Lots of stellar content gets little to no engagement. It takes a lot of time and effort to create… But once it’s published, nobody sees it, reads it, or reacts to it.
There are several ways to solve this problem with better content marketing. One is to use content pillars; a strategy that increases visibility and engagement for blog posts, social content, and more.
On Google, content pillars are an authority signal that gives you topical authority and traffic for SEO marketing. On Social, content pillars increase visibility in Search and Suggestion algorithms, increasing the number of impressions and reactions your content gets.
In this article, we’ll cover what content pillars are, why they’re so important, and how to leverage them to maximise your content’s engagement and ROI.
What is a content pillar?
Content pillars are content clusters created around one theme, subject, or topic. They are usually presented in the form of multiple content pieces – e.g. a series of blog posts or social media posts.
On websites, a content pillar is a cluster of pages. This includes a central, primary page devoted to covering one specific topic; a “hub” page. It also includes subtopic pages – “spokes” – linked to the pillar page and vice versa.
For example, you might create a content pillar page around “how to grow your Instagram following”. The page would thoroughly cover the subject with multiple subtopic content categories, such as “how to use hashtags”.
Each subtopic would get on-page coverage and a separate page that goes deeper on the subject. Each subsection of the pillar page would link to the related subtopic page, and the subtopic pages link back to the pillar page.
On social media, a content pillar works a little differently. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok let you organise your posts around hashtags – and pin select posts to the top of your account page.
You can use a combination of pinned pages and content clusters covering the same topic to increase authority and visibility for specific hashtags. The mechanism is different, but the effect is still the same as with website content pillars: more views, more engagement.
Why use content pillars?
There are numerous benefits to using content pillars.
First, they improve the usability of your content. Blog pages or social posts connected with internal links or hashtags are easier to navigate. People can quickly find the topics and content they’re interested in and use it.
Second, content pillars increase visibility. The more focused and organised your content is, the more Social and Search platforms show it to your target audience. We’ll explain the mechanics of that in a second – but basically, content pillars increase engagement.
Third, content pillars boost your authority. The more you cover a topic repeatedly and in depth, the more people and Search platforms trust you.
Let’s look at the mechanics of how you get these benefits on both Search and Social platforms.
Content pillars in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Here’s how content pillars work on Google and other search platforms.
1. Website structure
Giving a topic deep coverage with content pillars helps search engines understand the relationship between different pages on your website. More content pillars means better website structure (in Google’s eyes).
This is mainly because of internal linking between the pillar page and subtopic pages (hubs and spokes). The links help search engines understand how each page is related to other pages on your site.
For example, a cluster of pages about paid ads is easier for Google to process than an individual page.
2. More link equity
Internal linking passes link equity and authority between pages on your site. This helps you rank better the more you cover a single topic.
For example, let’s say you write an incredible pillar piece of content on SEO. This piece of content gets backlinks and lots of engagement, boosting the page’s authority in Google’s eyes. Website pages that link to and from the post will also get a lift in traffic.
For search engines like Google, the more content you have on a theme or topic, and the more topical backlinks you have as a result, the more authority you have.
In other words, a deep cluster of pages about a topic will get more traffic and better rankings than a short, isolated page on a subject.
4. More keywords that rank
Writing “spoke” content around the hub pages of a content pillar does two things. First, it lets you cover more subjects, including long-tail keyword topics, without diluting the original page.
Second, it lets you pass the central page’s link power and topical authority on to more pages. As a result, you get to rank for more keywords.
5. Content pillars in Social Marketing
The content pillar framework applies to social media as well. Here are the main benefits
Organizing your social media content around themes and hashtags increases your visibility.
For example, if you’re always making content around #parenting, people looking for that hashtag will find you more often. You’ll show up in their suggestions and Search results more often.
When a user visits your profile and sees saved posts and stories grouped around a certain topic, they’re more likely to keep scrolling through your content. And the more people engage with your posts, the more likely they are to show up as suggested posts for others.
This increases engagement with current and future users.
8. Authority and branding
Your content may be fun, educational, and high-quality… But if it covers every topic under the sun, it’ll be hard to build authority and brand value.
On the other hand, if you’re always focused on a tight cluster of topics – like dancing and parenting for Sarah Magusara – you’ll become the go-to person for them.
How to create content pillars in 9 steps
1. Identify your target audience
Before creating content pillars, identify your audience. Who are you trying to reach?
- What are their demographics?
- What do they watch for entertainment?
- What are their needs and wants?
- What content do they currently consume?
- What questions do they have?
Understanding your audience does two things. First, understand what they engage with. Second, find and target specific keywords that they search for.
Don’t skip this step. It is important to have a clear understanding of your audience before you can start creating content for them.
2. Identify the primary keyword and topic
The primary keyword and topic for a content pillar should be…
- Relevant to your audience.
- Something you can create quality content about.
Common ways to identify Search keywords include Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, and SEMRush.
When using a keyword research tool, look at the volume of the keyword versus the difficulty of ranking for that keyword. Look for keywords right in the sweet spot between volume and difficulty.
For social media, observation is the best way to identify relevant hashtags. Spend some time exploring content your audience likes to find these. Afterwards, use our TikTok Hashtag Tool to get more hashtag ideas.
3. Define your subtopics
Once you have identified the keywords and topics for your content pillar, it’s time to define the subtopics. Subtopics are smaller topics that fall under the umbrella of your primary topic.
Usually, each subtopic is tied to one or more long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for than the primary topic.
For example, if your primary topic on Search is “dog breeds”, some subtopic content ideas could be “Labradors”, “Golden Retrievers”, “Poodles”, etc. The number of subtopics will vary depending on the scope of your content pillar, keywords, and the channel you use.
Though not a hard and fast rule, it’s generally recommended to have at least 3-5 subtopic pieces of content for each pillar.
4. Analyse your competitors’ content
Once you’ve defined your subtopics, it’s time to look at what your competitors are doing. Try to answer these questions:
- What kind of content are they producing?
- How are they structuring their content pillars?
- What keywords are they targeting?
- What topics are they covering?
By analysing top performers, you can get a better idea of what’s working in your industry. Just make sure that you’re not simply copying what your competitors are doing. You want to be able to differentiate yourself. Here are a few different ways to do that:
Create better content: This is the most obvious way to differentiate yourself. If you can create higher quality, more comprehensive content than your competitors, you will be able to get more engagement and visibility.
Be different: Take a look at your competitor’s content pillars. Are there any topics that they’re not covering that you could cover? Is there a different angle you could take on a common topic? By being different, you will be able to attract readers who are looking for something specific that your competitors are not offering.
Be faster: In some industries, being the first to publish content on a certain topic can give you an advantage. If you can quickly create original content on hot topics in your industry, you will be able to attract readers who are looking for the latest information.
By differentiating yourself from your competitors, you will be able to attract more readers and build a stronger content pillar.
5. Perform a content audit
After you have defined your content pillars and analysed your competition, it is time to do a content audit. A content audit is the process of reviewing all the content you have and seeing what works well, what needs to be improved, and what needs to be removed.
Some things that you should look for during a content audit include:
- Duplicate content
- Outdated content
- Weak and thin content
- Irrelevant content
By removing anything that’s not working and identifying what does work, you can make the changes you need to improve overall quality.
6. Structure your pillars
Website content pillars
The structure of your pillar will depend on the number of subtopics that you have defined. One effective strategy is to use a pillar-topic cluster formation, with the core topic pillar page at the center linking out to all the topic clusters and vice versa.
Another strategy is to have a hierarchical structure with the core topic at the top and the subtopics beneath it.
Ultimately, what matters most when structuring your content pillars is that all related content is clearly linked together and easy for users to navigate.
Social media content pillars
Connect pieces of content using on-screen text, hashtags, pins, and links. For example, you can create a series of dance-focused TikTok posts with a branded hashtag featuring the word, “Dance”.
You can then pin the best-performing video you have to the top of your page to increase visibility for the whole series.
7. Create your content
Source: sensu spa
After you’ve defined your content pillars and mapped out the structure, it’s finally time to start creating content. When creating content for your pillars, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
1. Content should be high quality and well-planned. The better your content is, the more visibility and engagement you get. Don’t settle for fluffy, thin, or low-quality content. Make sure that your content is informative and/or entertaining and valuable.
2. Your content needs to be keyword optimised for search engines. This means using the right primary and long-tail keywords throughout your pillar website pages – and the right hashtags on Social content.
3. With Search content pillars, your content pillar should be informative, answering all the questions your audience might have. All your subtopics should be addressed at a high level in your pillar page and then more thoroughly on each of the subtopic pages.
You want users to be able to find everything they need on your site, without having to go back to the search results.
4. You want your content to be visually appealing, especially on Social. It should be easy to consume, with plenty of headings, subheadings, paragraph breaks, bullet lists, etc. It should also contain eye-catching visuals, such as images, infographics, and/or supporting videos.
5. Making your content visually appealing not only makes it easy to consume, but also helps with SEO rankings. According to SEO software developer SEMRush, articles structured with multiple headings outperform those without said structure.
8. Get links to your content (Search only)
Internal links are links that go from one page on your website to another. External links are links that go from your website to another website. Both types of links are important for SEO and should be used in your content pillars.
Internal links help to improve the overall structure of your website and make it easier for search engines to crawl. They also pass page authority from higher to lower authority pages, making it easier for low authority pages to rank faster.
External links help to build authority. When you link out to authoritative third-party websites, it shows Google that your site can be trusted. That you’re also an authoritative site that should show up on the front page of the SERPs.
When linking, be sure to use keyword rich anchor text. This allows search engines better understand what both the linking and linked to pages are about.
9. Promote your content
After you have created your content pillar, it is important to promote it. After all, you spent a significant amount of time and effort creating the pillar, and you want as many people as possible to see it.
There are a number of ways that you can promote your content pillars:
- Share them on social media
- Pin them to the top of your social pages
- Submit them to influencers and content creators
- Promote them through email marketing
- Include them in your sitemap
- Add them to your navigation menu
- Mention them in guest posts or other articles
- Link to them consistently from other pieces of content
By promoting your content pillars, you can reach a wider audience and improve your website’s visibility. What’s more, when platforms begin to see your content pieces get more engagement, they put them in front of more users.
Content Pillar Examples
To get a better feel for how content pillars can be used, let’s look at some specific examples.
1. In-Depth Guides
An in-depth guide is a comprehensive piece of content that covers all aspects of a topic. They are typically longer than other types of content, such as blog posts or articles, and they’re designed to provide readers with everything they need to know about a subject.
Some examples of in-depth guides include:
- How to start a blog
- How to create a social media strategy
- How to create a website
- How to optimise your website for search engines
2. Content hubs
A content hub is a centralised location for all of your pillar content, and is typically designed to be informative and easy to navigate. Oftentimes there’s a “home page” that lists all the subjects contained within the hub. Clicking on one of the subjects brings up a list of all the pillar pages and subtopic pages created around that topic. They’re often used as a resource for readers who want to learn more about a subject.
Some examples of content hubs include:
3. “What Is” Guides
A “what is” guide is a type of pillar content that defines and explains a concept in-depth. These guides are designed to be informative and easy to understand, and are often geared toward readers who want to explore a particular concept.
Some examples of “what is” guides include:
- What is SEO?
- What is inbound marketing?
- What is a sales funnel?
Creating content pillars is not for the faint of heart. It requires significant investments of time and effort, and it can take some time before your efforts are rewarded. But the payoff is well worth the investment. Not only do content pillars help you provide a superior experience for your users, they also can significantly improve your SEO results.
The Most Important Thing to Consider
Content pillars can increase visibility and traction for content, both with Google and Social platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
To see how Australia’s #1-rated marketing agency can help you do better with content and SEO, schedule a free strategy session ($1,200 value) below!