The way we search online is becoming more nebulous and ambiguous. Voice searches, conversational language and typos are now the norm, but users still expect Google to quickly organise and list the most accurate, helpful and contextually relevant content.
As a result, search engine algorithms are adapting.
Google now favours topic-based content, which is why marketers and SEO experts have responded with a clear cut, definitive approach: pillar pages.
Pillar pages organise extensive content into one central hub, creating strong link chains to supporting content within your own site (or valuable external content). They allow you to group together related content, making it easier for bots to crawl your site and ascertain which content is related, in turn presenting the user with the best possible source for that topic (your pillar page).
In a pre-pillar page world, we created blog posts based around the keywords we wanted to rank for. This worked well for most, but with the infinite volume of online content, things were starting to get a little bit disorganised.
For example, if you continue to focus on different keywords, often around the same subject, you could even fall into the trap of competing with yourself.
Google exist for one reason and one reason only: ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’
Now, let’s break that statement down a little more...
It’s Google’s job to organise the world’s content. But if we consider for a moment just how much that actually is, it's pretty mind-blowing. As a benchmark, 1,400 blogs posts are written every minute. The reality? Content shock.
So, Google needed to develop quickly to continue providing its users with efficient, precise, and accurate responses. To sift through the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, it began grouping content.
By having at least one pillar page, you are helping Google organise your content. You are essentially cleaning up the mess within your own site architecture, and at the same time, doing wonders for your reputation with search engines.
If your pillar page provides extensive information about a particular topic, with links to all relevant, supporting topics, the algorithms consider said pillar page a rich, authoritative and helpful source for the reader, since it branches off to associated infromation...
The world’s information
And there’s a lot of it. Which means a lot of competition. And, although pillar pages are topic based, it's still essential you have a keyword strategy. You could for example, rank for more than one keyword through your pillar page, rather than having a series of blogs all ranking for one keyword.
Remember, Google must quickly identify the most remarkable content and at the same time, disregard anything it deems irrelevant, redundant or unethical.
Although a pillar page is usually based on a broad topic, it links to narrower subjects that support the overall content - in other words, more opportunities to satisfy the searcher's query.
Take, inbound marketing, for example: a great topic for a pillar page. Supporting topics might come in the form of blogging, eBooks, landing pages, workflows, and so on. But because a pillar page is saturated with helpful, supporting content, in a variety of formats: blog links, infographics, videos etc, it makes sense for Google to present this to the user as one of the top sources, since it embodies so many branching topics.
You should endeavour to consistently update your pillar page by adding new links. This can be achieved by identifying content gaps and creating additional content to support your topic cluster. So take advantage of this opportunity and do all you can to keep the fire of your pillar page burning.
You need to do everything you can to maintain or acquire your status as a thought leader, an authoritative source, to stand out above all of that information.
Make it universally accessible
Google must be able to determine what your content is about, so that the rest of the world can. It should be presented in a clear, concise, and universal manner.
This is ultimately how Google ranks its content.
If Google is unsure or unclear of what your content is about, then it can’t be sure users will understand it either and it will depreciate its value. Pillar pages are sectioned, usually with a table of contents, and similar to an eBook, some of the most comprehensive pillar pages are available in the form of a downloadable PDF. If you're familiar with the inbound marketing strategy, you'll know that this is an unmissable opportunity for conversions.
The purpose of a topic cluster is to help more pages rank so searchers get better answers. That’s what SEO essentially comes down to, giving searchers the best, more useful, and valuable content. This is deciphered through quality, links, popularity and authority.
Search behaviour is changing among users, and as we know, SEO is all about the user. Google spiders want to find the best content and present the user with the most relevant, valuable sources.
Whilst many marketers have a basic understanding by now of what a pillar page actually is, it’s even more valuable to understand the purpose of one, and what can be achieved in terms of your site traffic, visibility and overall lead generation.
A huge majority of the internet’s content is irrelevant and obsolete. Google has mastered the art of machine learning to enable its algorithms to sort through all of the mess, choosing only the cleanest, clearest, most meaningful content.
But SEO takes time, care, and maintenance. Top rankings cannot be achieved overnight, especially since Google is developing an even lower tolerance for unethical black hat techniques.
A pillar page is a great starting point, and in the process of fleshing out your content, one can cultivate these opportunities to maximise an inbound marketing strategy. If you'd like to know more about beginning your path to inbound, download our free eBook.