How to Create a Pillar Content Strategy to Build Authority with Readers & Search Engines

Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

pillar content strategy

One blog to rule them all…

No, it’s not a remixed fantasy novel plot for marketers. 🧙‍♂️

It’s the purpose of a pillar page.

A pillar page is a comprehensive page or blog post that introduces you to every aspect of a single, broad, overarching topic. (Examples: photography for beginners, content marketing, cake baking 101, intermediate yoga, business branding, novel writing.)

But what about a pillar content strategy?

This is an SEO blogging strategy that, in theory, will help ALL of your blogs on a particular topic rank better in search engines.

And you know how important not just ranking, but ranking well is to your overall success with content.

Ranking higher in the search engine results brings in more clicks, more visitors, more leads, and more ROI.

And a pillar content strategy can help you do it all. Let’s explore. 🤿

Pssst! I also talked about this concept on my podcast. Listen in to learn how to use a pillar content strategy to grow ideal traffic faster, including my spin on pillar content.

pillar page template

Want to save this for later? Grab our simple 2-page pillar page template: ⬇️

What Is a Pillar Content Strategy? How Does It Work?

A pillar content strategy is a method for creating related, interlinked pages across your blog/website.

Together, these pages demonstrate your exhaustive expertise and authority on a single topic and its related subtopics.

There are two parts to a pillar content strategy:

  1. The pillar page
  2. The cluster pages

pillar content strategy

Part One: The Pillar Page

The crowning piece of this strategy is the pillar page, which acts much like a summary mashed with a table of contents.

On your pillar page, you introduce the topic. You discuss what it is and why it matters. Then you break it down, bit by bit.

Where does the SEO secret sauce come in?

For each subtopic you address on your pillar page, you link to additional pages or blogs on your site that cover them more fully. These sub-pages should be optimized for keywords related to the pillar topic. These are called cluster pages, or cluster content.

Generally, pillar pages are long but not exhaustive. Instead, a good pillar page should focus on providing a thorough overview of the topic and all its facets. That leaves room for deeper explanations of those facets through linked cluster pages.

A pillar content strategy is just one part of an overarching content marketing system that brings traffic to your site, builds trust with your audience, and convinces them to come back – and eventually buy. Let me show you the pathway to building this system in my free training. 🏃‍♀️💨

Part Two: The Cluster Pages

Think of cluster pages as chapters in a book. Each cluster page breaks down a subtopic related to your pillar topic more thoroughly.

Your cluster pages should link to your pillar page, and your pillar page should link to your cluster pages. This creates an interconnected web of content that’s super-useful for readers exploring the topic. It also helps search engine crawlers understand your pages and their relationships better – especially if your pillar page and its cluster pages are all optimized for related long-tail keywords.

The result? All of these things help you rank better in search.

pillar page template

Want to save this for later? Grab our simple 2-page pillar page template: ⬇️

Pillar Content Strategy Examples

Let’s look at a brand using the pillar content strategy. Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a classic example.

It includes an introduction, an overview of the basics, and a quick-start guide to SEO.

moz pillar page example

Then, notice how Moz literally calls its cluster content “chapters.” Each chapter links to a separate cluster post about a subtopic underneath SEO, the broad topic.

moz pillar page example with cluster content

However, this isn’t the only way to set up your pillar page and cluster pages.

For example, this pillar page from Bankrate on how to sell your house has cluster topics organized in chronological steps.

cluster topics on a pillar page

Each step is linked, and clicking on it takes you down the page to the related sections.

link to cluster content on pillar page

Each cluster topic contains a good overview explaining the basics. And links to cluster pages appear naturally in the text.

How to Build a Pillar Content Strategy

By now you probably want to know how to build a pillar content strategy. Luckily, it’s pretty straightforward. Just follow these steps.

1. Choose the Right Pillar Topic

The right topic for a pillar page will have four basic features. It should be:

  • Broad, but not too broad. A good pillar topic will open up like a book and contain multiple sub-topics, akin to book chapters.
  • Relevant to your audience, sparking their interest, curiosity, or desire to learn/know.
  • Relevant to your brand expertise and/or what you sell.
  • Mappable to a keyword for SEO.

For example, say you’re a realtor (or your client is a realtor) and you want to create a pillar page for the topic “how to sell your house.” There are lots of subtopics to explore inside that topic, like finding and hiring an agent, prepping your house for sale, setting a good price, reviewing offers, etc. All of them could be covered with cluster pages.

Finally, some keyword research leads you to discover “how to sell your house” is too competitive to try to rank for. However, researching synonyms leads you to “guide to selling a house” or “step-by-step guide to selling a house.”

There it is! This is a great topic for a pillar page.

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2. Outline the Pillar Topic (& Find Your Subtopics)

Next, outline your pillar topic to determine what will go on your pillar page.

Never rely on guesses when you’re ideating or creating content. Instead, research to back up your guesses with data. Or, in cases where you’re not sure what subtopics to cover, do research to come up with your pillar page outline and cluster page subtopics.

First, start with what you know. Jot down all of the questions and subtopics you think would be important to include on your pillar page.

Here are some common ones to include. Answering these will provide an overview of the pillar topic:

  • What is [topic]?
  • What is the definition of [topic]?
  • Why is [topic] important?
  • Why does [topic] matter?
  • How does [topic] work?
  • What do experts say about [topic]?
  • [Topic] checklist.

Then, do research. Search Google for your pillar topic keyword (including synonyms and related terms) to see what information the top articles contain – AND what they’re missing, based on your expertise.

What sub-topics are explored? What related topics are included? How far do other pages go when exploring the pillar topic?

Once you complete both of those tasks, you can combine the two to create your pillar page outline. Include:

  • The questions you think are most important to answer about your pillar topic.
  • The sub-topics that are most important to understanding the pillar topic as a whole.
  • The sub-topics you can easily turn into cluster pages, which you can link to on your pillar page.

Here’s an example of the start of a pillar page outline:

pillar content outline

3. Map the Pillar Topic & Subtopics to Keywords

Ready for more keyword research? Next, for SEO, you should look for keywords you can use on your cluster pages related to each cluster topic AND your pillar topic.

For example, for a pillar page on baking 101, one of my cluster topics is “baking tools.” I can enter that term into a keyword tool like Semrush, look up its keyword difficulty (KD) and search volume, and see if I can rank for it with a well-written, optimized cluster page.

cluster topic keyword research

As you can see, the KD is too difficult for a newer site with few backlinks and not much authority built.

However, this just means we need to look for a variation that’s less difficult to rank for.

cluster topic keyword variations

In general, I recommend only choosing keywords with a KD score of 40 and below for newer sites. With that in mind, I’ll browse the list of variations in Semrush and research to find the best option that hits the sweet spot of relevancy to my cluster topic + low KD.

After you find your first cluster topic keyword, all you need to do is repeat this process until you have keywords mapped to all your planned cluster topics/pages.

Then… time to start writing content! ✨

pillar page template

Want to save this for later? Grab our simple 2-page pillar page template: ⬇️

Put the Final Pieces of Your Pillar Content Strategy in Place

With a good pillar topic + cluster topics + keywords in hand – plus your pillar page outline – you can start writing content for your pillar content strategy.

A good practice is to write your pillar page first, plus a few cluster pages. Link the pages to each other, following the pillar page format we discussed. Then, as you continue to create cluster content, update your pillar page with links pointing to your new cluster pages.

Overall, a pillar content strategy is a fantastic one to use for better SEO, better rankings, and better reader engagement.

But, if you don’t have an overarching content marketing plan BEFORE attempting a pillar content strategy…

That’s like putting the cart before the horse. 🐎

A smart plan in place helps you create and leverage amazing content for equally amazing results.

If you want all that (who wouldn’t?!), that’s what I teach inside my Content Transformation System.

This 12-month mentorship program teaches and guides you through building and growing your business from the ground up with a firm footing in content.

For a preview of the pathway, get inside my free training. Just choose the level for solopreneurs – and get ready to learn how to build a lasting business using content strategy.

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