If you think you’ve already understood the ins and outs of SEO, think again.
Search algorithms and human behaviour are changing rapidly, and sticking to one idea of what SEO is can do more harm than good. Sure, writing quality content and choosing the right keywords are still important factors, but that isn’t the whole nine yards.
What should you do when Google and other search engines are changing the game?
There’s too much content out there, especially since businesses have gone virtual. Now, you have to establish that you’re an authority in your niche. And the right way to showcase your influence is by building your content through pillar pages and topic clusters.
Simply put, SEO content pillars can truly do wonders for your blog architecture, especially with the help of our SEO content services. Learn more about it here, improve your overall SEO structure and rank higher in the SERPs!
What are Content Pillars?
Content pillars or pillar pages are pieces of website content that often act as the landing page for a content hub. It provides a detailed overview and themes of a certain core subject, introducing the audience to related ideas or subtopics.
Generally, pillar pages are longer than blog posts. While there is no magic word count when creating them, they should have at least 2,000 words because you have to cover all the bases of a topic.
They should be filled with useful information so search engines and users will automatically see you as an authority in your niche. Remember, Google tends to recognise the sites that people often turn to when searching for an answer.
Topic Clusters: How the Content Pillar Strategy Works
No matter how great your pillar pages are, they won’t work on their own. Like a car that needs its engine to start, content pillars can only plod away if they depend on cluster pages or topic clusters.
Introduced by Hubspot, topic clusters are groups of content related to one subject. It comes in a hub-and-spoke model—every cluster has a central pillar page (the hub) and is surrounded by cluster pages (the spokes).
But what’s the difference between pillar pages and cluster pages, exactly? Glad you asked. While pillar pages cover general topics, the cluster ones talk about specific subjects relevant to that topic.
The Benefits of Content Pillar Pages: How They Help SEO
Now that you have an idea of what SEO content pillars are, you might wonder if it truly works. Aside from boosting your SEO, will the strategy really help you structure your content and attract more visitors in the long run? Let’s dive deeper into its benefits below:
Improved Site Structure
When Google tries to understand your content, its algorithm doesn’t just focus on web pages alone. It evaluates your content altogether and how every one of them relates to each other. So, if you’ve published lots of content, having a pillar page unifies all of them and creates a proper structure.
This enhances your overall site structure, allowing Google to know your expertise and choose the right URL for certain questions. Moreover, improving site structure means enhancing the user experience.
Think about it. If you want to learn more about a certain topic, you’d rather click on a specific topic page that links to relevant articles. That would save you lots of time sifting through over 100 blogs just to find what you’re looking for.
Allows You to Showcase Your Expertise
Another benefit of pillar pages and topic clusters is that Google, the media and your stakeholders will likely view you as an authority when your content is structured. So, when search engines know that you’re a reliable source of information, ranking higher on the SERPs is much easier.
Keep in mind that Google wants to give searchers the most relevant information. Pillar pages allow you to discuss a subject matter from various angles, proving that you can be considered an expert in your niche.
Create Better Content
One of the hardest things about organic content marketing is you can run out of great ideas. When there’s too much noise on the web, how do you come up with something original and gain more clicks?
This is where the content pillar strategy comes into play. By establishing a content cluster and the main topic, you can access a plethora of related content that can potentially boost your SEO. The time you will spend guessing topics you can write about will now be invested in the act of writing itself.
Let’s say you want to discuss laptop issues. You can write about malware attacks, Wi-Fi connectivity issues and unresponsive keyboards, among other things. Generating content now feels a lot easier, especially when you know what to focus on.
Types of Content Pillars
The ‘Guide’ Pillar Page
If you want to publish an ultimate guide on your website, the ‘guide’ pillar page is right up your alley. For instance, you can write a 101 guide for beginners on a certain subject or create something aimed at a specific sector. It will serve as a content piece that proves your authority, establishes your brand and builds trust among your target audience.
For users who are interested in a specific topic, the guide pillar page is considered the authoritative destination. It links to related cluster pages to help you expand your knowledge on different aspects of a subject matter, often connected to a keyword.
The ‘What Is’ Pillar Page
There’s an obvious change in how people input their searches on search engines. You’ve probably noticed that users are now making queries in the form of ‘what is…’ to learn more about a topic they’re interested in.
- What is UX/UI design?
- What is remote work?
- What is gothic architecture?
Giving your target audience a comprehensive answer to their questions can help you become their go-to platform. Having a ‘what is’ pillar page allows you to provide a definitive examination of a subject—a resource page that discusses a topic in detail, linking to cluster pages.
Let’s take a look at a good example. Built In’s pillar page on artificial intelligence gives a comprehensive overview of what AI is and how it’s changing finance, online gaming and the search landscape. It also has different sections that further expand the topic such as machine learning, deep learning and AI history.
What’s more, the page links to AI companies striving to make a change in healthcare, web applications and technological innovations. This keeps the reader engaged and informed throughout the reading process.
The ‘How-To’ Pillar Page
What makes the ‘how-to’ pillar page from the previous type discussed above is that it tells you how something is done rather than giving you a definition. That way, you can help users solve problems, improve their processes and understand mechanisms not written in a manual.
Oftentimes, step-by-step tutorials are used in this kind of pillar page. You can even include illustrations to make things clearer and visually appealing.
For instance, let’s say you want to create an instructional guide on how to make videos. Your how-to pillar page may consist of types of instructional videos, how to make videos using a camera and how to create videos using screen recordings, to name a few.
To keep things more comprehensive, you can link out to relevant cluster pages like green screens, video editing software, good lighting and equipment.
How to Create SEO Content Pillars: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’re ready to implement pillar pages and topic clusters on your platform, take a closer look at this step-by-step tutorial:
Step # 1: Choose a Topic You Want to Rank For
The first step is typically the hardest part. The topic you must choose should be broad enough that it can be broken down into segments, but not too broad that it’s unachievable to write a comprehensive page.
As a rule of thumb, a topic should have five to 20 subtopics.
For instance, the topic of ‘jobs’ is too broad for a pillar page. However, if you make it more specific and talk about ‘how to find online jobs’ instead, you can touch on many related topics and create several blog posts.
Start by considering your business or niche and ask yourself questions. What do you offer to your customers? What customer needs can you meet based on your products and services? How are you going to outperform your competitors?
You can also consider these common characteristics of a good topic for a pillar page:
- Informational intent – When creating a pillar page, you have to give up the sales pitch. Customers want to learn something new, not buy your product.
So, to verify if the topic you’re vying for has informational intent, Google it. If the search results display several blogs or articles, then that’s your go signal.
- Search traffic potential – Use an SEO tool like Ahrefs and look at the Traffic Potential (TP) beside each keyword.
Step # 2: Identify keywords
Just because the content pillar strategy doesn’t ultimately focus on keywords doesn’t mean they’re not relevant at all. It still remains to be a vital part of creating topic clusters and pillar pages, so don’t forget to conduct thorough keyword research.
This will help you determine what your customers are searching for. It lets you know about their questions and pain points regarding a topic. Most importantly, this makes it easier for you to see which keywords are driving traffic to a competitor’s website.
Step # 3: Build a map of topics by grouping keywords and phrases
This is the part where things can get a little too complicated. When building a map of topic groups, you have to group your keywords without making your in-depth blogs too broad or similar. You have to balance things out this time. If you fail to do so, you won’t rank for your target keywords.
For example, your target keyword is ‘digital marketing strategy’. It’s likely possible that search engines will display URLs for related keywords such as ‘campaign digital marketing strategies’ and ‘what is digital marketing’.
Keep in mind that your pillar page should also link to several related publications. Although there is no exact number of supplementary pages, the general rule of thumb is that the page should have between eight to 22 relevant content pieces.
Step # 4: Write the cluster pages
Once you’ve determined the main pillar topic and found the keywords, it’s time to do the rough work. Since this is something that will take time, patience and expertise, you might consider taking advantage of our SEO content writing services.
However, if you decide to do your own content creation, make sure that you build a content calendar to keep track of your progress. Analyse your competitors’ content as well to know what you’re competing against. In that way, identifying gaps you can fill becomes much easier.
Step # 5: Write the pillar page
Typically, SEO content pillar pages are at least 2,000 words long. They should always be comprehensive. But here’s a warning: when it comes to summarising your subtopics, keep it concise so that your audience will be hooked into reading your cluster pages using internal links.
At the same time, you need to include enough information to make sure search engines and users will find it authoritative and relevant. Always keep your audience in mind when writing the main content and answer their questions.
Thanks to the drastic evolution of Google, you can’t just repeat your target keywords many times in the hopes of ranking higher. If you do so, you will be penalised, especially when it doesn’t add any value to the content.
That’s why you should mainly focus on writing informative, detailed and relevant pieces that impress the audience, not search engines. You can also add infographics or video content to boost your SEO and UX.
Step # 6: Promote your content pillar
One of the most common mistakes that digital marketers make is leaving all the work to Google right after they create a pillar page. They assume that the job is done, merely waiting for users to discover their hard work.
Know that the content pillar strategy can only be effective if you promote your pillar page. Here are some tips you may consider:
- Find newsletters that curate the best content in your niche. Know the email addresses of newsletter writers and pitch your pilar pages to get them included.
- Get started on your link-building strategy. Remember that links are an important factor if you want to rank higher on SERPs. You can begin by applying off-page SEO techniques and listing backlinks from trusted sites.
- Work with influencers or micro-influencers who can help drive traffic to your website.
- Try finding unlinked mentions of your brand, reach out to the site owner and ask them to link to one of your pages.
Gone are the days when search engines were too specific, technical and stiff. Now, users can submit more conversational searches and Google will give them exactly what they want. And even if search queries are vague, Google is getting better at finding the most accurate information possible.
What does this mean for SEO experts and bloggers? It means that you have to keep up, organise your content and identify gaps that would prevent a user from ending up on your site. Luckily, the best way you can achieve this is through SEO content pillar pages.
Bear in mind that this strategy isn’t solely focused on gaining more traffic. When you create a pillar page, your goal should be focused on improving user experience and widening your readers’ knowledge on certain topics.
What four pillars are essential in SEO?
The four pillars that are essential in SEO include on-site optimisation, technical SEO, off-site SEO and content.
What is a 10X content pillar page?
A 10X content pillar page contains your own proprietary content. Think of it as an ungated e-book or a guide. You can use it to provide background information for your target topic, and then discuss other details surrounding your subtopics, linking to other resources where users can learn more.
What are pillar and cluster pages?
Pillar pages are detailed content pieces that broadly discuss the main topic and link out to relevant informative articles on certain subtopics. On the other hand, cluster pages are a group of content focused on a broad subject matter, having a narrower focus based on user intent.