Why you need to create pillar and cluster content
SEO can be a complicated and disorderly industry to be working in. You’re often at the mercy of ever-changing algorithms, trends that last just a few weeks and unruly user behaviour. It can feel like swimming against the tide, but it doesn’t need to be so complex.
Pillars and clusters are a great way to simplify your marketing calendar overall, boost the intention and relevancy of your content, and tick off the vitals of any strong SEO plan.
- What are pillars and clusters?
- Why are content pillars and clusters important for SEO?
- How to create your own pillars and clusters
- Identifying topics
- Tips on creating pillars and clusters
A pillar page is a web page containing hyperlinks to other pages, all linked by a particular topic. It’s like a contents page, but more interactive, and themed to a specific subject.
Pillars are often topic and answers based, to please the search engine algorithms. It’s no longer as simple as creating keyword based content. Today, content creators across all mediums are rewarded for their relevance to specific user questions and searches. Writing pieces that provide useful answers to common user questions in your niche part of the industry is key.
But before you jump in and write some quick replies to your customers FAQ’s, it’s important to get a sense of the scale of pillar content. In short, it’s detailed and thorough. Pillar articles and pages are often a minimum of 2,000 words long. (Told you it was thorough!)
There are a few different types of pillar pages, each with their own benefits. Take a look at what you could create and see what would be most relevant for your website:
- 10x Pillar Page: This is the OG of pillar pages. An absolute beast of a page, more like an e-book than a typical web page or blog post. It’s packed with links galore, so many that you’ll often find internal navigation menus throughout the page, helping guide readers to their most relevant topic. It’s everything in one place.
- Resources Pillar Page: These super handy pages are often in list format, providing users with a list of resources, grouped by topic. Again, you’re providing links in every line, covering every topic from one page. It’s just a little more simplified, compared to a 10x pillar page.
- Subtopics Pillar Page: This one does what it says on the tin. It’s similar to a resources pillar page, but this time you’re drilling down into specific subtopics. If you’re covering some super niche topics, or simply have a lot of content that needs organising, this can be a great way to signpost customers to the best articles for them.
Cluster pages are the web pages that are linked to via a pillar page. These are curated pieces of content that form a part of your overall SEO topic plan and are written about the pillar page’s topic. Again, detail and specificity is going to help your relevancy online.
Pillars and clusters serve as a huge benefit to your users, but are also a key component of SEO ranking for your site. Through providing such clear and organised links to the entirety of your online content, you are showing Google and other search engines precisely where users can find answers.
Considering user's intent
Think about how your users are really searching online. As much as Google’s ads might have you think, most people aren’t typing perfect questions and formatting sentences into search engines. It’s usually a hastily typed few words that roughly sum up what they want to find out.
Those are all keywords and phrases that you’ll want to cater to. Using the pillar and cluster system, you can cover more ground and target topic clusters as a group, along with those pesky long-tail keywords. This makes it easier for users to find your content, which helps your SEO, again!
Without careful organisation and placement, search engine algorithms can really struggle to figure out what your articles are actually related to. They're not as discerning as your average customer, who will instantly know what’s useful to them. But by creating pillar pages, you can effectively teach search engines exactly what they should be showing to users when they’re looking for very specific answers.
Authority and Trust
Did you know, Google has a little system for ranking how useful and relevant your content is? It’s called E-E-A-T (with a double E), and stands for expertise, experience, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
These can be a bit of a headache to cater to in every single piece of content you create. But if you use the pillar and cluster system, you are already ticking off these elements for Google to see. Your online authority, and overall relevancy, will be boosted as a result.
Imagine how confusing your website would be without a menu. Now imagine how overwhelming your content is when it’s not properly organised.
Accessibility is such a key issue of any modern online content, so applying a pillar and cluster system ensures you’re making your articles and posts available to new users in seconds. Keep it simple, your customers will thank you, as will the SEO algorithms.
While it does feel good to tick off key topics at speed with a few articles, the best experience you can provide to users is one that is detailed and covers all bases.
SImply planning out your pillar and cluster structure will bring up previously hidden and undiscovered topics that you haven’t written about yet. Adding to the depth and detail of the topics that you cover is always a win for your customers.
Before you run off with a thousand ideas for topics, take a minute to figure out exactly who will be reading your content. Create some audience personas, based on existing customer demographics, then build upon this foundation with some new demographics that you’d like to appeal to over time.
Consider their age, gender, interests and other basics to set the stage. Then add in details on their wants and needs, and exactly what you can do with your content to address these requirements.
Chances are, you probably already have content on your site that can be used as a cluster, or even be the foundation for a pillar. Save yourself the hassle of totally starting from scratch and build upon what you already have. Slot your existing content into a pillar and cluster framework, then begin to fill in the gaps.
Topics aside, you want to make sure you’re getting the basics right. Don’t worry about outdated methods like keyword stuffing, and instead focus on well performing keywords and underappreciated long-tail keywords in your industry. A mix of the two will bring you the strongest results.
Check in on how useful your content is by reviewing your plan before you start spending hours writing out your content. Google has some fantastic content guidelines which are great for analysing your pillars and clusters before you jump in.
Brainstorm the most useful and relevant questions that your users will want answers to. That way you create content that is actually useful, so you’re not just filling a spot in a content calendar. Intentional content that helps your customers will always be the most relevant.
Your Business Goals
Take a look at the goals you have set for your business and see if you can create content that aligns with them. Want to attract a new audience demographic to your site? Create content they would want to find and be actively looking for. Looking to showcase a new product range or feature of your service? Write about it and build out multiple articles to address all angles of your new feature.
Where do your competitors fall short in their current content creation? Find the gap and fill it before they do. Using Google Trends can be a really useful tool for discovering topics right before they go global.
1. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is so 2008. Write with the sophistication of a modern marketer and aim for relevancy, not just overwhelming your text with keywords.
2. Poor Interlinking (between articles)
Your clusters may run the risk of being hidden in the wealth of links in your pillar page if you’re not linking to them at relevant sections. Don’t forget to link your articles to one another directly in each article too.
3. Keep It Simple
Even if you want to cover a lot of topics and themes, you need to ensure you’re not accidentally confusing your customers. Work with the formatting of your pillar pages to really direct users to the most relevant pages. Your pillar page doesn’t need to be a labyrinth.
SEO is an ever changing element of the online marketing experience. But one thing has remained constant over the decades: relevancy. If your content is relevant, easy to navigate as a user, and signposted for search algorithms to find, you’re set to stay on top of the benefits of strong SEO.
Pillars and clusters have a huge advantage for any marketing campaign. It’s the most efficient way to cover all bases, and ensures that you’re accounting for every customer query and search term. Going hand in hand with SEO, implementing this strategy will level up your marketing, with some major long-term benefits.
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