irrelevant advice that will flop once you start.
Creating very targeted buyer personas is not easy. It required a ton of existing and collected data, analysis, some deduction work and most importantly implementation.
If you don’t have the basic characteristics of your customer persona figured out yet I’d say you’ve got to get a move on. Use your existing customer base as a guide then build upon that.
Listen to your customer, know exactly what’s keeping them up at night, come up with a perfect solution for each of your personas and bundle it up in a nice shiny package.
Simple but very effective.
Keywords, Keywords, KeywordsDon’t give up just yet. And please don’t say who needs keywords, it’s 2021!
Exactly it’s 2021, you need it more than ever.
Over the past few years, everyone and their mom along with their childhood friend have been putting out content into the world for one purpose or another.
Now we are left with an immeasurable amount of information that clogs up the search, makes things super difficult for our friend G here and creates somewhat irrelevant SERPs filled with paraphrased content.
So how do you beat this intense competition for some first-page real estate?
With killer content that targets the topic at hand.
See I didn’t say keywords, I said topic.
You want your brand to be visible for core topics, not mere keywords.
Keyword research is not the same as it used to be a few years ago. Well for me it isn’t.
If you’d like to know the exact steps by step strategy I use when conducting keyword research make sure to check out this piece where I go in-depth about the whole process.
Choose a Head TermBasically with the topic clustering strategy keywords are the roadmap that you need to follow closely and target mindfully to actually cover the topic in full.
I don’t want to go into much detail here because I wrote that whole guide but I’ll give you an overview.
After finding your buyer persona’s pain points, identify the general topic that targets their problem. Mine every single keyword you can find for that topic, put it in a sheet and head over to Keyword Cupid.
Don’t be afraid of going after bigger terms, especially for the pillar page. The topic itself can be your head term as long as it’s within reason. The greatest benefit of topical clusters is the ability to cover the whole topic and rank for most keywords that relate to said topic.
Meaning once you have your cluster ready and your epic pillar in place ranking for that extra competitive keyword won’t be such a big deal after all.
Identify Supporting TopicsNow the part where everything either goes downhill or ...
I’ve touched on this previously, but it’s worth mentioning again.
Do not avoid low search volume keywords like the plague.
I mean 20, 10, 0 search volume.
We are all so used to the outdated SEO tactics that have been drilled into our heads when we hear things like this it doesn’t make sense. I remember a time when these low-volume keywords were not even worth considering let alone optimizing for.
For those of us who’ve been adapting to the ever-changing search landscape, this emphasis on long-tails comes as no surprise.
Since Google’s semantic search engine very well understands thematic relations between different search terms, there’s no point in leaving low search keywords out when creating a targeting strategy.
Plus the fact that nobody knows how valid these volume metrics are and how accurately they represent the SERPs.
I mean you can have a very small niche that’s targeted to a very specific audience which makes the search volumes of your head terms even lower than you’d expect but that doesn’t mean you should give up on creating useful content around that topic or go after a broader topic for the sake of attracting a wider audience. You don’t need a wider audience.
The beauty of this strategy is the ability to target as many keywords as you’d like and ranking for most of them. Trust me these searches add up. The amount of traffic you can generate with low volume, low competition keywords is astonishing.
Besides, some keywords with very low searches that you might neglect to pay attention to can have the potential to spike in the coming months. And if you are smart enough to target it beforehand, guess who gets the rankings?
This stands true especially with newer product/service/software offers that the market is not familiar with and it’s up to you to create interest around it first and make these searches come in.
Why not be the trendsetter instead of the follower? Just saying. Especially when you have KC on your side to whisper about the latest changes in the SERPs.
Cluster Your KeywordsAfter you have your keyword research file ready head over to Keyword Cupid and let the tool do its clustering magic.
You can do it manually as well but who are we kidding? Nobody has weeks to group together thousands of keywords when you can have it done within hours with KC.
Still, if you’d like to know how the whole grouping thing works check out this keyword clustering piece.
You can run separate reports for each topic cluster. Or have a full keyword research file that contains a few of your core topics and create different clusters around each.
The second option works well for existing blogs as you can easily pair each of your well-performing articles to appropriate clusters.
But...not everything is so linear.
Chances are most often than not your topic clusters are going to overlap. The picture-perfect diagram you saw above is not very realistic.
Most of the time your core topics are very much related to each other and some of the supporting content pieces can easily fall under both clusters. And that’s perfectly ok.
You might see the same reflected in the KC report where you can have similar keyword groups under different clusters.
Not to worry it’s completely natural and not messy at all. One of the main reasons marketers love content clusters is that it removes unnecessary content from your blog and makes everything organized.
But if you follow the rigid silo model and create clusters that do not overlap you risk repeating the same content a few times over or having an incomplete cluster. None of these scenarios is ideal.
Just be mindful of such overlaps and carry on creating your content.
After you have your clusters ready make sure to read this piece on how to go from cluster to content where I talk about the exact steps I take to analyze the KC output and form it into an actionable content marketing strategy.
How to Structure and Write Content for Pillar PagesI look at pillar pages as landing pages.
You are not selling anything but technically that’s exactly what the page is for.
Plus the carefully placed CTAs that drive some good-ole clicks)
Depending on your website structure you might have your hub pages at different levels of your website’s structure.
I suggest using the silo structure where your pillars are second-level pages just like the rest of your landing pages. If you are curious about its benefits go over to this SEO silos guide.
Regardless your pillar page needs to have a certain structure and look to it which makes it different than your average blog post.
Pillar pages are usually very long and cover an extensive amount of information. They can go over 10k+ words. I’d say a good length is anywhere between 3000-6000 words but it very much depends on the width of the topic and how much there is to cover.
The key here is to disperse your information very mindfully and keep your reader’s attention throughout the whole piece.
Whether you are creating guides, list posts, how-tos, or best of posts make sure to properly structure your page and section it out. As you are supposed to go over each point the supporting articles will cover later on I suggest dividing your pillar page into different paragraphs and inserting related articles under each one of them.
A good example is Brafton’s content creation page.
It’s very healful for the user as they can click on the article they are interested in most without leaving the page. Plus the clickable table of contents and the clearly defined paragraphs make reading such a long article much easier.
Finally, we are nearing the finish line.
It takes a lot to create proper content clusters but it’s so worth it when you open GA and see your efforts are paying off.
Generally, there are three ways you can go about creating pillar pages for your website that I have previously talked about in the content creation guides.
- Create a pillar page along with supporting content from zero
- Turn an existing e-book, white paper, etc, into a pillar
- Create a pillar page for a bunch of supporting content you already have and rank for
You may have noticed KC’s cool feature SERP Spy. But what is SERP Spy?
The same very well speak for itself. It scapes the SERPs and gives you accurate data on what exactly your competitors are doing to rank for that particular keyword.
We are talking word count, the number of H2s, H3s so that your pillar page structure has more data behind it. The average number of bolded keywords pointing the reader’s attention to the most important info. The number of outbound links to authoritative resources to make your piece appear well-research and full of useful data.
And you can find all of this in your Excel report. Just double click on the header row and your data is ready to be used for every single keyword in every single cluster.
Pretty amazing if I do say so myself!
Bonus Section for Writers:Advice from a fellow writer:
- Research the heck out of your topic (I spend more time reading than writing, take that as you will)
- Identify what each piece of content you’ve read lacks
- Create a structure that actually goes over everything similar articles talk about
- Add in targeted questions your customers are asking
- Take a close look at your clusters, you need to cover most of them within the pillar page
- Combine very similar clusters under one section
- Don’t stress over keywords, add them in later
- Write for actual humans who have better things to do
- Don’t be a Wikipedia, nobody reads an encyclopedia for fun
- Section out your paragraphs and your sentences. Reading blocks of unending text in a tiny font is not an enjoyable experience
- Use shorter sentences and don’t repeat yourself
- Break up your text with headers, lots of them
- Leave room for internal linking
- Let your creativity flow
Over to YouWhew, that turned out to be a lot longer than you and I expected.
Could’ve as well made it into a pillar page about pillar pages.
Alas this was merely a supporting content piece. No, it’s not normal to write 3500-word supporting articles but I’m a bit extra when I get excited.🤷♀️
To be honest there’s a lot more that can be said about content pillars and topic clusters so if you have any unanswered questions drop me a line or leave a comment down below.
If you’ve already used Keyword Cupid for creating killer topic clusters let us know how easy it made your life and how well your efforts are paying off.
And if you haven’t, jump on a 7-day trial and see what we are all raving about.
Until next time!