Buildings crumble without a solid structure and foundation. Similarly, websites metaphorically start to crumble when strong pillar pages aren’t doing the heavy lifting.
At least, that’s the way SEO winds are blowing these days.
Pillar pages are increasingly popular and effective at consolidating content topics. They act like epicenters for information dissemination. Your pillar pages are gateways through which users find and explore more content pertaining to a particular topic or area of expertise.
Smart marketers use pillar pages to consolidate information in a way that’s both attractive to website visitors as well as search engine algorithms. Let's learn how pillar pages can clean up your website and give you SEO credit in the process.
What Are Pillar Pages?
The concept of pillar pages isn’t a new one. In fact, website hierarchy—top-level category pages that break down into sub-category pages— is very similar to how pillar pages are crafted. So, web designers are probably familiar with how the idea works.
Pillar pages are foundational pages that link to more in-depth content clusters.
A strong pillar page covers all relevant topic information in one place, but doesn't go into too much detail.
For example, a modern marketing company may have a pillar page dedicated to "digital marketing."
Within that pillar page, you'll find different topic clusters and links that direct you to more specialized content that pertains to digital marketing. Content on the pillar page might include clusters that touch on e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, or paid advertising—all of which are parts of the pillar page topic digital marketing.
Topic Cluster Content
Today, search engines use AI and sophisticated algorithms in an effort understand a searcher's intent. As a result, search algorithms have adapted to index and present more relevant search engine results pages (SERPs).
Recent algorithm updates and consumer trends recognize that people use smart devices that utilize things like voice search and question/answer dynamics. It’s easier than ever to find exactly what you want through search, even if you don’t exactly know what you’re looking for. Search is intuitive enough to provide results that are close to your search query. This means SEOs need to craft website content in a way that responds to dynamic search algorithms.
Topic clusters are the modern solution. Traditionally, websites are a mess of blog posts and categories. Search engine algorithms have been trying to make sense of the mess for decades, and each algorithm update does a little better. Today, online content is more relevant to search queries when you’ve optimized for topics rather than strict, refined keywords.
Why Pillar Pages Are Important
Pillar pages wrangle your content clusters in a way that’s clean and concise. Overarching topics serve as themes around which you can build and organize content, and the more optimized your pillar pages are the better they’ll reflect your content offerings.
No matter how many pillar pages you have, the important thing is organization and attribution. Within your pillar page you’ll want to make good use of keywords and content links to further break down your topic.
Web guru Neil Patel explains that pillar pages are longer than traditional blog posts, but they aren’t as detailed. They’re broad, expansive pages that provide links to more in-depth content. In a perfect, balanced SEO world, all content on your website would link back to one pillar page or another. In that sense, they do act as supports that hold up your website.
How Pillar Pages Affect SEO
Pillar pages act like boxes into which all of your content fits neatly. Search engine algorithms like it when things are neat. In fact, search engines are smart enough to recognize clean, clear content and reward it with higher rankings in SERPs.
Clutter confuses search algorithms. You help search algorithms understand your content’s intent when you clean up the clutter. Pillar pages are an effective way—through internal links and strong keyword topic clusters—to tell search algorithms what you’re about.
Start Setting Up Your Own Pillar Pages
It’s better to have everything planned out and well-organized before you launch into pillar page creation. Better yet, strong pillar page structure will guide web developers even before you start building a website.
Here's a loose framework for creating pillar pages:
1. Choose topics you want to focus on
You don’t want to be too broad or too narrow when choosing your pillar page topics. Think less in terms of specific keywords and more in terms of comprehensive topic categories.
You want a pillar page that’s broad enough to cover a wide range of smaller sub-section clusters but narrow enough to not be confusing. Remember, pillar pages are long but less detailed, and cluster content is where you get into the nitty gritty.
2. Keyword research
Think of this stage as an initial broad look at keywords (short- and long-tail), phrases, and content clusters that get more focused the deeper you get. Traditional keyword research tactics will still serve you well here. Try not to focus too much on high-volume/high-competition keywords. Branch out and include synonyms and long-tail alternatives as well.
3. Create Your Pillar Page
You’re ready to start building your pillar pages with topics and cluster keywords in hand. Treat your pillar pages like hubs for all the other content on your website. Provide links and proper attribution to help guide users to more valuable content.
Things to include in your pillar page(s):
- Concise introduction copy to establish credibility and topic discussion
- Clear cluster table of contents for quick reference
- Organized content clusters that support the pillar page topic
- Easily scannable content cluster headings and subheadings
- Lots of links to more in-depth website content
- Calls-to-action (optional)
It’s that simple. Pillar pages aren’t hard to create, but they do take time and foresight. Do your research, pick strong pillar page topics, and put smart SEO tactics to work.
Pillar Pages Are Good for Users and Good For SEO
A good pillar page provides a clean and intuitive user experience while hitting all the right notes for SEO best practices. Search algorithms can index your content better and with more authority, and users get results pages that better represent content they’re looking for.