How to Build High-Performing Pillar Pages to Boost SEO
Content clusters, cornerstone content and pillar pages. They’re all described as topically relevant content based on a hierarchical structure. Here’s what matters: Pillar pages are a way to organize your website’s content and create an internal linking structure so it’s easier for Google to crawl and index your site.
- What is a pillar-content marketing strategy
- It starts with analysis: Your Google Analytics report
- The importance of long-form content
- Sub-pages and blogs that support your main pillar page
- What has fueled the growth of pillar pages
What is a pillar-content marketing strategy?
A pillar content strategy is designed around high-value pillar pages, sub-pillar pages, and supporting blogs on your website. It’s a carefully integrated hierarchy of content. A pillar page is a 3,000+-word piece of content that lives as a main navigation page on your website. It covers one overall topic in depth and links to sub-pages of related content. Related blogs roll up to that sub-pillar page.
If your pillar topic is “electronic signature,” sub-pillar page topics might include “electronic signature software,” “electronic signature types,” or “electronic signature tool examples.” This provides some insight on how thoughtfully a pillar hierarchy is constructed. This is drilldown—from a comprehensive overview page to individual pages that provide more detail.
Sub-pillar pages should be in the 2,000-word range and blogs are at least 1,000 words. Seems like a lot, right? Especially at a time when no one wants to clutter his/her website with content. It’s a struggle that I constantly have with my clients. “No one’s going to read this” is what I hear all the time. Well, they just might. For one thing, what if they really do want more information—shouldn’t you be providing it? And remember that Google needs words to go to work. Google’s bots need content in order to create its indices—this is ground zero–where it all begins.
Pillar-content strategy starts with analysis
“It’s hard to find a content strategy that grows website traffic and boosts user engagement as effectively as topic clusters. And the powerful engine that drives them is the almighty pillar page.”
–Jonas Sickler, Digital Marketing Analyst
Take a look at your Google Analytics report
- What pages are your audience is visiting most often.
- Pay attention to your bounce rate and where your audience is exiting your site.
- Now look for drilldown through your site. This will tell you what your audience is interested in—and not. It may mean that you want to beef up certain sections of your site.
- Another consideration is specializing in those areas that are getting the most traffic and concentrating your efforts on those topics—writing more sub-pages and blogs.
- It may be time to sunset some of your pillar pages if you’re not getting traction on these.
The content development part of a pillar page strategy
This likely will involve hunkering down for some serious content development. Writing a high-value 3,000-word overview of a product or service takes some work. It also means reorganizing your website. You likely also will need to create a comprehensive linking strategy throughout your site.
Developing the topic clusters, or subpages provides the opportunity to expand on what you’ve highlighted on your pillar page. These pages need to be comprehensive—think 2000-2500 words. These subpages take the form of text, infographics, videos, a guidebook or ebook. These can be fun, entertaining and/or tell a story.
Creating another layer of content with blogposts
Blogposts are another layer of content that links to the subpages of your pillar-page strategy. These can be very specific to one topic. Blogs are informal, temporal and can be extremely topical. They can also be shorter than pillar pages and subpages, at 750-1000 words. Blogs should link to subpages. You should also be creating an inner-linking strategy that helps keep users on your site, drilling down to read more content. Look for content or topics among your pages that is relational to create these inner links.
Subpages need to link back to the pillar page, strengthening value for both the user and search engines. Internally linking your supporting material to your core pillar creates the organizational structure that search engines like.
What kind of content belongs on these pages?
An estimated 84% of internet users are looking for content that provides a solution. Our attention spans are pathetically short. We want something that is personal, that reaches us on an emotional level. We love stories and want to be drawn in. Provide case studies where appropriate. Put something of yourself into your articles and blogs. Use examples from your own experience. Work in case studies that show how you work with your clients. I always like to think of sharing information that will help people do their jobs.
Share your expertise on social media
So now you’ve got this great content but no one knows it’s there. Start using your social media sites to share your expertise! Post to your Linked, Facebook and Instagram sites. Social becomes part of your overall pillar content marketing strategy.
Take the time to thoughtfully develop your pillars
Rethinking your goals, reorganizing and retrofitting content is a process. Take your time and do it right. Once complete, you will have created a stronger foundation for your website that will allow you to keep growing and building out your content structure.
Once you’ve created one pillar page strategy, you may want to create another pillar page strategy, further breaking down your authority into another grouping with a new pillar page hierarchy. Now you’ve got the tools and expertise to do this.
What has fueled the growth of pillar pages?
What’s the genesis of pillar pages? People are submitting longer, more conversational, exacting search queries. It has a lot to do with the fact that search engines and keywords are smarter, keywords are more intuitive, and SERPS deliver better results. If you’re looking for a sushi restaurant, you’re not just keying in “restaurants” or even “Japanese restaurants”. You’re searching for “Japanese restaurants near me” or “Japanese restaurants near me with a robata bar”. More than 64% of searches include four-plus words.
Why pillar content strategy?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a moving target, and we’re all at the mercy of Google and its constantly changing algorithms. We’re all competing for a few positions on page 1 of a Google search. Organic search has little chance of competing with big investments in pay-per-click (PPC) that take over page one searches.
Organic SEO isn’t enough
Let’s face it. The thinking that we’ll produce the best content and magically win the attention of our ideal customers is a pipedream. We may labor over our infographics and data-driven ebooks and blogs, but the likelihood of their driving traffic to our website is, frankly, remote. Even the savviest among us is relying on good intentions and guesswork.
A longer-term goal: A 10X pillar content strategy
A 10X pillar page is a single webpage that is ten times better than any other resource out there covering this topic. This is the motherload.
- More creative, informative and easier to access
- It can be seen across devices and it offers solutions.
- When I write about a topic, I think in terms of providing information that helps people do their jobs—new tools and insights, better approaches to old dilemmas.
This 10X pillar page has to be strong, standalone content around which you can build the rest of your website’s content.
A pillar content strategy—the pillar pages, sub-pillar pages, and supporting blogs—is an SEO-savvy methodology to help drive new visitors to your website.