What Are Pillar Pages, and How Do They Help SEO?

We know that transforming all of your website content to conform with Google’s ever-changing SEO algorithm is the last thing you want to do. What you did a year ago isn’t going to help you now, so how do you keep up and change your content strategy?

Believe us: If we knew the secret, we’d tell you. Sadly, it really is all about keeping up with the changes as quickly as possible and changing your content to match Google’s preferences. If you’re constantly monitoring SEO, you’re better prepared for when the changes happen.

Now, Google has changed its search engine intelligence to better know if your content is actually answering a search query.

Focusing on a few good long-tail keywords is no longer enough. It’s more about the quality of all your content and whether or not your viewer goes back to Google to find more answers after reading your page. Part of the reason why search behavior has changed is the fact that users now have to wade through a sea of content in pursuit of quality answers.

To adapt, searchers have changed their tactics. Whereas before you may have searched for a blog post by looking up “email marketing,” you most likely now search for “automation tools for email marketing” or “building great content for email marketing.” These more detailed queries are helping searchers find exactly what they’re looking for instead of trying to sift through the noise in more generic searches. They’re more likely to find their answer in the first few top rankings than having to click through a dozen pages like before.

So, how do you improve your content and capitalize on the current state of SEO? By using topic clusters and pillar pages.

What Are Topic Clusters?

In order to boost your rank on Google, you need to switch to the topic cluster model with your content. To do this, you choose broad topics you want to rank for and create content based on keywords related to that topic and link them all together. This creates a broader search engine authority, with specific, detailed topics supporting your one broad topic via hyperlinks.

This is a very deliberate architecture that you create to organize and link different content pages and blogs together in order to help more of your pages rank on Google. It also helps searchers find information on your site more easily, since the branching topics are always linked within the page they find first.

Topic clusters involve three components:

  • Pillar content: Your broad topic, a long-form blog or content page that has a high-level overview of the topic you’re trying to rank for.
  • Cluster content: More specific, detailed content that branches off from the pillar page it is attached to.
  • Internal linking structure: Use links within the cluster content to bring readers back to the pillar content, and help Google understand what you’re trying to rank for.

With this in mind, we can now get into pillar pages—the ones that cover the primary topic you’re trying to rank for.

What Are Pillar Pages?

Pillar pages are your foundation for topic ranking. It’s a content lander that is usually long form, around 2,000 words, and has a high-level description of your desired topic. It should cover all aspects of the topic—just not in detail. It’s important that you leave room on pillar pages to go into more depth on a cluster blog post.

For example, if you create a pillar page about email marketing, you’ll briefly touch upon email automation tools. But by using hyperlinks, you can bring readers to a cluster blog post that goes into detail on email automation tools. That post can go into which ones work best, how they differ from each other, and which one you should use depending on your needs, while the pillar page remains broad.

Your pillar page should answer questions, but needs to leave plenty to be desired for your cluster blog posts to cover.

Basically, you’re allowing the pillar page to be the introduction to your topic. It gives enough information for users to be interested and read through; then, you can direct them to the detailed post that will answer their specific question. Sometimes, searchers can come directly to a cluster blog post and then be brought back to the pillar page to learn more.

Building Pillar Pages

You’re excited to get started—we are too! Let’s look into the best tactics for building your pillar pages.

First, you need to throw out all you know about focusing on keywords—they’re still important, but pillar pages are more about topics. These topics are what you’re going to build your keywords around. What is your audience looking for? What are their interests, challenges, or regular inquiries? Choose a topic that’s broad enough for you to build more detailed blog posts off of it later on. At the same time, you want to avoid making your topic too broad—you need to build a pillar page that answers questions but isn’t a novel branching out in all directions.

When someone searches about a specific topic, your pillar page should answer enough questions with enough hyperlinks that it leads them into the well-focused, in-depth blog post that they’re actually looking for.

A pillar page on Creating Strong Subjects for Emails is way too detailed. Instead, choose Cold Email Marketing—specific but broad enough—and then use that other topic for a cluster blog post.

Building Cluster Content

The blogs that you build off of your pillar page are classic content pieces; they use keywords to improve their ranking and provide detailed information on a specific topic.

Crafting good content isn’t always easy. You want to draw in your reader right away to keep their attention and provide enough information so that they’re not left hanging at the end.

When you build cluster content in this new infrastructure method, you want to be sure that your blog post directly relates to the pillar page you are connecting it with. You need to use hyperlinks within your cluster content that link back to the pillar page in order to build the connection that Google can see.

Even with all this said, keyword research isn’t dead. You still want to make sure you’re using the right keywords to connect your cluster content to your pillar content, and to show up in the right searches. You don’t always have to write with the perfect keyword selection, either—you can optimize for the right keywords after you’ve written the blog to make sure you’re hitting all the right points.The key here that makes these different than a regular blog post is that you are linking back to the pillar page. On the pillar page, you will link to this cluster content, and in this cluster content, you will link back to the pillar page. That two-way connection is crucial to how the topic cluster infrastructure works.

Ready to Start?

It’s not easy to overhaul your content, and it won’t happen overnight. We promise that the work is worth the result: more engagement, more leads, and a higher ROI. If you’re looking for more information or help with optimizing your content, contact us today and we’ll be happy to lend you a hand.