Content strategies that use pillar content are still a relatively new concept in the inbound marketing space, but the idea is gaining more and more attention of forward-thinking, savvy marketers who are on the hunt for new ways to bring the right kind of traffic to their website. The reason? It’s a more strategic approach to content development and SEO that delivers quick results after you put in all of the up-front work.
First things first, a couple of definitions you'll want to note:
Content Strategy: The process of leveraging content strategically, through clusters or webs that center around a core topic that’s of searchable value to your business. For example, if you own a countertop installation company in Grand Rapids, the core topic could something like, “Grand Rapids Countertop Company” or another phrase you are currently ranking for on search engines. You then link these content elements together to produce better results on search engines.
Pillar Content: The content that serves as the center of your cluster or web. This is an in-depth and well-written piece of content from which a viewer would gain tremendous value by way of information or insight into the core topic. Pillar content should be lengthy and thorough.
Already a little confused? If so, let’s take things back a step and get the basics of content strategy and what it's all about. Read this first.
So what does it take to create a killer pillar post? Here are four essential elements:
1. The Perfect Primary Topic
As I mentioned, your primary topic should be a keyword or phrase of relevance to your specific business. Think about this in the way people search for you: what are the common things they would type into Google or ask Siri for? Those are your primary content topics that go in the middle of your cluster. Next, use a tool like SEMRush or Moz and evaluate that keyword. Are you already ranking for it? Using a keyword that you're currently ranking for is the perfect scenario because that means it’s a sure-fire win for more traction. If you aren’t ranking, is there a page you could link it to (maybe your homepage footer) where it makes sense to link it? Quick Tip: Don’t just link your pillar anywhere, make sure it is a helpful and supportive link to the content on the page. Google is pretty smart these days, you don’t want to make it angry with links on pages that don’t relate to the core topic.
2. A Killer Template
As I mentioned, pillar content is long, thorough and detailed. Because of this, not just any website page template will work. You want the page to have an easy-to-read and consumable format that includes links to jump from section to section. Another nice addition is a “back to top” function, so a reader can quickly advance back to the start without being forced to scroll all the way back up. User experience is key when it comes to pillar posts. HubSpot has a ton of pillar templates over in their marketplace to choose from if you’re looking for somewhere to start. Here's what one of ours looks like:
3. A Clear Outline
Once you have a topic and a template, it’s time to plan out your pillar post content. We’ve found here at ManoByte that the best pillar content starts with an outline. That helps to give flow and consistency to the piece. Start by highlighting the main sub-sections of the content as well as what additional supportive elements you’ll need. This is also a great place to find content you can repurpose and use to support those sections. For example, going back to that countertop company we were talking about, a great subtopic of the core topic of, “What to look for in a Grand Rapids Countertop Company” might include a section about Reading Company Reviews and Case Studies. If you already have a blog about that topic available, you can reuse pieces of it in the pillar post. Just be sure to watch out for too much duplicate content, Google doesn’t like that. Rework it a bit and you should be all set.
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4. Quality Content, Resources, and Links
Now the fun part: writing the sections and creating smooth transitions between each so the piece has a great flow and detail for the viewer. Be sure to add other elements to the post other than copy, including links to other content (like your subtopic blog posts) and other credible outside sources. Videos, infographics, charts, quotes, stats, and much more are welcomed in your pillar posts. The more quality information you have, the more search engines reward you for it.
One last tip before we send you off into the pillar content world, be sure not to neglect your pillar page! Check back to view the stats and update it with new information and links. Google likes links that are updated frequently, so this is not a “publish and forget it” type of deal. Set reminders to pop back in and edit your pillar content so it continues to produce new organic traffic to your site over time.