Building The Arch: Topic Clusters & Pillar Pages

Building The Arch: Topic Clusters & Pillar Pages

April 8, 2020
(Reading time: 3 - 5 minutes)

Imagine an archway opening through a wall.

The wall is all the noise and distractions that prevent people from finding your business. While your website helps to create an opening, there are several other stones that help support your marketing efforts needed to help build the arch opening. 

Notwithstanding, everything has to start with a foundation, for the purpose of these series of blogs we are going to start with the topic clusters and pillar pages

Search Has Changed

I have a little secret for you - search has changed! With Google’s latest major update (BERT), the search engine can better understand words and phrases much as a toddler does. This goes right along with how we, as search engine users search. Long gone are the days of searching for a short phrase such as “exterminators Wilkesboro, NC” or “fence companies Asheville.”

According to Ahrefs, 64% of search queries today contain four words or more. For example, using the previous phrases, it may be something more like “termite extermination companies near me” or “who can install a white picket fence near me.” This is thanks to voice search devices like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri.

What are topic clusters?

Topic ClustersAs the saying goes “You can’t see the forest for the trees” applies to what blogging and content generation was just a few years ago. Blogs and content were written to rank for a specific keyword or short keyword phrase, the trees. The pages only existed to serve information for the one keyword on that page.

Topic clusters, in this example, are the “forests” that help us stay organized. It is a collection of blog posts, landing pages, website content, and more. Much like the meandering trails through a forest that merge, branch off, and circle back around to one another, so does the linking between all the pages in a topic cluster.

What is a pillar page?

Pillar PageA pillar page or “skyscraper content” is simply a page that has a longer format than a blog post or “normal” page. They will average around 3,000 words or more and cover all aspects of a specific topic. They will form the foundation on which a topic cluster is built and are a comprehensive piece that covers said topic.

HubSpot also has an excellent description of a pillar page: 

A pillar page is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page. Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth.

The pillar page gives the audience a chance to start down the large well-traveled path through the forest. Along the path, they have a chance to learn more about the topic and go really in-depth on another trail. Alternatively, they may be dropped in on the less traveled trail (blog or landing page) and find their way back to the main trail or the pillar page.

When creating a pillar page you have to think like Goldilocks, not too big and not too small but just right. For example, if you created a page targeting “school marketing” it may be too broad to try to rank. However, if you created a page discussing “Private School Marketing in Western North Carolina,” it may be too narrow. A better pillar page maybe something like “K-12 Private School Marketing.”

Now on the surface, it may seem like topics and keywords are the same. However, they appear similar but they are slightly different. Think of the topic as the overview, it’s focused but yet still broad. It gives you just enough information to broadly cover everything.

Your keyword cluster is going to go much more in-depth and will be used on your blogs, landing pages, or other stones in our arch. 

The benefits of topic clusters and pillar pages

As I mentioned the way we search today has changed and along with it how the search engines rank and prioritize your content. Like a commander on a battlefield, you must have a strategy, in our case, it is a content strategy composed of pillar pages and topic clusters. 

Between these two it will help you do the following:

  • It improves your SEO and ultimately your rankings in the search engines. According to Brafton, “50% of visitors are more likely to click a result if the brand appears multiple times in search engine results.”
  • Pillar pages and topic clusters will help enable your visitors to peruse your site more to find the answers they are looking for.
  • It helps you build authority and trust. You know that you are experienced in your field, and your customers may know; However, does Google know you are an expert? The only way to prove your expertise to Google is by putting it on the web.

Final Thoughts

There is one thing I would like for you to walk away with after reading this, that being pillar pages and topic clusters are the foundation to helping you to break through the wall of noise and distractions that are preventing people from finding your business.

Next up we will discuss blogging and how it helps add another stone into the archway we are building. If you find yourself being overwhelmed and in need of help, feel free to contact us and we will be glad to help you better understand your content strategy, pillar pages or topic clusters!

Chad Treadway

Written by:  |  April 8, 2020

Chad is a Partner and our Chief Smarketing Officer. He will help you survey your small business needs, educating you on your options before suggesting any solution. Chad is passionate about rural marketing in the United States and North Carolina. He also has several certifications through HubSpot to better assist you with your internet and inbound marketing.

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