Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels as it generates over three times as many leads as paid search per dollar.
Creating high-quality content optimized for search engines will help increase your visibility on the internet, allow you to connect with your audience on a more meaningful level, as well as boost engagement and conversions on your website.
Although the truth is you can’t expect to achieve all this if you publish a blog post every once in a while, cranking out a number of short content pieces every week isn’t a strategy you should follow. First of all, this approach won’t bring you more traffic, and secondly, the traffic you manage to attract won’t be qualified.
The key is in producing exceptional, long-form content that offers a unique perspective on things and provides a wealth of useful information to your audience. Generic, uninformative posts written just for the sake of it don’t add any value to readers. Therefore, if you want to really impress your audience and keep them on your website, you’d better create high-value pieces.
In other words, you need pillar content.
What Is Pillar Content?
Also known as 10X content, this content broadly covers a particular topic and provides answers to any question that a reader can have about it. It serves as the central content hub for a particular overarching topic.
Pillar pages provide valuable information for readers, boost your SEO efforts, and rank well in relevant search results. A pillar page contains a single long-form content piece from whose different sections cluster topics are derived and discussed in more detail in separate blog posts. In other words, cluster content addresses a specific keyword used in pillar content and explores this topic in a comprehensive manner.
For example, search engine optimization (SEO) in general is a broad topic, and it can be a single pillar page, while narrower, cluster topics can be extracted from it, such as internal linking, keywords, or technical website SEO reviews.
As internal linking matters, it’s also important to mention that every pillar page should be hyperlinked to associated pieces of cluster content.
Some notable characteristics of pillar content are:
- It offers a solution to a problem or a comprehensive answer to a particular question
- It’s significantly more detailed and rich in information than a regular piece of content
- It’s educational, interesting, and trustworthy.
All this makes pillar content essential to your readers as well as suitable for earning backlinks. Your Audience finds it very useful, while other websites link back to it as a relevant source of information.
Although blog posts and articles are ideal vehicles for presenting pillar content, other formats such as infographics or videos can also be added to a pillar page to additionally support textual content.
If it’s well-researched and written, pillar content won’t lose its relevance in the months or years to come, and it will serve as a valuable resource for your audience and excellent material for a high ranking in the search results.
What Are the Benefits of Pillar Content?
It’s obvious why pillar content is beneficial for your audience – it’s a valuable resource where they can find all the information about a topic they’re researching in one place.
But, business owners and those who run websites can also benefit from these exhaustive content pieces.
- Increased dwell time. This metric is important for your SEO efforts, and it also affects your rankings. It refers to the amount of time a visitor spends on a single page – it starts when the visitor clicks on a search result and ends when they return to the SERPs. The longer they linger, the better and more relevant your content will be perceived by Google. And pillar content will keep your visitors interested and engaged longer than a regular blog post.
- A lower bounce rate. If your website visitors find what they’re looking for when they land on your pillar page, they won’t have to go back to the SERPs in order to find another resource. This means your bounce rate will decrease, which is great for your rankings.
- A lot of backlinks and shares. Comprehensive, valuable content will earn you a lot of backlinks and social media shares. This way, you’ll be able to improve your online reputation and expand your reach.
- Higher Google rankings. The first page of Google results gets 71% of all search traffic, while some studies claim this stat to be even 92%. This clearly illustrates why it’s important to make sure your rankings are high, and thanks to all the above-mentioned benefits, pillar content has the power to reach top search results.
Creating such content isn’t an easy task, but on the other hand, it’s easier when you have an overarching topic to give you a sense of direction.
Let’s now discuss the process of creating pillar content.
1. Identify and Understand Your Audience
Creating pillar content requires expert knowledge of a particular field as well as a profound understanding of your target audience who will be consuming it. Because of this, many businesses outsource content creation to a content marketing agency (check out our What Does a Content Marketing Agency Do? post for more information).
Namely, it’s crucial to know what issues your potential readers have, what their needs are, and how you can help them. All this means that you can’t simply start blogging about what you’re interested in – you need to cover topics that are of interest to those who will read that content.
That’s why it’s important to get to know your audience well so that you can discuss topics that will address their pain points and that will resonate with them. Besides, this will allow you to align your pillar content with problems they’re trying to solve. What you should do is find a way to present your product or service in the best way possible while offering content that will be valuable to your readers.
All this is possible only if you know who your target audience is.
Here’s how you can find this out:
- Ask yourself what specific problems your product or service solves. This will give you insight into what kind of content your audience expects to find on your website. In a nutshell, you should know why your solutions exist and who needs them, so make sure to tailor your content based on that purpose.
- Analyze your existing customers. In case you aren’t sure who purchases your products or services, your sales reps definitely know, so ask them for this information. But, you’ll find out that interest in your solutions might be the only thing your customers have in common. Therefore, it’s important to segment this list, that is, group your existing customers according to different parameters such as location, budget, needs, industry, age, or anything else you find relevant. This way, you’ll be able to tailor your pillar content for every one of these categories.
- Check out who your competitors are. The odds are that you know who your direct and obvious competitors are, but by running a couple of quick searches on Google and social media, you can discover others who are competing for the same or similar audience. To figure out who they are, pick a couple of relevant keywords, and type them into the search box. A number of businesses will pop up among the results. Read descriptions on their About Us pages, and this will reveal who your competitors are.
- Identify your unique value proposition. What makes your products or services stand out from the crowd? You should focus on these unique features and benefits and accentuate them in your marketing and content marketing.
This list will give you a good idea about why your content needs to exist, who will read it, who your competitors are, and why your audience should pick you over them.
In addition to that, once you find all these answers, you’ll also understand the best way to address your audience’s needs and problems within your pillar content.
2. Unearth Your Audience’s Most Pressing Issues
After you’ve identified your target audience, it’s time to pinpoint what their pressing problems and pain points are because it’s these immediate problems they’re trying to solve that will give you a sense of direction regarding pillar content topics.
There are different ways to determine these issues, such as:
- Monitoring what they’re talking about on social media. This is one of the easiest ways to become more familiar with what bothers or interests them. Browse through your followers’ posts and see what topics they bring up and discuss most frequently. Also, use social media listening tools to monitor ongoing conversations by searching for keywords relevant to your business as well as mentions of your competitors. These insights should point you in the right direction when you start creating pillar content.
- Keeping an eye on pillar content produced by other bloggers in your industry is another useful tactic. Beginners usually find it challenging to create pillar content. If you’re struggling with this, it’s a good idea to spy on your competitors and check out their popular content pieces. Instead of doing this manually, use tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs to run competitive analyses and find the topics that perform well on their websites. If your audiences are similar, it’s very likely that these topics will work for you too.
- Ask yourself whether you’re a member of your own target audience. If the answer is yes, you can draw from your own experience – you probably know how it felt when you were just a beginner in your industry. Try to remember the questions you had and what you were eager to learn. All these things could be used as ideas for your pillar content.
This process requires a lot of time and research, so don’t hurry with it.
3. What Are the Main Types of Pillar Content?
Bear in mind that in many cases, these divisions aren’t sharp, meaning that each category might contain elements of another one.
1. The Guide
This is a pillar page that attempts to offer a comprehensive account of a particular topic and be a go-to resource for all those interested in it.
It can be suitable both when it comes as an introductory guide for beginners or a more advanced article targeting industry experts.
In addition to being useful for your audience, this kind of resource will also help you establish yourself as an authority in your industry and build trust with your audience. All this will result in an increase in traffic and conversions.
An ultimate guide has the potential to become an evergreen piece and keep its relevance.
2. The “What Is” Page
Using frequently asked questions and queries as titles for your pillar content indicates that your readers will get a thorough explanation. Questions are, generally speaking, an excellent way of sparking your audience’s interest and curiosity.
Here are a couple of examples:
- What is marketing?
- What is SEO?
- What are keywords?
This type of content is similar to guides in terms of authority – what you’ll create can be a detailed examination and exploration of a particular concept relevant to your audience. It’s a standalone resource that links to a number of cluster pages providing even more detailed and developed accounts of the subject.
A well-researched “What is” page can drive a lot of organic traffic to your website and become a valuable source of new prospects that you can later nurture and convert.
3. The “How-to” Page
This kind of content will tell your audience how something is done and give a step-by-step explanation of the process.
If you offer a solution that can be used to solve a pain point or at least part of it, you can subtly mention it. But make sure that it’s not done in an overly promotional manner as you don’t want to come off as pushing your own agenda.
By offering a lot of useful, valuable information about the problem in question, and educating your readers on how to overcome it, you’ll be able to make a case for your products or solution without being too salesy.
Due to the nature and purpose of this type of pillar content, it works great when it’s presented in the form of instructional videos, so think about diversifying your approach and providing several different resources on the same topic. For example, some visitors will find it more convenient to watch or listen to the video while others will want to download a concise PDF document in which the main steps of the process are highlighted.
Combine these three types of pillar pages for the effectiveness of your pillar content.
4. Craft Amazing Pillar Content
By now you already probably have a list of pillar content pieces that will appeal to your audience, so it’s time to learn what to pay attention to when you’re creating these articles.
1. A Catchy Headline
Given that 80% of people will read only a headline, it’s crucial to make it attention-grabbing in order to convince as many of them to explore further.
Your headline should be intriguing but not deceptive. The best formula is to come up with a teaser headline that will pique your readers’ curiosity. Don’t hesitate to use negative words that will in a way play on your readers’ fears and mention their pain points at the same time implying that the article offers a solution – “Cash Flow Problems: The Ultimate Guide on How to Avoid Them.”
2. Don’t Bury the Lede
The lede is defined as an introductory section of your article whose purpose is to encourage and entice your audience to read on.
These couple of sentences at the beginning of your blog post should contain a hook that will draw your readers in. Some of the tricks you can use to immerse your audience in the story are mentioning interesting facts, a funny anecdote, or a question that’s relevant to them.
3. Tell a Story
Storytelling is a powerful tool that will help you connect with your audience.
It will be much easier for your readers to invest themselves in your content if your main message is conveyed through a gripping story. This can be something that happened to you, or something that you read or heard before – the key is in choosing a story that will resonate with your audience and make an important point with it.
4. Structure Your Content Properly
The readability of your pillar content is very important. Your audience will skip your 2,500+ blog posts if they’re not divided into short paragraphs, bullet points, and subsections. This means if they see a wall of text, they will return to the SERPs and find another source that’s easier on their eyes and minds.
Images, charts, and infographics break up blocks of text and make your blog posts and articles easier to digest.
These simple tips can help you create better pillar content that your readers will love.
Pillar content is the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy. It does take longer to create, but it pays off through a lot of targeted, high-quality traffic it will bring to your website.