Publishing content regularly can result in your blog resembling a scattered array of articles that don’t work together as themed content. One advantage you can create as a publisher is defining themes within your content by organizing them in topic clusters. As a precursor to creating an effective topic cluster, use the pillar page best practices outlined in this article.
What’s a pillar page?
A pillar page represents a major keyword topic on your website that can be broken down into smaller subtopics. This page would briefly summarize the subtopics, but not go into great detail about them. Instead, it would link to narrowly focused articles that target long-tail phrases and in turn link back to the pillar page.
The interlinking structure formed by establishing a pillar page binds your major keyword topic. Since every smaller article points to the pillar it becomes the central hub for the topic, which enhances the page’s authority and ranking ability.
This internal linking strategy raises the profile of the pillar page to demonstrate the importance of its content as it relates to your website. This page represents a central idea being supported by a number of different articles to create depth and expertise in the subject.
There’s no limit to how many pillar pages you create on your website. For every major topic, create a pillar page to create the main hub for how the information on your site is organized.
What are the benefits of using a pillar page?
This type of structure organizes your content for both users and search engines. The interlinking structure guides and encourages users to read more related articles on the website. This leads to higher click-through rates and extends the average length of time a user spends on your website.
An increase in user engagement translates to stronger ranking signals, which results in more traffic through improved search visibility.
Pillar pages tend to rank for multiple keywords and phrases because of the breadth of content that is incorporated. This gives publishers a lot of opportunities to target featured snippets and win positions in the People Also Ask box.
It also allows for the opportunity to target long-tail keywords using the clustered content as opposed to trying to target those keywords within one pillar page.
The traffic that is driven by the clustered content is a good match to your content since the visitors enter your site through article ranking for long-tail search phrases.
The stronger your cluster content, the stronger your pillar page becomes in terms of ranking ability. It’s similar to a tree growing taller because of a strong root system. With more cluster content that ranks and drives relevant traffic to your pillar page, the more your pillar grows in stature and authority.
Tips for creating a pillar page
There’s no single way to create pillar pages and for every website, it might be different. If there’s already an extensive amount of content on your site, the process will be different than if you’re publishing fresh brand new content.
Some publishers recommend writing your clustered content first so that you know exactly how brief to be in your pillar content. There are others who prefer to write the pillar content first and create cluster content afterward.
Whichever way you go, here are some universal tips, tactics and strategies, and pillar page best practices that will help you along the way to creating well-defined topic clusters that satisfy user intent.
Select your target keywords
Every website needs a strong keyword strategy. There’s simply no way around it. In order to have a clear idea of how to create an effective pillar page, you’ll need to do some keyword research to clarify the terms that your page will target.
Start with the most obvious terms
Almost every keyword strategy begins with a logical list of topics and subtopics that are relevant to your business. Create a list of terms that summarize the most important aspects of your business.
If you’re a digital marketing company, one of your pillars should be about lead generation. Write down every aspect of lead generation to start your list of clustered content. Examples of subtopics would be email marketing, call to action, content strategy, keyword strategy, etc.
Fine-tune your selections
Once you’ve got a basic list you can then add to it using keyword software and fine-tune your selection based on competition, volume, and the value each word represents to your business.
Perform a competitive analysis
You can’t outperform the competition without knowing what exactly they’re doing to rank on the first page of Google. Perform a thorough competitive analysis to find common characteristics of the top-ranking pages.
A content gap analysis will indicate the content your page is missing by identifying what keywords the competing pages are also rankings for to include those keywords in your strategy as well.
Determine the level of detail required to rank
Figure out what the average word count is for the top 10 ranking pages. The average length of a page in the top 10 positions for your keyword indicates the level of detail required to be competitive.
Keep in mind that it isn’t the word count that makes the page competitive but rather the topics that are being covered within the page. There may be room to further break down some of the subtopics you’ve established into several subtopics.
Create content that meets and exceeds the value a user receives from the top 10 ranking pages to make sure you earn the first-page position.
Address each stage of the buyer journey
The pillar page is the central hub of a major keyword topic, so it should naturally be assumed that this page should have the ability to convert visitors into clients. To do this, you should address each stage of the buyer journey to guide your visitors from wherever they are, to making a purchase.
Create a stronger awareness of your product or service by incorporating basic information about your keyword topic. Start your pillar page with definitions of your keyword topic so that visitors have a clear understanding of what the page is about.
List the benefits and practical applications associated with your product service or major keyword topic. You can always link out to more detailed articles when you touch on a topic that deserves more attention and can be broken down with more detailed explanations.
Bring the visitor to the conclusion that your company offers the best solutions for what they need. Using comparisons, case studies and testimonials can help influence your visitor into a favorable purchase decision.
Optimize your content
Take advantage of the opportunity to appear in SERP features-more specifically the People Also Ask box and featured snippet. You’ll need to be aware of the questions that appear in these features in order to know how to optimize correctly.
Analyze the SERP by clicking through the question in the PAA box and copying every question that is relevant to your keyword topic. Repeat the process for related terms that your page could also rank to get more options and ideas for how to structure your headings.
It also helps to have a list of secondary keywords to use in addition to your primary keyword targets. Having a list of optimized search terms can influence the headings you use within your content.
Link to all relevant content within your topic cluster
In order to bind your topic cluster together and identify your page as a pillar of your website, you need to build internal links. Your pillar page only becomes your pillar when it’s obvious that there are multiple pages within a cluster that are linking back to it.
Link to every article within your topic cluster and make sure they link back to your pillar. Pillar pages have the most link equity and will increase in authority with more cluster content linking to them.
Be sure to link your cluster content together to emphasize the relationship of the articles within your cluster. This is not only beneficial from a technical standpoint but also enhances the user experience.
Give users the opportunity to read related content by linking to articles that move them through the buyer journey. Keep them learning about your business and how it can help them solve the problems that are commonly faced by those looking for your product or service.
Use call-to-action banners
The purpose of creating content is to educate your audience into making a purchase decision with your company. Make sure you give them plenty of opportunities to make a call, fill out a form, or complete the objective conversion goal you’ve created for your website.
Use a CTA banner throughout your pillar page wherever it makes sense. Definitely leave a call to action at the end of your pillar page to encourage more goal conversions.
Example of how to create a pillar page in a topic cluster
Create options for keyword topics by listing the major keywords of your website. Each of these keywords will act as an idea bucket which you will fill with terms that belong under your main keyword topic.
For example, let’s say your website is about home renovations. One of your pillar pages would target the keyword kitchen renovations. A potential topic cluster that organizes the information related to kitchen renovations into smaller detailed articles would look like this:
Although you would mention all of these subtopics on your pillar page, you would need entire articles to go deeper into detail on each aspect of kitchen renovations in your SEO writing.
Silo your content
Keyword topic clusters can have more outer levels than just the one that surrounds the pillar page. In the kitchen renovations example, you could break down the topic kitchen countertops into deeper detail if there is a demand for that content in your product.
Repeat the pillar page creation process
Organize your content using a structure that search engines and users understand. Topic clusters are one of the top content structures for encouraging user engagement and ultimately high rankings.
Publish pillar pages to compete for competitive keywords and increase the authority your site demonstrates for that major keyword topic. You can build the level of depth and expertise your website has by continually adding to your clustered content and providing users with the solutions to commonly asked questions and problems.
Search engines prefer to display websites they trust and those that are considered to have an expert opinion. Demonstrate both of these ranking factors by implementing these pillar page best practices to create topic clusters that rank highly to drive high volumes of traffic.
Related reading: 10 Expert Tips For Writing Expert SEO Content