Gone are the days when a good homepage was enough to drive traffic to your site. Now, you have to capture your audience’s most pressing questions with high-value content that Google bots can crawl. Unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to publish short blogs on popular topics. You need to demonstrate that your brand has the authoritative answers that Google loves. The best way to do that is by writing a pillar post.
What is a Pillar Post?
A pillar post, also called a content pillar, is a lengthy article that intends to be a definitive source of information. It provides a comprehensive bird’s eye-view of a topic, then links to other blogs on more specific subtopics. Pillar posts show off your expertise on a given topic while attracting your target audience.A pillar post provides just enough answers to basic questions, yet leaves the reader hungry for more details. Ideally, someone finds your pillar post, gets an answer to their question, then ends up following a link to a related topic. As they drill down into the details, they spend more time on your site — and become much more invested in your brand.
Why are Pillar Posts Important?
Google is constantly scouring the web for great content, and its algorithms are now smart enough to distinguish keyword-stuffed fluff from valuable, informative articles. It also connects related content to help its users find the best answers to their queries.Your content should reflect this change. Instead of creating a bunch of disconnected blog posts to address a wide variety of topics, you need to identify your key topic clusters and create content pieces that relate to each other.
In other words, you need more than a long list of blog articles. You need content pillars that reflect your areas of expertise, then topic-cluster articles that dive into the details.
How Pillar Posts Boost Your SEO
You probably know that internal links help your site look better to Google. However, if your blog posts are only interlinked with other posts to boost your SEO, Google bots can figure that out. In fact, Google’s algorithm is now penalizing sites with too many irrelevant internal links.
It is looking for sites with logical content maps and valuable information. Pillar posts always include several internal links on related topics, so you can boost your site’s SEO without sending a red flag to Google.Pillar posts help organize your content in a way that search engines like. They provide several core topics so that Google can pull both basic information and related topics.
If you have a bunch of content pieces that cover the same topics, you could be forcing them into competition with each other, causing only one to rank for your target keywords. By using content pillars, you encourage Google to close the gaps among your various blogs.
How to Move From Traditional Blogging to Content Pillars
If you have dozens or even hundreds of posts on your site, they could be cannibalizing each other in search engine results. Also, you’re likely not ranking for most of your content. The first step toward making pillar posts work for you is to audit your existing content. Then, remove anything similar or repurpose it for your content pillars.Next, identify the topics you want to rank for. Choose fairly broad topics, and don’t get hung up on the keywords. Google is now smart enough to figure out that users want to see results on “gourmet cooking tips” if they search for “home gourmet.”
Then, drill down into the topic clusters you want to explore. In the above example, the main pillar post would be something like “The Definitive Guide to Home Gourmet.” You can then create topic clusters that are more specific aspects of the main topic. For this example, you could use “Grilling,” “Baking,” and “Cocktails.”
From there, develop SEO-friendly blog topics, e.g. “5 Vegetables to Try Grilling” or “How to Make a Perfect Mojito.” These topics are specific enough to rank for conversational queries, e.g. “how to make gourmet pasta” or “tips for cooking seafood.” Notice that all these blogs stem from the core content pillar.
Creating the Perfect Pillar Post
All that said, you don’t want to throw “everything and the kitchen sink” into a pillar post. It should be comprehensive, but not so broad that you can’t possibly provide an authoritative overview. On the flip side, don’t pack your pillar post so full of niche details and irrelevant information that readers can’t find basic answers to their questions. Remember, your goal is to intrigue them to drill deeper rather than inundating them with details.In short, you want to give Google enough specificity to rank your site but not confuse the bots with a page that tackles a huge topic. For example, “cooking” is way too broad, while “how to make beignets” is very specific. “Home gourmet” is a good middle ground to create your pillar post.
Ideally, your pillar post provides a good overview for someone unfamiliar with your topic, as well as some valuable details for people who do know the topic. Then, you can pave the way for both audience segments to get more details.
Pillar posts should be fairly long — anywhere from 800 to 2000 words, but under 5000 words. Contrary to popular belief, Google enjoys longer content if it’s valuable to the reader. It will pull excerpts that are relevant to the user’s search query. Still, you don’t want to intimidate your readers. (Save it for an e-book!)
The key to better engagement on your pillar posts is to make the content highly skimmable. Use informative headings so that readers can jump around, and keep your paragraphs no more than 3-4 sentences in length.
Pillar posts are a highly effective tool in your content marketing strategy. They work well with Google’s emphasis on authentic, high-value content, and they give you a way to meaningfully link your content. Plus, they’re an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise — and that is crucial to attracting leads and getting them to trust you.So, move away from your traditional blog strategy and embrace pillar posts. You’ll be glad you did.