What’s the deal with pillar pages?
I previously mentioned how longer search queries and a smarter Google means relying solely on keywords to inform your content marketing strategy isn’t effective. The better approach is to think about your content in terms of topics and embrace the topic cluster model.
An integral part of this model is pillar pages and today I explore them in more detail:
- What they are
- Their benefits
- How to create them
- Best practices when creating yours
- Examples that will provide inspiration for your next project
What Are Pillar Pages?
They’re best explained within the context of the topic cluster model which consists of hyperlinks, cluster content (blog posts) and pillar content.
Source: HubSpot, Inc.
A pillar page—usually housed separately from your blog—broadly covers the main topic on one page and links to detailed blog posts related to the topic.
For example, let’s say you’re a company who offers project management software and you’ve chosen the topic “building a project team.” You’ll likely include the following sub-topics on your page:
- The importance of building a strong team
- How to build a team—characteristics to look for in team members, how to find these people etc.
- How to deal with conflict
Each of these sub-topics can be their own comprehensive post you link to from the pillar page.
But, What Are the Benefits?
These pages help you:
- Improve site architecture. You can better organize blog content
- Avoid the common pitfall of creating similar content where posts often compete against one another
- Help readers easily find your content without having to search for it on your blog
- Improve your SEO. By linking to high-performing blog posts, you give your page needed SEO juice. You also make it easier for readers to find your content in Google. Remember Google loves content that covers a topic properly and has a nice sprinkling of LSI keywords
- Establish authority on a topic. What better way to demonstrate subject matter expertise than by covering all aspects of a topic?
Besides the benefits, creating pillar content is actually pretty fun. Well, it is for me, and in the next section I’ll show you how to create yours and share a few best practices along the way.
How Do I Create a Pillar Page?
Keep the following in mind before creating your page:
- Creating one takes time —a lot of it. It’s not like a standard blog post, and usually involves more writing, content, and design work. Expect one to take at least 20 hours to create. For example, I recently wrote two for a client; one took 20 hours and the other 24.
- It’s an investment. Expect to invest more money than you would for a blog post. Not only does pillar content take longer to create, but as we’ve seen, they’re infinitely more valuable than any blog post: They better organize content, improve site architecture, boost SEO ranking, and drive organic traffic.
Step 1: Choose your topic
Remember, you should focus on the topic and not keywords. Sure, keywords play a role when creating cluster content, but that’s a discussion for later.
Your topic should also not be too broad. For example, a topic like “working capital” works far better than the very general “finance.”
Hubspot provides a rule of thumb when deciding if a topic is broad enough—ask the following question: Does the topic allow me to link to 20-30 related posts?
Here are a few ways to help you choose your topics:
- Revisit your buyer personas to better understand your audiences’ problems and what topics appeal to them. Need to learn more about your audience? Conduct a short survey to get to know them.
- Do keyword research to assess if there’s demand for a topic. Yes, I know I said you shouldn’t focus on keywords, but getting an idea of search volumes will help you understand the amount of demand.
- Look through content on your blog. For example, I run a website that helps other writers build their writing careers. Through emailing my audience and asking them what their problems are, I know that “finding clients” is a major issue. I also know I have loads of content on the blog that covers the topic, from using LinkedIn and Facebook to job boards and cold pitching. So, creating a pillar content that covers the topic broadly and links to those posts would make perfect sense.
Step 2: Research, outline and write
Researching, outlining and writing will be a lot quicker if you already have a lot of related content on your blog. In these instances, you may simply have to repurpose existing content, rewrite it and link to those related blog posts. On other occasions—where you have less content— the process may take much longer.
Regardless, when I create pillar content for a client, I find it’s best to start with a high-level outline and get feedback and direction on that outline before I start writing. This process ensures we’re both on the same page from the start and avoids unnecessary work later on.
Here are a few more pointers about writing and design:
- Consider including a table of contents so readers can easily navigate the content. After all, some readers will only be interested in a specific piece of information that solves their problem
- Add any definitions right at the beginning to help you get a Google featured snippet
- Sprinkle LSI keywords throughout and include some of your cluster content keywords in the H2 heading for SEO purposes—yes I do suggest doing some keyword research, which also helps when creating cluster content
- Don’t forget your design— this could be something as simple as updating a page through your CMS. Include images, tables, and graphs to break up text and to help with any explanation.
Once you’ve finished writing, included the internal links and made the final touches, it’s time to hit “publish.”
Don’t Forget to Update Your Page
Your pillar page doesn’t operate in isolation—it’s a central page linked to all related blog posts. So, as you do keyword research and create new cluster content, ensure you hard link to this content from your page. Also, keep your page fresh with any new relevant content that surfaces. Your readers and Google will love you for it!
6 Superb Examples of Pillar Pages
Below are some links to examples for needed inspiration:
- Typeform’s Brand Awareness page by Marc Cinanni. See how Typerform included a table of contents at the top for easy navigation?
- Customer Acquisition Strategies by Matthew Barby. Matthew has cleverly included CTAs throughout
- Help Scout’s List Building page by Help Scout and Aweber
- HubSpot’s Productivity Apps page by Kristen Baker
- HubSpot’s Chatbot Marketing Future page by HubSpot
- 7shift’s Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Costs by Nick Darlington (yes, I know it’s a shameless plug).
You now have a solid understanding of pillar pages and how they can benefit your business: Not only do they establish you as a topic expert, but they improve site architecture, drive organic traffic and— when used correctly—act as a powerful lead magnet. You also know how to create one and where to find inspiration when you need it.
The only thing left to do is to tackle your first (or next) pillar page project…
…something I can help you with. Simply schedule a no-strings-attached call.
P.S. Think of the call as a brainstorming session where I share FREE ideas to help you grow your business. Ideas I give you full permission to “steal” (even if you choose not to move forward with your pillar content project).
P.P.S. As a B2B writer, I conceive, write and produce engaging website copy, blog posts, pillar content and lead magnets for technology companies. I’ve worked with big brands and companies including DocuWare, FreshBooks and TouchBistro and would love to work with you on your next project.