Pillar pages are not a particularly new idea, but they've recently gotten more attention. Do you understand why pillar pages are a big deal today and how to use them to improve your organic ranking in Google results?
What Are Pillar Pages and Why Do You Need Them for Better SEO?
A pillar page is a single page on your website that acts like the hub of a wheel. Supporting your pillar page, like the spokes of a wheel, are articles, blog posts, content offers and other information you have available on your website about the main topic. Each of the supporting pieces of content are linked from the pillar page.
Organizing content in this way this shows Google that you're an authority on a particular topic by clearly outlining for visitors what you have available to share.
The following items should be included on a pillar page:
- Content about the main topic. This should be in text format but can also be in video. (We'll talk later in this article about how much content you need, depending on what type of pillar page it is.)
- Links to the supporting content on your website.
- A call-to-action (if you don't have one, you should create one) for your visitors. It would also be included each of the supporting sub-pages.
By creating pillar pages you give your website a more structured approach for content organization. Secondly, and inline with what Google likes, pillar pages make it easier for them to index and serve up your content in search results because of how it's organized. This helps your search engine optimization efforts to drive more organic traffic to the website.
BENEFITS OF a pillar page
- Serve your website visitors quickly and easily with resources on their topic of interest.
- Tell the search engines (AKA Google) that you have collection of content on a specific topic.
- Increase leads as they review content and realize you're a verified authority on the subject.
Keywords Versus Topics for Google
The basis of this shift from focusing solely on keywords points back to both how we have changed the way we search on Google these days. And, now Google can better understand our intent when we're searching. Freaky? A little maybe, but it sure does help you find the answers you're looking for, doesn't it?
Back about 5-6 years ago, if we were looking for something in Google we'd type in a set of key phrases. For example: Electronic health record software orthopedics. Given our comfort level with Google nowadays we are much more likely to ask a question. Something along the lines of: What is the best EHR software for orthopedic surgeons?
There's quite a few ways to ask that question. Google has figured out that an exact phrase match is not as necessary as presenting a website in search results that has a deep set of content on the topic. They're looking more at the total package-set of content on a topic related to the search. But, you have to organize your content in such a way that Google can see that you're an authority on a topic.
That's our ultimate goal here, become a content authority!
How to Become a Content Authority that Google Will Use
Because Google shifted how they understand our human-like searches, a pillar page is a great way to focus a cluster of content on a topic. Your pillar page is the hub of the cluster, tying together related content. This is what we call a topic cluster.
Pillar Page 101
A pillar page covers a broad amount of information on a single subject, very much like a comprehensive guide. They serve as a nice reference to new visitors and an excellent tie-back for your posts, as they should be integrated as a main part of your site's navigation.
Let's walk through an example: You have a page on your website called "Pillar pages" where you have explained what a pillar page is with some supporting details. On your blog, you may have a post called "How pillar pages boost your SEO" where you briefly explain what a pillar page is, but spend the majority of the article focusing on its effectiveness. In the post, you will link back to the "Pillar Pages" page ("Pillar Pages page" ... say that ten times real fast) so the reader can get a more in-depth perspective on the general idea of pillar pages.
Not only does it give the reader additional information about your subject, it also tells search engines, like Google, "Hey, look at me! I know what I'm talking about on the topic of Pillar Pages because I have numerous pieces of content that my readers are finding useful!" (This is assuming that your information is accurate, and readers find it useful.)
There are two types of pillar pages: listing pillar pages and 10x pillar pages
1. Listing Pillar Pages
A listing pillar page will cover the general overview of the topic, linking to content in the topic cluster that expands upon the subject in even more depth.
Below is an example of a listing pillar page that we've created for a cancer center. You can see that breast cancer is the subject. We've given a brief intro to the subject before summarizing each section of the subject and linking off to those pages.
We like to use a listing pillar page for subjects that readers are typically looking for a specific set of information on. When a visitor lands on the breast cancer overview page shown above, they can scan the page and quickly find information that they might need if they were just diagnosed with breast cancer.
2. 10x Pillar Pages
10x pillar pages are conceptually similar to listing pillar pages, but they are far more in-depth - "10x" more in-depth, if you will. The 10x page will explore the topic in even more depth, providing research and examples, without as many links off to other pages.
Although 10x pillar pages cover the topic more thoroughly, it's still important to curate blog content that explores the information even further and links back to your 10x pillar pages.
Take a peek below at a 10x pillar page that we created for a client. This is a 10x pillar page that walks the reader through step-by-step what they can expect when they are building out a new office space.
In this example, each of the numbered steps shown is linked to the corresponding section further down the page (instead of going to a new page, like the listing pillar page). So if you were to click on step 3 in the listing, you'd find yourself directed down the page to the third step.
The Effectiveness of Pillar Pages
There is never room for a dull moment on the internet. At all times, there are millions of users searching, messaging, and social mediaing. (Yep, made that word up.) There are well over 3.5 billion Google Searches each day, amounting to 1.2 trillion searches per year. Although 93% of internet experiences begin with a Google Search, reports show that 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results. It's also worth noting that most searches are at least four words long - and they're certainly not just a string of keywords. They are conversational sentences that may contain a keyword or two.
Pillar pages are another opportunity to incorporate keywords throughout your website and address the questions or sentences users may be typing into Google related to the topic.
Going back to my original "Pillar Page" example, your pillar page about pillar pages may have headings such a "What are Pillar Pages?" and "How to Create a Pillar Page" because those are the type of sentences that users type into Google, boosting your search ranking. It also gives you a chance to expand on those aspects of the topic, of course. You can provide more information about pillar pages and the reader can find an answer to what they are searching for! Talk about a win-win situation!
How Are Topic Clusters Different from Pillar Pages?
We covered topic clusters in regards to the fact that it's a package-set of content focused on a topic. While each page of content in the cluster is different, it's all centered around a subject for the purpose of interlinking them throughout other blog posts and on web pages on the site. This will encourage visitors to keep exploring on your website.
Essentially, topic clusters add an element of organization to your blog. Going back to our example of building a house, pillars are the "structure" and topic clusters are the walls, furnishing, and everything in between. Topic clusters build upon the content covered in your pillar page and continue to link back to it.
Topic clusters also allow search engine bots that are crawling your website to see a level of consistency and quickly detect the theme and keywords of your website. It tells these bots you are a steady, reliable source of information that is relevant to what users are searching for.
Linking back to your pillar page also tells search engine bots it is the heart of the topic and reinforces the importance of the page.
Reliability, consistency, and quality are exactly what search engines are looking for. The days of mindlessly filling your pages with keywords are over. Don't get me wrong - keywords are still important, but they should not be the entire body of the post. Search engine bots want to see length, information, and outbound links.
Of course, topic clusters aren't the only way to boost your SEO. There are multiple steps you can take, a few of which we've outlined in our post Start Optimizing Your Website's SEO in 5 Steps.
Using Pillar Pages with Topic Clusters
Once you've decided on your website's topic clusters, it's time to create or update your pillar page. Your pillar page should provide links to the posts, pages or videos within your topic clusters, encouraging viewers to go deeper, for more information on the topic.
Additionally, your topic cluster content should organically link back to your pillar page, which increases the likelihood that a user will go to your pillar page and continue to read more posts that are related to the subject.
Using pillar pages with topic clusters creates a cycle and establishes flow on your website. It keeps visitors engaged and increases the amount of time they are spending on your site. Ultimately, this will:
- Create loyal visitors - if a visitor gets the impression that you are a reliable source of information or finds your content interesting, they will be back.
- Create leads - a visitor may be so engaged in your content that they purchase your products or services.
- Increase your search engine ranking - as we mentioned before, pillar pages and topic clusters increase the keywords on your website and establish your page as a relevant source of information, increasing the likelihood that you will be on the first page of search results.
Get Started on Your Pillar Pages
Pillar Pages are a pillar of your site while topic clusters are the brick, mortar, and everything in between. You'll need to take the time to create a strong webpage to support your topic - your website's SEO is depending on it. But, I know you can do it!