What is a Pillar Page & How to Create One – The SME Guide
It’s not just your individual blog posts that matter – the way they all relate to each other through internal linking can have a huge impact on your website’s SEO. Provide Google with a clear roadmap for indexing your site and the hard work you put into creating your blog content will pay off dividends SEO-wise. This is where pillar pages come in.
How the way people search is changing
Gone are the days you could write short and sweet blog posts on whatever topic that popped into your head with an equally short and sweet keyword or two as the focus and expect for your blog post to rank highly.
Also gone are the days you could stuff your content with lots of more or less applicable keywords in a clearly unnatural way and still enjoy good domain authority as a result.
Search engines are getting smarter by the day, favouring web content that provides a user-friendly experience over obvious attempts at pleasing search algorithms.
On top of this, the way we use search engines is changing and as a result, so are the search engines themselves. As search engines have become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives and with quantity overtaking quality when it comes to web content, we’re favouring search queries that are:
- More complex
- More conversational
What this means for SEO Content Marketing
This means the way we do SEO content marketing has to change, too. You need to narrow down the topics you write about in order to more accurately answer your potential customers’ more complex search queries and stand out from the sea of competing content.
But this alone isn’t enough – you need to be able to show search engines that any given blog post or page on your website that answers a query like this is just the tip of the iceberg of related, authoritative content. This is where the way you structure your blog and website comes into play.
What is pillar content?
In order for Google and other search engines to see you as an authority within your niche, you need to showcase your expertise through a number of different pieces of interlinking content on the subject.
Enter the pillar page. Like inbound marketing, this is another industry-defining term coined by the martech company Hubspot.
Say you need to buy some miso paste for a dish you’re cooking. You can think of a pillar page as a big supermarket. It’s got everything you need to get through the week from produce or batteries.
But in order to find where things are, you need a guide. Signage within the supermarket guides you from ready meals to the bakery section to world foods, where you’ll find your miso paste.
Now, a supermarket can’t be known for selling only miso paste since not all that many people are searching for it. But by providing a variety of items under one roof with clear signage showing you where you need to go, they can make a great profit.
Your pillar page is like that supermarket. It’s a single topic you consider yourself to be an expert in, such as activewear. Under that sit a number of articles that link to it, forming a topic cluster.
What are topic clusters?
Topic clusters are what pillar pages link to – they’re individual pieces of content targeting specific keywords within the topic you’ve dedicated your pillar page to, providing more detailed information on things you don’t go too deep into in the copy on your pillar page.
So while your pillar page provides a broad overview of your topic, your cluster content pages go into more detail about various sub-topics under this umbrella. For our pillar content example of activewear for runners, this could include articles for how to dress for your runs in different seasons, running tips, information on performance fabrics, and more.
Your cluster content should link back to your pillar page and vice versa through hyperlinks that accurately describe the content they link to in order to create a clear roadmap for search engines to crawl.
How to create a pillar page in four steps
1. Choosing your pillar page type
Now that we understand what pillar content is, we can get onto creating our own. To start things off, we need to choose the type of pillar page we want to produce – there are two main ones you should be aware of.
10x Pillar page
This type of pillar page is the more popular one, providing a wealth of original content to the reader through the cluster content linked to it. It consists of content created by you and you alone, providing a deep dive into the topic at hand. It’s called that because the aim is to create something ten times better than the content currently ranking for your chosen topic.
This type of a pillar page does take a long time to develop, from your long-form pillar page content (likely 3,000+ words} to all of your cluster content. Especially if you don’t have professional SEO copywriting experience, creating all this could be a challenge and getting a content marketing expert to give you a hand might be advantageous.
However, the upside is that Google loves original content and rewards you accordingly. You’re not risking plagiarising anyone else’s work and you can continue to reap the benefits of SEO-optimised original content for years to come with minimal updates.
Resource pillar page
This is the easier of the two types of pillar pages to create. It basically entails creating a page that brings together a variety of content related to your topic from around the web, creating a bookmarkable reference page for those interested in the topic.
The upside of this form of pillar page is that it’s quicker to put together – you don’t necessarily need to produce any of your own cluster content for it, though you can. All you need to do is create a curated list of resources and offer some context for why they’re relevant in the copy.
The downside is that while this is still a good way to boost your SEO, it’s not as effective as the 10x pillar page since many of the links found within will send people off your website. It’s also not the most effective way to showcase your thought leadership within your niche.
2. Finding your pillar content topic
Next, we have to choose the topic for our pillar page.
Your topic should be a wide enough topic that there are lots of people searching for it and related keywords but not so wide that it encapsulates everything you do in one fell swoop.
For example, it would be difficult for us as a small digital marketing agency to rank for a pillar page along the lines of “Complete Guide to Digital Marketing”. The competition would be extremely fierce and it would be a challenge to create enough cluster content for that pillar page to provide a truly “complete” guide.
There are two ways you can approach finding a topic for your pillar page:
- The first is to simply think of your blog in terms of the kinds of topics you’d like for your brand to be seen as an expert on and then thinking of subtopics that would fit under that category.
→ This process should involve keyword research in order to validate your content ideas with demonstrable search intent from your audience.
- If you have a decent library of existing blog content, you could also audit your blog to find what are basically topic clusters without a pillar page – several blog posts that all relate to the same wider topic – and choose that for your pillar page topic.
→ With some simple changes to these blogs and by writing that pillar page for them to link to, this could be a great way to try and drive more traffic to high-quality content that may have not been properly keyword-optimised when it was first published.
3. Adding cluster content to your pillar page
When it comes to creating your cluster content, brainstorm topics and questions related to your parent topic. This is where talking to your existing customers and doing some keyword research will come in handy.
You may also find that some of your existing blog content could be used as cluster content – just make sure to amend it so that it links back to your new pillar page. This gives you a chance to recycle some old content that may not have been performing all that well, rewriting and adding to it to create great cluster content.
4. Updating your pillar content
This is not a “set it and forget it” type of content marketing campaign. In order to keep your pillar page and related cluster content performing, you have to edit and add to it regularly. This way, it remains a useful and timely resource for your audience.
Content marketing services at Bundle Digital
Pillar pages are a great way to boost your website’s SEO and show off your expertise within your niche, but they do take a lot of time and hard work to perfect. That’s why working with a content marketing agency can be so helpful: a professional writer will have a chat with you about your topic and then create great content for you, optimised for SEO.
Interested in learning more? You can read more about content marketing services here at Bundle Digital here and drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.