How using content pillars helps build topical authority
Building topical authority is one of the best ways to boost your position in Google’s search results. One way to demonstrate expertise and establish trust in your field is through content pillars. Centring your SEO content strategy around authoritative, resource-driven, and evergreen pillar pages effectively organises your content and provides value to your users.
Let’s assess what content pillar pages are, the common types of content pillars, and how to create content pillars to magnify your website’s authority as a complete source of information.
What are content pillars?
Content pillars are a key theme that shapes many of your articles, infographics, videos, e-books, and blog posts. They offer a rich source of material for a reader on a particular theme or topic — it’s essentially an authoritative landing place.
Everything is in one place, strategically interlinking with multiple cluster pages covering related content. Pillar pages are often much broader than the offshoots. They typically serve as a vast introduction to the topic, with the supporting content going deeper into specific strands of the central theme.
Your content pillars and cluster pages must work harmoniously to position yourself as an authority and deliver an easy-to-navigate, enjoyable customer experience. We’ve picked out a real-world example of a successful content pillar page in action to give you inspiration for your content pillar ideas.
Content pillar example
A brilliant starting point when looking at excellent content pillar pages is Diet Doctor’s beginner guide to the Keto diet. It offers generous platefuls of information on this broad topic, starting with a definition of keto and then foraging into areas such as detailed meal plans and the potential risks of a keto diet. There’s enough accessible information for anybody to confidently start this high-fat, low-carb diet.
While this pillar page is rife with a mix of text, images, and videos to keep the content engaging, the layout is just as important. Everything is interconnected to the broad, evergreen topic and designed to make exploration of a topic or theme easily accessible.
A handy menu under the first three H2s enables the user to immediately jump to a specific point under that section. The ‘Key takeaways’ on the right-hand side of the page is another clever method for quickly giving website visitors actionable information. Each takeaway links back to the related part of the pillar page, meaning the reader is directed instantly to additional information on the subject.
Aim to create a simple structure. The keto diet pillar page does precisely that — subtopic introduction, brief explanation, strategic internal links, and a summary at the end of the section with relevant links.
The intent of a pillar page is never to cover the primary topic in great detail. Leave room for more in-depth reporting in your interlinked articles, ideally focusing on long-tail keywords that represent low-hanging fruit opportunities.
Pillar pages should be peppered with natural, internal links. Diet Doctors have linked to many separate blog topics that cover different aspects of the keto diet. Each additional article enriches Diet Doctor’s topical authority and creates valuable keyword ranking opportunities.
But why should we believe the information on the page? A quick glance to the right of the screen and you will see the term ‘evidence-based’ alongside the writers, all of whom are doctors. Doctors are recognised experts in their field, giving the reader peace of mind when learning about health-related subjects such as dieting.
The phrase ‘evidence-based’ also makes the content trustworthy and credible, as it’s based on scientific studies. It’s imperative to validate any information you receive from official, genuine sources.
Think about how you can structure your content pillar page to benefit your target audience and search engines crawling your site. Focus your time and energy on the crucial elements used in our content pillar example, so your users can get the most out of every section.
Benefits of content pillars
Content pillars can have significant benefits to your SEO and topical authority. Your pillar becomes the catalyst for a wealth of content creation, helping attract users who crave information on a specific topic.
After they’ve landed on your content hub, you can lead them in different directions, cementing your expertise through the volume of content on offer. Of course, the sub-content needs to be relevant, high-quality, and connected to the content pillar, so site visitors can associate your brand with the topic.
An engaging and easy-to-use content pillar will keep users on your site for longer, so it’s worth putting effort into planning and implementation as it will save you time in the long run. Users staying on your site and pages for prolonged periods is a strong sign they are topically relevant. If they can get all the information they need in one place, why do they need to look elsewhere?
This “all-in-one” benefit only comes to fruition through a flawless internal strategy. When your content pillar is interconnected with links, it helps keep your website content organised and easy to navigate. Never link random pages — every link must have a purpose and help visitors navigate to related posts and find content they might not know exists.
Optimising your internal links also distributes authority and ranking power between your pages. Use an appropriate anchor text for your internal links to help Google understand its relevance and signal that your content is thorough.
Types of content pillar pages
There are three main types of content pillar pages — ‘Guides’, ‘How-To’, and ‘What Is’. You will need to consider your target audience and their search intent to help decide what type of content pillar page to implement. Let’s take a closer look at each type of content pillar:
- Guides – Give the reader a complete overview of the topic and provide answers and authoritative coverage of common questions. This makes it an alluring destination for people interested in the subject, especially as most guide pillar pages tend to be evergreen.
- How-To –A how-to pillar page is designed to help the reader accomplish a task or solve a problem and can be aimed at beginner or experienced audiences. Taking them through processes step-by-step and giving advice for best practices can position your business as the solution to many pain points.
- What Is – If your goal is to rank for keywords aimed at a beginner audience, a what-is pillar page is an effective way to introduce them to a topic. Think of how many times you have entered a ‘what is’ search query. If Google could direct users to your pillar page that describes and explains the topic in-depth, you will quickly gather topical authority within your niche.
How to create content pillars
We’ve already seen an example of a high-quality, high-ranking content pillar page, so let’s turn our attention to how we create one.
Choose a content pillar topic
Firstly, identify your overarching topic — it needs to be something with a healthy search volume that you can cover in detail, including the supporting subtopic keywords.
Create a list of subtopics and long-tail keywords
Find out the search terms your audience uses so you can form a list of keywords to build your pillar page around. Also, consider their search volume, difficulty, and keywords for which your competitors’ pillar pages are ranking.
Target keywords with lower search volumes to begin with, as this will help you build domain and topical authority and indicate a more specific user request. You can then fight for higher keyword difficulty search terms later. Once you’ve gathered an extensive list of long-tail keywords, you can easily create subtopics that feed off your pillar page.
Content pillar structure and interlinking
Next, you need to ensure your content pillar has a logical structure that’s user-friendly and easy for search bots to crawl and index the pages. Users should be able to land on your site and fully explore your topic without returning to the SERPs.
Natural internal linking is essential to your information architecture and sharing link equity, helping with navigation and distributing page and topical authority. The internal linking structure also provides a deeper context for search engines.
Evaluate any existing content
Before you can begin producing content, evaluate your existing content. Can it be used or repurposed? Build your customer’s confidence by ensuring it hits Google’s E-E-A-T standards for expertise, experience, authority, and trustworthiness.
Whether you’re giving old content a facelift or creating fresh content for your pillar page or sub-pillars, each piece needs to target a unique key phrase so your pages don’t contain duplicate content and sabotage rankings.
Think about the search intent of your users and the type of content format that best matches their query. The leading pages in the SERPs are a strong indicator of what you should emulate, so look at what type of content is ranking well and use it as a template before adding your own flavour to it.
As you implement your content pillar strategy, be patient with search engines, as they need time to understand your site structure. Over time, they will find, crawl, and index your pages, helping your site build topical authority.
Track page performance
Monitor the performance of your content pillar from the off so you can assess metrics such as engagement, organic traffic, and SERP ranking. Are they driving results and helping you meet your business goals?
- Use the pages that are performing well to your advantage by linking them to newer pages to share link equity.
- Review your subtopics for content gaps and look for changes in the SERPs or user intent. This will keep your topical authority in top health.
- Optimise pages that aren’t hitting similar heights to your leading lights in-line with Google’s content SEO ranking factors. Google’s search algorithm takes into account content quality, length, E-E-A-T, and natural links to different parts of your content pillar. If you can marry this high-value content with great user experience, your content pillar will have a good chance of succeeding.
Implementing a content pillar and analysis strategy with a steady output of high-quality, linkable (related) content will naturally earn you visibility in the SERPs. Topical authority on one or more topics is fuel for better organic traffic, so it’s worth investing time in your content creation and structure to achieve this.
The more keywords you rank for on your given topic, the more authority you will have. Use your content pillars to achieve high rankings, engage your audience, and drive conversions, and constantly look at how you can strengthen its value for both the user and search engines.