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What Is a Pillar Page and How Do I Use It?
As search engines and their users continue to evolve, SEO strategies must adapt accordingly. Over the past few years, we have witnessed a significant transformation in user behavior and search engine algorithms.
We guide you through the rising popularity and necessity of Pillar Pages and their closely related topic cluster model as essential tools for effective SEO and Content Marketing.
In recent years, user search queries have become more precise and lengthy than 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 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.
Why Pillar Pages Matter?
72% of marketers use pillar pages as part of their SEO strategy. This study by the Content Marketing Institute found that pillar pages are one of the most effective SEO strategies for increasing organic traffic and ranking for more keywords.
Pillar pages can increase organic traffic by up to 30%. HubSpot's study found that businesses implementing pillar pages saw an average increase of 30% in organic traffic.
Pillar pages can help you rank for more keywords. Pillar pages allow you to target a broader range of keywords. For example, if you have a pillar page about "digital marketing," you can link to individual blog posts about SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, and other topics. This will help you to rank for more keywords related to digital marketing.
Pillar pages can boost your domain authority. Domain authority is a measure of how well-respected your website is by search engines. Pillar pages can help to improve your domain authority by providing a central hub for high-quality content. Search engines see pillar pages and associated topic clusters as a sign that your website is authoritative and trustworthy.
Pillar pages can improve the user experience of your website. This is because pillar pages provide a comprehensive overview of a topic, which can help users find the information they are looking for quickly and easily. Pillar pages can also help to improve the navigation of your website by providing links to related content.
Knowing this development of search engine algorithms and how their users interact with them, how should content creators adapt to make the most 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 to in-depth articles about specific subtopics.
The pillar-cluster model is good for SEO because it showcases your expertise and authority 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 your Pillar Page supports. All cluster content relates to the Pillar Page, which provides direct access to cluster content. Cluster content complements 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 many 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" 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. 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 to make 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. Sticking to the previous example would mean finding and grouping up your Twitter-related posts in preparation for your Pillar Page. Each post needs to be (1) good content, able to "stand on its own feet," and (2) cover a defined area of the buyer's journey. It isn't just a pool of similar content.
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 properly adding a small paragraph or even a couple of sentences to the page and inserting hyperlinks to the newly expanded cluster content.
Example Pillar Pages
To fully understand and master this technique, let's draw inspiration from remarkable examples and share a compilation of Pillar Page best practices with valuable lessons to learn.
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 Pillar content's success. 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.