Search engine optimization (SEO) has become much more than simply optimizing for keywords. Today, it encompasses multiple components and strategies. One such strategy is the use of pillar pages and topic clusters.
When utilized effectively, it can increase a website’s SEO efforts and help it rank better. Learn what pillar pages are, how to create one and how it improves a site’s SEO.
What Are Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters?
Pillar pages are a centerpiece of content that explains a broad subject and acts as the middle point for a topic cluster. Topic clusters — also referred to as content clusters — are multiple web pages (cluster pages) covering related subjects to the pillar page. Everything together provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the subject.
Many marketers refer to this strategy as the hub and spoke method. The main idea of this tactic is to use internal linking throughout the entire topic cluster. This connects all the web pages together with the pillar page (hub) acting as the middle point. In other words, the hub links to all the cluster pages (spoke) and then they do the same.
For example, let’s say a website frequently covers digital marketing topics such as social media marketing (SMM). They would then create a pillar page about SSM. It would provide a general overview of the topic and explain the main idea of the concept.
Afterward, the company would build cluster pages on relevant subtopics of the main subject, such as different social media strategies to grow a following on popular platforms. Each of these cluster pages would link from and to the hub making it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for.
Here is a quick overview of the strategy layout:
- Topic cluster: A topic cluster is everything together — cluster pages and a pillar page. It is a collection of multiple web pages with content covering related topics. They all link to and from the hub.
- Pillar page: This is where all other cluster pages link to and it also links to them. It is the center page of a topic cluster. Pillar pages focus on a large and broad subject.
- Cluster page: Subtopics related to the main subject the hub page covers.
Main Components of Pillar Pages
As stated, the hub covers a broad subject and with the help of the cluster pages, it provides a comprehensive overview. Thus, the pillar page’s content is usually on the larger side — long form. In many cases, it can easily exceed 4000 words and contain a significant amount of internal links pointing to cluster pages.
Because pillar pages cover a wide-ranging topic, they usually target broad keywords — search terms with a high volume but are difficult to rank for. The spoke pages will follow the same tactic but will target keywords that are easier to rank for.
In other words, the cluster pages that link to the hub will focus on long-tail keywords — longer search queries with lower traffic but less competition. Due to the hub consisting of several internal links, it acts as an easy way for website visitors to find the information they are looking for.
In addition, it can showcase the website as an expert in the subject and show Google what your site is about, making it easier for the search engine to index it. While pillar pages might seem like a lot of work, they are well worth the effort. They generally garner more backlinks, further helping the website’s SEO.
How Can This Tactic Help With SEO?
Here are a few ways the pillar page strategy can benefit SEO efforts:
- Improving the website’s site structure: Topic clusters and pillar pages improve a website’s site structure. This makes it easier for search engines to crawl, index and rank the website.
- Preventing keyword cannibalization: Keyword cannibalization is when multiple web pages of the same website show up for the same keyword. This can drastically harm a website’s rankings.
- Generates more backlinks: Effective pillar pages that rank well on search engines generally generate more backlinks.
- Improves the website’s topical authority: Creating a pillar page with several cluster pages helps position the website as an expert in the topic. In other words, it can increase the site’s topical authority for those subjects the topic clusters cover.
- Enhanced experience for visitors: Well-structured content makes it easier for visitors to find the information they are seeking. Thus improving the user experience.
4 Steps to Create a Pillar Page
While pillar pages are typically larger than other articles, there is no set amount of words to aim for. Instead, the goal is to solve the problem the reader is experiencing.
After the visitor has read the pillar page, they should have a general understanding on the topic and cluster pages would further expand on that knowledge. Here are four steps on how to create a pillar page:
1. Choose the Topic the Pillar Page Would Focus on
The first step is to select a subject to center all the content around. The main intention should be to look for a core topic the website’s audience would need help solving.
Also, it would need to relate to the services or products the company sells and have a broad scope. This will allow the company to create content around multiple subcategories easily.
2. Identify The Keywords
Next, the company would need to use a keyword research tool such as SEMrush or Moz. The business should then look for broad keywords for the pillar page and long-tail keywords for the cluster pages.
3. Start Creating the Content
After finding the keywords, it is time to start creating the content for the pillar page. When writing the content, ensure the page is well-optimized. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Create easy-to-read content
- Utilize strong call-to-actions (CTAs)
- Make use of different content formats within the page, such as images and videos
- Try to create content that will not require frequent changes to stay up-to-date
- Incorporate several SEO best practices to ensure the page is well-optimized
4. Add Internal Links To Cluster Pages
The last step is to add internal links to cluster pages. Depending on whether you are building the website from scratch, you might still need to create these pages.
If you already have a large content website, it is better to first look at those pages and determine whether some can work with the pillar page. If not, start building the cluster pages and add the internal links. Remember to use long-tail keywords when optimizing them.
Getting the Most out of Your SEO Efforts
At first glance, pillar pages and topic clusters might seem like a heavy workload. That said, when implemented effectively, your website’s SEO will appreciate the effort.
Remember, there is no set word count to aim for. Instead, the primary intention is to solve a problem your website’s readers are struggling with.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.