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, 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, you’ll find out how to use content pillars to make your revenue soar. You’ll learn:
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.
How does pillar content position your marketing to win?
When you're thinking of content ideas, there are thousands of topics you can focus on.
The challenge is, how do you narrow down your options to focus on creating engaging and compelling content that will drive action?
That’s where content pillars come in.
What are content pillars?
Pillars are essentially themes or key topics around which you can focus your content.
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. 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:
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.
By creating content pillars, you are literally handing them the content they’re looking for.
No need to trawl through pages and pages of articles, guides and videos. Content pillars present it in a way that’s streamlined and easy to navigate. Once they’ve found the pillar page, they’ll be able to follow lots of links to other valuable and relevant content – which is known as “clusters”.
Here’s what that looks like:
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 the ranks.
2. 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 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, the hyperlinks makes 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. Because Google can immediately see what these pieces of content are about, it will rank you better.
Here’s what happened when HubSpot ran this strategy on its own blog:
See how more internal links led to a higher placement on the search engine results pages? You can do the same for your site.
3. 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 content pillars, and you will 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.
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 this, 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!
The foundation of all social media strategies should also be your content pillars. This is the first the first step towards a long-term social media strategy which aligns to your content goals.
So, when the consumers next needs 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 rake sin more revenue? Download our free Content Marketing Guide.
How to create content pillars?
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 buyer personas
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 are keywords are they searching?
What content has historically performed well?
2. Set up social listening
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 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.
6. Write your pillar content pages
Got your cluster content ideas ready to go? It’s time to create your pillar page. This is the foundation upon which your topic cluster will be built around.
How long should pillar content be?
Make it long-form – we’re talking at least 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.
Content pillar examples to inspire your content
Here are our favourite killer content pillar examples that will get you feeling inspired and ready to create your new winning pages.
Here’s an example of a killer content pillar page by HubSpot on Instagram marketing:
Why it works?
The page is a brilliant overview of everything relating to Instagram marketing, without exhausting one specific area. They do almost everything right with this pillar page, from the navigation that lets you jump ahead, to the visual aid and topic clusters.
Throughout the page, there are hyperlinks to a heap of excellent cluster content pieces, and they all link back to the guide. And what do you get at the very bottom of the page? More articles about Instagram marketing! Any guesses what they’re trying to rank for? Yup – topics related to Instagram.
Why it works?
The page provides a summary of social media marketing in an easily navigable structure. Like the HubSpot example, you can quickly jump down to the section that interests you. There’s a whole bunch of related resources scattered throughout the page, as well as step-by-step guides at the bottom.
Another thing Hootsuite does really well is to provide strong calls to action, driving the reader to take a training course, find out more and even give feedback on the content. Nice touch, Hootsuite!
Why it works?
No doubt about it, content is a massive part of Xero’s marketing strategy. But what we admire most about Xero is that they really know how to meet their users’ needs.
Take a look at this pillar page, for example. Xero knows that a whole segment of its target audience hasn’t started a business, so they created a pillar page that answers pretty much any question they might have about the process. You can skip to the section that is most relevant using the chapter links. There’s also a PDF you can download and save, which is a valuable asset.
This pillar page is also doing a great job of driving organic traffic from short- to long-tail search queries. Xero has lots of excellent pillar page example, so check out their other core pillars. For example, the “Invoicing Survival Guide” for small businesses has helped them achieve strong keyword rankings for “invoicing”.
4. Origin Energy
Why it works?
The team at Origin Energy clearly understands its target audience. This pillar content page starts with stats on how energy efficiency. This engages the viewer immediately without going into too much detail about specific solutions. Instead, it includes links to useful resources to answer the one key question visitors want to know: how can I save energy?
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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