What Is a Pillar Page and Why Does Google Love Them?

Date: October 3, 2019

five pillars in a horizontal row

The way people search online has evolved, and so have the methods that search engines use to provide search results. If pillar pages aren’t in your SEO strategy, you could get overlooked.

Take a second and think about old-school SEO. What comes to mind? If it’s trying to rank for single, broad-spectrum keywords, then you’re right on the money. But here’s the thing: people’s search behavior has changed over time, and so have the algorithms that search engines use to understand queries and provide search results. 

Simply trying to rank for keywords or long-tail keywords is no longer enough to rank well in search engine results pages (SERPS).

How has search changed?

People are performing longer, more human-like search queries. Back in the day, if you were looking for a pizza restaurant, you may have jumped on Google and typed in “pizza” to find one. Today, if you’re among the majority of internet users, your search would probably look more like “best pizza restaurants near me.” 

Why have search queries evolved so drastically over time? Because longer-form conversational searches help users find exactly what they’re looking for, while simultaneously bypassing the amount of irrelevant “junk” that needs to be sifted. People are also using the titles of blog posts and Google’s featured snippets to get quick and concise answers to their questions.

We can also thank voice search for the deviation from the original, mechanical-sounding searches we once used to find information. Thanks to voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, 20% of all mobile Google searches are voice-activated, which are naturally more conversational. 

How have search engines evolved?

Google’s algorithm continues to evolve and develop to help users find the exact information they’re looking for online — even if that information isn’t explicitly searched. Today, the searchers’ intent is much more important than the actual words being typed into the search engine. Therefore, marketers and SEO’s must identify and remove any roadblocks that stand in the way of searchers finding exactly what they are looking for on your site.

To cast a wide net over as many searches as you can, your website should be organized around central topics, with blog posts based on individual long-tail keywords that are hyperlinked together, otherwise known as the topic cluster model.

What is a topic cluster?

Marketers and bloggers have traditionally worked to create one-off blogs designed to rank for individual keywords, which, as it turns out, makes it difficult for users to find exactly what they need. It also creates competition for your own URLs in the SERPS when you write several blog posts on a related topic.

Today, companies are using the topic cluster model to increase their rankings and best answer conversational long-form queries. To employ this model, select the general topics you want to rank for (pillar content), write content based on specific keywords pertaining to the overarching topic (cluster content), and then link them together via hyperlinks. Voila! You have a topic cluster.

Topic clusters help more pages on your site rank higher in the search engines, and also make it easier for searchers to find information on your site.

What is a pillar page?

A pillar page is the foundation for a topic cluster. It broadly covers all angles of the broad topic on one page and then links to related pieces of cluster content that go deeper into those topics. You start by creating a pillar and then link all of the related blog posts back to that pillar. 

For example, you may create a pillar page on inbound marketing as a whole and then create a piece of cluster content talking about the best ways to boost website traffic. Here is a solid example of one of HubSpot’s pillar pages.

Pillar pages are much longer than blog posts. They must be detailed enough to provide value to readers, but general enough to let your cluster content do most of the detailing. They should preemptively answer any questions that searchers may have about your topic (which will increase your pillar page’s click-through-rate). And once visitors are on your pillar page, they are more likely to click on the links to your more specific pieces of cluster content. 

To create a pillar page, try to step out of the “keyword” mindset for a moment and instead think about the main topics that you want to rank for. From there, you can start to think about blog topic ideas that are based more specifically on keywords related to your chosen topic. Choose topics that are broad enough that you can generate cluster content, but not so far-reaching that you can’t cover the entire topic on one pillar page.

Once you have your pillar pages nailed, your content strategy will be more streamlined, and your rankings will incrementally rise.

Need help designing your company’s pillar pages? Drop us a line.