SEO strategies are always evolving; just when you think you’ve got it down pat, there’s another piece of the puzzle that’s missing. Constantly shifting algorithms are tricky to master, and few companies are willing to sacrifice content quality to get their blog articles ranking first on SERPs anymore.
Right now, there’s a popular way to boost your site’s ranking, make use of existing pieces, and inform future content strategy by using something called “pillar pages.” Let’s take a look at what it takes to make one that works!
What are Pillar Pages?
According to Hubspot, a pillar page “covers all aspects of a topic on a single page with more room for in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page.”
In layman’s terms, pillar pages are a way for marketers to organize, showcase, and increase reader engagement with educational content written around one core topic. They are the foundation on which topic clusters are built, providing specific information and answering basic questions through copy and hyperlinks to content offers and blog posts. It’s best practice to leverage internal links, but a particularly useful external link is always appropriate, too. A great way of approaching a pillar page is to think of it as an encyclopedia entry for your main topic.
Pillar pages are usually longer than blog posts, as they provide a far more holistic and exhaustive review of the topic, an approach used to rank for distinct keywords and bolster a brand’s credibility. These pages are typically reffered to as a type of "10x content", which boast beautiful and responsive UX, unique and high quality content, differentiating qualities, interactive mediums, and thoughtful answers to users questions.
Why Are Pillar Pages so Popular?
Many industry experts have offered extremely compelling reasons to use pillar pages. A few of the most common ones are:
This is the main goal. Pillar pages proponents claim they are changing the way people searching the internet find results. Before Google’s Hummingbird update, it wasn’t always easy to find exactly what you were looking for, and short, specific keyword strings and boolean operators had to be used in order to get your specific results.
Now, Google tries to recognize the “searcher’s intent” and analyzes phrases instead of keywords using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
That means SEO pros are doing things a little differently now to help increase positive results. They’re using broad match keywords, creating and implementing semantic-rich content focused around specific keywords, using search-friendly website architecture, promoting content through inbound/outbound linking and paid channels, and updating existing evergreen content.
PROVIDES A CONTENT ROADMAP
Having clear and consistent use cases for the content you have already prepared, and identifying missing pieces of information that will need supporting documentation, can make content roadmapping much easier.
LET READERS BINGE YOUR CONTENT
When you organize information around one high-interest topic, your audience will be more inclined to investigate the subtopics, applications, and ensuing questions.
Sourcing & Updating Content for Pillar Pages
The first step to creating a pillar page is sourcing content and mapping the concepts you want your page to rank for. Of course, keywords are competitive, but there are plenty of helpful tools like Backlinko that can assist when finding long tail keywords to help you narrow down your focus to what people are actually looking for.
Free tools like AnswerthePublic allow writers to find common Google and Bing search phrases, through which topic cluster ideas can be easily found.
Other ways to source content include:
- Update or rewrite old, but still regularly consumed, content with recent studies, statistics, infographics, videos, or tutorials
- Conduct open forums and invite users to discuss what they want to learn about
- Allow guest posts from industry influencers
- Create a “top takeaways” post from larger reports or studies
The way a site like Google crawls websites and pages to serve answers and provide up-to-date data for users is always changing. Because these algorithmic updates happen very frequently, marketers must regularly adjust their approach to content strategy and how the ways they deliver information to their audiences.
Creating a powerful pillar page can offer you the chance to showcase knowledge, experience, and thought leadership credentials while ranking more favorably
The X factor that many proponents of pillar pages fail to mention is that no amount of strategy can substitute for knowledge. If your pillar page doesn’t deliver value to readers, even the best structured efforts may fail to improve your SEO standing. Remember that great SEO is built on a diverse set of tools and approaches, and knowing what to use and when can be the difference between page 1 and page 10.