Nowadays, Google can understand even the most complex search queries you give as input.
Google’s keenness to understand complex semantic search is clear from the updates to the search engine algorithms, including the Penguin Update of 2012 and the launch of the RankBrain algorithm in 2015.
A study by Hubspot found that SERP placement improved with meaningful internal linking, which proves that Google now values in-depth coverage of not just the main topic, but also associated search queries and topics as well.
The addition of pillar pages and topic clusters is the best way to create a tree for the main topic and related sub-topics within your website.
In this article, we will discuss pillar pages, topic clusters, and how they benefit your website’s SEO.
What is a Pillar Page?
Pillar pages refer to well-explained content that covers all the important definitions and sub-topics for any given subject, without going into a detailed explanation.
The detailed explanation for the sub-topics and other essential information will be covered in other dedicated articles, which will be linked from the pillar page.
The most relatable example of pillar pages is Wikipedia articles.
A Wikipedia article provides you all the necessary information about any given topic, with related content covered in other pages. For example, check the SEO page on Wikipedia.
What Are Topic Clusters?
Topic Clusters, a.k.a Content Clusters, are an extension of the pillar page, wherein the explanation of topics, sub-topics, concepts, people, etc. are covered. Only information that is related to the subject of the pillar page will be covered in topic cluster pages.
For instance, if you search for “Theory of Relativity” within Wikipedia, then the page explaining the theory also contains a hyperlinked text for “Albert Einstein”, which takes you to another dedicated Wikipedia page about Albert Einstein.
How Pillar Pages Help SEO?
Taking Wikipedia as an example again, you can observe that for most keywords that are topics in Wikipedia, articles from the website appear on top of the search results.
Even though there are several other SEO factors that influence the high ranking of Wikipedia pages, pillar pages definitely play an important role.
Let us look at some of the best SEO benefits of pillar pages.
1. It Helps Improve Your Webpage Structure
Experiments conducted by Hubspot show that by implementing pillar pages and clustered content, they were able to improve the SERP rankings of their content.
This is because when search engines like Google crawl your website, it does not only value the link but also the content & its structure within the page itself.
With the implementation of well-structured pillar pages, all the related content on your website can be neatly mentioned under appropriate sub-headings and accurate keywords.
Thus, Google can easily understand the hierarchy of content and its relevance to the main topic, which helps in better SERP positions for your content.
2. It Helps Improve User Experience
Well-defined pillar pages with appropriate cluster content that explains all the relevant sub-topics help improve the user experience by a huge margin.
For example, assume that you have a pillar page on “Email Marketing” that explains all the basics to know, such as what is email marketing, the best strategies for email marketing, and the best email marketing tools out there.
Within the above pillar page, under the “best email marketing tools” sub-section, you link to another article you wrote about the top 10 best email marketing tools out there.
Thus, anyone visiting your website is not only explained about the basics of email marketing but is also provided with related information that explains the best email marketing tools out there.
3. It Helps Improve Other SEO Metrics
Basically, pillar pages are nothing but pages on your website that ideally links to all the other related content. Thus, you are implementing an extensive form of internal linking.
As you might already know, internal linking is an essential factor for positive SEO growth. Moreover, pillar pages reduce bounce rates, increase page impressions, and improve the ranking of your cluster content as well.
4. It Can Be Your Main Ranking Content Page
As pillar pages are extensive articles that are usually at least 2000 words with images, sub-headings, and internal links, they have better chances of ranking higher in SERP for your main keyword.
Thus, your internal pages also experience a ranking boost from the link juice passed on by the high-ranking pillar page.
How to Find Topics and Content Ideas for Pillar & Cluster Pages?
Well, the concept of pillar pages and cluster pages must be pretty familiar to you now.
A pillar page is like a huge tree, with the branches being the cluster pages.
But, how do you find topics that become your pillar page and how do you create cluster content?
Below are some tips that can help you find topic and content ideas for pillar and cluster pages.
1. Make Your Pillar Pages Cover the Basics
The best way to create an ideal pillar page is by covering the basics of your website’s niche.
For example, if you have a website covering SEO and marketing, then it is best that you have a pillar page covering the basics of SEO. You can give the definition of SEO, its origin, its use, various techniques for SEO, SEO as a career, etc.
For your cluster pages, you can then cover the sub-topics in detail and link them to your pillar page.
2. Try to Answer Frequently Asked Questions
A pillar page becomes even more informative when it provides additional information and guides to the readers.
For example, your pillar page on email marketing can cover a question such as “What are the Most Common Mistakes Committed in Email Marketing?”.
While answering the above question on your pillar page, you can mention the top 3 common mistakes. You can then create another cluster page explaining another 50 email marketing mistakes.
3. Use Google and Topic Suggestion Tools
Google can also help you find topic suggestions for pillar and cluster pages.
For example, if you search for “email marketing” on Google and scroll to the end of the results, you get to see other related keywords such as “email marketing tools”, “how to do email marketing”, etc.
Similarly, search for the main topic or niche that your website is based on to find topic suggestions for pillar and cluster pages.
You can also use topic suggestions tools such as the Portent Content Idea Generator. Again, a simple Google search will give you several similar tools.
How to Create a Pillar Page?
Below we have listed a step-by-step checklist that’ll help you create a pillar page easily.
1. Find the “Umbrella” Topic
The “Umbrella” topic refers to the topic that your pillar page is going to cover.
An ideal pillar topic would be something that can cover about 20-30 topics as cluster content. However, if your cluster content itself proves to be complex and diverse, then you can create another pillar page and branch out like a tree.
For example, if you have a product-based website, a pillar page must not just promote the product itself, but cover the industry/category that the product belongs to.
2. Research and Gather Sub Topics
To ensure you don’t waste time & effort, it is also important that you have the cluster topics ready.
Cluster topics vary depending on the pillar content. However, the basic idea is to provide in-depth knowledge on major subtopics of your pillar content.
As we mentioned earlier, for a pillar article on email marketing, ideal cluster topics would be about email marketing tools, best email marketing practices, mistakes to avoid in email marketing, etc.
3. Write and Edit Your Pillar Content
Now, you need to start writing your pillar content.
The first question that would come to your mind about pillar content will be about its word count.
According to a study conducted by Backlinko, blog posts ranking on the first page of Google’s SERP have a word count of around 1500 words.
As pillar pages are meant to be more informative and lengthier than a traditional blog post, make sure to cover at least 2000 words in your pillar content.
Also, keep in mind that the goal of your pillar content must be to cover a summary for all the key topics that come under the selected topic. In-depth coverage must only be done in the cluster pages to not overwhelm your readers with too much information.
As always, keep your sentences short and use simpler words to make the content reader-friendly.
4. Give Your Pillar Page its Final Form
Once the written content is ready, now you need to give your pillar page its final form.
The first step is to create sub-headings for the major sub-topics covered in the article.
Next, make sure to link to your cluster content by using relevant keywords and long-tail phrases for maximum SEO results.
Make sure not to overdo the links by adding anchors for every other word.
5. Hit Publish
Your pillar content is now ready and can be published.
Once the content is published, don’t neglect it.
Make sure that you periodically evaluate the pillar page content for relevancy. You can also add new sub-topics and link to other cluster pages as you get other ideas.
Examples of Pillar Page
To give you a better idea about how pillar pages look for different forms of content, below are some examples of pillar pages.
1. The “Guide” Pillar Page
The idea behind “Guide” pillar pages is simple, it aims at giving A-Z information on the particular topic.
The Marketing Basics Guide article published on CoSchedule is a great example of a guide pillar content.
A well-written guide pillar page will help you rank for all the important keywords of the topic, establish yourself as an authority for the topic, gain lots of attention from the audience as well as backlinks from other websites that refer to your content.
2. The “What Is” Pillar Page
“What Is” pillar pages cater to a wider audience than any other form of content.
The idea of a “What Is” pillar page is to provide a definitive answer to a question. In the process, the pillar page branches out to related sub-topics which would later become the cluster content.
The “What is SEO?” article by Neil Patel is a perfect example for “What Is” pillar pages. In this article, you get a definitive explanation for SEO, as well as other important information such as “Black Hat vs White Hat SEO”, “SEO Marketing Basics”, etc.
3. The “How-To” Pillar Page
“How-To” pillar pages give the audience a solution to a problem by offering definitive steps.
A perfect example of “How-To” pillar pages is the First Site Guide article on “How to Start a Blog”. This article takes you through all the steps involved in starting a blog such as selecting a niche, picking a blogging platform, choosing a domain name, etc.
As “How-To” pillar pages directly take a reader problem, it helps gain an organic search audience and also build a loyal audience. It also helps set your site as an authority for the subject.
How to Keep Your Pillar Content Updated?
There is so much time and effort spent in building pillar content.
Also, if done the right way, pillar content has so much value in them.
Thus, you cannot simply publish the pillar content and neglect it to oblivion.
Pillar pages have all the necessary ingredients for SEO success, including high word count, long well-researched content in proper formatting, internal linking, etc.
Do you know what will make it even better?
Periodically updating the content.
Google loves it when older articles are updated with new & fresh information.
So, how can you keep your pillar content updated?
According to iPullRank, Google considers website freshness by assessing factors such as the importance of changed content, percentage of content change, anchor text change, and freshness/changes in the backlinks profile.
Thus, try to make changes to the content length and links at least once in 6 months to mark your content fresh. Also, make sure to build new backlinks once a content update is published.