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How to use pillar pages to boost your website

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Pillar pages are no longer just a term for SEO experts. More and more companies and bloggers are discovering the trend and restructuring their websites based on it. As a result, these websites are not only more reader-friendly but are, above all, ranked higher. We’ll explain what the concept is all about, why it pays off for your website, and how you can implement it.

What are pillar pages?

As the name suggests, a pillar page has a supporting function – in essence, it is a central page that connects related topics under one united theme. Structurally, it can be imagined like a mind map. The pillar page is located in the centre, surrounded by subpages. The reader can use hyperlinks to get from the pillar page to the subpages and back to the pillar page.

Basically, the pillar page contains information on exactly one high-level topic. It's comprehensive but not too detailed. The highlight of a pillar page is that those who want to learn more about certain aspects will easily find detailed information on the connected subpages.

Here is an example: A pillar page covers the topic of Internationalisation in e-commerce. The main page provides a comprehensive introduction on the topic, including an overview of which aspects are important in internationalisation. The secondary pages link to it and take up specific questions. For instance, the pillar page could contain links to internal blog posts that cover topics such as shipping, language, legal or currencies.

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As shown in the example: The content of the linked subpages is related to the pillar page. The special page architecture creates a complex topic cluster. These clusters are also called topic or content clusters. The advantage of these clusters is that they are great at attracting readers. The main page covers the topic on a broad basis, while acting as a guide for further content at the same time. The subpages, on the other hand, provide in-depth content on the topic. This way, readers not only get a good overview, but are also very likely to find exactly the information they were looking for. Which is something Google notices as well.

Improving your search engine ranking

A lot has happened in search engine optimisation over the past few years. Ever since Google integrated RankBrain - its artificial intelligence system - into its search algorithm, the search has been semantic. This means that keyword stuffing no longer works, and inferior content is punished. Instead, Google now recognises synonyms and related content. Quality plays an increasingly important role. Content is good if it's relevant and meets the search intention of the users. Clean internal links are in demand - just as high-quality, topic-relevant backlinks.

Pillar pages meet these requirements and rank accordingly high. You could almost say that Google loves pillar pages. Because of the internal linking structure, Google knows: 1. There is a content-related link between the content; 2. The topic is covered comprehensively. Furthermore, a major benefit is that if a page of the content cluster ranks particularly high, the entire cluster benefits from it.

How to create a pillar page

Pillar pages have many benefits - they are almost indispensable for a successful content marketing strategy. So, you want to create a pillar page? Then you should set aside enough time for thorough planning. Pillar pages are relatively complex and require strategic preparation. From finding a topic through implementation to updating, you can follow these three steps:

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1. Planning content

The heart of the pillar page is, of course, the topic. Always keep your buyer personas in mind when choosing a topic. What are they looking for? Also remember: The topic should be broad enough to allow a sufficient amount of subtopics. Once the core topic is set, you can select relevant keywords. 

To find suitable subtopics, you can ask yourself: Which topics are related in content to the main topic? What else could interest the target audience? Which specific questions are asked frequently? Previously researched keywords can also help you find topics for the subpages. In any case, you should also create an overview of main and subtopics, for example, as a mind map or a list.

2. Building the pillar page and topic cluster

Start by creating your content. In most cases these are blog posts. You can also add videos, case studies and infographics, and use landing pages. In the beginning, bullet points can help; they also help you avoid placing too much of the content for the subpages on the pillar page.

Once the content is created, it can be populated. Make sure that the pillar page is at the top of the page hierarchy. The pillar page should be located in a prominent position in the website menu as well. Of course, the links between the pillar page and the subpages that ultimately form the cluster are essential. Also, don’t forget to link from the subpages back to the pillar page. What you should also keep in mind are call-to-action elements that lead readers to the subpages.

3. Adding content

You don’t have to rush to complete the content cluster. It’s important to have a basic framework. It's also okay to gradually add content over time. Remember: Pillar pages are dynamic and an on-going process. Content is updated, added or removed if it’s out-dated. That’s why it’s important to regularly review and update the pillar page.

Bottom line

Pillar pages are suitable for anyone involved in content marketing. Restructuring a website according to this principle is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. After all, this will give your website a real SEO boost. In addition, your readers will be happy to see more structure and clarity.