The Ultimate Guide to Pillar-Based Marketing: What It Is and Why It Matters

The Ultimate Guide to Pillar-Based Marketing_ What It Is and Why It Matters _ MediaOne

The world of SEO has changed a lot in the past few years. Search engines no longer rank content but entire websites. In other words, having a few commendable pieces of content isn’t enough to drive organic traffic. If your entire content strategy isn’t up-to-par and your website architecture isn’t optimized, any great content you create won’t matter.

In comes pillar-based marketing (PBM).

PBM is a term that gets thrown around a lot over the past several years, but what does it mean?

What’s Pillar-based Marketing (PBM)?

And what makes it important? Put simply, PBM is a content marketing technique that relies on creating multiple pieces of content around the same topic or keyword.

It leverages a highly-structured content network that captures organic traffic at every sales funnel stage. Think of it as a content pyramid, with your pillar content at the top and in-depth blog posts and pages below.

A Brief History Behind Pillar-Based Marketing

The concept of PBM dates back to 2006 when Problogger wrote an article about ten techniques for finding blog readers.

He mentions pillar articles, then defines them as “tutorial style articles aimed to teach your target audience something.” 

Source: Problogger

The idea was that you would create a series of articles, each one covering something different but related to the same topic.

This way, you’d have a solid keyword-rich article at the centre (the pillar) and multiple more detailed pieces around it. The intention was to provide an evergreen source of organic traffic over time.

Fast forward to today, and the concept of Pillar-Based Marketing remains essentially the same. The only difference is that marketers now have access to better technology, more data analysis tools, and a more comprehensive range of marketing channels to reach their target audiences. 

So, Why Is PBM So Important? 

Well, it’s quite simple: It allows you to create content that covers the full spectrum of your target customer’s needs. From initial awareness and research all the way through to purchase decision-making, Pillar-Based Marketing provides a much more comprehensive approach than ad hoc article creation.

It creates a content ecosystem on your website, with each piece lending authority to your pillar page. You also want to insert internal links to your pillars and sub-pillars as you create new content. 

It’s also a great way to improve SEO ranking and can help you organically attract more customers through search engine visibility. The bottom line is that Pillar-based Marketing can help your business grow in ways other marketing strategies can’t.

How Does Pillar-based Marketing Work?

How Does Pillar-based Marketing Work?

Pillar-based Marketing is all about creating a content hierarchy that serves as your website’s foundation. Your pillar page should be an overview of the topic and include key points to cover, while sub-pillars provide more in-depth coverage on specific topics related to the main one.

For example, if you’re creating a marketing strategy for an organic food company, your pillar page could be about the health benefits of eating organic. Sub-pillars could zone into the benefits of eating different types of organic foods and provide nutritional info, recipes, and other related content.

The key to successful Pillar-based Marketing is ensuring a logical connection between the pillar page and each of its sub-pillars. All this content should be written with an expert’s eye – meaning it should be comprehensive, engaging, and backed up by reliable sources. That’s what will keep readers coming back and sharing the information with their friends.

Once you have created a comprehensive pillar page, you can begin to move on to other topics that could be related – such as the health benefits of different types of diets or ways to start an organic garden — so you can further expand your content library. The key is to ensure that each of these topics relates to the main pillar page, so readers have a seamless experience and can easily find more information on any topic they’re interested in.

How Pillar-based Marketing Can Help with SEO

Before we move on to creating a pillar-based marketing strategy, it helps to understand how it can directly or indirectly affect your SEO.

So, how exactly does pillar-based marketing influence your SEO efforts? Here’s a quick rundown:

#1. Strengthening Topical Authority

EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) underpins Google’s framework to evaluate and rank websites. It provides a simple way to assign the overall quality score of a website, not just individual pages.

Put simply, Google uses EAT as the yardstick to measure website quality.

It will then proceed to rank it higher consistently, and that’s because:

  • It considers its content useful and helpful to those reading it.
  • It trusts that the website is dedicated to providing an accurate and reliable source of information
  • The authors are actual experts in their field with lots of experience.
  • Concludes that the content has been placed on a relevant site with lots of necessary authority signals
  • The website provides comprehensive topical coverage that fully satisfies the user’s search needs.

That’s why pillar-based marketing works so well for SEO. It takes the EAT principles and applies them to your content strategy. Pillar pages are comprehensive, authoritative pieces of content that serve as a central resource for all related topics. They cover a broader range of topics and provide deep insight into each one while linking to related pages.

That gives your website more link equity and helps establish it as an authority in its field. The result is improved rankings in SERPs and increased organic traffic to your website.

#2. Faster, Simpler, and More Complete User Experience

Google no longer ranks websites based on keyword optimization but intends to understand the user’s intent and provide a more comprehensive answer. That explains why they released the Core Web Vitals.

They’re all about positive user experience; if you can pull that off, you’ll be rewarded with a higher ranking in the SERPs.

It also explains why Google never hesitates to devalue websites that place a barrier between the user and the intended destination, such as interstitials or sites with perceived thin value. 

Site speed and mobile-friendliness are also key aspects of Core Web Vitals. A website that loads quickly and is optimized for mobile devices is critical. 

If your site isn’t up to snuff, it could prevent users from quickly getting the information they need.

You enhance user engagement by simplifying access to related content and encouraging them to navigate the information they seek. 

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By establishing a meaningful connection between pillars, you reduce the time it takes for users to get to where they need to go.

As you focus your resources on specific topics, you can develop more content around those subject areas and create a deeper connection with users.

It’s all about improving the user experience, giving readers a consistent message, and creating content that serves both their short-term and long-term needs.

#3. Natural, Value-based, Link Building

PBM allows you to set up a one-stop shop for related content. It’s like a hub that answers myriads of questions in one place, helping readers quickly and easily find the information they’re looking for. 

You can also build links naturally by creating blog posts, infographics, video tutorials, or other content related to the pillar topics. That should help you develop a network of content that leads users back to your site again and again—all while boosting your search engine rankings. 

And to top off the benefits of pillar-based marketing, it can help you create a stronger sense of brand identity and loyalty as readers come back more often for content. In short, PBM is a great way to build authority in your industry with an efficient system that helps readers get what they need quickly.

Additional SEO Benefits of Pillar-based Marketing

Not only does PBM make content easier to find and help readers quickly locate what they’re looking for, but it also offers several other SEO benefits:

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  • Identifying and Filling Content Gaps: Creating a PBM structure helps you identify and fill content gaps, boosting the amount of high-quality content on your site and increasing the chances of ranking for broader volumes of related keywords.
  • Improving Internal Links: Pillar content is an organizing system that lets you interlink relevant pieces of content (pillar pages, cluster pages, blog posts, etc.) to create a well-rounded website architecture.
  • Keeping Readers Engaged: By creating content at various levels of expertise (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and in different formats (blog posts, how-to guides, graphics), you can keep readers engaged with your site and increase the chances of them returning and converting into leads or customers. 
  • Reduces Bounce Rates while Improving Other Key SEO Metrics: SEO metrics such as time on page, number of pages visited and bounce rate are all improved when a website is structured using pillar-based marketing. That can improve rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Optimizing UX: Pillar content helps create a cohesive user experience by providing clear pathways for users to follow when navigating your website. That helps to reduce confusion and improve the overall user experience of your website, which is beneficial for both SEO and conversions.

What’s a Pillar Page?

What’s a Pillar Page?

A pillar page is a comprehensive overview of a topic that serves as the central hub for related content. It’s typically a blog post or web page that distills down your website’s main topics and themes. Think of it as an encyclopaedia for your website.

Examples of Different Pillar Pages:

Product Pillar Page: These pillar pages are designed to give customers an overview of a product or service. They provide detailed information such as features, specifications, pricing, and more general information about the company or brand.

Now, with each pillar page, you can create related content to dive deeper into the topic and provide more detailed information on each subtopic. That is known as a content cluster, designed to link back to your original pillar page.

Forester Friendly Society is the perfect example of a well-crafted product pillar page. They have created an extensive overview of their products and detailed information about them. 

The pillar page provides:

  • Trust signals through third-party reviews
  • Wider brand signals
  • Single topic content page
  • Interactive content to support their trust signals and convey the value
  • And, most importantly, a comprehensive overview of the product portfolio.

Topic Pillar Page: This type of page focuses on a single topic and provides detailed, authoritative information about that topic. Topic pillar pages include information about a single topic, such as how-to guides, research studies, and other helpful resources. 

A perfect example is the “What Is Financial Planning?” page from Fidelity Investments. This page provides an in-depth overview of financial planning, from the basics to more advanced topics. The page also includes links to other helpful resources and helpful videos for those wanting to learn more.

The page provides the following:

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  • Fast access to core content related to the topic
  • Distilled and visual content highlights for the topic
  • Easy navigation to related topics and content
  • Storification to help create an association between the brand and the topic

A topic pillar page aims to provide users with helpful information about a specific topic in an easy-to-digest format. It should also encourage users to explore other pieces of content related to that topic.

By providing this type of content, you can help your visitors find what they’re looking for quickly and easily and encourage them to stay longer and explore more of your website.

How to Create Pillar Content

Now that you know what pillar-based marketing is and why it matters, let’s talk about how to create compelling pillar content. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

#1. Choose a Topic

Pick an industry-relevant topic that you will focus on for your pillar content. For example, if you run a business in the health and wellness space, some topics may include nutrition advice, workout routines, or mental health tips. The topic should be broad enough to have multiple pieces of content created around it.

You also want to think about the big picture (not just yet) and focus on topics that will help your target audience.

You want to go broad but not too broad. For example, don’t pick “fitness” as a topic. Instead, look more specifically at topics such as strength training or weight loss. The idea is to choose a topic you can exhaustively cover in a few dozen pieces of content.

Once you’ve honed in on a specific topic, it’s time to create your pillar page. Pillar pages are comprehensive guides about a particular subject that serve as the foundation of your pillar-based content marketing strategy. 

They provide an overview of the entire topic and link to other related pieces of content. You want to ensure that your pillar page is the most comprehensive resource on the web for everything related to your chosen topic—that way, any time someone searches for information about it, they’ll come across your brand.

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#2. Research Relevant Keywords

Keywords are still as functional as they were when search engine optimization (SEO) first became a “thing.” What’s dead is keyword stuffing, not keyword research. Once you’ve identified the topic of your pillar page, do some keyword research to find out which specific terms are most popular among people searching online for information about that particular subject and plan your content around those keywords.

Remember, every keyword doesn’t need to be included—you just want the main terms related to your topic. 

Keywords are like the subtopics of a pillar page. You don’t necessarily need to include every keyword in your content, but you want to ensure they are all related to the overall topic and make sense as part of the conversation. 

For example, let’s say you have a pillar page about marketing automation. Your keyword research would reveal terms like “email marketing automation,” “marketing automation software,” and “automation workflow.” You want to weave these keywords into your content to create a cohesive narrative.

3. Choose Subtopics

Subtopics are the main points of your pillar page. They should be more specific than keywords but still related to the overall topic.

Think of them as the support elements of your pillar page. They support the topic, continue the narrative, and provide more detail.

For example, if your pillar page is about marketing automation, subtopics could include “how to set up an automated workflow” or “benefits of using marketing automation software.”

These subtopics will give you more space to dive into specific pieces of information and provide practical advice for readers.

The best practice is to have at least five subtopics for your pillar page. This ensures you have enough content to create a well-rounded piece for readers to enjoy and use as a resource. 

When creating the subtopics, make sure the information is relevant and engaging. Include details, insights, statistics, anecdotes – anything that adds more depth to the narrative.

Source: HubSpot

4. Start Writing

Think of it as writing a non-fiction book, except the chapters are broken into individual pieces of content. When writing a pillar page, it’s important to have an effective structure that ensures readers can easily find the information they need.

Gather your research, develop an outline, and start creating the content. Be sure to include visuals, such as images, diagrams, videos, or infographics, to break up the text and make your article more visually appealing.

You can break, recycle or refresh content from an old book, updating it with freshly researched facts and quotes. However, make sure always to add your own voice. After all, it’s the content that you create that will allow you to stand out from the competition.

Also, while writing, consider internal links and how each post connects to the next, the previous one, or other content on your website. Including internal links is a great way to drive traffic to the older content and provide readers with additional information and resources.

Every topic is like a book chapter, and if you don’t have a clear understanding of the contents of each chapter, your readers won’t be able to make sense of it either.

The Difference Between a Landing Page and a Pillar Page

A landing page is different from a pillar page in that it is designed to capture lead data or encourage action. It typically consists of one page and can take many forms, such as short, long, or even interactive quizzes. A pillar page is more informational, providing readers with detailed information about the topic at hand.

That said, here are four distinct differences between a landing page and a pillar page:

#1. The Goal

A pillar page relies on SEO for traffic. It focuses on educating users about a specific topic.

Think of an introductory “101” guide. It seeks to provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the topic to better decide if it’s relevant to them.

On the other hand, landing pages are geared toward conversions. They focus on capturing contact information in exchange for an offer (such as an eBook). The goal is to keep the user on the page long enough to complete the desired action.

#2. The Content Format 

Pillar pages are generally longer and more comprehensive than landing pages. That’s because they include a variety of content formats and topics, such as videos, images, and written content that covers every angle of the topic. Pillars can also feature related topics with links to other content pieces.

On the other hand, landing pages are focused on one specific topic or offer. The copy is usually concise and direct. Landing pages often include an opt-in form or CTAs (calls-to-action) that allow users to take the desired action.

#3. Design

A pillar page is essentially a lengthy piece of article, think 3000 plus words. It should be designed to have a distinguished look and feel of its own, with the appropriate visual elements to make it more attractive. 

On the other hand, landing pages typically don’t need as much design work since they’re generally short on copy. They may have some graphics, icons, and videos to make the content more engaging. 

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However, the design for both pillar and landing pages should follow a shared brand experience. Some of the elements — like fonts, color palettes, logos, and layouts — should always look familiar to users when they land on your site.

#4. User Journey

A pillar page targets the user at the awareness stage, while a landing page targets them at the consideration or decision stages. A user journey should be designed to lay out how you expect users to go from pillar pages through any number of intermediate pages and finally arrive at a landing page.

Creating this out ahead of time allows you to plan for potential issues within the user journey. You’ll also be able to identify opportunities for improved user experience, such as enhancing search engine optimization (SEO), providing useful, relevant content, or even adding a pop-up window with additional information. 

It can also help you define how users should interact with your site — what actions they should take, what pages they should visit, and so on. A solid pillar-based marketing strategy will set your website up for success in the long run.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.

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