If you’ve read our recent post on topic clusters and topic-based search, you’ll know all about the new face of SEO. Over-reliance on keywords is out, and clusters of content are in - collections of content pieces all supported by so-called pillar content.
Pillar content is what holds up the rest of your website - other blog posts rely on it, ebooks are linked from it, and it’s what brings all of the content together into a cluster that tells search engines that you are the subject-matter expert that they’re looking for.
Why Pillar Content?
Many search engines today use topics and relevance to rank websites for their users. They analyse websites to determine how authoritative a source they are, how well they might be able to answer a question, and how much informative content they can provide.
To rank highly, it’s best practice to make use of topic clusters. These are collections of content pieces on similar subjects all tied together around one pillar piece. While smaller blog posts and other resources might go into detail about certain aspects of a topic, pillar pieces cover the topic broadly, giving users an overview and acting as a hub for the other pages.
Because of this, pillar content is typically longer than regular posts. These larger pieces act as a primer on the subject, giving users a good understanding of a topic but leaving enough gaps to allow for a series of smaller follow-up posts to explore the more niche aspects of it.
The topic cluster model also makes strategic use of linking to connect pages together. By building a web of links between smaller pages and the pillar content, each linking to multiple related pages, it becomes not only easier for users to find information quickly, but boosts the authority of that site in the eyes of Google and other search providers too.
For an example pillar piece, check our latest article on increasing high quality leads post GDPR here
How To Create Pillar Pages
The key to creating pillar content is to think about your website in terms of topics, not just keywords. Come up with a list of topics that you can be an expert in - things both relevant to your website and business that you can write enough informative content about to stand out.
With topics in mind, audit your existing content and group it by topic. From here, some pillar pieces might already stand out - they’ll be general ‘overview’ posts, like “SEO 101” or “Bicycles for Beginners”, for example. If these existing content pieces are still a little short, or you can’t find anything that fits the bill, you’ll need to start writing something new.
Here are three key things to remember when producing new pillar pages:
First, keep it broad. Nothing quite as broad as “Marketing 101” and nothing too niche - something like our “SEO 101” example would work well as a middle ground instead. Your pillars should cover the entire topic sufficiently to answer most questions a user might have - that’s how they’ll find your website - without getting bogged down in the details.
Second, don’t forget keywords. Topic clusters might be important for ranking, but that doesn’t mean that keywords aren’t still used by search engines. Make use of all the SEO techniques that you have been using on your new pillar piece and your other supporting content.
Finally, keep your supporting pages in mind while you write. HubSpot, among other experts, recommends that each cluster should have around 30 pages, and that means you’ll need to find many opportunities to link away from your pillars. As you write, make a note of potential posts that you can write to support it.