Introduction to Keywords & Pillar Pages

Creating a pillar page strategy can be a long, lengthy process, but we've put together a guide that will help any beginner understand what a pillar page is and how to decide what keywords are the most effective for your strategy.

What is a Pillar Page? 📝

The term “pillar page” was coined in 2013 by Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz. He described pillar pages as “a single page that acts as a hub for a cluster of related content.”

This has since been expanded on further, and now a pillar page can be defined as a central piece of content that serves as the cornerstone for a topic cluster. Rand Fishkin has more recently described utilizing the pillar page and topic cluster approach as developing “10x content,” or content that can be ten times better than any other content on the subject matter.

The pillar page should provide a comprehensive overview of the topic, while the supporting topic clusters that you link to should provide more detailed and in-depth information. A pillar page helps visitors locate the information they need quickly and easily by organizing your site architecture. People are searching for content in different ways today, which makes this structure more crucial than ever.

what is a pillar page

Why Create a Pillar Page? 🤓

Not only has Google’s algorithm changed, but the way people search is constantly changing too. Pillar pages and topic clusters are how to best adapt your content to the changes. With 64% of searches being made up of four words or more, and 20% of Google searches being conducted via voice, it’s more critical than ever before to make content that answers questions. 

Because Google is a user-first algorithm, they’re doing a better job than ever before of giving people the best experience and the best information, reducing the need to go to multiple pages to find what you’re looking for. 

With these changes, organizing your blog/content by topic clusters is important. Instead of writing multiple blog posts all vaguely covering different keyword variations of the same topic, you have neatly organized clusters. 

It is also helpful for the reader to have a comprehensive, long-form piece of content. It makes it easier to find the information that they need. If you are properly internally linking, then it is a better experience for them to find further resources and information.

how to create a pillar page

Pillar Pages & SEO 🔍

Building a successful pillar page and topic strategy with high-quality keywords is one of the most important steps in an SEO strategy. Some of the top benefits of creating a pillar page include building authority on a specific topic, improving internal linking, and generating more traffic. Additionally, it is easier to avoid cannibalization, making it easier for Google to crawl and rank your pages correctly and improve user experience. 

If you’re wondering how avoiding cannibalization works with pillar pages, it’s because the blog topics have a long-tail keyword that is their main keyword as opposed to all of the blog posts having a main keyword that’s the same as the pillar page. The pillar page and blog posts may end up ranking for each other’s keywords, but because of the specificity of each of their target keywords, you don’t have to worry about cannibalization.

As pillar pages are the pages that should be the most in-depth and answer questions, they will ideally generate the most traffic on your site. They can also help generate backlinks. Even though Google is saying links are getting less and less important to include in an SEO strategy, it’s more like a nice cherry on top.

How to Create a Pillar Page 💡

Step 1: Foundational Elements

First and foremost, you must have your personas completed! These will be your north star throughout the entire process to help you make sure your content is going to reach the right people. If you don’t have your personas, then you’re more or less shooting in the dark. 

If you do have personas, then the first step to complete is a competitor analysis to see how your content matches up and if there are any major gaps or obvious topics that could be a pillar page. Remember we’re focusing on topics, not specific keywords. 

Step 2: Choose Your Topic

Once you’ve reviewed your competitor analysis and buyer personas, determine your ideal audience and find what they are searching for. 

The main issue you might run into here is finding out how broad to make your subject. You want the pillar page subject to be broad enough that you can create multiple blog posts around specific keywords. There isn’t a perfect number here in terms of search volume, keyword difficulty, or how many blog posts you should create. Focusing on a small number but creating high-quality content is more important than anything else. 

Pro tip: Before you begin conducting keyword research, make sure you are ready to keep track of all your findings and make sure you have created a Google Search Console (GSC), Ads, Analytics, and Tag Manager, as well as any other tools such as SEMRush & Ahrefs. These tools may prove useful in the future for making any data-driven decisions.

Step 3: Keyword Research

Once you’ve picked your topic, it’s time to move on to the keyword research portion of things. This can be a long and tedious process. AI can be utilized to help, but it is always important to double-check the information.

To start off, evaluate the keywords your company is using right now. Where does your website rank for those terms? Are your competitors ranking for keywords that you're not considering? Where are your content gaps? What do people want to know? Really do your research here. 

One important thing here is not to overlook top questions and long-tail keywords because of low search volume. The more targeted your keywords are, the more traffic you'll be able to receive due to the relevancy and specificity of your content. These are more often used for topic cluster content as opposed to the pillar page itself but should be tracked nonetheless. 

Tools to use

Free SEO Tools:

Paid SEO Tools:

These tools are all fairly comprehensive but take time to master. Take time to read blogs and do training to get yourself accustomed to the tools. 

Step 4: Benchmarking Data

As you’re in the process of doing keyword research, you should also document how you’re currently performing to use as benchmark data. If you see your company's URL, make a note of what rank you are. Benchmarking these where you started will ultimately help you to gauge your success. Are the pages you are optimizing and creating rising, or falling in the SERPs? Are we driving more qualitative or quantitative traffic?

Doing this also helps you see what content you already have created for the topic. You can note these for internal linking opportunities within your pillar page or for content to optimize in the future to help build your authority on the subject matter.

You can look back on this later to see how far or not far you’ve come and then figure out how to repeat the success or improve your process.

Step 5: SEO Optimizations

Once you’ve completed your keyword research and benchmarking, it’s time to use that data to make decisions about SEO. This will include your headings, title tags, meta descriptions, internal linking opportunities, and more. This step is critical in having your content rank and perform well so it cannot be overlooked or skipped. 

If you want a general overview of SEO, we have an article here. The rule of thumb is 3-5 keywords for your pillar page and 1-3 per topic cluster. These are the main keywords you include in the areas mentioned above, but you should include other keywords throughout your writing to mitigate keyword stuffing. 

While you did your research and benchmarking, you should’ve noticed if you had any pages that rank well for the current topic you’re going after. If you have these, make note of the keyword you want to use as anchor text and the URL. You can also optimize the old content and add it to your strategy instead of creating a whole new piece of content. 

benefits of creating a pillar page

Step 6: Writing & Publishing

Now it is time to put everything together and actually write your pillar page. It may seem daunting at first to have to write such a large piece of content, but you can use AI to help you out. And with all of the work you’ve done before, you should have a good idea of how you want your content to look. Never forget who you’re creating your pillar page for, why you’re writing it, and what the SEO portion of things will look like.  

An important thing to remember is that a pillar page should sit at the top of your website not buried deep within. Find a place, ideally in the top navigation, that fits your new content. Once content is ready you can go ahead and press publish and update the navigation!

The last and one of the most important steps is to perform a quality assessment (QA). This includes checking that all internal linking opportunities are taken advantage of, metadata is optimized, and the page is mobile-friendly. After this step is completed, request indexing of the page on GSC. 

To Wrap It All Up ☑️

The sooner you get your content out there, the sooner Google will be able to index and rank your new content. You can always go back and make edits later if something has changed.

Don’t forget to use your benchmarked data to see how well your page and clusters performed, and if you’re using HubSpot, use the topic cluster tool for easy reporting!

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