Content Pillars Guide

Content Marketing
Content Pillars Guide
Article by Bisera Stankovska
Last Updated: December 01, 2023

Content pillars cover everything you need to know about a topic, offering comprehensive and complete information. Although it sounds simple, creating content pillars for your content marketing strategy can be challenging. You must decide what questions, problems, or solutions to focus on.

This article explains how to create content pillars and why they are important. It also provides useful examples that will drive you closer to developing your own pillar strategy.

What Are Content Pillars?

Content pillars are clusters of content organized around a central theme or topic that provide substantive information. They usually consist of several types of content, such as blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and more, all linked together by a common theme.

Content pillars are destinations for critical, in-depth information backed by enough data and guides. Regardless of the type of content, you should optimize a pillar page for a particular keyword answering the searcher's intent.

Using content pillars, businesses and marketers can establish expertise and authority in their industry, attract a targeted audience, improve search engine visibility, and create a strong foundation for their content marketing efforts.

Why Are Content Pillars Important?

Content pillars are important for several reasons:

  • Provide in-depth information about a theme or topic. By creating a series of content around a central theme or topic, content pillars offer a complete and in-depth view of the subject, allowing readers to learn everything they need to know in one place.
  • Increase brand authority. By establishing dominance in a particular topic, content pillars help businesses position themselves as an expert in their niche, build trust with their audience, and become authoritative sources of information.
  • Boost search engine visibility. When businesses create content pillars, they also create related content that can be interlinked and optimized for search engines. Interlinked content containing relevant keywords improves the website's search engine visibility, making it easier for people to find the content and the business itself.
  • Offer new content ideas. Content pillars provide a roadmap for content creation, making it easier for businesses and marketers to create relevant, engaging, and valuable content for their target audience.

Content pillars offer a strategic and organized approach to content marketing, helping businesses create high-quality content that resonates with their audience, establishes authority, and achieves their marketing goals. Find out how to create content pillars in our next section.

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Five Steps for Developing a Content Pillar Strategy for Your Website

  1. Identify the Main Topic and Keyword
  2. Audit the Existing Website Content
  3. Analyze Your Competition
  4. Create Your Content Pillar
  5. Focus on Evergreen Pillar Content

Here are the steps to develop your brand's content pillar strategy from its foundation:

Step #1: Identify the Main Topic and Keyword

Identifying the core topic and keyword is the first step, and both should satisfy the user intent while attracting the search engine algorithms. It is essential to consider what problem you are solving, which products and services you are offering, and who is your target audience.

Identifying your audience will require creating buyer personas and focusing on their pain points. For instance, if your customers’ pain point is balancing work and family, your content theme can be about family activities or work-life balance guides.

Next, you must identify the primary keyword and the topic, which should be substantial enough to build a hub. Consider factors like the search volume, the topic’s competitiveness, relevance to the audience and product offering, and the content’s potential of becoming an evergreen piece.

Once you have decided on the core topic and keyword, it is time to analyze the subtopics that will form the cluster pages and support the structure of the pillar page. The pillar page must touch upon all these subtopics and link to the relevant articles, uncovering them in detail.

Step #2: Audit the Existing Website Content

Performing a content audit of your website will let you determine whether you already have content that can be modified, optimized, and repurposed for the pillar content page.

There are two main benefits of this process. First, by optimizing and updating existing content, you can avoid cannibalization or duplicating content on your website. Second, you can re-evaluate the internal linking structure.

However, if you still need to get existing content to support a content pillar, you must reverse-engineer the process. Specific content strategies can begin with creating the pillar page and supporting the cluster articles.

Step #3: Analyze Your Competition

If you have identified a topic to become an authority on, chances are that there is competition. So, you will need a competitive content analysis on their content marketing strategy to find gaps, opportunities, and other areas for your website’s pillar content.

Researching the competition also enables you to find areas for improving what already exists and, therefore, building more valuable content for your readers. You can also analyze the subtopics covered by the competitors and identify content gaps. Overall, you can build a more robust and comprehensive content pillar.

Step #4: Create Your Content Pillar

The last step is creating content. To develop content pillars, map out the structure of the pillar page, design the article's structure using all possible questions to be answered, and use advanced headings and subheadings for optimal performance.

For example, if your subtopic is “What is the disadvantage of filing for bankruptcy,” you will get valuable insights on popular headlines and FAQs collected online. From this, you can create an outline of questions you want to answer, such as:

  • What does it imply to file for bankruptcy?
  • How to declare bankruptcy?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the consequences?

You can use advanced tools to create automated SEO-friendly content briefs, provided you know the subject well.

Step #5: Focus on Evergreen Pillar Content

Ideally, your content marketing management strategy must include a variety of timely pieces and evergreen content. Often, evergreen content works best while creating pillar and cluster content.

Pillar pages that center on evergreen content perform exceptionally well for readers and search engines if you have high-quality cluster topics to support them. That is why emphasizing the searcher's intent and the topic's subject is of utmost importance.

Here's an example of evergreen content. Imagine you have a news publishing website and, during a content audit, realize you have several articles following a historical event. You can create a full evergreen pillar page from the vantage point. This page will offer an authoritative, high-level view of that historical event and all the highlights. Links to your cluster topics will further dive into each subtopic in greater detail.

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Three Types of Content Pillars

  1. The Guide
  2. The What-Is
  3. The How-To

Based on your content marketing goals, there are three main types of content pillar pages:

1. The Guide

The “Guide” format webpage offers an authoritative overview of a subject with various elements and pages that link to support it. These subtopics include FAQs, blogs, and links to resources and products. They are clustered around the main topic of the pillar page.

An excellent example of a pillar page is a piece from the Southern District of New York website. The content is titled “Understanding Bankruptcy,” It provides a high-level overview of bankruptcy law, defining the significant themes, courts, and chapters in personal and corporate bankruptcy matters. It is detailed and optimized to give the reader everything they need to know about the subject in one place. It ranks on Google's first page with “How to File for Bankruptcy in New York” as a keyword phrase.

On the other hand, the left sidebar lists the cluster content topics closely related to the user's search query. They are the best-recommended readings for anyone gaining knowledge of bankruptcy laws.

2. The "What Is"

The “What Is” pillar page covers subjects in great detail; long-form blogs are a prime example. When the subject matter is complex, subtopics are often broken down into chapters and segments.

In The “What Is” pillar page, the subtopics are organized by a linked table of contents on the left side of the main content. Each cluster is optimized for its purpose by adding elements like videos, graphs, and illustrations. The visual elements make the content more sharable on social media.

3. The "How-To"

The “How To” pillar content presents actionable content to the user and enables them to start the process immediately. It is ideal for targeting an audience with transactional and informational intents. It is a powerful asset for any brand, enabling it to leverage content marketing benefits.

Content Pillars: Final Thoughts

Content pillars are unique content that helps brands demonstrate expertise, establish authority and stand out from their competitors. For content marketers, content pillars provide a strategic approach to creating content that answers all readers' questions.

To experience all the benefits content pillars provide, creators must understand the elements and best practices of a successful content pillar strategy. Start by identifying the main topic and keyword, audit existing content, and create an evergreen piece that will be relevant in the years to come. If you need help creating pillar content, contact some of our top content marketing agencies.

Content Pillars FAQs

1. How many content pillars should you have?

Although there is no rule of thumb regarding content pillars, having at least three per website would be optimal. When creating content pillars (and content in general), focus on quality rather than quantity and provide readers with high-value information that addresses their needs and solves their pain points.

2. What are content pillars in social media?

Content pillars in social media, also called “buckets,” are sets of themes or topics you can use to create posts. They can include industry news, testimonials, promotions, niche-related humor, and other topics.

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