If you asked a marketer every day what the best search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is, you’d probably get a different answer each time. That’s because search engine algorithms change at a rapid pace, generally corresponding to changes in human search behavior.
This is beneficial for consumers because their search results will give them the right answers they’re looking for, but marketing teams who want to rank on the first page of Google or Bing may feel less enthusiastic. But as algorithms evolve, so do marketers. So marketers – most notably HubSpot – devised a way to architect blog content for their users to ensure they were providing interlinked detailed content that utilized conversational long-tail keywords on a particular subject.
Or, in other words, HubSpot created topic clusters and subsequently, pillar pages.
So, What Are Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages?
A topic cluster is a collection of related articles or subtopics around one umbrella topic that link back and forth between each other. These articles, or topics, are generally keyword-specific and highly targeted. A pillar page is a foundation on which you build your topic cluster. Think of it as a comprehensive online webpage that covers a general topic.
Pillar pages’ structure is much longer than your typical blog post because you’re going more in-depth about your subject. However, it doesn’t need to cover every aspect of your topic. That’s where your topic clusters come back in because you use your pillar page to link to them.
Say you want to build a collection of content around a central topic like, “customer success.” This would be your pillar page where you cover numerous aspects of the subject. You then can link to your other content offers (blogs, checklists, case studies) like, “customer success software and how to use it,” or “customer success metrics you should track.”
Why Use Pillar Pages?
The shortest answer to why marketers should consider using pillar pages is also quite simple: It’s good for SEO. In today’s landscape, targeting entire topics is the key to connecting with your target audiences. Other primary reasons to use pillar pages:
- When well done, pillar pages answer the main questions your buyer personas have. They’ll benefit from a definitive guide on a particular topic, and you’ll benefit from appearing as a thought leader.
- They provide a better user experience for your online visitors. Instead of having to jump around your blog or multiple websites, everything they need is in one place and interlinked. That also helps keep them on your site longer!
- As alluded, search engines understand semantically related content and concepts better and rank them higher – which can bring in more traffic. And more traffic means the potential for more leads.
- Improves rankings for your related content. When your pillar page does well, the inbound links within your pillar page benefit, increasing their individual rankings as well.
- They’re great sales enablement material. Your sales team benefits from pillar pages because they provide detailed content to educate their prospects, answer any questions, and qualify leads.
How To Create Your Own Pillar Page
While creating a pillar page is a significant undertaking, the above benefits make it worth it. Here are some steps to make the process smoother.
Step 1 – Choose Your Topic
Creating a pillar page should begin with you and members of your marketing team brainstorming topics you want to rank for. Your topic should focus on elements such as:
- The challenges and interests of your buyer personas
- Items you hope to become an industry leader in, or already are
- Ideas that are broad enough to generate related cluster content
- Topics you already have a good deal of relevant cluster content on
While a pillar page is topic-focused, you shouldn’t ignore using keywords throughout the page and your cluster content. If you’re considering a new idea your team hasn’t done much work on, be sure to do keyword research related to whatever topic you choose. You can use free tools offered by Moz or Ahrefs to generate keyword research, talk to your other coworkers for their input, or even interview your customers.
Step 2 – Determine Your Format or Length
There is no formula or “one-size-fits-all” approach to formatting your pillar page. Ultimately, you can customize it however you choose. But for many marketers, there are two main approaches to crafting the look and feel of your pillar page:
10X Pillar Page
You very likely want to be considered a thought leader in your industry. It enhances your credibility and authority - and appeals to your leads and customers. Offering an abundance of your content, ungated, is a good way to achieve this. That’s where a 10x pillar page comes in.
10x pages cover your topic thoroughly and “10 times better” than an average blog post by providing free long-form content that includes everything they want to know – and then some.
You should include your cluster links, as well as graphics, calls-to-action (CTAs), and subsections to break up large blocks of text. This also makes the content easier to navigate. Many marketers enable a “table of contents” so users can quickly jump to specific sections they want to read about. Sticky navigation can help them return to the top if they need to.
Resource Pillar Page
A resource pillar page is an optimized version of the resource center of your website and lives in your website’s navigation. These pillar pages may include gated material that already exists somewhere on your site. But just because they’re labeled as a “resource” doesn’t mean they’re formatted the same way. In fact, try avoiding that altogether.
If you choose a resource pillar page format, you should include hyperlinked text and thumbnail images, with descriptive copy that describe what your content offer is before visitors click on it. Your resource pillar page can consist of other internal links to your blogs, product pages, or other pages of your website relevant to your customer.
Step 3 – Write the Content
Once you have decided on your topic and format, you can begin writing your content. There are several things you should keep in mind as you work through this step:
- You likely have blog posts, and other content offers you’ll want to link to throughout your pillar page. Create a document mapping these so you can strategically place them throughout your page.
- Keep your keywords in mind.
- Structure your content, so it’s user-friendly. You can do this by using subheaders to break up your content, keeping your paragraphs short, and formatting your text in various ways like bullets points, lists, and block quotes.
- Have a one or two coworkers read and edit your work. It’s a large effort that could use many eyes on it and second opinions.
Step 4 – Design Your Page
Design is crucial to any aspect of web content including pillar pages. Work with your design team to come up with something that’s branded, user-friendly, and encourages your readers to stick around once they get to your pillar page. If that sounds like a tall order, here are some common design elements of pillar pages:
- Sticky navigation. Although we’ve already mentioned sticky navigation, its importance should not be understated. A pillar page is a long, detailed webpage and you don’t want to use or confuse your readers. With sticky navigation, they can go back to a portion they perhaps missed or want to re-read.
- Scroll progress indicator. These help your readers see how much content there is on a page and how much they’ve already read.
- Graphics. Breaking up the text on your pillar page is vital because most people don’t want to sit down and read 8,000 uninterrupted words. Graphics and images also help you communicate something that you may be struggling to with words.
- CTAs. Your pillar page can help you convert leads, so it should be armed with CTAs. There should be several sprinkled throughout the content, with some supporting your additional content offers. And most importantly, you should offer your entire pillar page as a downloaded PDF multiple times throughout the offer in case someone wants to save it.
Step 5 – Build and Promote It
Depending on what content management system you use, you can create your pillar page yourself or have a developer on your team build it and populate the content. No matter which avenue works for your company, you should promote it once it’s ready.
After all, creating a pillar page takes a lot of time and effort from multiple members of your team, so you naturally want as many people to see it as possible.. If you don’t announce it, you’ll essentially have created a comprehensive guide that serves no purpose. And no marketer wants that! Here are some easy methods to get your pillar page in the hands of your audience:
- Promote it on all your social media channels.
- Use some of your paid search and paid social budget on it.
- Send an email announcement that it’s live to your most relevant lists.
- Mention in on industry-specific Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
- Ask your coworkers to promote on their social channels or with friends.
- Talk about it in person.
Step 6 – Measure It
If you’re going to dedicate resources to creating a pillar page, you need to measure its performance. Utilizing Google Analytics, you can track specific key performance indicators (KPIs) like:
- Time on Page
- Bounce Rate
- Referral Source
- New Visitors
- Returning Visitors
- Conversion Rate
- Any other metric important to your team
With HubSpot’s Content Strategy Tool, you can examine the performance of the pillar page as a whole as well as your cluster content. Using it, you can see KPIs like average session duration, how many inbound links its created, bounce rate, and more. You can also narrow down what specific blog posts or content offers are leading to conversions.
How Do I Get Started?
Now that you know what these pages are, why they’re paramount to a strong SEO strategy, and the step-by-step process to making one, you should be able to get to work. However, if you’re still struggling to know where to begin or apply any of our advice, we can help. Contact us today to get started on your pillar page.