How To Develop Successful Pillar Content For Higher Rankings
As a blogger, you're under constant pressure to rank on page one, and you spend your days searching for new ways to help you crawl up the search results. But getting your content ranked doesn't have to be such a struggle if you use the right strategies.
One such strategy involves creating 'pillar' blog posts that will have higher engagement rates and better SEO positioning. These are the posts that will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to attracting traffic to your blog.
Most bloggers write a post, publish it, and then forget about it and move on to writing the next one. That post eventually finds its way into the archives, and whether or not it performs well in terms of traffic, the blogger never bothers with it again.
This content creation strategy makes things harder than they have to be because they are sacrificing many SEO benefits and putting pressure on themselves to come up with new content to publish constantly.
Pillar pages are an easier and more effective way of getting more of the benefits of SEO while blogging less. Using this content creation strategy means that over time, you will have to circle back to update the content that you published, turning those posts into major pillar posts that are packed full of value.
Here's an analogy to help you understand this concept better.
Sequoia trees (also known as Redwoods) can live for hundreds of years and grow to amazing heights. The tallest one was recorded at 379 feet! But even that tree didn't start out so big. Just like all other trees, it had to grow from a tiny little seedling that no one would have looked at twice, into this gigantic, awe-inspiring tree that towers over the forest.
Now lots of people from all over the world want to come and visit it. But it didn't grow into that all at once.
The new layers of wood and the tree rings grew over time to make the tree what it is today. The same goes for your content, and this article is going to show you exactly how to turn simple, ordinary pieces of content into epic, traffic-worthy pillar posts.
Your blog is supposed to be a knowledge base, where any of your readers who are interested in certain aspects of what you do, can go for answers. They should be able to easily navigate topics on your blog.
But, as you know, topics evolve. No matter what niche you're in, the techniques or resources change over time.
For example, whatever content that was created about social media marketing five years ago is almost certainly outdated today. So, in view of that, instead of always crafting new content, wouldn't it make more sense to go back and update posts that you've already written?
From Ordinary Blog Posts To Epic Pillar Posts
A lot of bloggers think that pillar posts only refer to those posts that you create to kick-start your blog when you're starting from scratch and that once they are created, you're done.
That is a very short-sighted way of thinking.
Rather, think of pillar posts as flagship posts, where you get to cover a single topic in a thorough way.
They are called 'pillar' posts because they stand alone and pull a lot of your site's weight. With these types of posts, you spend a lot more time promoting them than you did creating them, and you will be sending people to them for a long time to come.
This means that you shouldn't think of a pillar post as just a long blog post but as more of a guide.
So, now you understand that a pillar post is one that you are going to revisit periodically to update and add more valuable content to. But, there is more…
A Post You're Going to Promote Constantly
As previously stated, you will spend more time promoting this post than you do writing it.
There are lots of different tactics that you could use for promoting pillar posts such as listing it in a prominent place on your sidebar or building it into your emails to your future subscribers. You could even run some paid ads to it.
A pillar post is supposed to be immensely helpful to your ideal audience. You are leading with huge value and they will walk away from that post impressed by how much information you have provided. You want your audience to feel like they need to bookmark that page for future reference.
These are the pillars for your blog – the Sequoia Trees that people will drive for miles to see. The rest of the posts on your blog are just normal trees in the forest. And every time that you go back and update your pillar post, it's like you're adding yet another ring to that tree, making it bigger and stronger.
How to Come Up With Topics For Your Pillar Posts
There are people in your niche who are trying to accomplish stuff, and so there are major topics that always seem to come up among your audience. You want to find those major concerns and struggles that the people in your market have.
What are the popular issues among them?
Look for the questions that they ask all the time, and also look for popular guides on other sites within your niche.
For example, with my blog readers, there are certain Internet marketing topics that come up all the time such as:
How to build a membership site
So, look for those hot topics in your own niche and when you find them, plan your pillar posts around those particular things.
Turning An Ordinary Blog Post Into A Pillar Post (Or Updating One)
The first thing you should do is to list all the major topics for your market that would require a pillar post. Next, visit your traffic statistics and determine which posts on your blog are already the most popular. From there, it's time to decide where to begin.
I recommend that you take the most popular posts and freshen them up first. You could use each post as a starting point for a pillar post on that specific topic. After that, if needed, you can then create new pillar posts to fill in those topics that have not yet been effectively covered.
But how do you freshen those posts up?
Here are some simple ideas:
Make your posts more current and up to date so that they stay relevant if the topic is one that has evolved
Add more resources and more details
Add content upgrades to help grow your list of email subscribers
Add more useful and relevant images
Add more internal and external links so that your pillar posts don't exist in a vacuum
Add anything that will help to make your visitor feel that they've hit the mother lode when they find your post.
Now, let's explore some of the more 'fine-tuned' tactics:
1. Do not update the post URL
While it's perfectly alright to update the post headlines to make them more effective, you cannot change the URL to your blog post as this will strip away all the benefits from back-links, social shares, and all other SEO strength that the blog post already has.
2. Embed videos and images
When appropriate, you should embed images and videos in your posts.
Different types of media increase the perceived value of your posts and it also helps with your search engine optimization.
Ensure that the images you include have solid ALT tags so that they can appear on image search and possibly bring more traffic. Videos can also help with SEO, especially when you host them on Youtube.
3. Include in-page links for navigation
Solid pillar posts should have in-page links at the top that serve as the table of contents. This is simply a bulleted list of the internal links and it helps the reader to easily skip down to certain sections of the blog post.
But these links also accomplish other things such as:
They immediately communicate major value to new visitors (who are at that moment probably making a split-second decision whether to read that post or not...)
When a reader clicks on any of those links, they skip down the post which immediately increases the scroll depth and also reduces your bounce rates (both of which are factors in how your content gets ranked in the search results).
4. Tell your audience that the post is updated
The best way to do this is by making a quick note right at the beginning to say that the post has been updated. You can also modify the heading a little to show the update by adding 'Updated' or 'New and Improved Version' or 'Revised'.
Anything that immediately tells your audience that the post is updated will do. It makes people stop and take notice.
A simple thing you can do with pillar posts is to update them each year and then change the headline to '2018 Edition' then '2019 Edition' and so on.
5. You have the option of creating the mega-post in stages
The great thing about creating pillar posts from scratch is that you can do it in stages, and you can do it publicly and get lots of SEO benefits at the same time.
For instance, you could do a series of posts, but rather than post each one separately, you post each part as an update on your pillar post.
Every time that you update that post, you add the in-page navigation to skip to that new part. Once the post is published, you can tell your readers about it and they will keep coming back to (and keep sharing) that post. This will give you a huge SEO boost and raise your engagement rates on that one post over time.
6. Treat the post like it's new with each update
Re-distribute the pillar post every time you update it. If you organize your blog by date, then change the date of the post to the current date so that it will pop back up to the top.
Also, you will have to start promoting this particular post all over again the same way you would promote a brand new blog post.
These are some of the things that you can do:
Share the post on social media
Promote it to your email subscribers
Reach out and let other bloggers in your niche know about it
Use paid advertising to boost distribution of that post
Keep in mind that the entire concept of a pillar post is based around building a strong asset, not just content to fill your content creation calendar. This is why it's worth taking the extra time to promote the pillar post effectively.
Start planning regular updates for your selected posts and include them in your content creation calendar.
If your current blogging schedule is too frequent and causing you a lot of stress, then maybe it's time to slow down and consider alternative ways such as this Pillar Content Strategy where you will be serving your audience while blogging less and getting more effective results.
Remember, success in blogging comes from quality, and not quantity.
Go back and look through the posts that you've written on your blog up to now.
How many of those are performing really well, traffic-wise? If you think of all those posts as little trees that you planted, did any of them grow into big, beautiful trees that now offer you shade or fruit?
Or did they all stay small and puny because no one came back to water and tend to them?
Go back and look through your posts. Update some of them over time to create major posts that are valuable resources for your niche instead of being forgotten in your blog archives.
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Updated: Originally published August 5th 2018