Content pillars are a highly effective strategy for establishing topical authority, which is one of the Google ranking factors that determines where your web page lands in search engine rankings. Topical authority measures your website’s expertise in a particular subject and can show Google your site is credible and worth serving to users.
Think of a content pillar as a strong, stable anchor to your website, built from rich, thematic content. Each pillar demonstrates deep knowledge on a specific topic, boosting your topical authority and engaging users by delivering the information they want. In this guide, I’ll explain what a content pillar is, how to choose the best ones for your business, and tips for building pillars that help your site climb higher in SERP.
What Is a Content Pillar?
Content pillars are the core topics or themes your audience is interested in, making them a helpful organizational tool for your content marketing efforts. You can have any number of content pillars depending on your business strategy.
Use content pillars to inform your content creation process and return to the topics when creating blog posts, case studies, ebooks, social media posts, and other assets.
Content Pillars for SEO
Content pillars are critical for SEO. They help improve your online visibility by:
- Establishing your company’s expertise in a topic, which is a search engine ranking factor.
- Providing structure to your website, enabling search engines to better understand how content is related and how to index it.
- Offering opportunities for internal linking, which is useful for sharing link equity.
Content Pillars for Social Media Marketing
You can also apply the concept of content pillars to your social media strategy. Use your core themes to cover key topics and stay on brand, whether you’re creating posts, stories, ads, or live streams.
These social media content pillars will help your team build a cohesive social media identity so your audience knows they can trust you to deliver themed content that fits their interests. Plus, when you know what topics to cover, it’s easier to plan and schedule posts for different social media channels.
What Is a Pillar Page?
At the heart of every content pillar is a single pillar page. Also called a core page, the pillar page is a starting point for exploring a topic, hitting key points with a broad but comprehensive overview. They often function as an introduction to a topic. If the content is authoritative enough, the page can also be an opportunity to build backlinks to your site.
Your pillar page should link to relevant content that take readers deeper into the subject, creating a cluster of themed articles. This is key to building topical authority. Every new piece of high-quality content in the pillar further reflects your expertise and positions your business as a source of credible information on the subject. The more pages of trustworthy content you have for your pillar’s target keyword and related keywords, the more of an authority your site becomes for that topic.
Examples of Content Pillars
What are content pillars like in action? Sometimes it helps to visualize a concept, so I’ll use the example of a fictional company that sells financial products.
Let’s say the company’s marketing team is creating a blog to educate customers on personal finance. It chooses three content pillars its audience is interested in:
2. Loans, and
The pillar page for mortgages provides a high-level, conceptual overview of what mortgages are and how they work, serving as a gateway into the topic. The pillar page then links to articles on subtopics that provide more detailed information, such as types of interest rates, mortgage refinancing, and first-home buying tips. Now the company has a cluster of articles and a growing content pillar.
As the company adds more content to its mortgage pillar, it can focus on increasingly precise long-tail keywords, such as “how much of a down payment do I need?” Each additional article enhances the company’s topical authority and creates valuable keyword ranking opportunities.
How To Create Content Pillars & Pillar Pages
Organizing your content with pillar pages and clusters gives your site a logical structure and helps search bots more easily crawl and index the pages. Plus, thoughtful internal linking enables someone who lands on your site to fully explore a topic they’re interested in without returning to Google to continue their search.
Let’s talk about creating content pillars for your site.
How To Choose Content Pillars
For content pillars to be effective, they must be related to your core business and appeal to your target audience. Your content pillars should engage users, demonstrate expertise, and inspire customers to take actions that meet your business goals.
Discover What Your Target Audience Wants To Know
As with any marketing strategy, you have to understand your audience, how they behave, and what’s important at each stage of the buyer journey. Choose your pillars based on market research and the information your customers are most interested in. A travel website may want to devote content pillars to budget travel or extreme adventures — but these are only useful if the topics captivate their demographic.
Analyze your website to see which pages customers interact with the most. You can also gather information through surveys, feedback from sales and customer service reps, and questions posted on social media pages or in community forums.
Use Keyword Research To Identify Opportunities
Keyword research is the foundation of all good SEO campaigns and is also one of the best ways to dig up content pillar ideas. You might think you know the phrases your customers are entering into Google, but it’s best to verify your choices with data and make sure there’s a demand for those keywords.
Put simply, keyword research is a two-part process:
- Finding the search terms your customers are using to try to rank in SERP for those queries
- Analyzing and choosing target keywords based on factors such as search volume, search difficulty, and your overall business goals
There are free and paid keyword research tools to get you started. Be as thorough as possible as you do your research. Look for related keywords, keywords your competitors are using, and even trending keywords you can try to get in on early.
Then, analyze search volume (the monthly searches for the term) and difficulty (how hard it is to appear at the top of SERP for the term). A keyword that can get you in front of huge numbers of people might be really competitive, so it may be a better use of resources to target a keyword with moderate search volume that’s easier to rank for. In some cases, highly qualified audience segments use lower volume search terms, so you might even be able to convert users more quickly. As you build more domain authority, you’ll be able to compete for higher keyword difficulty search terms.
Group Topics Into Clusters Based on Keyword Research
Once you have a list of broad and long-tail keywords, organize them into the appropriate thematic clusters, or keyword themes. As you sift through the keywords, identify topics that may not be directly related to your business but can be useful for drawing in users and cementing your authority.
I’ll use another pillar content example from the hypothetical financial services website mentioned earlier.
Someone buying a home for the first time has broader questions beyond how a mortgage works. Even though our fictional company sells financial products, it can add content on choosing a realtor or what to consider before buying a fixer-upper. Helpful, well-written pieces on tangential topics can diversify traffic, enhance user experience, and build trust.
Prioritize core content when you begin writing, but tuck away peripherally related keywords to expand your content pillar down the road.
Create a Content Strategy To Build Out Pages, Posts & More
Now that you have themes for your content pillars, follow these steps to build out the pillars and establish topical authority:
Evaluate Existing Content
Before you begin writing new articles, take an inventory of previously published content. You may find you can assign some existing pieces to a new cluster. However, you may need to refresh them to ensure they’re current and meet Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Ideally, each piece also focuses on a unique keyphrase so your pages don’t compete for ranking. Remove old content that doesn’t serve a purpose to better streamline your site.
Identify Gaps in Your Pillar
Review each cluster for content gaps and create a list of new pieces to be written.
Consider the search intent of the user — the reason they’re plugging these keywords into Google. Write a piece that responds to user needs, as content that fully meets search intent has a better chance of ranking. Choose between different content formats to better answer queries, such as a blog post, guides, checklists, templates, and case studies.
Develop an Editorial Calendar
Don’t get overwhelmed if you suddenly find yourself with a big list of content to create. Remember, these ideas are the foundation of your content pillars, and as you get through your list, your pillars will grow and become stronger.
A content calendar keeps you organized so you and your team can systematically work through your publishing needs.
- Begin by creating pillar pages, and write them based on key subtopics in the cluster, so you can add internal links where possible.
- Prioritize the cluster pages based on keywords. Ones with high search volume and low keyword difficulty will help drive organic traffic faster.
- Establish a process for creating content.
- Schedule each piece for publication to help keep you on track. The important thing is to have a steady, regular output of content to show Google your site is actively publishing. Depending on your resources, this may mean twice a month or twice a week.
Repurpose Content When Possible
Repackage quality content where possible to extract the most value from your investment. Convert a how-to guide into a checklist, a case study into a video, or a series of articles into an ebook.
Measure What Works
As you implement your pillar content strategy, keep in mind that search engines need time to find, crawl, and index pages. It also takes time for your site to establish its expertise. However, you should start tracking page performance right away. Use metrics that reflect your business goals, such as organic traffic, SERP ranking, and engagement.
- Identify the pieces that are performing well, and use them to link to newer pages to share link equity.
- See which subjects audiences are drawn to, and develop other opportunities to address the topic, whether it’s from different angles or in other formats.
- More importantly, see which pages aren’t meeting expectations. You may need to review on-page SEO to ensure you’ve optimized them for Google ranking factors.
Don’t think content pillars are right for you? Check out the hub and spoke content model.
Support Your SEO Strategy With Content Creation
Implementing a content pillar strategy helps boost your website’s topical authority. And that’s good news for your SEO efforts, as it translates to increased visibility and organic traffic. For the best results, power your content strategy with keyword research, back it up with analytics, and ensure you have a steady output of content to grow your content pillar.
If your marketing team needs support with some or all of its content creation strategies, consider partnering with Victorious. Our team can assist with keyword research, content audits, ideation, writing, and optimization. Reach out to us for a free SEO consultation to learn more.