Pillar content, sometimes also referred to as cornerstone content, is a crucial part of your online presence. Imagine your website as a home for your business and the pillar content as the foundation the rest of the house is built upon. It is the underlying structure. Getting it right can make all the difference in your online success. Let’s take a closer look at what it is, why you need it, and how to create strong pillar content both your audience and Google will love.
What is Pillar Content?
Your pillar content will consist of several structural elements. It is easy to try to go for too much, but for the best result and most efficient use of resources, focus only on distinct, critical areas you want to be recognized for – what your business specializes in.
Regardless of what you deem your pillars to be, those pieces of content have to be solid. The more exhaustive, the better. You can break it down into small pieces of content to fill all your channels to draw in people from different channels. For instance, you can repurpose that single pillar piece into a series of blog posts, emails, infographics, social media updates, and more. I talk about ways you can do this in my post on repurposing content. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time.
Imagine that you’re a dentist’s patient, and you know that because you haven’t been in a long time, you’re going to lose some teeth. You want to learn more about dental implants, but you don’t really know much about them.
You decide to do a quick search of Google, and this is what you find after scrolling past the ads and local office results:
You decide that because Perio.org is clearly an organization related to periodontology (or gum health), you should start there – and click the link.
Here you find that this content is from a trusted source, the American Academy of Periodontology. Not only can you use this to find out more about dental implants, including the types that are available, but you can also get an idea of whether or not you’re a candidate, more about the procedure itself depending on how many teeth are to be replaced, and what you can expect afterward. Plus, there are links to other relevant issues surrounding gum disease and treatment.
This resource page is an example of a pillar that you need to create for your brand.
So how do you determine what your content pillars need to be? Reverse engineering – and taking a look at the competition.
Know Your Brand
Your brand determines a great deal about the core topics your pillars need to cover. For example, you’re a cosmetics business specializing in all-natural makeup.
Understand Your Audience
Who are they? What do they want? What do they need? What are they interested in? How do they consume content? How do they prefer that content be presented? What do they need to convert?
In our cosmetics company example, an analysis determined the average customer is a female, with a concern about the environment, who still wants to look great. She fails between 30 and 50 years old and lives in a suburban area. She uses as many eco-friendly products as possible in all areas of her life, and when she finds makeup she loves, she sticks with it.
Map the Customer Journey
You know the endpoint. Think about what steps the customer would take to get from the beginning to the end – working backward. Remember, it’s not a linear path, so you’ll need content for each distinct phase, but that can be found in numerous ways.
The endpoint is a customer buying cosmetics online, or if you also operate a brick and mortar store, to come in and shop. To get them there, you’ll need awareness content to help them learn about the benefits of natural makeup, application techniques, and so on. You’ll also need content for those who are familiar with it, such as makeup looks, demo videos, and more.
Start with a Broad Topic
Your broad topic in this case is all-natural makeup – and there is plenty to cover here. For instance: Lipstick Shades for Different Skintones.
Start with a detailed guide about how to choose the perfect shade of lipstick for your skin tone. Include videos, how-tos, and images.
Build Out with Contextual Topics
From there, consider a dive into how to choose the right lipstick for incredibly fair skin, finding the right lipstick to make your teeth look white, and choosing lipstick for cool and warm undertones.
Fill the Base with Subtopic Content
These could be anything from celebrity makeup looks, how-to videos, tips from the most well-known makeup artists, seasonal trends, different shades within a certain color, lip-liner advice, gloss vs. matte finish, etc.
Why You Need Pillar Content
Content pillars not only provide support for your overall content plan, but they also help you to be found in search. Using one piece of content, you can generate multiple subtopics to support the core topic, but also capture the interest of your various customer personas.
Pillar content helps:
- Improve your site structure and internal linking
- Strengthen your overall search engine rank
- Enhance the user experience
How to Craft Stellar Cornerstone Content
When you start building out your content strategy based on pillars – you may feel overwhelmed, and that’s okay. The easiest thing to do is to focus on creating your first topic cluster. Create a pillar page that serves as a deep dive on your core topic. Keep it ungated. You can a guide with a downloadable resource (as we did with the customer personas post – there’s a worksheet you can download to help you.)
Conduct Keyword Research
Keyword research helps you find what people are searching for, so you can work those words and phrases into your content. Longtail keywords are especially important and may give you subtopic ideas to work in, as well. Consider the user intent behind the keyword phrase and create content that matches it.
See Where You Rank Against the Competition
Search for those keywords you think are most relevant to your brand and product to see where you rank. Take a look at the sites that are ranking for them and compare their content to yours. Make a plan to make yours better.
Dig Deep – and Think Like the User
Go into as much detail as possible. Put yourself in your user’s shoes. What would they want to know? Answer as many questions as possible.
Evaluate Current Content
You don’t always have to start from scratch. Look at the content you already have and see what edits you can make to turn it into a higher quality pillar piece.
Promote with Social Media
Your great content won’t matter if no one knows it is there. Promote it with social media. Run ads on Google and Facebook, or YouTube, depending on the nature of the content and your audience. Share it wherever and whenever possible.
After a while, evaluate your content strategy to see if it’s working. You should see an increase in organic traffic, and even better, conversions. If not, revisit your strategy to make changes. Continue building out additional pillars for all your other major areas.