What’s at the heart of every successful marketing campaign that rakes in revenue?
Irresistible content that resonates with the right people.
That’s why a killer content marketing strategy is so crucial.
But what happens if your content isn’t hitting the mark with your audience? Or if your revenue isn’t growing despite the work you’re putting into creating content?
You know from the statistics that content marketing works. In fact, according to HubSpot, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. And, nearly 40% of marketers believe content marketing is a very important element of their integrated marketing plan.
You’ve seen it work for other companies like yours.
So, what’s their secret?
Pillar content is a strategy that focuses on topics, rather than keywords. You create a bunch of valuable content around one central theme – or “pillar”.
You can create content that both your target audience and Google love. Over and over again.
In this article, learn how to use content pillars to make your revenue soar. You’ll find out:
How pillar content positions your digital marketing to win
How to research and create content pillars
How other brands use content pillars for success – and how you can, too.
Sound good? Let’s get started.
What are content pillars?
Pillars are essentially themes or key topics around which you can focus your content clusters. A pillar page broadly covers a particular topic or head keyword, with room for more in-depth reporting and long-tail intent in detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page.
You may have heard them called cornerstone content. Or flagship content.
In the often indecipherable world of SEO, they're practically the same thing in practice.
So, why should you try content pillars?
1. Content pillars make it easier for humans and search engines to navigate your content.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this point. In an internet world overflowing with content and information, it’s often difficult for users to find what they need, when they need it.
Here’s a visual of what most content creation looks like:
(Image Source: HubSpot)
You have some topics you want to talk about, so you throw a little bit of everything into your blog. There’s no real organisation.
But by creating content pillars, you are literally handing users the content they’re looking for.
No need to trawl through pages and pages of articles, guides and videos. Content pillars present information in a way that’s streamlined and easy to navigate. Once users find the pillar page, they’ll be able to follow links to other valuable and relevant content – the topic clusters.
Google is always striving to help searchers find the most accurate information possible - even if it isn’t exactly what they searched for. Topic clusters address the gaps that could prevent a searcher from getting the information they need from your site, thus bolstering the pillar page’s authority and placement in the SERPs.
Here’s what the topic cluster model looks like:
(Image Source: HubSpot)
What happens when you make something easier for people?
You build a loyal following of visitors who are more likely to convert to loyal customers.
But it’s not just humans you’re helping – content pillars make it easier for search engines to find what they need to index and rank your site.
Plus, Google loves fresh and relevant content. So, as you add to and update your pillar posts with more cluster content, you’ll keep rising in the ranks.
2. Content pillars can elevate rankings for linked pages.
One high-performing pillar page can elevate rankings for other linked pages.
Why do pillar pages help your search engine rankings?
Think about the mass of content that’s online. All of that content can confuse Google’s algorithm.
A major reason Google ranks one page or content piece over another is that it can quickly determine what the topic is. The page makes sense, its hyperlinks make sense, and it provides relevant valuable information.
That’s what a pillar page does.
Start by creating your pillar page focusing on a key topic.
Then, write supporting blog posts (“clusters”) based on your pillar content and generate internal links to the pillar page. When every article links back to a pillar page that discusses the umbrella topic, Google immediately knows what those pieces of content are about. As a result, it will rank you better.
Additionally, the more you cover a topic on your website through your topic clusters, the better Google will rank you for that topic in general.
Here’s what happened when HubSpot ran this strategy on its own blog:
(Image Source: HubSpot)
See how more internal links led to a higher placement in the SERPs? You can do the same for your site.
3. Content pillars keep your content creation focused on what your customers want.
It’s much easier to create killer content when you know what your customers are looking for.
Spend time researching your pillar topics, and ensure every single piece of content is focused on your target audience.
This ensures every dollar you invest in your content marketing is working hard for results.
Content pillars will help you get clarity on your niche, while also building trust and helping your audience grow faster.
There’s another huge benefit:
By creating content your target audience wants, they will spend longer on your site's pages and engage with your posts.
For example, a buyer might be looking for information on how to build a deck. After they've finished reading one of your articles, they click through to another related article on how to maintain the deck, then how to furnish an outdoor area, and so on.
Before you know it, they've spent 20 minutes or more on your pages!
Content pillars also make planning content so much easier, and are an essential part of any solid social media strategy. Rather than scrambling to create last-minute blog posts, your content pillars inform your long-term content goals, strategy, and calendar.
So, when the consumers need to buy a deck-related product, which brand do you think they will remember and open their wallet for?
That’s right – you.
Looking to learn more about creating a content strategy that rakes in more revenue? Download our free Content Marketing Guide.
How to create content pillars that will get you more traffic
So, how do you make content pillars work for your brand?
Before you pick your pillars, you need to understand your target audience.
Because your content needs to give the audience what they want.
1. Start by looking at your audience
A buyer persona is a model that describes your target customer, based on your audience research. You will need different content pillars dedicated to each buyer persona.
What type of content are your buyers looking for?
Which of their pain points can you address through content?
What keywords are they searching?
What content has historically performed well?
2. Set up social listening and get your audience’s needs
What is your target audience talking about on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
Set up search streams to monitor conversations that mention your brand, products, services and competitors.
See which topics are mentioned, which articles are shared, and which posts get the most attention.
These insights will help you add to what you’ve learned about your target audience.
3. Back it up with keyword research
Now you know what your customers are after, back it up with some keyword research.
Go to Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) and type in a search idea related to your content idea. You’ll get a list of related keywords that could fuel your content ideas. For example:
4. Watch your competitors
What types of pillar content do your competitors use?
Take a look at the content pieces that are getting hits on other sites. If your audiences are similar, you can use these popular topics as a guide for your blog.
How will you know what’s working for your competitors?
Easy – head to Buzzsumo.
Here’s what I see when I type in “content marketing”:
5. Plan it out
Now you’ve got your buyer insights and keyword research in hand; it’s time to work out your content pillars.
Collect the ideas and topics into distinct groups – these will become your pillars. If there are a few ideas that don't fit a group, don't worry, they might come in useful later. For now, focus on creating strong content pillars.
The thing to remember here is that content pillars shouldn’t be too specific. Think of each pillar as a tree trunk with the potential for heaps of branches of questions, conversations and ideas to come off of.
6. Write your content pillar pages
Got your high quality content ideas ready to go for each cluster? It’s time to create your pillar page. This is the foundation upon which your topic cluster will be built around.
How to write a pillar page Google will love
1. Identify head term (aka broad topic)
Choose a core topic that’s broad enough that it can generate more related posts that will serve as cluster content.
How do you choose content pillars?
Your core topic should follow these general guidelines:
Between two and four words
Educational by nature
In support of your products/services
Characteristic of a head keyword as opposed to a long-tail version
Ultimately, your pillar page should answer a query a searcher might have about your core topic. Then, when they enter a Google search term that your page ranks for, they’ll click onto your pillar page to get the answers to their questions. Finally, if your subtopics are well thought-out, they’ll spend more time on your site browsing the related pieces of cluster content hyperlinked on your pillar page.
How long should pillar content be?
Make it long-form – we’re talking at least 2,000 to 3,000 words.
Use it as an overview of the broad topic. Don’t go into too much detail on one element of the topic – that’s what your cluster pages are for. Answer questions but leave room for more detail in related blogs.
Use hyperlinks to link to cluster posts and other sections within the page.
Write a killer introduction. This is where you need to build the credibility of what you’re about to tell your audience.
2. Source subtopic content to form your topic clusters
What are topic clusters?
Google’s algorithm is constantly changing to provide the most relevant content for searcher’s queries. In the past, marketers could win a top spot in the SERPs by targeting a single keyword per page. Now, marketers target entire topics to help more pages rank, and give searchers better answers. This method is referred to as topic clustering.
A topic cluster is a group of interlinked web pages that address as many search queries as possible about a particular subject. Topic clusters are built around one piece of pillar content targeting a broad topic, linked to several related but more narrowly focused pages.
OK so you know what topic clusters are, now what’s next?
Once you’ve come up with the right core topic, you can start to brainstorm subtopics based on more specific keywords related to the broader topic. These related pieces of content should correspond to your keyword research and audience persona findings and dive deeper into specifics of your core topic.
When planning out your cluster content ideas, these sources might help:
Google related search data
Featured snippets about your core topic
Your existing content about the topic
3. Pay attention to internal links
As you create cluster content, make sure you’re creating internal links properly. Linking cluster content to your pillar page with your head term anchor text will help Google crawl through your site architecture and rank you accordingly.
Over to you
Congratulations! Now you know what pillar content is, why it’s important, and how you can create your own.
It’s time to create your content pillars to achieve high rankings, engage your audience and drive revenue.
Remember, it all starts with proper research into your target audience.
Examine the content your buyer personas want.
Use the tactics mentioned in this article to research keywords, competitors’ content, and trending topics.
Then, organise this into obvious pillars and create your pillar pages.
Follow these easy steps, and your content will be accelerating ROI in no time!
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