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How Pillar Pages Boost Your Blog Performance


by Christina Hooper on March 4, 2020
in General

Organize your content where it's easy to navigation for users and search bots.


You have probably found your way here because you're trying to figure out how to ramp up blog performance.

You've been blogging for a little while now and you're trying to figure out how to get better search rank and engagement out of your posts.

Or you're new to blogging and you're trying to make sure you kick things off the right way.

You've come to the right place. I'm going to show you exactly what pillar pages are and why they make a big difference when it comes to improving your search position and making it easier on your users to navigate and learn.

What is a Pillar Page?

It's a page on your website that acts as a cornerstone for a topic that you want to be know as an authority in.

Let me give you an example...

Look at our blog. We write on a lot of topics related to marketing and website development. We have pillar topics like this one: Get Found Online: The Epic Guide to Building Website Traffic and Engagement.

And then we have supporting articles for that pillar such as:


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So basically, we have one spot on our site that organizes all that content around a single topic and discusses that topic in detail. Then we expand on sections of that topic in even more detail using blog articles that are linked to it.

Here's an illustration of how HubSpot explains pillar pages that shows the structure a little better. They call this grouping of pillar page and blog articles a Topic Cluster.

HubSpot Pillar Page Graphic

A Topic Cluster around Facebook Marketing might look like this:

How to set up a business Facebook page

How to use streaming video on Facebook

How often to post on your Facebook page

Metrics to monitor on your Facebook page

Facebook Marketing

What do you post on our Facebook page

How to use Facebook Messenger Ads

How to boost your Facebook engagement

A beginner's guide to Facebook ads

Here’s another example of a pillar page about Instagram Marketing from HubSpot.

HubSpot Instagram Pillar Page

Why are pillar pages good to use?

There are two main reasons to implement a pillar content strategy.

Reason #1
It makes it easier for visitors to your site. You should always put user experience above search engine experience.

Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving. Their goal is to understand human behavior and determine if humans are enjoying your articles and site pages. If you put human experience first, your ranking will survive and thrive as their algorithms change.

By using pillars and linking the pillars and articles together, you make it easy on a user to binge on all of your content around a topic.

Reason #2
Pillars are highly optimized for search engine optimization (SEO). There is a lot of content on your site and on all the sites on the web.

By cross-linking all of your relevant and related posts online, you build a web of posts that are related to each other that Google's search spiders can follow.

Google follows those links and reads the content on those pages. This helps it build a more complete picture of the topic that you're writing about. Then when you add more links and more content later, it makes it easier for it to determine that this new piece is additional content related to the same topic.

Here's a great video from HubSpot that overviews Topic Cluster SEO

What goes into building everything?

  • Pillar pages should be written first - then you write the blog articles and link them to the pillar pages.
  • Pillar pages are generally much longer than normal posts.  They should be at least 1500 words.
  • Blog articles should be long enough to elaborate on an individual topic.  Typically we recommend that you write at least 600 words.
  • Pillar pages should be similar to an ebook - with chapters and a table of contents that includes hyperlinks to the sections of the page.

Here's a couple of graphics from HubSpot that show the difference in blog organization before and after implementing pillar content.

Before Pillars

Before Pillars

Before using pillars, you probably had a rough idea of the general topics that you wanted to educate your readers about.  You wrote as much content as possible on each of those topics.

With Pillars

With Pillars

With pillars, you have an organized grouping of content around each topic pillar.  Your site is more logically organized for the humans and the search bots that visit it to learn more about a topic.

Getting Started

Step #1 - Figure out what topics you want to rank for

When you're choosing which topics that you want to rank for, the important thing is to find a balance between being too broad and being too narrow.

For example, in the example pillar that I shared earlier from HubSpot, they used Instagram Marketing as their pillar topic. It's broad enough that they can easily write a lot of content related to it, but it's narrow enough to help a user through a specific problem or goal.

In contrast, if they had chosen something like Social Marketing as their pillar, that would have been too broad. There is a lot of content related to social marketing, but as a pillar it would have to contain so much information that it would be too complicated for a user and not as likely to provide much benefit to them.

Buzzsumo is a great tool for this. You can grab the url from popular websites in your niche, paste it into Buzzsumo, and get a list of content on their site sorted to show you the articles that are getting the most engagement. You can look at those articles and determine which topics are generating the most interest in your market.

Also, it's important to keep in mind that you can always add more pillars later. As your company and blog grow and evolve, you will find new topics that you think are interesting to your market. When that happens, just add a new cluster on and keep going.

Step #2 - Determine which keywords to target

Now that you have a solid topic, you'll want to identify some keywords that go with it. A great tool for this is Keywordtool.io.

You can start by typing in the broad pillar topics that you planned in the first step. It will return a list of searches sorted to show you the ones with the highest search volume. The free version limits the number of results that you can see, but even this limited information is valuable.

Jot down a quick note of the ones that have the highest search volume. Then include as many of these as possible on your pillar page. You'll want to link these keywords to dedicated blog articles that go into more detail later, so make sure you hang onto your list.

Conclusion

Now you should have a better idea of what an effective pillar page looks like and how to use them in your blogging strategy to boost your SEO and user experience.

They are exactly what you need to take your blogging to the next level.

I want to hear about your pillar and cluster strategy. Leave me a comment below with a breakdown of your pillar and supporting content. If I like it, I'll even include it on this post with a link to your site!

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