Ranking on search engines can be a tough and tricky thing to do, especially when the market or industry you are in is so saturated. This is not helped at all by how quickly things move and change in the digital marketing sphere. In fact, with human search behaviours changing, so too has the technologies used to show search results. Optimising your blog or website content to rank for long-tail keywords – which used to be a viable strategy – is no longer the best way to rank for search engine results. So, what can be done about this?
Fortunately, pillar pages are now becoming the solution to this problem. If you use and implement them correctly, they are the pages on your site that will have the most influence on your search rankings. Also, they are the pages that are most likely to drive the majority of the traffic to your business, alongside leads that may eventually convert into paying customers, thus improving your bottom line.
That being said, implementing a pillar page and topic cluster strategy can sound complicated and overwhelming to SEO novices. Luckily, most companies have the option of working with a marketing advertising agency that may help them come up with a suitable pillar page strategy for them. That being said, it is still possible to DIY the whole thing if you wish to do so, provided you have the necessary tools and manpower.
What is a pillar page?
So, what exactly is a pillar page? A pillar page is often a central piece of content – usually an article – that will serve as a keystone for a topic cluster. It is the base from which a topic cluster will be built. As such, a pillar page will cover all the elements surrounding a topic on a single page. It will also include hyperlinks to more in-depth related cluster blog posts.
Because pillar pages mainly cover the broad strokes of a particular topic, the cluster content will instead address a single specific keyword or a related subtopic in a lot more depth. For example – your pillar page may be about content marketing – which is a broad topic – while some subtopics you can use as cluster content may include blogging, ranking for SEO, and more.
The idea of this pillar page and topic cluster strategy is to implement internal linking to a group of related content on your website. Then, you have one main page that will act as a directory (the pillar page). Therefore, this strategy is also known as the hub and spoke method.
How to create a pillar page:
The good news is that once you know how to create topic clusters, it becomes easy to use them as a foundation for writing or creating new content. You can also use this to help change up your website’s existing content.
Decide on a topic to rank for
One of the first steps to creating an effective pillar page is that you need to know exactly what topic or subject you want to rank for. The best way to pick a topic is to look at what your target audience wants. This can be done through market research or looking at your analytics. Afterwards, you should aim to thoroughly cover that particular subject – this topic should also be somewhat related to your business, or what you are selling.
If you end up having multiple topics, then don’t fret. Most sites can succeed in having multiple topic clusters. That being said, it is still important that you focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise, this can lead to confusion in your audience and actually dilute your SEO optimisation efforts.
Use a keyword research tool
Once you have an idea of what your topic for a pillar page should be, you should then plug it into a keyword research tool. This will let you see which keywords have the most search volume in a given time (usually a month). It will also show you how much competition there is for each particular term. You should also find out what terms and questions fall under your main topic umbrella that is being entered into search engines like Google. For instance, you can take a look at the SERP to see what comes up in search engines, as well as what comes up in related searches.
Identify pillars and cluster keywords
Generally speaking, your pillar pages are meant to target broad, high-volume keywords related to your main topic. Afterwards, long-tail keywords that fall under these broad keywords will be the main headings and sections of your pillar pages. This will then dictate the keywords that will be targeted in your cluster pages.
For instance, cluster keywords and subtopics related to content marketing can include: what is content marketing, writing for SEO, online content creation tools, content calendars and planning, and more
Now, you actually need to start creating your content. Since your pillar pages and cluster pages will be targeting certain keywords, you will need to take care of your on-page SEO. Therefore, be sure to include the target keyword in your title, headings, and in the body of your articles, as well as the meta descriptions, image alt-texts and so on.
This is to help search engine crawlers notice and find these keywords, which will then be registered when someone uses the search engine to search for similar terms. As such, your article will then be ranked more highly as a response.
Of course, it is important to remember that while you need to be accommodating to the robot crawlers that are scanning your website, your main goal is to still create content that is valuable to your readers. So, keyword-stuffed content, while looking good on paper, does not actually help anyone solve their problems, which can get you penalised by Google. A general rule of thumb is to make your pillar page longer so that it showcases that you are an expert on a certain subject and deserve to be ranked higher. Sometimes, pillar pages can be well over 5,000 words!
Link internal pages
Once you have written your pillar page, you will need to internally link to the other cluster articles. These cluster articles will further explain certain topics more in-depth. Also make sure that the article links to the pillar page and other articles in your cluster link to each other.