Not so long ago, SEMRush conducted a survey on content marketing, among a group of over 1,500 marketers, B2B & B2C businesses, non-profits, and other organizations.
About 75% of the respondents want to attract more traffic to their website, and about 25% of the respondents are liars.
Even with the sheer quantity of content being produced today, there are businesses out there not using content marketing to full advantage.
sheer quantity—not sheer quality.)
Throwing up aimless B.S. blog titles packed full of long-tail search terms doesn’t cut it in 2022.
To stand out from competitors, you need to provide something that’s actually useful to another being.
You need pillar content.
What Pillar Content Is
Pillar content is a broad, substantive, and comprehensive piece of information on a specific topic, theme, or niche.
By nature, pillar content includes lots of sections, sub-sections, and in severe cases, sub-sub-sub-sections. A pillar can come in the form of a comprehensive how-to guide, an in-depth report, or an authoritative compendium in some cases.
Pillar content has all sorts of other names—cornerstone content, parent content, I’ve seen a few marketers refer to a content pillar as a “topic cluster” for some reason.
These are all just superfluous marketing buzzwords for a term that already exists.
So if you hear these other words get tossed around in all the internet marketing noise, it’s all the same thing.
Note: Skyscraper content is often used incorrectly to describe pillar content and vice versa. These terms don’t mean exactly the same thing… although skyscrapers can be pillars.
If you made it past the previous two sentences—congratulations. You may have the perseverance required to create pillar content.
Why Bother Creating Pillar Content?
For the visitors who arrive at your pillar content, there are obvious benefits: you’re covering everything they wanted to know, and then some.
But it benefits you, as the site owner, as well:
- Visitors spending more time on your site – A strong signal to search engines that your site’s content is valuable—which it is.
- A lower bounce rate – If you’re providing content that is truly useful about everything to do with a topic, visitors are less likely to bounce back to the search results page and more likely to click around on your site for a while.
- Quality incoming backlinks – Again, when it’s actually useful, pillar content is very likely to get linked to naturally within relevant content around the internet.
- Social media sharing – Besides potentially sending new visitors to your site and raising awareness of your brand, natural shares of your pillar content across social media platforms are a valuable source of positive SEO signals.
- Evergreen content – While it’s not possible or practical for every topic, you should aim to make your pillar content “evergreen” so that its SEO value will continue to snowball for years and years to come.
How The Content Is Made
This is going to be very abbreviated. Most of the same principles for creating any awesome content carry over into creating awesome pillar content.
I’m mainly going to mention some points that are more specific to creating content pillars, as well as areas that leave less room for compromise (like pre-planning).
When planning a successful content pillar, you can’t just start typing everything you can think of on a certain subject until you meet a certain word count—though many people waste their time attempting this.
Others, understandably, don’t have the energy or the time to deal with creating pillar content at all.
From Pillar to Post
In the very beginning, you need to come up with a plan for how you’re going to “attack” the topic.
Ideally, you’ll come up with an overall strategy that helps you get the most value out of every section before you start writing.
This is a good time to start planning out headings, subheadings, lists, infographics, embedded media, and so on.
It’s okay if you need to modify this plan along the way—it’s far better than sticking with an inferior plan if you come up with better ideas during the content creation—just make sure you make any changes to the previously written content so that the entire thing is cohesive.
No matter how much you already know about the topic, you’ll want to research, research, research.
While you’re doing this, it’s a good idea to keep track of key URLs you encounter along the way so you can link to them as sources.
Not just because it’s the right thing to do (and linking out to relevant content isn’t bad for your own SEO), but it’s a good way to show new visitors who don’t yet trust your brand that your content is researched—and trustworthy.
And hopefully, you keep any catty social media challenges to your claims to a minimum by putting the sources of your data upfront—especially if you’re writing about anything controversial in your industry anything.
Creating A Pillar of The Community
Give your content—and your audience—the consideration they deserve. If you’re investing the significant amount of time and effort it takes to craft a solid content pillar, you may as well invest some into making sure you have a strong foundation.
Spend some time thinking about your formatting, presentation, and overall vision for the article.
Outline if you need to.
No one wants to read a wall of text with no formatting—and no one will.
Don’t be shy about working some personal touches into your pillar content here and there.
Unless you’re writing about myocardial infarctions, no need to be serious as a heart attack.
When appropriate, pillar content can and should be at least somewhat entertaining as well as informative.
After all, if you’re just rolling out the same assembly line content as everyone you compete against, you’re missing one of the key points of making pillar content in the first place.The goal is to surpass your competition, not “keep up” with them— and using the same boilerplate content that everyone else in your industry puts up will help you achieve neither.