Organizing your content into topic pillars or pillar pages are a great way to boost SEO for the core services you provide. We've created a number of pillar pages, and even a pillar page on how to create pillar pages. As we’ve worked with more organizations, we see the same five challenges.
Sometimes these challenges prevent the pillar page project from starting, or from being completed. More often, organizations end up with pillar pages that aren’t effective. They don’t increase traffic, they don’t improve SEO rank for core topic keywords, or they aren’t compelling to their target audience.
In this article, I’ll share the five challenges many organizations have when creating pillar pages. Along the way, I’ll give you tips that can help you overcome these barriers to create an awesome pillar page!
Challenge 1: Finding the Right Topic
Amazingly this is a problem many organizations have, especially if they haven’t had a content marketing plan designed to target a specific audience segment.
There are many reasons why this might be the case. The challenging part is that pillar pages are a heavy lift. It’s not just one blog post. It’s multiple blog posts, an ebook, publication, continued promotion and so forth. If they’re going to invest the time to do this, many organizations want the perfect topic, and analysis can lead to paralysis.
Leverage one of your existing ebooks. Choosing an ebook you’ve already published, and that’s still relevant to your audience, is one of the easiest ways to select a pillar page topic!
Keep the topic narrow. Answer a single question, or discuss an industry problem in depth.
List to what your customers are asking for. Review your online channels and see what your customers are asking for, and build a pillar page to provide that information.
Ask your sales team. The questions salespeople routinely answer makes great content. You may have to work to find an overall topic that encompasses the content, but this approach often pays off!
Look to other content and channels for inspiration. If you have other channels that are well-liked by your audience see if you can leverage them. Think out of the box for this one. For example, if your YouTube channel is popular, leverage the with 16 how-to videos you've published. While video content won’t improve your SEO by itself, if you put those 16 videos on a pillar page with well crafted introductory paragraphs that explain what each video shows and provides supporting information, then it will.
Bring in outside help. An agency or consultant to help you narrow down topics
For more information, see our post on 4 Tips for Selecting Pillar Page Topics (and How to Brainstorm Them).
Challenge 2: Finding the Right Topic Keyword and Related Keywords
Once a topic is selected the work isn’t over, it’s just beginning. You have to choose the right topic and subtopic keywords. The challenge here, whether starting from scratch with the intention to build content, or transforming an ebook into a pillar page, you have to choose your topic keywords based on SEO factors, not what you believe the keywords should be, or even keywords that have been used in the past.
You have to pick a topic keyword that you can rank for - that takes research.
There are lots of tools you can use to help you brainstorm, research, and create pillar pages. An SEO tool like SEMRush, Moz Pro, Ahrefs and other can help you identify keywords used in your industry related to your topics, and show you search volume.
You’re looking for:
Keywords your competitors aren’t ranking for. Choosing keywords used by your competitors makes building rank that much harder.
Longtail keywords that you can rank for (keywords that aren’t heavily used by others).
Keywords that have a high monthly search volume.
You have to do this research. Doing this research is the most important thing. If you don’t do it, or softball it, you could end up with a pillar page that people can't find!
For more information, see our article: How to Map Pillar Page Topics to Keywords for the Best SEO Boost.
Ask your customers. Ask them how they describe the topic you’re going to turn into a pillar page. You may find some great topic keywords this way.
Use your topic keyword everywhere. Once you choose a topic keyword, start using it everywhere on your website, in brochures, and on social to build recognition and get others familiar with it and using it.
Hire an SEO consultant. SEO is daunting. Hiring an agency or consultant can take this burden off of in-house staff and speed up this part of the process. If you do, make sure they give you data to back up their recommendations.
Challenge 3: Choosing Which Existing Content to Leverage
Once to the topic and keywords are chosen, it’s time to create the content for the pillar page. Since pillar pages are supposed to consist of eight to 22 subtopics, the prospect of creating all of that content can be daunting.
While it’s always a good idea to leverage your existing content where it fits, some organizations stuff pillar pages with any content they can find, instead of making sure it closely matches the topic and subtopics.
The intentions may be good. Someone may want to include a popular article loosely related to the topic. With all the content required for a pillar page, this can seem like a time saver, but it’s diluting the core focus of your pillar page.
Remember, you’re creating a very long piece of content. It needs to be focused, relevant, and meaningful to the core topic and subtopics covered. If the content goes wandering off into other areas you audience may turn off resulting in a poorly received pillar page that doesn’t get backlinks and doesn’t keep generating traffic over time.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of making a pillar page, put effort into creating outstanding content that will compel visitors to keep reading.
For more information, see our article: How to Create a Pillar Page from Content You Already Have and 5 tips to help make sure your content works with your pillar topic!
Update all content to make it current. Update the text, statistics, and links in the content you leverage.
Keep subtopics focused on your main topic. If a piece of content isn’t doesn’t directly support the main topic, leave it out. If it’s a great piece of content, mention it and link to it.
Have people outside your organization (such as good customers) review it. Ask if all the content is relevant to the main topic and should be included in the pillar page.
Hire outside help. Sometimes an agency or consultant coming in with a fresh set of eyes can be the best choice for selecting content to leverage while retaining the focus needed to make a great pillar page.
Challenge 4: Making Long-form Content Compelling
The next place organizations struggle with is making their long-form content compelling. This is especially true when leveraging existing content.
It’s always a good idea to include stat graphics, bulleted lists, and relevant images in blog posts. Some organizations skip that step when creating shorter content. After all, if an article is only one or two pages long, they figure anyone interested will read it.
There are two things to remember. Any article regardless of length will perform better if you add stat graphics, lists, and relevant images. Be sure to always add those elements. Second, if you put eight to 22 short, text-only posts together to create a pillar page, you’re likely creating an engagement experience that is best described as "thick and chewy." Your visitors won't consume it.
Pillar page content needs to be scannable. It’s those scannable elements, the data and insights you call out that will compel readers to engage and read the text and download the ebook version of your pillar page to read later!
For more information, see our article: 4 Tips to Make Long-Form Content Better
Assign someone to do a graphics refresh. Make it a priority role, give them the time to do it!
Statistics, key quotes, and data are all great candidates for graphic treatment.
Hire a graphic artist. If you don't have a graphic artist in-house, hiring one can greatly reduce the time it takes to do a graphics refresh. Graphic artists think visually. They can review content and easily decide which content can benefit from graphic treatment.
Have a team of insiders and outsiders review the pillar page before publication.
Make sure the content is compelling and scannable.
Challenge 5: Building In Potential Lead Generation
The last challenge we see is that many organizations don’t use their pillar pages effectively for lead generation. One of the key concepts around a pillar page is that the pillar content is also offered as an ebook because readers often like to download long-form content to read later.
Many organizations don’t add other content offers to their pillar pages. They should. Any relevant content offer is fair game to add to a pillar page. If you’re discussing something that relates to an offer you have, include a button, image or link to the offer landing page.
For more information, see our article: Beyond Boosting SEO: 5 Tips for Generating Leads with Pillar Pages
Keep references to content offers short and to the point. Keep the pillar page focused on the main topic and subtopics.
Put calls to actions near related content.
Use links or button CTAs rather and image CTAs. Links or buttons distract less from the pillar content.
Update other offer landing pages. Include information about why they’re relevant to the topics covered on the pillar page.
The Key Issue is Time and Expertise
It takes a lot of time, and a diverse set of skills to do a pillar page right. Your team may possess many of the skills needed such as knowledge of your products and services and your existing content. They may not have SEO analysis or graphic art skills.
Managers usually want to get pillar pages done in a timely fashion so the marketing team can move onto other things and so the company can reap the SEO benefits. Problems occur when you start cutting corners to get the pillar page project done. The marketing team may fall back to what they’re comfortable with, and punt some of the more challenging issues I’ve listed in this article.
If a pillar page project is done fast, but not right, it won’t generate traffic, earn backlinks, and boost your SEO the way it should.
If you’re struggling with these issues, hiring an outside firm like CarverTC can save your team time, bring the skills your team doesn’t have, speed up your pillar page project, and, most importantly get your pillar page done right, so you see the SEO, traffic, and lead generation results you want!