If you’re interested in content marketing — and especially if you use HubSpot CMS Hub — chances are you’ve heard the terms “pillar page” and “topic cluster.” But what do these terms really mean, and why should they be a part of your content strategy?
The answers might not be exactly what you think. In our experience helping brands level-up their content marketing, we hear these terms misused pretty often.
Let’s dive in:
What is a pillar page?
A pillar page is a type of web content that provides high-level information on a broad topic, while strategically linking to more specific content pieces.
A pillar page is the centerpiece of a topic cluster. If there’s no cluster content, it’s not really a pillar page.
Pillar pages are a way for marketers to organize, showcase, and increase reader engagement with educational content written around one core topic. They’re used to rank for high-level informational keywords and bolster credibility.
Pillar pages generally don’t contain in-depth, highly detailed content — rather, they cover many different aspects of a broad topic. For example, you might have a pillar page called “Everything you need to know about commercial interior design.” This page might contain sections about lighting, furniture, color theory, design software, and budgeting. Each of these sections would link out to a more detailed piece of content, and each of those would link back to the pillar page.
Pillar pages are usually longer than blog posts, and sometimes use specific page templates or creative custom formatting to increase engagement.
Pillar page example:
Salted Stone worked with Mapware to create a pillar page on drone photogrammetry — one of their core service offerings. We targeted informational keywords like “What is photogrammetry?” to demonstrate Mapware’s knowledge and expertise on the topic, then linked out to more specific blog posts so readers could binge more related content.
What is a topic cluster?
A topic cluster is a collection of content connected by one broad topic. Pillar pages sit at the center of topic clusters.
Take our “commercial interior design” topic example. Surrounding the pillar page, you’ll have content about related sub-topics. These are usually blog posts, but can also be web pages, downloadable content, or other formats. The topics in this cluster might include:
- The science of lighting for commercial interiors
- Color theory for commercial interiors
- How to buy furniture for your commercial space
- The top 10 commercial interior design firms
Notice that each of these is related to the broad central topic (commercial interior design), but is more specific.
In order to make the SEO component of a topic cluster work, each of these content pieces should strategically link back to the pillar page, and ideally also link to other content in the cluster.
Image Source: HubSpot
HubSpot CMS Hub includes a built-in topic cluster tool that can help marketers organize, ideate, and research topic clusters. This tool can be helpful for keeping your topics organized internally, but it just scratches the surface of the pillar page/topic cluster strategy.
To make sure you’re getting the best ROI on your content, work with a partner who knows how to strategize, structure, and set up topic clusters.
Three key benefits of pillar pages
So why are pillar pages and topic clusters such a popular way to organize content? It’s not just about SEO (although that’s a big component). Here are 3 benefits of a well-executed pillar page strategy:
- Streamlined, focused content ideation
Some businesses come up with disjointed, ad hoc topic ideas just to make sure they’re churning out content. But that isn’t a content strategy, and it’s not sustainable.
Pillar pages, on the other hand, give you a content ideation roadmap: Start with broad, high-level topics and work your way out to more specific content. You don’t necessarily have to create net-new content for each topic cluster — you can update and reuse relevant existing content where appropriate.
- SEO improvements
Google’s algorithm isn’t 100% transparent, but here’s a simplified explanation of how pillar pages can give your site an SEO boost:
Google understands how topics and subtopics relate to each other, and uses those signals to analyze your site content and rank it in search results. By structuring your content into topic clusters and strategically linking between your pillar page and subtopic content, you can build your site’s expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T) — which isn’t a direct ranking factor, but is a good predictor of whether Google will view your content as high quality.
A high-quality pillar page is also more likely to earn backlinks than your average blog post, which can further support your SEO efforts.
- “Bingeable” content
Well-executed pillar pages and topic clusters make it easier for users to find the specific topics they’re interested in and click through to learn more about them, keeping them on your site and building your authority in the process.
Creating “bingeable” content like this increases SEO, improves the user experience, and makes it more likely that site visitors will convert.
To sum up…
Pillar pages and topic clusters are part of a framework for creating and structuring content around a core topic. When executed well, this approach can streamline your content ideation, boost your SEO, and make your content more “bingeable.”
Ready to build a winning content strategy? Let’s talk.