Has your website traffic hit a red light? Time to change your content strategy again! You might have heard that pillar pages are a proven way to attract qualified leads and boost traffic. But where to start? Let this post be your guide.
What is a pillar page?
A pillar page is an SEO anchor piece that takes a deep dive into a topic. It's a combination of a pillar resource page and blog posts. The main pillar page provides a comprehensive resource on a topic. The blog then provides an in-depth resource on various subtopics within your pillar page. This also allows for some internal linking.
The image below from HubSpot, provides a visual of the high-level overview of pillar pages and blog posts.
Image Source: HubSpot / What is a Pillar Page?
How does a pillar page fit into your SEO strategy?
As search engines are getting more and more sophisticated, the end user expects the highest quality results to show up in search engine results pages (SERPs). That's where your pillar content fits in to SEO strategy.
By creating the strongest resource piece on a topic that's relevant to your target audience increases your chance of organic exposure.
Pillar pages align with current ranking factors
There are over 200 signals in Google's algorithm. Pillar pages satisfy a few of the factors that we see make the largest impact:
- We're creating in-depth content via resource pages and blog posts that allow search engines to crawl and index to search up relevant results to the end user.
- User intent
- By identifying the correct topics to write about, we have an opportunity to solve for the searcher's intent.
- Creating an in-depth resource presents the opportunity for external websites to create editorial backlinks to your website.
Additional algorithm signals that you should pay attention to when creating a pillar page:
- Mobile experience
- Domain age
- User experience
Process for creating a pillar page
Step 0: Allocate the appropriate resources.
Before you get started, I want to set the expectation of what it takes to create a stellar page. Expect to invest time and money into creating and promoting a pillar page.
From a timing perspective, we can see a pillar page take 20-60 hours. Before you get started, decide if you have enough time in your workload to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to get a pillar page off the ground.
From another perspective, do you have the right skillset between you and your team to launch a pillar? You'll need strategy, writing, design and maybe development. If you need to fill in any gaps, your agency partner should be able to help.
Step 1: Choose a topic.
Determine a topic that's relevant for your audience. Start with revisiting your buyer personas and start with topics that appeal to them.
Once you have some topics in mind, conduct keyword research to ensure that there's demand for the topic. If not, go back to your list.
Look for unique opportunities. This doesn't mean that no content exists. It could be a unique perspective to a popular topic.
If you're stuck on the topic phase, start with the downloadable resources that you already have on your website. Can you convert any of those from a PDF to a pillar page?
Step 2: Research the topic.
Dust off those research paper skills from school and bring 'em back for some topic research. I think it's important to spend a good chunk of time just on the research portion to get a good gauge on the landscape. How else are you going to know how to make your content the best?
What you should determine in this phase:
- Is this topic oversaturated? Can we make a distinguishable mark in the landscape?
- What level should this topic be? Beginner? Advanced?
- If there aren't enough third-party sources to reference, are you able to create your own?
- What angle can you take that will make you stand out?
Step 3: Research the topic. Again.
You tried to skip the research phase, didn't you? Don't skip it!
This crucial step sets the tone for the success of a pillar page!
Step 4: Create an outline.
Now that we're getting comfortable with the topic, create an outline that includes everything that you want to include from a high-level. This outline is designed to identify any gaps in content or inconsistencies with the level of resource.
Example: If we're creating an advanced guide to Google AdWords, we don't want to spend a ton of time writing about how to setup your AdWords account.
When creating this outline, think resource, not marketing and sales. We want this to be a true resource and not something that the end user feels like is too salesy.
Give this a solid review from the team before moving forward with writing. Once everyone feels the outline is in a good place, time to get writing.
Step 5: Write content.
It's important for your resource content to be professionally written. You're probably thinking, "No kidding, Allison," but one mistake I've seen brands make in the past, is not appropriately investing in the writing.
We love collaborating with Google Docs on writing projects. It's easy to make edits and comment as a team.
If there are specific links, images, third-party content, etc, include those in your document to give everyone collaborating the full picture of the content you intend to have on the page. There's nothing worse than having to re-write a section because there's a change in resource. Always make sure you site your external resources.
We encourage using multiple content formats on the pillar page: text, video, infographics, podcasts, pdfs, etc.
Consider the conversion opportunities and incorporate those in the writing. How are we planning to do that?
Make it better than anything else out there on the same topic.
Step 6: Produce in-depth resource page.
Now that we have the content written, it's time to apply the design. Hopefully, your CMS allows you to build this quickly. If not, you'll need to go through a design and build process to implement your pillar page.
Remember to consider readability. If our users are having a difficult following the content, then we're not going to get very far with this pillar page.
Think about speed with graphics/image size. Pillar pages often have a lot of images & graphics. Make sure they're compressed as much as possible to keep page load speed high.
Step 7: Produce and link supporting articles as internal linking opportunities
If you already have blog posts created that support the topic, get those linked up as soon as possible. If you're building the blog posts into your schedule, just make sure to update your pillar page when the posts are published.
Step 8: Continue to look for opportunities to expand
Now that you're pillar page is published, you can sit back and relax, right? Only for few minutes. We want to make sure that this page remains up to date and is expanded upon should the opportunity arise.
Pillar page examples
Below are some links to some of our favorite pillar pages:
- The Vomela Companies: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Fleet Graphics
- Indiana Retired Teachers Association: How You Can Advocate for Teachers and Better Education in Indiana
- Capital Point Marketing: ADA Compliance Guide for Banks and Credit Unions
- HubSpot: Instagram Marketing
How to promote a pillar page
While we want this to be our SEO silver bullet as soon as it's published, we still need to actively promote the content to grow the exposure of the pillar page.
Use as a sales tool
Notify your sales team as soon as your pillar page is published so they can begin using it in their sales conversations.
If you're using a CRM that utilizes email templates, create one for the sales team that includes your pillar page link so they don't even have to think about it.
Run paid advertising campaigns
This goes for both paid search and paid social. Paid advertising campaigns will get you some quick wins if your boss is skeptical of this tactic. It also gets the content in front of the user on their platform of choice.
The age old question: How much should you spend?
I always say, spend what you feel comfortable spending. If it's only $100 a week, that's better than nothing. It's better to get moving with what we have than to wait around until everyone feels comfortable with a higher budget.
PR outreach to build backlinks
This is the good old fashioned tactic of asking people to link back to your resource page. Start with the third parties that you used on your pillar page.
I'm the first to admit that this step is super fatiguing to me. Publicity.ai allows me to create outreach campaigns that are manned by a team of publicists.
Promote via email marketing
Notify contacts in your database that might interested in this resource.
Engage in groups and answer questions
Head on over Quora, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Reddit or any other group engagement sites and answer some questions that are relevant to the pillar page topic.
Now that you have your pillar page blueprint, get started! When they're published, please share your pillar pages with me in the comments below.