Content (marketing) is still king or queen, albeit in a different way than before. Google is getting smarter and smarter and now analyses thematic and semantic connections of search terms. A pillar page can fulfil these requirements of search engines and users – but what on earth is a pillar page?
A pillar page is a content page that forms the basis of a topic complex. Hence the name pillar page: The English term “pillar” means “column” or “pillar” – the pillar content thus serves as a support for further topics.
Cluster pages are arranged one level below the pillar page and deal with more detailed or subordinate topics related to the pillar content. The basic topic is dealt with on the pillar page; more in-depth aspects are teased out with links to the appropriate cluster pages, where they are described in detail.
And why all this? Because search queries are getting longer and more specific. Instead of “landingpage”, we tend to search for “landingpage tools” or “create landingpage” or even “create landingpage for sea” to get the most precise answer to our question. This is exactly where the Pillar Content potential lies: we can serve all these search queries, but we can’t possibly fit everything on a single page. So we create a pillar page and matching content clusters for this set of topics. Because so many topics are addressed, a good pillar page can be 3,000-5,000 words long. After all, we want to give a good overview of the basic topic on this page and also hint at and link to all the subordinate topics.
And what does that look like in practice? For example, we want to write an article on the topic of “landing pages”. In just one article, however, we cannot possibly answer all the questions about landing pages (some of which have already been hinted at above) without losing even the most patient readers. So we write a pillar page about what a landing page is, explain how it is built and what distinguishes it from other websites. In addition, we plan content clusters on the following topics, for example:
We include individual pieces of information from these clusters on the Pillar Page and link to the respective cluster page for more in-depth information.
Useful pillar content can also be produced for completely different topics. For example, a travel portal could write a pillar page about “Travelling to Asia”. The cluster pages then describe special features of individual countries, tips on entry requirements and necessary vaccinations, important cultural differences, transport and getting around, a round trip through the whole of Asia, the most important sights, …
The Google algorithm used to check pages stubbornly for the use of keywords – the dark SEO era, in which the most violent keyword stuffing was practised and not sanctioned. However, Google is constantly learning. At the latest since the Hummingbird algorithm (2014) determines the rankings, the search engine attaches importance to semantic connections.
Pillar content provides Google with precisely this context: the pillar page covers an overarching topic and builds relationships with the pages below it. In this way, the content on each individual page goes into depth and covers a broad spectrum across the many different pages. Because readers benefit from these structures, Google also recognises the relevance of the topic complexes. The internal linking within the page is also strengthened in this way, since each cluster page is linked semantically meaningfully on the pillar page and partly on other cluster pages. Therefore, pillar content is highly interesting for SEO – and highly effective.
Of course, there is more to good rankings than building a few pillar pages. But from a user and search engine perspective, relevant pillar content can make a significant contribution to a helpful site structure and a good site experience.
Clear answer: yes and no.
In contrast to a pillar page, a distribution page does not usually deal with a specific topic in detail. Instead, it distributes users to the sub-pages after a short introduction with brief descriptive teasers. A classic distribution page does not offer much added value in terms of content, but serves primarily as a navigation tool.
Hub pages are usually defined similarly to distribution pages and are primarily used for link building. Although some sources also recommend high-quality content for a hub page, this content usually does not go beyond informative teasers to the linked pages.
In contrast, the Pillar Page already scores with its own high-quality and relevant content, which is logically extended by thematically more in-depth sub-pages.
Basically, you only need 4 steps to create a Pillar Page and produce the appropriate topic clusters. Before and after this, however, there are two optional steps that do not necessarily make the process more time-consuming, but can make it even more effective. But enough of the theoretical preface – let’s get started with your Pillar content.
If you don’t start from scratch in content production, you’ll probably already have some relevant content on your site. Of course, you don’t have to throw it overboard and rewrite all the pillar pages from scratch. After taking stock, you can decide which texts can perhaps be reworked into Pillar Pages or Cluster Pages. In this way, you also have the chance to take existing rankings of your pages with you.
Every pillar page needs a topic, so let’s start with that. Choose a topic that fits well with your business and content marketing strategy and has potential for multiple sub-pages. Back up your topic choice with keyword research to identify a good focus keyword for the Pillar Page and initial cluster topics.
Based on the keyword research for the pillar page, you now plan your subordinate topic clusters. Feel free to expand the keyword research a little further: If you searched for a focus keyword and some sub-keywords in the first step, you can now start looking for secondary keywords for the respective clusters. Make sure that your clusters are sufficiently different from each other in terms of content and that you do not get into keyword cannibalisation embarrassment. A good keyword mapping helps you to keep an overview.
The theme for the Pillar Page is set and you have also defined the first subthemes? Perfect. Then you can start writing your pillar content. The content should offer users added value, but should not pre-empt the cluster pages, i.e. it should not go into too much depth. Therefore, make sure that you provide a basic understanding on the pillar page, but refer to the respective sub-pages for deeper insights.
Now you can create your subpages cluster by cluster. Base each page on good keyword and competitor research and then fill the pages with relevant, well-researched content. Feel free to pick up hints, questions or puns from your pillar page, so that your readers feel picked up on each of your pages.
This step should go without saying, so we don’t give it a number of its own: your pages should always be up to date. Update your Pillar Page as soon as a new content cluster goes online, and always keep an eye out for further topic clusters that offer added value to your readers. Also check regularly if the content is still up to date – especially regulations are susceptible to constant updates (we remember the rule confusion of the Covid 19 pandemic). In this way, you signal to Google that readers will always find relevant and up-to-date information on your site.
Google’s algorithm is getting smarter and smarter and analyses search queries in terms of their semantic context. Pillar pages and associated content clusters illuminate topics in depth and create a particularly “Google-friendly” context for users and search engines through meaningful links. The production of targeted, holistic pillar content can thus raise your content to the next level and consequently improve the rankings of your content.