What is Pillar Content and How to Use It to Improve Ranking
The content marketing landscape is notorious for its dynamic, shifting nature. All it takes is one big search engine algorithm update, and the rules of content marketing can change significantly overnight, causing some websites to lose their rankings instantly, and others to start slowly climbing to the top. Add to that the changes in users’ content consumption preferences, the way people are looking for information online, and the increasing pallet of tools available to content creators, and you can start getting the sense of how restless the waters of content marketing can be.
Some content marketing concepts take time to reach their full potential and become commonplace. The idea of creating pillar content, a type of content that deals with complex topics in an authoritative manner and creates room for smaller, more focused, satellite types of content has been around for a while. With time, however, it has only been gaining popularity, to the point that it’s now a commonplace strategy for improving search engine rankings.
If you’re looking for a way to start creating your own pillar content, don’t worry – we’ll tell you all you need to know about it in this article. The topics we’ll cover include:
To explain what pillar content – also known as content pillars or content for pillar pages – is and what it does, we need to think for a second about what content is, what purpose it serves, and how you can organize the content on your website most efficiently and beneficially.
When talking about pillar content, we are thinking about textual content. From your perspective, text content is great in part because it helps your website be found on search engines. From the perspective of the person who finds your content in search engine results, however, the content is great if it provides a good answer to the query they posted.
Adopting the searcher’s point of view when creating the content is a part of content marketing 101. The content you create should answer a question, educate, or fulfill a need – and, in the process, help you get exposure, sell products, or promote your services.
For the content to be relevant, you have to consider the way people are using search engines to ask their questions. Queries are becoming longer and more complex and answering a query well may ultimately require you to answer a couple of related queries – especially if the query relates to a high-level, overarching topic. It’s for those topics that you create pillar content.
Pillar content looks like a very long article that could easily be broken down into many smaller topics and even supplemented with additional pieces of content. You can do all of that, too – pillar content serves as a center around which you can build a whole cluster of content on related, specific topics.
Let’s say you have a blog about digital marketing. The topics you can cover on the blog would likely include topics related to the different types of digital marketing. You’d have content about content marketing and related topics, email marketing, and related topics, affiliate marketing, ads, social media, and so on.
If you’re using pillar content in your content strategy, you would organize the content on your website so that it has a big piece of content that ties together all of those smaller topics in a way. For digital marketing, you’d create that big piece of content as a guide to content marketing, another guide to email marketing, and another one for affiliate marketing, and so on.
These are your content pillars. They provide authoritative information about a broad topic and serve as great reading material for someone who wants to get a solid understanding of the full scope of the topic. However, content pillars cannot contain all the information there is about a topic, and that’s where the cluster comes in.
For the content marketing cluster, you’d create articles on specific topics such as building brand authority with content marketing, dealing with underperforming content, and how and why to write scannable content. For the email marketing cluster, the topics you can cover include the best email drip tools for WordPress, best email marketing plugins, and common email marketing mistakes. For affiliate marketing, you might choose a guide to creating an Amazon affiliate store, a list of the best affiliate plugins, and even a list of referral tools. That’s how you use pillar content and topic clusters.
Pillar content is an important component in a new approach to creating content that ranks well on search engines. With this new approach, targeting a group of keywords for each piece of content is replaced by selecting a broad topic you want to cover, finding the keywords that are relevant to the topic, and then creating a structure with a pillar in the center and cluster content around it.
There are a couple of benefits that come with this model. It relies on plenty of internal linking to relevant content, which can serve as an awesome signal for search engines. Those same links can also help people navigate around your website more easily, finding other interesting topics and staying on your website longer while reading valuable information.
Because the pillar contains a lot of content, it should be capable of answering multiple questions, increasing its usability for the searcher and the chance it will rank well in search results. Having solid pillar content can also increase your blog’s authority and help build trust.
When thinking about employing the content pillar in your content strategy, you should start by adjusting your mindset to think about the content and its role in a new way. Content has gone through many changes where different signals and SEO elements seemed to be driving its creation. That is why we had things like keyword stuffing and bought inbound links.
With pillar content, the first thing you should think about is the topic – something your audience might be interested in. You have to be able to create content about it, of course, but you should also understand what it is about the topic that draws your audience towards it. Understand the common questions, misconceptions, needs, mistakes – anything where your expertise can provide value.
Only then you should start researching keywords. Specifically, look for key phrases that show which types of questions people want to be answered. Keyword research can help you out with that, but remember that you’re writing content for the people, not the search engines – your goal is to answer questions and provide as much value as you can with the pillar content without going too much into detail.
Ideally, you’ll want to map out the topic, the related questions, and the possible content in the cluster sometimes before you publish the pillar. Keep in mind that, as your content cluster grows, you will come back to the pillar to update it. Still, if you have a schematic of how the pillar and the cluster look before you start writing the pillar, it would be much easier to include all the links and know-how to dose the information.
You should also know that pillar content can lead to all sorts of content types. You can have videos, infographics, social media posts, photos – if you can create it, there’s no reason not to add it. Try not to create overlapping content of the same type and be ready with a set of metrics to follow for each type of content before you post everything online.
Once online, you’ll need to follow the content’s performance and make appropriate adjustments. As you add more cluster content, remember to update the pillar. And that’s pretty much it!
Let’s Wrap It Up!
Content marketing is an incredible tool for reaching audiences online and letting them know that you have the information they need to do whatever it is they want to do. Everyone knows this, too, which means the competition is stiff and you have very little room for mistakes. You should be sure footed from your very first step and plow ahead with one solid decision after another.
For content marketing in the 2020s, doing it right increasingly means using content pillars in your content strategy. Having strong pillar content with an appropriate cluster around it can help your website in multiple ways, and it can provide a better user experience to the people who come to your website.