What Is a Pillar Page and How Do I Use It?
As search engines and their users evolve, SEO strategies continue to adapt to these evolutions. In recent years, we've seen a drastic shift in how users use search engines and how search engine algorithms have been perfected. We walk you through Pillar Pages (and their closely related topic cluster model) as they are rising in popularity and necessity as a tool for SEO and content management.
In recent years, user search queries have become more precise and lengthy, as opposed to the stereotypical 2-word Google search of the past. This is primarily due to the overwhelming amount of content that can be accessed through search engines - most low-quality and undesirable. By being more precise in their searches, users hope to avoid low-effort pages popping up on their Search Engine Results Page (SERPs.) The rise of voice-activated searching, through the means of Google Home or Amazon's Alexa, for example, has also naturally contributed to the development of phrase-based searching.
In response to this development, search engines have become much better at delivering the best possible results for longer search queries.
One of the main ways they have done this is by emphasizing the importance of keywords within searches. So, for example, typing "where to buy a swimsuit near me" in Google will also connect you to all sorts of relevant keywords - such as "bathing suit," "swimming trunks," "swimming gear," etc. - now more than ever.
Knowing this development of search engine algorithms and how their users interact with them, how should content creators adapt to make the most out of the current SEO trends? Learning about Pillar Pages and using them is one of the best places to start.
A pillar page and its associated pillar-cluster model are core elements of a content marketing strategy used to establish authority and improve search engine optimization (SEO) on a website. It is a high-level piece of content that broadly overviews a core topic and links out to in-depth articles about specific subtopics.
The pillar-cluster model is good for SEO because it showcases your expertise and authority on the topic while adding context and improving PageRank flow via internal links.
What is a Pillar Page?
Pillar page content focuses on offering a broad answer to essential questions. They are not hyper-focused or limited. Instead, they are long, general pages that serve as a "hub" for a broad topic. Your pillar page shouldn't be treated as any other article or blog post: it should be an introduction to a given subject from which the user can easily access additional content. It's best to think of it as somewhere between a home page and an article - it's not just a list of links to go to, but it's also not very detailed and specific.
This distinction may seem abstract, but once you understand cluster content, the idea of a "hub"-style Pillar Page will become more apparent. Cluster content is the content that is supported by your Pillar Page. All cluster content relates to the Pillar Page, which provides direct access to cluster content. Cluster content is complementary to Pillar Page content since it fills in the gaps that your Pillar Page leaves: detailed, single-issue articles and posts that answer specific questions.
Cluster content is your "real" content: it should be what drives traffic and interest to your site. You don't want all your questions to be answered in a massive Pillar Page - you want this key location to provide vague information on a plethora of issues and then point the reader toward relevant pages of cluster content that contain the detailed answers they are looking for.
So how is using a Pillar Page system different from what you're used to seeing? Historically, blogging sites have had their content scattered disorderly under simple topics or tags. For example, you'd have marketing blogs appear under the "Social Media" tag or the "SEO" tag, but not much more. Trying to navigate a site organized in this manner is like visiting a library that only categorized their books as "Fiction" or "Nonfiction" - outside of the tags, it's chaos. This page acts as both your safe house and your map: you know where to find it at all times, and you know it will show you where to go.
How to approach using the Pillar Page system
Creating a Pillar Page is an ambitious project, but SEO trends show that it is becoming more and more necessary. Here are a few things you can do to start creating your Pillar Pages:
Break up your usual “tags” into more minor (but broad) Pillar Page topics. For example, if you have a "Social Media" tag for your blog posts, you wouldn't want to make a "Social Media" Pillar Page - the topic is too vast. Instead, try breaking it into smaller sub-topics that can still be general enough. "Social Media" can be separated into multiple Pillar Pages like "Twitter Optimization," "Instagram Strategies," etc.
Get your cluster content in order. Always remember that the goal is to get the users to your cluster content since that should be the content worth reading on your site. Don't make a Pillar Page for the sake of making one: your Pillar Page serves your cluster content. This means that you need to organize your cluster content in a way that allows you to create a Pillar Page for them. To stick to the previous example, this would mean finding and grouping up all of your Twitter-related posts in preparation for your Pillar Page.
Use hyperlinks and internal linking. This cannot be overstated. While interlinking is already important within traditional blog posts, it is the Pillar Page system's bread and butter. Hyperlinks are the primary way you transform your Pillar Page from an oversized article lacking detail to a hub for all your cluster content. Links to your cluster content are the primary focus of your Pillar Page - this means that you should write your Pillar Page in a way that would enable you to insert hyperlinks to your cluster content.
Keep your Pillar Page updated. If your Pillar Page serves as a map for users to navigate, it should always correctly reflect the cluster content it is trying to promote. This means that if your cluster content expands beyond what your Pillar Page is currently offering, you should look to update your Pillar Page immediately. This can be as simple as adding a small paragraph or even a couple of sentences to the page and inserting hyperlinks to the newly expanded cluster content properly.
The easiest way to learn this method is to draw inspiration from solid examples. To end this article, here are some examples of helpful Pillar Pages and a few things you can learn from them:
Hubspot’s “Instagram Marketing” Pillar Page: Look to this page to figure out what the content of a Pillar Page should look like. There is a lot of information here, but nothing too specific. It’s enough to be informative, but it would feel incomplete without the cluster content it refers to. Also, Hubspot is the general locus of the term "Pillar Page" and has some of the most comprehensive information on the topic.
3PL Central's “State of the Third-Party Logistics Report” Pillar Page is another excellent example of how successful Pillar content can be. Since adopting this model, 3PL’s traffic has increased ninefold, and their conversions twofold.
Taking a cue from these examples, and building out this essential foundation, will help you master your SEO and content management practices.
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