Imagine you are trying to construct a physical monument that can withstand the test of time, like the Great Pyramids or the Acropolis.
That's what pillar content is in a nutshell - foundational pieces of content that will live on your website for years to come.
Sometimes also called cornerstone content, pillar content are pieces of substantial, highly informative and evergreen content for your website that brings value to your audience.
On its own, it can draw the right audience and traffic to your business blog. But it doesn’t have a wide reach due to its limited content scope.
But when you put several pieces of similar content together, they form a massive piece of content that is focused on and well-structured around a specific topic which will support your blog.
Just like its namesake, pillar content plays a structural role in the digital aspects of your business. It is the support that holds up all your other content.
And because of its structural nature of this content, you’ve probably already figured out how robust a content pillar needs to be.
Pillar content blog posts are the bricks and mortar content that supports your business blog. They are the posts that define your corporate branding.
In fact, they’re so valuable to your blog because they are the main draw that brings your audience back to your site time and time again.
Why pillar content?
They help you get noticed by Google
With tons of clutter online, Google’s algorithm can get confused in telling whether a webpage is a high quality or relevant to search users or not.
Therefore, Google prefers it when you provide a clean website experience for users, with logical internal links that clearly tells Google exactly what each piece of content is all about.
So when you structure your content in a pillar-to-subtopics layout, you will start to see your content climb up in Google ranks.
The reason for this is because Google is able to tell explicitly what your website is about. When it doesn’t, it can’t put you where you need to rank, and therefore you will not rank well.
If you’re in the pet grooming business if every article you write about on pet maintenance links back to a pillar page that talks about pet grooming, Google knows quickly knows what those pieces of content are about without the need to rely on user feedback. As a result, you will rank better on Google.
On top of that, the more content that you cover on a specific topic on your website, the better Google will rank you for that topic in general.
The key is to have a well-planned structure for all your content, which links directly to your central pillar.
Pillar content is beneficial to your website SEO because a well-organised site makes it easier for your website visitors to navigate your content.
But, now that you know what makes pillar pages important and its role in content marketing, how do you start building your own?
They boost the overall quality of your content
According to a report by the Content Marketing Institute, producing enough quality content is the biggest challenge for most B2B marketers.
This isn’t exactly surprising when you think about it, as marketers have to be able to keep up and produce great content for so many different platforms, such as social media, marketing campaigns, blogs, e-books, etc.
Therefore, to juggle with producing so much content production is no easy feat, especially if you are a sole proprietor and you need to handle several other aspects of running your own business.
You’ll need to establish your business blog as an authority site, not one that’s full of dull, uninformative posts.
By having a site that is packed with high-value content, you will be able to draw in readers and to your business naturally. This will lead to better business results.
So if growing your business online is your aim, then you need to take the time and effort to build the “pillar content” that solidifies your business blog’s reputation as a go-to authority source for good content within your industry.
With several of your content articles, you can then put them all together to form a vast library of content to create a pillar, that covers all the aspects of the main subject, essentially turning it into a net without any holes.
They complement your marketing strategy
On top of the SEO and content quality benefits, you can also integrate your pillar content into other facets of your content marketing plan.
For example, your pillar content could easily be used in your lead nurturing communications like emails, guest blog posts, infographics, videos, social media updates, and more.
This can save you time and effort writing several pieces of high-quality content when you have pillar content already at your disposal.
With pillar content, you can capture as many relevant prospects as you possibly can, covering a broad spectrum of subtopics and ensuring every user query is addressed in as much detail as possible.
Building your pillar content
1. Know Your Audience
Building pillar content for your business blog might seem like a pursuit that puts your company’s interest in mind.
After all, one of the aims of content marketing is to use content to demonstrate your expertise in your industry to establish yourself as a figure of authority within your niche.
Well, the answer isn’t quite as clear-cut.
While writing pillar content that’s uniquely is unique to your company’s voice and vision is vital – but it’s even more imperative that you address the topics that can resonate highly with your audience.
Since pillar content articles represent you and your business as the expert in your field, they have to provide the maximum level of utility for your readers.
This is where solid keyword research work comes into play. With keyword research, you can locate several subtopics with pinpoint precision that aren't overly competitive, yet are still highly relevant to your niche and draw traffic to your business.
Let’s use our pet grooming business as an example. Let’s say you have identified your core topic as pet grooming.
Using ‘pet grooming’ as a topic for your pillar, you can then create clusters that are made up of related subtopics. These are usually related topics that consist of long-tail keywords.
As you develop each subtopic into a distinct piece of web content, linking them back to the core pillar.
Here's another visual around the core topic of Blogging for Business.
For example, you can come up with subtopics for ‘pet-grooming’ like:
- Ear hygiene for dogs
- Basic dog haircuts
- How to whiten or brighten a dog’s coat
- Grooming for pets with sensitive skin
- How to choose dog grooming professionals
- Grooming instructions for terriers
- How to get rid of urine odour from dog fur
It’s always a good idea to look through your past content, as you might have already produced a substantial wealth of content that is relevant to your pillar.
Build up a list of content ideas that can address the needs of your audience. With every piece of content, you increase the reach of your pillar and make it even more relevant for both Google and your users.
2. Identify Your Readers’ Most Pressing Issues
What types of pillar content have already existed?
If you still have no idea about what topics to build your pillar content on, take a look at the content that is already popular on your competitors’ sites.
You can also discover more sites using platforms such as Buzzsumo. As long as your audiences are similar to your main competitors, the topics that are performing well on another website in your industry will play out well on your own audience too, as long as you don’t copy the content wholesale.
What kind of presentation will appeal to your audience?
There are several various types of pillar content that can help you reach the top of Google and provide high value to your audiences, such as How-to Guides, Listicle Posts, Statistic-Based Posts, Quick Reference Cheat Sheets and Roundup Posts. Think about what works best for your readers.
3. Start creating your content
By now you should have a robust list of ideas on what to write for your pillar content pieces. These content pieces should be cover the needs of your audience for today and also for the days to come.
Once you have finalised your ideas, it’s time to start writing the content.
Depending on your writing skills or your schedule, you can choose to either write these articles on your own, or you can choose to hire professionals to write them for you.
Whichever you choose, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind as you get started.
Your pillar content articles should ideally be constructive and engaging for your audience, so much that it compels them to bookmark your website or even share them on their social networks with their friends and family.
And you don’t need to create a long article, as long as it is of high-quality.
That’s because you will be building a library of content for your audience. With shorter articles, your audience will be able to locate the information they want, consume your content more readily.
But don’t just crank out a set of mediocre blog articles and simply call them “pillar content.” To ensure the quality of your content is up to snuff, take the time to revise and edit multiple drafts of your pillar content posts before they go live.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Will your content satisfy their requirements? Does your content go above and beyond what your readers are expecting?
If you find that your first draft can’t meet these criteria, you should keep working on your article until you’re entirely satisfied with the quality. Or alternatively, you can hire an editor to help you polish up your content till they shine.
Now that you’ve created and published your pillar articles, the last thing you want to do is let them sit in your blog and have zero readers visiting them for weeks.
What you’ll want to do is to promote them in front of your audience using various channels.
- Placing relevant links on your “About” page
- Sharing them in blogging communities. If the members find it valuable they’ll want to share on their blogs, increasing your chances getting more exposure.
- Sharing your content on forums, such as Reddit or Quora.
- Placing links from your landing page to your pillar posts as it increases visibility to your traffic.
- Include a list of most recent or most popular posts on your website’s sidebar.
- Placing meaningful internal links within your existing articles
- Share the content on your own social media channels.
Since your pillar articles are high-quality and helpful to its readers, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about promoting your content over and over again.
As long as you don’t start spamming them incessantly, you should be proud of your work.
After all, with all the research and content creation processes that you’ve invested in, your articles should provide an evergreen value for your audience – making them worthy of being shared regularly.
How to use your pillar content in your content strategy
Your pillar content can also provide support for your overall content plan.
It helps to give your content a direction which can be beneficial to your audience, creating a strongly focused strategy to better target prospective customers.
The key to developing a sustainable content strategy lies in having the ability to continually produce content that can meet both the long and short-term marketing goals of your business.
Without a viable strategy, you’ll find yourself burnt out from producing content with no real focus that builds on to your pillar content.
That’s why you need to build your own content stack to complement your entire content marketing plan.
For example, because your pillar content is made up of many smaller pieces of content, this allows you to break them into chunks for different purposes.
Using 1 pillar made up of 5 topics, you can quickly create a variety of diverse content, such as:
- 1 lead magnet PDF for email signup
- 5 blog post articles ( or guest posts)
- 5 infographics for social media
- 5 scripts for Youtube videos or podcast episodes
- 5 emails for lead nurturing
- 10 Posts on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Because your pillar content is evergreen, you can use them again and again for your various social media and email content needs.
Ensure that you keep up with the regular updates and additions to keep your pillar content fresh. When you have a significant update, you can use this as an opportunity to relaunch your content with the latest elements.
Pillar content is just like real pillars in see in any buildings. Their job is to be the pillar for the rest of your content on your website.
And because of that, you’ll find that pillar content is usually the most protracted and broadest content you’ll find on your business website.
Pillar content serves as a beacon for SEO crawlers to identify your website correctly, and they link to all other relevant content in one page so your visitors can locate the information they need quickly.
With a pillar page, you can quickly produce other types of content to support your content strategy, making it much more sustainable for the long term.
About Murray Dare
A digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur,
Murray runs his marketing agency Murraydare.co.uk and several online startups.
Murray has helped startups and businesses achieve online success through a considered approach to marketing.