Who doesn't want website traffic?
Figuring out the best SEO practices that improve your chances of ranking high (which leads to clicks, which leads to traffic) can get hairy...but not for us content marketers! Search algorithms have evolved to favor what humans favor: helpful content.
So, how does that help businesses?
It gives them the opportunity to write about the topics that they're an expert on, and what their buyers are dying to know. The main topics that they write about are their content pillars.
Here's how they work.
Content Pillars in Theory
Just like your traditional architectural pillars, a content pillar strategy supports a whole lot.
- Developing a pillar strategy is one tool for improving both your content and SEO strategies.
- It organizes the topics that you want to target, which can help make your marketing strategies overall become more efficient and streamlined.
- It informs and supports other marketing strategies because it is based on information that your buyers want to know, not the services you want to sell them.
In the practical sense, pillars organize your content. Topic clusters made up of detailed content pages (blog posts and other informative resources) link to one corresponding pillar page on your website. This allows website visitors to easily find lots of useful information around one topic, which makes you out to be a (well-deserved) thought leader on that topic.
Search engines follow these links, too. They analyze the quality of your content and the breadth of the expertise you offer to determine how worthy you are of ranking high up for a topic. There are certainly other factors that go into how you rank, like customer reviews and backlinks, but organizing your content in this way will support your other efforts, and even help you get those backlinks.
What's great about implementing this somewhat technical tactic, is that it makes your content efforts much more measurable. Mmmmm data.
Content Pillars in Practice
A pillar strategy has three stages:
- Establish pillar pages: Pick your main topics.
- Create content clusters: Develop supporting content.
- Help everyone see that they're related: Dress them in matching pajamas. Just kidding. Hyperlink them all together.
If building content around topics you're an expert on and that your customer wants to know about increases your chances to rank for those topics, you might start asking yourself, "What am I an expert on?"
Time for some self-reflection.
Okay, enough of that. Your services will inform your expertise. Let's focus more on what your customers want.
Ideally, they'd tell you, but they do the next best thing: they tell search engines every day. Doing keyword, competitor and audience research will inform which topics you should cover and will drive traffic to your website and relevant service offerings. If you've developed buyer personas, you'll also have a good idea of what they're looking for.
Your pillar pages should be based on broad topics so that you have ample room to elaborate on different kinds of content. If you already have detailed resources behind paywalls, release them, deconstruct them, and reconstruct them as pillar pages, where the detailed sections serve as your topic cluster. There are different ways to design your pillar page. Decide on a format that is easy to navigate and gives a clear overview of what you'll be covering.
With your expertise and topics in mind, dive deeper into long tail keyword research that will make up the topic clusters. Keywords do still matter. Each piece of content, like a blog post, will serve as information to support a certain long tail keyword related to each topic. They add value to each core pillar topic.
There are tools that can help you find topics and long tail keywords that are good for you to target. Some are free, and some require an investment. The ability to do audience and search research is valuable and well worth the investment, so make the investment...if you work with an agency, they already have ;)
You might already have past content that you've spent time creating. Repurpose it! Update it by making each piece cover its keyword in depth and ensure that it is helpful to readers (or watchers).
Organizing Your Content
Great! You've made a beautiful content pillar and corresponding topic cluster filled with useful content that will wow your visitors!
That is, if they can find it.
Reserve this part for the people that love organization. Linking these pieces together does the heavy lifting of making sure people and search engines alike can find it all. There are two important things to remember:
- Make sure your content pillar is on a conversion path
- Link all relevant content to each other and to the pillar resource page
✅ HUFU QUICK TIP: Remember we said measurable data? Organizing your pillar strategy in a CRM/CMS like HubSpot is very satisfying. It helps you see which topics are the most popular and are earning you leads and conversions. They just made it even better with their recent updates.
Here's a peek of one of our pillars organized in HubSpot (this one is for recent posts):
Just because SEO and content now have integrated strategies, doesn’t mean that your work is cut in half. It means looking at SEO and content in a new way. And there's more to it.
Wondering why we’re talking about content pillars again? We hosted a HubSpot User Group (HUG) event in November 2017 where we covered the content pillar overview summarized for you above. And it’s that time of the quarter again!
If you want to go further in-depth to learn how to find topics, actually do the keyword research, and make content that fits into your content pillars and supports SEO check out our next event!
We’ll have breakfast plus practical tips for how to approach your content strategy while supporting search rank. Want people to find your business online, but not sure which pillar to stand on?