If you’re a marketer or work with a marketer, then chances are good that you’ve heard the phrase “Pillar Content” or “Pillar Page” the last few months. As a marketing strategy, pillar content is being pursued by a lot of marketers, and companies, and it’s getting a huge push from HubSpot. Why? Because it seems to work.
But that doesn’t really explain what pillar content is, does it?
What is Pillar Content?
Pillar content (also called Pillar Pages or Content Pillars) refers to top-level pages on your website which forms the foundation of your content marketing strategy. They are comprehensive, authoritative pages about a certain topic or question that are widely used by companies for lead generation. Think of them as “from A-to-Z” or “start-to-finish” guides or resources.
While a blog post typically zooms in on a single question or on a single aspect of a topic, pillar content aims to be all-encompassing. It wants to answer all questions related to a particular topic, and explain all aspects of that topic fully.
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Google likes pillar content (we’ll get into “Why?” below). Pillar content makes for happy searchers. And happy searchers makes for more money for Google, which makes for a happy Google. And when you make Google happy, Google makes you happy by placing you higher in search results. That means more visitors to your website, more leads, and ultimately, more customers.
The Three Types of Pillar Content
Pillar content is starting to sound pretty good! If you’re interested in pursuing a pillar content strategy of your own, take a look below at the 3 main types of pillar content that you should create. In addition to listing out the individual characteristics of each type, we explain when each type should be used and provide examples of what they might look like in practice.
1. The 10x Content Pillar Page
A Pillar Page is likely to be the highest-value pillar content you would create for your website, because they are directly tied to the key problems that your business solves for your customers.
Pillar pages are usually going to be those things, those topics, that you want your company to be known for, because you can provide a solution related to that particular topic. Key characteristics that all Pillar Pages include are:
Pillar pages are complete, authoritative resources/guides about a certain topic. They aim to answer all of the questions that a potential reader might have, can include visual or design elements, and tend to be very lengthy.
By necessity, these pages are often broken into sections or chapters, all located on one page.
Pillar Pages include all text on the page. Though you may pair a pillar page with some sort of downloadable resource, a defining characteristic is that all of the information is laid out on the page so that a reader can find it and access it without needing to fill out a form.
Placing all of the text on the pillar page not only improves user-experience (by making your website a go-to resource) but also helps the page to rank for important keywords and phrases, boosting your SEO rankings. It is important not to hide the text behind a form or some kind of user interface.
Pillar pages include bi-directional links. Pillar pages answer a question as completely as possible, but will still usually link to other pages on your website including blog posts, sub-pillars, and resources. It is very important that these other pages also link back to your pillar page, strengthening the connection between the two for both the reader and search engines.
Pillar pages are a part of the main, top-level navigation on a website. This makes it easy for your website visitors to find the pillar page, and does not hide the resource under multiple layers or clicks.
Pillar Pages are closely aligned to the problems that your business solves. Because pillar pages live at such a high-level on your website and in your navigation, they must be closely related to your business. Ideally, they are tied directly to your business’s core value proposition. They are focused around problems that are solved, not broad “topics” and definitely not around products or services.
Most businesses should limit themselves to 3 or 4 pillar pages. Because pillar pages are meant to be closely tied to your core value proposition, you will not have many of them. Some businesses will have one or two, some will have three or four. But not many businesses will have more than four pillar pages; at that point, your efforts and focus are likely too diluted to be helpful for the reader.
Pillar Pages tend to have a long shelf life. Whereas you might write a blog post to capture seasonal interest or some new consumer trend, a pillar page is designed to have a long shelf life. As a core part of your business, it should be relatively stable. This will also help your content to rank over time, as you gain links and brand awareness.
Additionally, it’s recommended that pillar pages include some kind of sticky navigation (either at the top of the screen or along the side) that helps the reader to orient themselves, see where in the topic they are, and jump ahead to other content. This increases user satisfaction, increasing the likelihood that the reader will link to your content and share it on social media.
Strategically pillar pages have the potential to be incredibly important to your business. By creating a pillar page around a high-value topic that is directly related to your business (especially if you are the first, or one of the first, websites to do so) allows you to become a resource, which can help you to attract visitors, convert them into leads, and eventually into customers.
2. The Sub-Topic Pillar Page
Sub-pillar pages are similar to pillar pages in that they dive deeply into a specific topic and aim to cover them fully so that your website becomes a trusted resource.
Where they differ, though, is their importance to your business. Whereas pillar pages are directly linked to the problems that your business solves (and are therefore included in the top-level navigation), sub-pillar pages are less directly related, and are therefore not as elevated. These are also sometimes referred to as “long-form blog posts” or “blog post content pillars.”
Key characteristics of sub-pillar pages include:
Sub-Topic Pillar Pages are complete, authoritative resources/guides about a certain topic. They aim to answer all of the questions that a potential reader might have, can include visual or design elements, and tend to be very lengthy.
By necessity, these pages are often broken into sections or chapters, all located on one page. They serve virtually the same function as pillar pages in this regard
Sub-Topic Pillar Pages include all text on the page. Though you may pair a sub-pillar page with some sort of downloadable resource, a defining characteristic is that all of the information is laid out on the page so that a reader can find it and access it without needing to fill out a form.
Placing all of the text on the sub-pillar page not only improves user-experience (by making your website a go-to resource) but also helps the page to rank for important keywords and phrases, boosting your SEO rankings. It is important not to hide the text behind a form or some kind of user interface.
Sub-Topic Pillar pages include bi-directional links. Sub-Pillar pages answer a question as completely as possible, but will still usually link to other pages on your website including blog posts, main pillars, and resources. It is very important that these other pages also link back to your sub-pillar page, strengthening the connection between the two for both the reader and search engines.
Sub-Topic Pillar pages may be less-closely tied to the main problems that your business solves. Whereas pillar pages are directly related to what your business does, sub-pillar pages are usually slightly less directly related. Because of this, sub-pillar pages are not included in the top-level navigation of your website.
There is no limit to how many sub-topic pillar pages your company might have. As long as a sub-pillar page links back to a pillar page and is related “enough” to your business offerings that it makes sense to produce, there are no limits to how many sub-pillars you might create. These sub-pillar pages will ultimately help your pillar pages get found by readers and search engines.
Just as with pillar pages, it’s recommended that sub-pillar pages include some kind of sticky navigation (either at the top of the screen or along the side) that helps the reader to orient themselves, see where in the topic they are, and jump ahead to other content. This increases user satisfaction, increasing the likelihood that the reader will link to your content and share it on social media. Otherwise, they will usually function and look just like a typical blog post on your website, only longer.
3. The Resource Pillar Page
Resource Pillars are fairly different from pillar pages and sub-pillar pages. They are essentially optimized versions of the typical Resource page that you see on websites today. By optimized, we mean that they are optimized for both increased user satisfaction, but also so that search engines have an easier time creating and understanding them.
Key characteristics of Resource Pillars include:
Resource Pillars live in the top-level navigation of your website. Just like pillar pages, you want a resource pillar to live in your top-level navigation. This makes it easy for your website visitors to find the resource pillar, and does not hide it under multiple layers or clicks. Because website users are familiar with the words “Resources” and “Library,” your resource pillar should be called something along these lines.
Resource Pillars are NOT just regular resource pages. A traditional resources page will consist of a list of available resources, formatted as hyperlinked text, which will often be gated behind a form. Where resource pillars differ is the presentation. Resource Pillars include hyperlinked text and a thumbnail image, making them easier to spot on a busy page. Additionally, they include some short descriptive text, which allows the reader to know what the resource is before clicking on it. In addition to making the reader happier, this allows search engines to better understand your resource pillar, allowing it to potentially rank for a number of important keywords and phrases, boosting your overall SEO.
Resources Pillars present resources grouped by the problem they solve for the reader, NOT by products or services. If someone lands on your resource pillar through organic search, they might not know anything about your company or the products or services you offer. For that reason, you shouldn’t group resources under product type or product name. By grouping them by the problems they solve, instead, you make it easier for the reader to find what they are looking for and also to see the value that the resource will offer.
Resource Pillars do not include all of the content on the page. An important difference between pillar pages and resource pillars is that pillar pages include all of the content on the page (for user satisfaction and SEO purposes). Resource pillars do not do this. They rely on the short descriptive blurbs to inform the reader and convince them to advance forward. Including all of the text for all of your resources on a single resource pillar would make the resource pillar so unwieldy that it would be unhelpful (and likely frustrating) to the user.
Resource Pillars should include gated and ungated content. You should be sure to include any and all resources that you have, on your resource pillar. This will include both gated and ungated content. Because the content itself does not live on a resource pillar, it doesn’t matter that some of the content is gated.
Resource Pillars should include all of your pillar pages and sub-pillar pages. Doing this will help readers to find your pillar pages, and will strengthen the connection between the two for both the reader and search engines.
The Bottom Line
Pillar content, used correctly, can help improve your website’s SEO efforts, allow your company to begin building trust with website visitors, and inform your potential future buyers. By structuring your pillar content strategy around these 3 main types of pillar content—Pillar Pages, Sub-Pillar Pages, and Resource Pillars—you increase the likelihood that your implementation will be successful.