If there’s one thing we can be certain of in the world of digital marketing, it’s that it’s ever-changing. And, while that means new opportunities are always on the horizon, it also puts a lot of pressure on business owners, marketers, bloggers and anyone linked to the industry to constantly keep up with what’s new.
One skill every digital professional needs to stay ahead of the curve is the ability to create and use pillar pages. In this brief guide, I’m going to share with you more information about what a pillar page is, and give you some creative tips to help you create an effective one.
A pillar page is a single page dedicated to an entire topic. Websites are made up of different topics, usually connected in some way, but for a website visitor, it can be difficult to navigate a site and access all that information.
We can try to make things easier by using hyperlinks and intuitive navigation to help guide the user, but for the most part, they are on their own. With a pillar page, however, all the information regarding a topic is aggregated into just one place.
Users can always return to the pillar page and continue the process as they like. For context, let’s look at Typeform’s pillar page for brand awareness.
This is a great example of a high-quality pillar page. We can identify a few key aspects of how these pages are created:
But a pillar page doesn’t just help with a user’s navigation. Its benefits are deeply tied to your SEO efforts, believe it or not! Let’s look closer at how this type of page supports a website.
Creating a pillar page takes a lot of time and effort. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to produce this detailed, rich type of content, so it’s perfectly fine if you’re asking yourself if all this hard work is worth your while.
Here are some advantages that a pillar page can bring to your website.
Google and other search engines love content, but what they love more is high-quality content that can match user intent. By design, pillar pages encourage the creation of high-quality content, where you can leverage essential keywords for SEO purposes.
But apart from keywords, there are other ranking factors that pillar pages include:
Having these pages doesn’t just benefit the user. When you start creating a 101 page around a topic and go through the basics, you can easily spot any gaps or missed opportunities in your content and address it. This comes in very handy in a content marketing strategy!
Pillar pages are opportunities to keep users on your website longer and engage them, especially if you’re using videos or animations in addition to the text. Just look at The Atlantic’s pillar page on population health.
It’s stacked full of data and information, but you don’t feel like you’re reading a textbook while going through it. The page relies heavily on visuals to keep the reader engaged, and the links are kept outside the main content to keep the text as simple as possible. This leads to people spending more time on the site for the sole purpose of consuming the content on the pillar page.
The way people search for things has changed significantly over the years.
Just think about how you search for a topic. Do you write a vague keyword, or are you more likely to write down an exact question? It’s the latter, right? That’s because we want accurate results for our searches, and we know adding more information to our queries will give us that.
And Google wants to make sure people find what they’re looking for. Pillar pages, because they are so full of content, have an easier time matching the conversational-type of queries closely, which helps Google and other search engines offer that page a better ranking position.
As I said before, creating a pillar page is not easy, and it does take a lot more time than your average blog post. However, considering all the benefits it’s bound to bring, it’s worth it.
But before you go off looking for your site’s topic cluster, I wanted to share some tips on how to create a good pillar page. Take this list as a guide to help you on your journey and ensure your page delivers on the desired results!
The first and arguably most important step is choosing the topic your pillar page will revolve around. A lot of people tend to do it by choosing the keywords they want to rank better for on search engine results pages (SERPs), but a pillar page needs to be based on a broad topic that can allow you to link multiple pages on your site.
Of course, you also want to make sure the pillar page is relevant to your audience, which is why I advise creating a buyer persona and seeing what type of information your target audience is looking for. The buyer persona can help you with other marketing efforts as well, so it’s a good idea to create one.
So you’ve chosen a topic, such as “email marketing,” and have decided to create a pillar page around it. The next thing you’ll want to do is find the subtopics that will go into the content, and the best way to do that is through keyword research.
Keyword research gives you more insight into what people are searching for regarding your pillar page topic. While you have the freedom to structure your content as you see fit (your expertise on the topic is also extremely relevant), it’s a good idea to check in with tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, and Mangools to help you address what people want to learn directly.
These keywords will also be included in the content itself, which will help your SEO efforts quite a lot. Remember to search for long-tail keywords as well to be able to address more specific queries.
The next step is also the one that will take the most time and effort: writing and creating the page. In some cases, you may take an existing page and change it into a pillar page, but that’s really up to you.
For this step, I have a few additional tips I think will come in handy:
Have a clear and concise definition of your topic. It’s important to set the stage for your pillar page and reassure users they are in the right place. The easiest way to do it is to simply offer a short definition right at the top of the page and then proceed with the rest of the content.
Add a table of contents for easy navigation. Some users may not need to read every single section of your pillar page, or even go back to other sections to refresh their memory. Whatever the reason, a pillar page needs a table of contents to allow easy navigation.
Choose topics related to your keywords. As you write your content, try to make each subheading around a topic-related keyword that you’ve discovered through your keyword research.
Write content that provides an overview. It’s easy to get lost in the details and to want to add as much as possible – but remember, that’s not the point of the pillar page. Your users don’t have to know everything about the topic once they’ve reached the end, just an overview of it.
Link out to your other blog pages. For those who are looking for more information, add hyperlinks to other blog posts in which you cover the topic more in depth.
Pay attention to the design. Design aspects can make or break a pillar page. There’s a lot of content and keeping people engaged isn’t done just by writing convincingly. Things like a pleasant font, nice colors and an appealing template matter just as much. Create a page that encourages people to go through it to the end.
An amazing perk of a pillar page is that it is an opportunity for linking. First, it allows you to add a lot of internal links, which helps users stay on your site more and easily find their way through your content.
But, if you ask me, it’s the opportunities for backlinks that weigh the most for SEO purposes. Backlinks are links from one page to another or website. Search engines see backlinks as votes from another site that your content is useful and relevant. That’s why a lot of marketers and SEO specialists focus heavily on building quality backlinks.
Since a prerequisite for pillar pages is high-quality content, other sites will be more compelled to link out to you. However, you can increase your chances by guest posting on other sites or manually reaching out to other bloggers. Not only will this help increase your brand awareness, but your website’s overall authority as well.
Lastly, you will have to continuously update your pillar page – I am 100 percent sure of it. Even if the content is evergreen and will always remain relevant, what may eventually differ is the information people want to know about it.
User attention can go in virtually any nook and cranny of a subject, and if you want your pillar page to remain in the search queries and serve its purposes, it’s essential to update the page often. I’d recommend you redo your keyword research now and then to see if there are any changes in the potential subtopics. Do it as often as needed, especially for industries that are known to change over short periods, like marketing or the tech industry!
I see pillar pages as amazing opportunities for brands to grow, because, in essence, they are ways for you to show your audience your expertise on a particular subject, in addition to being very effective SEO tactics.
Just remember that you are always creating content for the reader, not the search engine. Keep this in mind as you’re designing and writing your brilliant pillar page.