Pillar content is a concept that has existed for quite a long time in the content marketing world but still tends to get overlooked by a lot of businesses.
While it is not talked about very often, the idea behind the content pillar strategy can be a surprisingly effective one.
But what does pillar content actually refer to, and how is the pillar content strategy useful when compared to other ways of handling content marketing?
Table of Contents
What is Pillar Content?
Pillar content is any piece of content designed to be “tall and broad,” – meaning that it is large, full of value, and covers enough ground to appear for a range of similar search results through an organic SEO strategy.
The idea behind pillar content is to serve as a supporting structure for a wide range of other content types.
It is long-form and covers a broad topic in a lot of detail, rather than just being a simple list of products or a short and sweet article focused on answering one specific question.
What is Pillar Content For?
Pillar content is based on the idea of “topic clusters,” which are clusters of similar topics that are all connected in terms of SEO.
For example, if somebody wants a specific kind of food, they are not just going to search “restaurants” – they will use terms that better describe what they are looking for.
This means that most SEO focuses on topics just as much as it does on keywords. This can lead to becoming an authority on certain topics being far more important, especially if your audience is engaging with multiple topics that one smaller blog post or article can’t cover.
Pillar content is designed to provide as much value as possible to readers and achieve the best search engine rankings possible.
This is done by making the pillar page focus on a specific topic in-depth, which can then be supplemented by the rest of your content and marketing strategies.
Note that pillar content is not always focused on internal links and trying to nudge users towards product pages.
Some sites use them specifically because of how much brand awareness they can build or create pillar content that is intended to boost authority rather than gain more customers.
How Would Pillar Content Help Compared to a Blog Post?
The best way to explain content pillars is to use an example. Let us say you are in the target audience for a new bed and are actively looking up content about different bed options, designs, or anything else with a similar intent behind it.
While there will be sites producing articles containing content like “The 10 Best Bed Companies in 2023” or blog posts like “I Changed To This New Bed And Fixed My Posture,” those all hinge on you having an exact interest in that topic. It also does not carry much authority since it is only one small article.
Content pillars are meant to be long-standing supports that provide a lot of information.
In this context, it would be something like a much larger page that goes into different designs, styles, brands, mattress choices, and anything else that might be relevant to somebody like you.
This is the core idea behind pillar pages: creating content that covers as much relevant information as possible in a single well-written and authoritative page.
If done well, this can become the first page that many users see when they search for a bed-related problem.
How Does Pillar Content Benefit Your Site?
By producing a top-level pillar post, you can build a solid foundation for the rest of your marketing strategy. No matter how you create content, your audience will always be able to return to the central pillar of that content cluster to get the answers that they need.
However, this is not the only benefit. Having proper foundations allows you to do a lot more with the way that you draw potential customers into your marketing funnel.
Pillar Content Appears First in Search Engine Rankings
In general, pillar content is often going to be something like an “ultimate guide” article or another piece of content that presents a lot of information in a well-structured way.
This makes it an incredibly important resource for a lot of different questions or concerns, meaning that it is useful to a wide target audience.
Due to this, it is often going to appear on the first page of results for a range of search types, as long as you target relevant keywords and get the page ranking well in the first place.
A typical content pillar strategy pulls entire topic clusters into a single article, serving as the main pillar for that entire topic. This means that a single, very information-heavy article will appear more often than a short and niche blog post.
This might not sound like much, but it means that users are much more likely to have that page as their first encounter with your site. That means that they immediately see you as a major resource for that core topic since they are being shown high-value content first.
Topic Clusters Prevent Internal Competition
While creating high-quality content for every niche question or specific keyword used to be the standard, this has meant that a lot of sites run into problems with existing content. Namely, that pages often conflict or compete with one another.
A resource pillar page bundles a lot of similar subtopics and questions into a single page that covers the whole broad topic, meaning that all users are being directed to the same comprehensive resource. This limits the chances of your content conflicting with itself when users use vague search terms.
From there, the site owner can begin creating content focused on more specific niches, tying it all back to the pillar with links or offhand references.
This means that you can focus on producing niche blog content only when you need to answer a more specific or lesser-searched question that the pillar did not cover.
Pillar Content Gives a Complete, Authoritative Answer
Authority is not just a measurement used to check how pages rank in search engines but also part of how your audience sees your site.
If you are perceived as the authority behind a specific topic, more and more people are going to turn to your site for issues related to it.
Creating pillar content allows you to merge a lot of smaller articles together, explaining the core topic in much greater detail and giving a more comprehensive answer to whatever question the user has.
This lets the pillar cover a broad range of search intents all at once, which gives it a wider reach and also more value overall. Instead of having to look for multiple articles and finding a mixture of sources from different sites, your pillar content becomes a one-stop solution.
Thanks to this, pillar articles can make a site seem like much more of an authority on a topic. This not only gives the site a stronger reputation as a trustworthy source of news and information but also tends to make the pillar articles snowball in popularity over time.
A Pillar Page Is A Great Resource
Speaking of resources, one of the main advantages of pillar pages is how easily they can grow in popularity.
Well-made pillar page content can become a consistent resource for certain sites, meaning more incoming links and, therefore, SEO boosts – which will eventually compound on itself over and over again.
Even without the SEO angle, a pillar page strategy provides a central piece of content that users may keep coming back to or referring others to. This means more traffic and many more chances to potentially earn some new customers.
Beyond that, good content pillars often spread quite quickly. If you offer the best resource for something, it is only natural to see it mentioned on related blog posts on other sites or appearing in forums. From there, your content pillar posts can get even more traction.
How to Create a Content Pillar Strategy
Content pillars are invaluable for both SEO and general traffic and engagement benefits, but it can seem daunting at first.
Thankfully, a good content pillar page does not necessarily need to be difficult to make – it just needs to be put together in the right way.
Know Your Audience
Look into what your audience is searching for. Do keyword research, check the search volume of specific keywords that you already use, and try to understand what potential customers are looking for.
Pillar content does not necessarily need to focus on the highest-search-volume keywords to be effective, but it is important to know some basic search-volume statistics anyway.
In general, you want to have an idea of how your audience is behaving and what it is they search for.
Going into a project like this with no data or expectations related to audience behavior only makes it harder to create a pillar that will appeal to them.
With pillar content, you are trying to capture as many relevant topics that are relevant to your target audiences as possible, and search volume can help with that.
It is not just search volume that matters, though. Learning how to judge things like search intent or specific demographic information can help quite a lot in specific markets.
The more you know about your general audience, the easier it gets to target pillar content at them directly, ensuring a much higher chance of success if you can get everything planned out well.
Start With The Topic
Whether you try to map the topic out in a spiderweb graph or just start writing out a list of content ideas, it is important to understand what the core topic of your pillar page will be.
Content pillars need one broad topic to work well – a product type, an industry, or a specific action.
It is important to choose a topic that can be broken down into multiple sub-topics, ideally with those also having sub-topics of their own. This gives your pillar page a wide range of information to provide, as well as a clear structure in how it should be written.
Creating good cornerstone content requires that you have a lot of information to work with because simply padding out the word count will not help. A pillar needs to be meaty and valuable to have the proper effect.
This means keeping the topic broad but not so broad that it becomes a disorganized mess. Your pillar posts have to be useful to an audience, but you will not want to write pillar content that only has a few hundred words of actual information.
Remember: the more words you need to describe your topic, the narrower it is. It needs to relate to your industry and website, but not so much that it becomes impenetrable to anybody except a very small audience.
Consider Your Role in the Pillar Post
It is important to think about how central to the pillar strategy your own brand will be. In some cases, it might be fine to link to a range of other guides on your own website, but in other cases, it might actively devalue the content due to coming across more like marketing copy.
Your content pillar page is meant to be a resource first and foremost and a marketing tool second. You do not want to link to other content pieces unless they are relevant and might provide value to the users that are reading or if they are vital to your wider marketing campaign.
Why? Well, consider how the page content reads. An “ultimate guide to social media popularity” feels a lot less honest if every section on social media tools makes sure to promote the site owner’s own social media services constantly.
Ideally, try to find a 50/50 ratio between mentioning yourself and mentioning other sources, and do not be afraid to link to resources outside of your own site.
The point is to create content that users trust and find helpful and that is more valuable than a blatant advertising link in the middle of your content pillar.
If you do not have any blog posts or relevant articles to link to, then do not force more links into the pillar.
If you write new content to supplement the content pillar strategy, that is different because you are creating something that works alongside the cluster content within the content pillar.
Create Good Content
The easiest way to get started with a content pillar strategy is to simply begin writing cluster content. Starting with a broad outline is the easiest way to understand how the pillar post needs to be laid out, and it also helps to look at other content you have created that lines up with the content pillar topic.
It is a good idea to look into topics that you have never covered before, too. Pillar content is often called cornerstone content because it forms the cornerstone of a topic, and that means that you need to focus on the entire niche – not just the parts you are familiar with.
Create a more broad and informative version of whatever information you think fits, and then fill in any gaps you can find. Cover topics you have not covered before, and write content that nobody else seems to have written. If no tutorial exists for something, write it yourself.
Content pillar pages work best when they fill in gaps and provide information that no other source does. You want to write a high-content pillar page that offers more than other articles do, rather than just rewriting existing long-form content from other sources and adding nothing else.
After that, you can flesh out what you have created and add extra value – videos, graphs, infographics, or anything else that might generate traffic and garner more attention. For example, a step-by-step guide might contain video tutorials for each major step.
You do not have to worry about linking right away, whether that is linking to other supporting elements or just other pages within your site. It is best to finish organizing content and writing the overall pillar first to ensure that it sounds natural and stays focused on the core topic.
Publish The Pillar
Publishing your pillar content is not too difficult – it is just like any other article, only on a much larger scale. You still need to consider things like the specific keywords you are using, the title and description tags, and anything else that might influence SEO or incoming website traffic.
Make sure that you optimize the metadata, the title, and any other search engine optimization elements you need. You want to have the page appear in search engine results as often as possible and to do proper keyword research so that you can understand which search results make the best targets.
Remember that this may be the landing page for a lot of traffic going forward, so keep the organic traffic in mind. Organic traffic can come from any number of search intents and keywords, including searches that you did not even plan for.
Users will be coming from both contextually relevant links in other content and from organic searches on search engines. In either case, there could be multiple dozens of different search intents and goals to consider – but as long as they are visiting, your pillar is working.
If you do not need the pillar post to be on your own site, then it can sometimes be a good idea to put the content pillar on a unique URL. This can make it more distinct and give it more of an identity separate from your own brand, but this is not the ideal option in every situation.
Monitor and Grow Your Content on Search Engines
Even with the pillar page posted, it is important to keep track of how well the content is being received and whether or not it is getting the attention it deserves.
This is also important if you want to make sure that you are keeping on top of any gaps that suddenly appear in the market. For example, if your audience is suddenly looking for new long-tail keywords not covered by the pillar, it may hint at a content marketing niche that needs to be filled.
If there is news of something new to report on, add some details about it to your site. If something is outdated, replace it with a new version of the same information. Content creation is not fire-and-forget – you should adapt and edit your content pillar to suit the current needs of your audience.
You need to stay up to date with your core topic, whether this means keyword research or major edits and corrections to your pillar post.
Are Pillar Pages Really That Important?
The Content Marketing Institute reports that content has become more important year by year for almost 75% of all online businesses, and that is not even counting the non-business sites that have to fight for each blog post that they want to get ranked on search engines.
A pillar page is the next evolution in how sites structure their content: not just focusing on the desired outcome of more traffic but also the hard fact that something like pillar pages can be much more valuable to users than a typical blog post.
Good pillar content requires a lot more focus on appealing to search engines, as well as much more in-depth keyword research and general Google search data. Google Analytics can provide some actionable insights into how a pillar should be formed, but you are still taking risks.
Is that risk worth it? As far as we have seen with most businesses that have created at least one pillar post, absolutely.
A good pillar post provides user engagement, search and referral traffic, backlinking, higher authority, and constant relevance. These are all things that digital marketing is built around, and a content pillar can be far stronger than a simple guest post or attempt at Instagram marketing.
While pillars may not be the ideal solution to every single gap in your marketing, they provide unparalleled control over how you are ranking for search engines. Beyond that, they are an inherently useful piece of content that can be tailored to suit your exact audience.
The only downside is the amount of effort required to craft a good content cornerstone – you are not just creating another basic blog post.
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