Pillar content is a strategy of content marketing that intelligently structures central and secondary content. The basic content is the actual pillar content around which topic clusters are grouped. The long-term effect of this approach is the position of an expert on a particular topic. For many keywords – especially long-tail keywords – this position has a positive effect on Google ranking. Pillar Pages give Google a clear signal of the relevance of a website for a specific topic.
Understanding the rules of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not always easy, mainly because the search engine algorithms constantly change. However, it is important to stay updated because this is the only way to ensure your blog posts achieve a good ranking in the search results. A current trend that you should pay attention to in this regard is topic clusters and content strategies that are designed to build authority for such clusters.
The search behaviour of users has changed, as has the technology used to interpret and generate search results. So far, longtail keywords have been the focus of most SEO strategies. But a lot has changed here and new approaches have come to the fore, affecting your content’s structural organization.
In this post, we want to take a closer look at how user search behavior has changed, the benefits of SEO strategies that focus on topic clusters, and what pillar sites are all about.
Some of the other content-related guidelines are:
- What is thin content?
- What is duplicate content?
- What is Evergreen Content?
- What is hidden content?
- What is Content Seeding?
What is Pillar Content?
Pillar is the English word for a pillar or support. The catchphrase Pillar Content stands for a paradigm shift in content marketing. The trend is moving away from a purely keyword-oriented SEO strategy and towards focusing on topics. A pillar page provides comprehensive and, at the same time, compact information on a topic. A topic or content cluster is grouped around this pillar page.
- The term cluster stands for a cluster of similar elements that must be brought into a certain structure.
The secret of effective pillar content is to structure the many aspects of a topic. The pillar is the starting point for further specialized content. An example:
- The main topic (corresponding to the main keyword) is the bicycle.
- Content cluster: mountain bikes, racing bikes, e-bikes, bicycle repairs, bike tours, cycling in summer and winter, accessories and spare parts for bicycles, advantages of bicycles as a means of transport.
This content strategy is primarily not a question of format but of structure. The content can be presented in various forms – for example, as blog texts, videos, graphics, e-books, podcasts, or picture galleries. Correct linking is crucial for cluster content. This is primarily based on long-tail keywords, i.e. longer search queries that do not consist of just one key term. An example: “How do you repair a gear shift on a bicycle?” Or similar.
Why is Pillar Content So Important?
Aligning content with search queries that are entered verbally is becoming increasingly important. Because formulated questions increasingly replace simple keywords. Some of them touch on several aspects of a topic. And some of these questions are also asked in colloquial language. That means Search engine optimization of content is becoming much more complex. Inbound marketing used to be enough to rank well for a simple keyword; today, it is necessary to consider almost all possible questions.
But how do you target topic-oriented questions instead of simple keywords? This is where the Pillar Content concept comes in. Pillar content is core content, i.e., the basic pillars of a topic. Secondary content is gathered around this core content so that the website captures all topic aspects. So, two points are important here:
- The core topic (pillar content)
- The secondary aspects are relevant to the topic (cluster content).
The actual pillar page is the basis for the content cluster. Certain secondary aspects of the topic can, in turn, have sub-pages. This creates a kind of tree structure with hierarchical levels.
It is important not to lose sight of the central term, which can usually be focused on a single keyword.
Google search is changing.
Search engines are getting smarter every day. Google has become excellent at scouring huge amounts of content for relevant content pieces and returning the most suitable results to the searcher. Pages with too many irrelevant internal links are punished. Just like “keyword-stuffers” – these are pages that are filled with keywords – often without context – to manipulate search results – without giving the reader any value.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Google has changed the way search results are displayed. It is no longer about keyword-relevant results but about subject-related results. Since the RankBrain update in 2015, Google has been able to compare keywords and sentences from past searches with similar topics. The result: a real context-controlled search results page! For Google users, if you search for a specific topic now, you will get relevant results like never before. Regardless of which keyword you used to get there. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, Google smart is smart enough to find out by using the search query context. Google knows what you meant, not just what you typed in!
We search differently in Google.
At the same time, the way we search has changed. In the beginning, we typed single words, often the most important keywords were included. When someone was looking for a restaurant in Hamburg, they would type “Hamburg Restaurants” and click through the search results to find one nearby. As the search engines became more intelligent, users entered longer searches. Instead, as they said: “Where is there a restaurant near me?” In 2017, 64% of all searches contained four or more words.
Users enter longer, more formulated search queries
Imagine you were looking for a sushi restaurant. Do you enter “restaurant” in the search box or rather a longer query like “Japanese restaurants near me”?
Most users choose the second variant: 64% of all search queries contain at least four words. In addition, increasing numbers of users are entering phrased sentences as search terms, enabling them to achieve the most suitable search results.
One reason for this is the increasing use of voice input. Thanks to Siri, Google Assistant, and other tools, 20% of Google searches on mobile devices are voice-based. And given the growing popularity of Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, this number is expected to continue to grow.
But this is not the only reason for the longer searches. The amount of content with which the Internet is flooded plays a role here because quantity is not always the same as quality. So, users with more targeted searches try to bypass the flood of unusable information and limit the results from the outset. Furthermore, more and more users are moving to skim Google search results and focus on blog post headings and highlighted Google snippets. Because they often provide rough answers to their questions.
On the other hand, search engines are also getting better at filtering out the most relevant results from thousands of contents.
The quality and accuracy of search results increases.
Google is continuously optimizing its algorithm to improve the relevance of search results continuously. For example, Google takes action against the excessive use of irrelevant internal links by no longer having formulated search queries checked for individual keywords. Instead, they are now interpreted as a unit. The company also uses artificial intelligence to interpret certain search terms more precisely.
In other words, Google helps users find what they are looking for – even if their search query wasn’t formulated optimally. For example, if you type “running shoes”, Google will now show results for “sneakers”. For bloggers and SEO experts, this means that when creating content, they need to be even more careful about closing any gaps that could prevent their content from ranking well.
To cover as many variants of search queries on a particular topic as possible, it is advisable to structure your website concerning various core topics. This core content is then linked via hyperlinks to more specific blog posts on specific longtail keywords (in formulated form). And that brings us to the thematic cluster model.
Topic clusters enable better rankings and more relevant search results
So far, most bloggers and SEO experts have focused on achieving a high ranking for specific keywords with individual blog posts. However, with such an approach, content is usually poorly structured, and users find it difficult to find the information they want. In addition, this approach means that your contributions on similar topics compete with each other regarding their ranking.
Until recently, this was our approach, and the structure of our content was roughly as follows:
However, if you want to achieve a high ranking these days and provide the best answers to searchers, a new approach is needed: the topic cluster model. First, select the topics for which you want to achieve a good ranking in the search results. You then create the content based on certain keywords that are relevant to this topic and that are interrelated. The aim is to comprehensively cover a topic area in your content and thus build SEO authority. With the changeover to this model, our blog structure is now designed in such a way that many different articles are arranged around a topic (cluster) and linked to other content in the cluster via hyperlinks:
At the heart of this model is an optimized page architecture, designed to arrange and link URLs so that multiple pages of a website make it into the Google ranking – and users can find the desired content more quickly. This architecture is based on three components – pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks:
The “pillar content” describes the topic for which bloggers and SEO experts want to achieve the best possible ranking, which is done by creating more specific cluster content.
How do you create pillar content?
The first thing you should do is get rid of your focus on keywords. Instead, focus first on the topics for which you want to get a good ranking. Then search for relevant blog topics based on relevant keywords.
Also, take into account what interests your target group the most and what challenges they are facing. Your topic should be broad enough that there is room for further contributions, i.e. further cluster content. But also make sure to choose it so that you can actually address all aspects of the topic on a single page.
A pillar page should provide an answer to the questions that users type into Google searches. This, in turn, should lead them to choose your content with all other results in view of further information. After visitors have read your Pillar page, they should be able to find out more about hyperlinks to more specific cluster content.
The procedure for creating pillar content (or for converting existing pages) can be described in five points:
- Find the topic and express it in the main keyword.
- Create an overview of the topic clusters.
- Create content.
- Build a cluster structure that essentially consists of links to the individual pages.
- Constant updating of the content.
Pillar Content is less about the form of the content, but more about structuring it in a user-friendly way. For example:
- Overview pages that briefly but comprehensively present the main topic. In addition sub-pages on individual topic aspects.
- Main content in various media formats (texts, graphics, videos, audios), which are linked in a structured manner and thus illuminate all aspects of the topic.
So that the actual pillar page does not become too long, reference is made to cluster content pages with regard to individual aspects. An intelligent and structured link is a key success factor for the pillar content strategy.
Pillar Pages are Comprehensive and Up-to-Date
How do I get content for Pillar Pages? The Internet offers numerous tools for this. Four examples:
- Google Trends can be used to find out which questions are frequently asked about a topic or problem.
- Tools for finding synonyms or TF-IDF tools also provide valuable information on which keywords appear frequently in connection with another related keyword.
- Google News is a good tool to get inspiration for creating current cluster pages or updating existing content.
- The personas concept can be used well for the creation of pillar content. Which topics are of interest to the personas? What relevance do these topics have for everyday life, for problems or challenges of the target group?
A pillar page is never actually finished because it has to be constantly adjusted. But this wisdom is actually nothing new for SEO experts.
Note: The terms pillar content and cornerstone content are largely congruent. While one term uses the pillar as a metaphor (Pillar), Cornerstone stands for a cornerstone. What is meant is the same content marketing strategy: building a web page that, in the long term, becomes a comprehensive expert page on a specific topic.
Last Thoughts on Pillar Content and Topic Cluster Term
Pillar Content is more than just a new buzzword from the SEO scene. Above all, it stands for a reorientation of search engine optimization. The structured presentation means that a website designed according to the Pillar content approach has the potential to become an expert site for the respective topic. Topics take the place of keywords. The more comprehensively and holistically a website deals with a certain topic and the better this content is structured, the higher the chances of a long-term good ranking.
As Holistic SEOs, we will continue to improve our Pillar Content and Topic Cluster Guide.
How does a pillar page differ from a regular blog post?
A pillar page and a regular blog post serve different purposes and are structured differently. The differences from the pillar page are below.
- Scope: Pillar pages cover a broad topic comprehensively, acting as a central hub for a particular subject. Regular blog posts usually focus on a specific aspect or a narrower topic.
- Length: Pillar pages are typically much longer than regular blog posts. They aim to provide a detailed overview of the topic, often exceeding 2,000 words or more.
- Internal Linking: A pillar page often has numerous internal links that connect to related “cluster” content or blog posts. This creates a content ecosystem around the pillar page, strengthening SEO and offering readers a deeper dive into the subject.
- SEO Focus: While both can be optimized for search engines, pillar pages are generally designed to rank for a broad keyword or topic. Regular blog posts target more specific, long-tail keywords.
- Multimedia Elements: Pillar pages often contain multiple types of content like videos, infographics, and interactive elements to make the content more engaging and comprehensive.
- Navigation: Due to their length and complexity, pillar pages often include a table of contents or some form of easy navigation to help readers find what they’re looking for.
- Lead Generation: Pillar pages usually feature multiple calls-to-action (CTAs) and are often used as a powerful tool for lead generation. Regular blog posts might have a CTA, but they are usually less prominent.
- Expertise: Given their comprehensive nature, pillar pages aim to establish the author or the hosting website as an authority on the subject, contributing to E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and trustworthiness) more effectively than a standard blog post.
- Updates: Due to their importance, pillar pages are generally updated more frequently to ensure they remain accurate and comprehensive.
- Investment: Creating a pillar page usually requires more time and resources than writing a regular blog post, including research, content creation, and design elements.
Understanding these differences can help in deciding whether to create a pillar page or a regular blog post based on marketing objectives and content strategy.
What are the key elements of an effective pillar page?
Key elements of an effective pillar page are listed below.
- Comprehensive Coverage: A detailed overview of a broad topic.
- Clear Structure: Use of headers and lists for easy navigation.
- Table of Contents: Navigable outline to skip to relevant sections.
- Quality Content: Accurate, well-researched information.
- Internal Links: Connections to related articles for better SEO.
- External Links: Citations from credible sources for authority.
- Multimedia: Images or videos to enhance engagement.
- SEO Optimization: Target broad topic keywords.
- Calls-to-Action: Multiple CTAs for lead generation.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Accessibility on Mobile Devices
- Social Sharing: Easy-to-find sharing buttons.
- Analytics: Tracking for performance metrics.
- Regular Updates: Timely revisions for accuracy.
- Professional Tone: Language that builds credibility.
- User Experience: Fast load times and smooth navigation.
Each element contributes to the pillar page’s overall effectiveness in engaging readers and enhancing SEO.
How can a pillar page improve SEO rankings?
A pillar page contributes to SEO improvement through the following methods.
- Topic Coverage: Comprehensive treatment of a broad topic establishes the page as an authoritative resource, encouraging search engines to rank it higher.
- Keyword Targeting: By focusing on a broad keyword or a keyword cluster, the page can rank for multiple related search queries, thus gaining more organic traffic.
- Internal Linking: Linking to related “cluster” articles creates a content ecosystem that search engines find valuable, leading to improved rankings for the entire set of content.
- Quality Indicators: In-depth, well-researched content sends signals of quality to search engines, contributing to higher rankings.
- Backlink Attraction: Comprehensive and authoritative content is more likely to earn backlinks from reputable websites, further boosting SEO.
- User Experience: Features like multimedia elements, easy navigation, and mobile responsiveness contribute to a positive user experience, encouraging longer site visits and reducing bounce rates, both of which are positive SEO indicators.
- Content Freshness: Regularly updating the pillar page keeps the content relevant and up-to-date, which is favoured by search engines and can lead to higher rankings.
- Social Engagement: The shareability of a quality pillar page can lead to increased visibility and social signals, which can indirectly benefit SEO.
Each of these factors plays a role in improving the SEO ranking of a pillar page, making it a potent asset in an overall search engine optimization strategy.
What types of topics are best suited for pillar pages?
Topics best suited for pillar pages typically share the following characteristics.
- Broad Scope: The subject should be expansive enough to allow for multiple sub-topics or “cluster” articles to be linked back to the pillar page.
- High Search Volume: Choose topics that people are frequently searching for to maximize visibility and impact.
- Relevant to Audience: The topic should align closely with the interests, needs, or problems of the target audience.
- Educational Value: Pillar pages work well for topics that require a deep dive, where educational or informational content can be provided.
- Evergreen Nature: Topics that have long-term relevance tend to make effective pillar pages as they continue to attract traffic over time.
- Competitive Advantage: If expertise exists in a particular area that competitors are not fully covering, that topic may be ideal for a pillar page.
- Multiple Angles: The subject should have various facets or viewpoints that can be explored in linked “cluster” articles, adding depth and breadth to the central topic.
- Commercial Intent: If the topic can naturally lead to a call-to-action or conversion, it may be particularly suited for a pillar page.
- Seasonality: While not a strict requirement, topics that are relevant year-round may offer a sustained SEO advantage.
Selecting a topic that embodies these characteristics can help ensure the pillar page serves as a valuable resource for readers while optimizing SEO performance.
A pillar page serves as a central hub for a broad topic and links to cluster articles that explore specific sub-topics. This internal linking boosts SEO by establishing topic authority, targeting various keywords, and enhancing user navigation. The interconnected content also helps distribute SEO value across all linked pages.
What is the ideal length for a pillar page?
The ideal length for a pillar page can vary depending on the topic’s complexity and the audience’s needs. However, pillar pages are generally longer than typical blog posts, often ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 words or more. The length should be sufficient to provide a comprehensive overview of the topic, link to related cluster content, and include multimedia elements, if applicable. It’s essential to prioritize quality and depth over sheer length to create a valuable, authoritative resource that benefits both the reader and SEO objectives.
How often should a pillar page be updated?
The frequency of updating a pillar page depends on several factors, including the topic’s volatility, industry changes, and new developments. For rapidly evolving fields like technology or healthcare, more frequent updates—perhaps quarterly or even monthly—may be necessary to keep the content accurate and relevant. In contrast, evergreen topics may require less frequent updates, perhaps annually or bi-annually.
Regular updates not only ensure that the content remains accurate but also send positive signals to search engines about the content’s freshness, potentially improving SEO rankings. Monitoring analytics, user feedback, and performance metrics can offer insights into when an update might be beneficial.
Can a pillar page include multimedia elements like videos or infographics?
Yes, multimedia elements like videos, infographics, charts, and images can be effectively used on a pillar page to enhance user engagement. Multimedia elements have the ability to break up large sections of text into more visually appealing segments, which makes it easier for readers to digest information. By incorporating such elements on a pillar page, not only does it become more engaging but it also improves dwell time and reduces bounce rates, resulting in improved SEO metrics.
Multimedia is an effective tool that can help explain complex topics by providing additional context or offering alternative ways for users to consume the content. For example, visuals like graphs or diagrams are great at illustrating relationships between different pieces of data, while videos are perfect for demonstrating how certain processes work or showing off products in action. Furthermore, interactive maps allow users explore geographical locations with ease, whereas audio recordings provide an interesting way for people to listen instead of reading long articles about certain topics if they prefer.
In conclusion, using multimedia on your pillar pages is essential as it helps make them look attractive while improving the user experience by offering various ways through which readers can access information quickly and efficiently without getting bored due to its visual appeal. It’s important, however, that you use these features wisely, as too much clutter may drive away potential customers from your website
How do pillar pages fit into an overall content strategy?
Pillar pages are an important part of any content marketing plan. They serve as the foundational content in an overall strategy and act as comprehensive resources on broad topics, targeting high-volume keywords to rank well in search engines. Pillar pages link back to cluster articles that focus on narrower sub-topics and long-tail keywords, creating a cohesive content ecosystem that boosts SEO, improves user navigation, and establishes authority.
When pillar pages are aligned with business goals and target audience needs, they become integral components for driving traffic, engaging readers, and generating leads within a broader content marketing plan. By providing relevant information about topics related to your business or industry, you can create trust with potential customers while also improving visibility online through improved SEO rankings from internal linking between the pillar page article clusters.
It is important to remember that pillar page strategies should be regularly reviewed for relevance so they remain up-to date with current trends in order for them continue serving their purpose of driving traffic engagement reader retention lead generation etc . Doing this will ensure your website remains competitive within its market space by keeping users informed which will ultimately help increase sales conversions over time
Internal linking within a pillar page should follow the following guidelines.
- Logical Flow: Links should be positioned so that they follow the content’s natural flow and direct visitors to explore related subtopics.
- Anchor Text: Use descriptive anchor text that makes it apparent what the linked material is about to improve both user experience and search engine comprehension.
- Relevance: To preserve content coherence, make sure that each article in a linked cluster has a direct connection to the core subject of the pillar page.
- Balanced Distribution: Maintain a healthy balance between internal and external linking to improve readability without tiring out the reader.
- Table of Contents: Use a clickable table of contents to make it easier to go to the various parts and connected cluster articles.
- Link Quality: To maintain the authority of the pillar page, make sure that the cluster articles that are linked are of high calibre, pertinent, and current.
- Calls-to-Action: Include CTAs that, while keeping context, direct readers towards desired actions like subscribing or downloading related materials.
- No Dead Ends: Ensure that all internal links are up to date and checked frequently to make sure they don’t point to any outdated or useless pages, protecting user experience and SEO value.
- Mobile-Friendly: To keep up with the trend of mobile browsing, make sure that links are simple to click and navigate on mobile devices.
Internal linking within a pillar page can successfully enhance user experience, navigation, and SEO performance by following these recommended practises.
How can a pillar page help with lead generation?
A pillar page can be an effective tool for lead generation in the following ways. The ways are listed below.
- Detailed Information: By providing in-depth details on a subject, the page draws in high-quality, focused traffic that is more likely to convert.
- Calls-to-Action: Carefully positioned CTAs can direct site users to specific actions, such subscribing to a newsletter or downloading a resource.
- Internal Linking: Users may be directed to conversion-oriented sites, such as product or service landing pages, through the linking structure.
- User Engagement: The possibility of conversion can be increased by using high-quality content and multimedia features to lengthen dwell times and boost engagement rates.
- SEO Boost: Better search results bring in more organic traffic, which typically converts at a higher rate than paid or social traffic.
- Credibility: The material is thorough and establishes brand authority, customers are more likely to believe in and interact with the company.
An effective pillar page can convert organic visitors into qualified leads by incorporating these components.
How to promote a pillar page for maximum reach?
Promoting a pillar page for maximum reach involves a multi-channel approach. The approaches listed below.
- Social Media: Share snippets, quotes, or key findings on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to engage audiences and drive traffic.
- Email Marketing: Include a feature or a link to the pillar page in newsletters or targeted email campaigns to an existing subscriber list.
- Influencer Outreach: Contact industry influencers or bloggers who might find the content valuable and may be willing to share it.
- Backlink Building: Reach out to reputable sites that have covered similar topics and offer the pillar page as an additional resource, encouraging backlink generation.
- Paid Promotion: Use paid social or search engine advertising to target specific demographics or keywords related to the pillar page topic.
- Internal Promotion: Place links to the pillar page on high-traffic pages within the same website or in related blog posts to funnel existing traffic toward it.
- Webinars or Live Events: Discuss the topic covered in the pillar page during webinars or industry events and provide the link as a go-to resource.
- Forums and Communities: Engage in relevant online forums or industry-specific communities and share the pillar page when appropriate.
- Track and Adjust: Use analytics to monitor performance and adjust promotional strategies based on which channels are yielding the best results.
By employing a combination of these tactics, one can effectively maximize the reach of a pillar page, driving traffic and increasing its impact.
Can a pillar page target multiple keywords?
Yes, a pillar page can and often should target multiple keywords. A pillar page is an in-depth article or webpage that covers a specific topic from different angles. It aims to provide comprehensive information on the subject matter and acts as the foundation for related content pieces. By targeting multiple keywords, it increases the chances of ranking high in search engine results pages (SERPs).
The idea is to focus on a broad primary keyword while also incorporating related secondary keywords, long-tail keywords, and keyword variations. This approach ensures that your content will be found when people search for various terms related to your main topic instead of just one single term or phrase which may not capture all potential searches relevant to your niche market. For instance if you are writing about ‘vegan cooking’ then by including other phrases such as ‘plant based diet recipes’ or ‘dairy free meals’ you will increase visibility among those searching with these terms too thus expanding reach beyond what would have been achieved using only one generic term like vegan cooking alone .
In addition, by utilizing this multi-keyword strategy, it allows you more opportunities for internal linking within other articles across your website, which further helps boost SEO rankings since Google rewards websites with strong interlinking structures. Furthermore, having several targeted words incorporated into each post makes them easier for readers who may stumble upon them through organic searches due to their relevance, even though they were not initially intended recipients when written originally. In conclusion, yes, indeed, targeting multiple key phrases does improve SEO performance so it’s definitely worth considering implementing this technique whenever possible.
How to measure the success of a pillar page?
Measuring the success of a pillar page involves tracking various metrics to assess performance. Here are key indicators to consider.
- Traffic: Monitor the number of visitors, including new and returning, to gauge the pillar page’s reach and effectiveness in attracting audiences.
- Engagement: Metrics like dwell time, bounce rate, and pages per session can provide insights into how users are interacting with the content.
- Conversion Rate: Track how many visitors perform desired actions, such as filling out a form, downloading a resource, or making a purchase, to evaluate lead generation and conversion efficiency.
- Search Engine Rankings: Monitor the page’s ranking for targeted keywords to assess its SEO effectiveness.
- Backlinks: Count the number of quality backlinks pointing to the pillar page, as this is a strong indicator of authority and SEO performance.
- Social Shares: Track shares, likes, and comments on social media platforms to measure reach and engagement.
- User Feedback: Monitor comments, reviews, or direct feedback to understand user satisfaction and areas for improvement.
- ROI: Calculate the return on investment by comparing the resources spent on creating and promoting the pillar page against generated revenue or value of leads.
- Internal Navigation: Analyze click-through rates on internal links to evaluate how effectively the pillar page is directing users to other parts of the website.
These metrics can be tracked using tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and various SEO software. Regular monitoring and analysis will help in understanding the pillar page’s success and areas that may need optimization.
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