Search engines are overflowing with content. Most of it is not very effective and often misses the point. But it does accomplish one thing – making it really hard for truly valuable and quality content to get noticed. Right now, there are more than four million (4,000,000) search queries on Google every minute. Enough to make your heart sink if you’re a content marketer and want some attention. You might even think about resorting to some not-very-white hat methods to get a higher ranking. But that won’t be necessary if you use content pillars.
One of the challenges content marketers face is how to produce quality content in sufficient quantity. Just thinking about all the content forms and platforms you can use to make your content marketing efforts successful is often enough to spin one’s head. At one point you’re might be thinking that you are doing a mighty fine job at it, but one better look can reveal that what you’re actually creating is flat and boring. Certainly not the type of content that will awe your audience.
So what’s the solution? How can you create content that your target audience will love? Start building content pillars.
What are Content Pillars?
There’s a bit of a confusion in content marketing circles when it comes to defining content pillars. One school describes them as in-depth content that can be broken into smaller pieces. Another sees content pillars as simply different content forms you can use, such as video, whitepapers, case studies or ebooks.
Personally, I’m with Justin Champion from the HubSpot Academy when he says in a post on BuzzSumo that:
A content pillar is first formed with a core topic, something that’s broad enough that you can really dig deep into, like sales qualifications.
In other words, content pillars can be pages on your website that you can break into smaller chunks, by topic or theme for example. That’s your “core topic”. Through these, you need to find related sub-topics that one one side share a connection with the core topic, but on the other can be independent and work on their own.
How to Develop Content Pillars?
Content pillars can be a powerful weapon in your content marketing arsenal. Let’s go through the process of creating a, for example, content pillar blog post.
- Know and understand your buyer personas
You are, I hope, creating content for your audience, not yourself. This is something that they will (hopefully) find useful and that can serve their needs. In short, your content must solve their problems.
So this is really a two-pronged problem. First, you need to know who your audience is. Are they, for example, young or old, male or female? What is their marital status? Their education? You need to answer all of these (and some extra) questions to know to whom you should address your content pillars.
Once you know that, the next part is to identify their needs and problems. What ails them? You can find this in one of two ways:
- What is your audience talking about? Go to social media that your target audience is using the most and listen in on their conversations. Are there any particular topics that they keep returning to?
- What does your competition say? Think about it. You’re hardly the first one to try and tackle these issues. Somebody else has likely talked about them before you. Look at what other content marketers and bloggers are saying about this topic. You can go to Buzzsumo to find this out and find some topic ideas for yourself.
Building an audience should be one of your primary, if not the primary objective. More and more companies are seeing this, as shown in the latest Content Marketing Institute’s study of B2B content marketing for 2018. According to CMI, 80% of respondents said they are focused on building their audience.
- Create content people will find valuable
Here we come back to the original problem of content overload. You need to create content that your audience will find valuable and exciting. Not useless and dull.
Of course, creating truly valuable content pillar articles is no easy task and many fail at it. Mostly because they are forgetting who judges the content. It’s not them. It’s their audience. If the audience decides to share your blog post on social media with their friends and family or download it for later, then you know you have created something they appreciate.
But how can you be sure your audience will even see this awesome content of yours? You want to promote it. You can’t be shy about this. Post it on your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Medium or other channels you are using. Share links on Reddit, Quora, Inbound. Send emails to influencers telling them that you have something they might find interesting and ask their feedback. Send newsletters to your audience. There are so many ways to promote your content and get it before your audience. Don’t let it go to waste.
- Make sure it’s still relevant
There’s not a lot of topics that will forever remain evergreen. The world changes practically before our own eyes. 30 years ago not many people had computers in their homes. Know not only that, but they can put them in bags (or even pockets) and carry them wherever they go. And it gets even crazier as we can now talk about artificial intelligence and other things from sci-fi movies. That’s how far we have come.
But while all of this is inspiring and it makes our everyday lives a lot easier, it’s also scary for content creators. Just think about it. The industry you have known to its core only two or three years ago can no be completely different. Your information can be out-of-date and as such no longer correct or relevant. Because of this, you need to be on top of things and update your content pillars frequently.
Why do You Want to Create Content Pillars?
Finally, we talked so much about why content pillars are useful to your audience They provide something valuable and relevant on the long run.
But what about you? What are the benefits of content pillars for you and your website? Here are just some of the fruits you can enjoy thanks to them:
- More shares. Your target audience will want to share it with others they know and think might have a use for it.
- More backlinks. It attracts a lot of backlinks from other blogs who want to enhance their own content.
- Less bounce. Smaller bounce rate as visitors find content that is valuable and relevant to them.
- Increased time spent on your website. Visitors will spend more time on your blog and with your content and engage more with it.
- Loyalty from visitors. Increased loyalty from your audience as they see you as a go-to source and a thought leader.
- Better Google ranking. Higher Google ranking thanks to being so helpful to your audience.
What Types of Content Pillars are Out There?
Okay so you’ve decided. You are going to create some pillar content. What can you create? There are 3 types of content pillars you can make. Let’s take a look at all three of them here.
- 1st Tier Pillar Pages
A pillar page needs to hit all the right buttons with your target audience. It needs to help your customers find a solution for a problem they have and to be the only place they ever need to go for it. As such, pillar pages need to be able to address all questions a visitors might have about a certain topic.
They also need to be easily accessible to the visitor. Don’t hide them under a ton of pages. Make pillar pages a part of your top-level navigation and make a strong connection between your pillar pages and your other pages.
- 2nd Tier Pillar Pages
2nd tier pillar pages or just sub-topic pillar pages slightly different from your 1st tier or main pillar pages in that they are not as closely tied to the problems your business is trying to solve.
Don’t mistake this for lack of authority though as sub-topic pillar pages also need to address the questions your reader has.
- Resource Pillar Pages
You’ve probably seen Resource pages or Library pages on many websites. What’s different between these typical Resource pages and Resource Pillar Pages is that the later is created so that both visitors and search engines have an easier time navigating them and finding what they need.
There is a clear difference between resource pillar pages and pillar pages. Namely, pillar pages contain all of the content in one place. Resource pillar pages, on the other hand invite readers to explore more by providing just enough information to tickle their interest.
Content pillars can be extremely valuable to your target audience in addressing their needs. They also bring many long-term benefits to you. However, they are not easy to create. You can’t just take it out of your hat like a magician pulls out a rabbit. It’s not just about how long the content is (although this is one of the prerequisites of pillar content), but also how it aligns with your content strategy.
What are your thoughts on content pillars. Should you use them? Let me know in the comments bellow and please share this post if you found it useful and think someone else might as well.