Knowing how to create a pillar page and topic clusters is a great way to better organize your content, show that you are an expert on the topics that matter to you and your readers, and improve your SEO.
Furthermore, if they are of high quality, they can bring consistent high traffic, accumulate backlinks and encourage engagement. In addition, this is a great strategy to boost your website’s overall authority and ranking.
Not bad, right?
However, be careful with the way you write and structure the content ecosystem. It can harm your SEO by causing your pages to compete against one another.
In this article, we show you how to create a pillar page and the pertaining topic cluster in 5 easy-to-follow steps. These will help you take full advantage of the SEO trend and experience all the benefits it presents.
Let’s get down to it!
What Is a Pillar Page and What Is a Topic Cluster?
A pillar page is an overview article that highlights all the relevant information about a topic, without going into detail about the subtopics it includes.
From the reader’s point of view, the purpose of this type of content is to introduce them to the subject and provide them with a general idea of what it is all about.
From the business’s point of view, the goal of pillar pages is to serve as a nexus between other content that helps develop the pertinent subtopics. The group of secondary pages is called a topic cluster.
The pillar page and the content in the topic cluster are interlinked so that each of the pages from the cluster is connected to the pillar, and, more often than not, to the other related pages as well.
Due to their descriptive nature, pillar pages are usually long-form content, and can vary from between 2000 and 10 000 words. However, occasionally, you can come across shorter ones that only highlight the subtopics, rather than summarize them.
As a matter of fact, it’s important for pillar pages not to go into too much detail, because, otherwise, they may make the rest of the content in the clusters redundant.
When creating the pillar post, you should strive to be brief and clear and focus on outlining as many relevant subjects as possible.
To avoid overstuffing the pillar with information, some content managers approach the process backwards and start by creating the cluster pages first. This way, it’s easiest to summarize them without feeling tempted to say too much.
How to Create a Pillar Page and Content Cluster
For your pillar pages and content clusters to be successful, you need to know how to create them properly. Using a systematic approach can be highly beneficial to your overall content marketing strategy and boost your website’s SEO.
Here are the steps you need to follow to successfully create a pillar page and its pertaining content cluster:
1. Conduct Content Audit
If you’ve been around for a while now your blog has probably accumulated a significant number of pages, therefore your first step should be to audit the content you already have.
It’s a safe bet that you already have material for at least a few content clusters – you may have also written quite a few pillar pages without knowing it.
The goal of the audit is to list and organize these articles, identify subtopic silos, and check your internal linking between the connected pages.
This can take quite a lot of time, but, trust us, it will be worth it in the end.
Go over all the titles in your blog and group them by topic. Start with the broader topics that describe who you are, what you do, and, generally, what’s your blog about.
For example, for DevriX’s blog, these are:
- Digital marketing
- Business leadership
Then, break down these topics even further.
For example, we could divide digital marketing into digital marketing for SaaS products, eCommerce stores, tech companies, and digital publishers. SEO can be split into organic search, PPC ads, technical SEO, on-page SEO, etc.
These are all topics that can be made into pillar pages.
Next, segment those even further so you can see how much of each potential content cluster you have already covered.
For example, technical SEO can include speed optimization, core web vitals, meta tags, canonical tags, meta descriptions, redirects, URL optimization, and so on and so forth.
All you have to do next is to organize those and fill in the potential content gaps.
In the end, you will probably have:
- Pillar pages without a cluster/s
- Pillar pages with unfinished cluster/s
- Pillar pages that need reworking and optimization
- Clusters without a pillar page
- Clusters that need additional articles
- Lack of proper hyperlinking between related pages
- Content that needs to be updated, reworked, or deleted and replaced
The last point is very important and should be paid attention to, because otherwise, your efforts to provide high-quality content may be in vain.
Furthermore, when conducting the audit, make sure that you don’t have any low-quality pages that are competing in the SERPs for the same keywords that you want to target with your pillar post or topic cluster.
All in all, the audit will provide you with a nice overview of the content you currently have and will help you move on to the next step and map your pillar pages and topic clusters.
2. List the Topics You Want to Present
Regardless of whether you already have some of the content written, or you are just starting out, you need to decide on what topics you want to focus on, and how to organize them.
To that end, you have to map out the pillar posts and the respective topic clusters.
Simply put, this means creating a structure for your content. Start with the broad topics that matter to you, break them down into subcategories, and divide them into topics that will become pillar pages.
For each pillar page, you should decide which subtopics it will include so that it outlines all the information that is relevant and may be interesting to your readers.
Each subtopic is later to become a stand-alone article and an element of the topic cluster.
However, keep in mind that, depending on how complex the topics are that you are covering, these secondary articles can also become sub-pillar pages themselves.
For example, “meta tags” can be a subtopic of a technical SEO pillar page. However, at the same time, can be a sub-pillar with its own content cluster that includes meta descriptions, canonical tags, title tags, etc.
3. Perform Keyword Research and Group Your Keywords
Once you’re done with mapping out your content structure and your topic clusters and pillar pages outline, roll your sleeves up and do the dirty work – keyword research.
After all, the purpose of the pillar page and its content cluster is not only to show off your knowledge and expertise. They also need to help attract the right kind of clients.
Research what your customers’ pain points and needs. Most importantly, investigate how they put them into words and key them into search engines.
This will help you to find the proper keywords so that you can create your content around them.
For the pillar pages, focus on broad search terms with high volume. These are usually difficult to rank for. However, as you will be developing them in a series of articles, try to do it properly. This way, you will have a strategic advantage.
However, make sure that these are not too broad, as this will make it impossible to exhaust the topic.
For the content cluster, research relevant long-tail keywords. Question words in particular will do great. Also, they will provide you with a better opportunity to rank for question panels in the SERPs, and for voice search.
4. Create the Content
The next step is to create the content.
There are two schools of thought here, providing you with two different ways to approach this:
Create the Pillar Page First
The first option is to start with the pillar page.
It should be well written and SEO-optimized, and outlines all the relevant information regarding the topic. Break the content down into sections that apply to every article you intend to create in the cluster.
However, make sure that you are not going into too much detail and only highlighting and summarizing the information.
Also, take a moment to prepare and map the anchor texts that will serve to connect the pillar to the respective elements of the cluster.
For each section, the anchor text should match the main keyword of its article in the cluster.
Once you are ready, you can continue with creating the cluster pages. They should cover the subtopics in detail and link to the main article. Again, make sure to use the proper anchor texts that match the general keywords.
Also, link these pages to all other relevant articles in the cluster that they are connected to.
The topic cluster can consist of as many pages as you need in order to exhaust the topic – it could be 5, it could be 20.
However, all these should be high-quality content that satisfies the user intent.
Create the Content Cluster First
The other way to create your content is by going backwards. Start with the content cluster, write all the articles, and only then create the pillar pages.
By doing this, you minimize the risk of saying too much in the pillar page and leaving too little value in the secondary pages.
However, if you are sure that you can resist the temptation, approach the content creation in the way that feels best for you.
5. Promote the Pillar Page
The goal of the pillar page is to be a traffic magnet and bring in visitors. It should also generate a high number of backlinks and contribute to your website’s overall authority.
As such, you need to invest the due time to promote it and make it popular.
Pillar pages should be a priority in your backlink-building strategy. Although more often than not, they are already capable of attracting backlinks themselves, it doesn’t hurt to aid them with the proper outreach techniques.
Also, make sure that you share the page on social media and distribute it to your email list. In addition, invite your partners and influencers to share it with their audiences.
The higher authority and traffic the pillar page builds up, the better its performance on SERPs. As a result, it will leak more link equity to the content in the cluster.
This, in turn, will boost the performance of the secondary pages as well. Also, it will lead to a positive outcome for the whole group, and to your website.
Creating a pillar page and a topic cluster from scratch is often a cumbersome and time-consuming process. It can become even more complicated if you already have a large content base with bits and pieces scattered around.
However, if you plan your efforts, map out the information, and approach it systematically, you’re in for success. The only other conditions to success are to be an expert in the field and to know your audience well.
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