What makes content more cost-effective than other types of marketing is the simple fact that it lasts. Ads can be effective if they’re timely and social media is often meant to be experienced in the moment, but content is forever. People can find blog posts on your site that were posted years ago. Even if landing page content needs to be refreshed more often, if it’s done right and ranks well it can also be more effective than traditional forms of digital marketing.
Thus, the concept of pillar content came about as a means to boost both page rankings as well as keeping your site’s visitors on there for much longer durations.
What is Pillar Content?
Pillar content, also known as a pillar page, is a type of long-form content that lives on your website. If you own several websites, pillar content is a powerful way of driving traffic between all of them but the point of a pillar is that its foundation is in one place. To keep the reader’s attention once you’ve grabbed it, pillar content needs to be on the same website.
What makes pillar content different from a blog post or landing page is that it relies on one broad term with several different subtopics opposed to just one or two long-tail keywords. Pillar pages start with one broad search term then work in several more on their subpages in that the base of the pillar is a very general topic while the subpages dive into more fine-tuned subtopics.
The Parts of the Pillar and Types of Keywords
The pillar’s base is called the head term. For example, “gum disease” is a vague and general search term. Colgate has a page dedicated to it. “Gum disease” is an excellent head term because it’s broad with plenty of room for additional nuance and has a high search volume (which should be factored in when deciding on the head term.) The head term shouldn’t be more than two words, but may vary depending on your industry. The head term should also be relevant to at least one major product or service on your website as well as matching up with what one of your buyer personas would be looking for.
Next, core topics related to the head term need to be chosen. Core topics need to have context to the head term and while high search volume is a priority, it shouldn’t be as high as it is for the head term. Core topic keywords are more refined long-tail keywords about 3-5 words long. Each core topic should strive to rank well as their collective power is what will raise that pillar onto high SERP placement. Colgate’s core topics on their gum disease page read like a list of resources for gum disease. They include symptoms, treatment, and causes of gum disease and all tie back to mouthwash and toothpaste designed for people at risk for gum disease. However, the core topic keywords don’t necessarily need to include the head term like they do in this case with gum disease.
Subtopic content is then planned from those core topics. The head term and core topics are more evergreen webpages while the subtopics require more refreshing like weekly blog posts, videos, and so on. The subtopics serve to make the core topics visible. Subtopic keywords should tie back to the core topics and also don’t need to include the core topic, but should be closely related.
Once the head term, core topic, and subtopics have been decided on, they can be formed into topic clusters that serve as deep-dives into the head term and related topics. Since this takes time to build, starting with a blog and other related content the linking to the pillar is the way most people go with this.
Don’t Forget Inbound Links!
Inbound links on subtopic content like blog posts serve to keep the reader engaged and visiting other parts of your website. But inbound links serve one other overlooked purpose: they also increase ranking.
Crest has a similar gum disease prevention resource to Colgate’s. But it’s barely visible at the top of Google results because it’s lacking the authority from multiple inbound links like Colgate has. Creating at least two internal links on each page of the pillar will not only keep engaged readers clicking on them but also boost your SERP position.
Once the pillar has been built up into multiple webpages on your site as well as any other related content and websites that you own, creating inbound links becomes less difficult. A pillar rich with inbound links will always rank higher than a seemingly authoritative page that is lacking them.
Solid pillar content isn’t a quick or easy undertaking but like all forms of content, it has long-lasting value and can even be more powerful for latching into search traffic than paid means once the core topics have been fleshed out and there are more inbound links that can be created.
Rachel P is an indie game developer, writer, and consultant. She is also a content strategist here at Writer Access and would be happy to help you with keyword maps, customer journey maps, and buyer personas in addition to writing for you. If you would to like to hire Rachel to devise a content strategy for you, please contact your account manager or send a direct message.