The idea of pillar content has been around for a while, but it started gaining more conversation in May of 2017 when HubSpot started releasing content about 'topic clusters' and 'pillar pages'.
The assertion they made was a seismic shift away from keywords to a new model of grouping related topics (topic clusters) and linking to all of the topics from a single page (pillar pages) to help brands improve SEO rank for the products and services they offer.
Now the evidence is in - Jay Baer recently published an article confirming that:
“For the first time in 3 years, search is responsible for more website traffic than social.”
SEO is now more important than ever, and pillar pages are the new way to rank, and as such, all brands should be using pillar pages to boost SEO.
In this post, I'll outline what pillar pages are, and explain why your organization should be using them to rank in organic search for the core services you offer.
What are Pillar Pages?
A pillar page is a single web page which comprehensively covers a core topic. The pillar page content is built from subtopics, and taken together, these subtopics form 'topic clusters' around the core pillar page topic.
Within the pillar page are links to content pages that are related to that same topic - the subtopics published as part of the topic clusters also link back to the pillar page and to each other. This linking action signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the core topic being covered. Neil Patel recently published an article explaining how pillar pages can improve SEO rank.
Driven by Changes in Search and Search Engines
In 2013, the Hummingbird update to Google search started parsing phrases rather than specific search queries. Then, with their 2015 Rankbrain update, Google's machine learning systems began interpreting searcher intent based on things like past searches, search history, and similar search themes. These changes were made to provide more relevant search results based on how search habits had evolved.
HubSpot summarized the change in approach:
“Nowadays, most [people] are comfortable posing complex questions to search engines, and they expect an accurate and timely result. Searchers who want a specific answer also use many different phrases in their queries. And now search engines are smart enough to recognize the connections across queries. Algorithms have evolved to the point where they can understand the topical context behind the search -- [the searchers intent]. [Search engines] tie [those searches] back to similar searches they have encountered in the past, and deliver web pages that best answer the query.”
Search Intent is Key
Simply put, search engines are becoming better at interpreting what people are looking for, based on their intent. Pillar pages and topic clusters address this shift, and can help your organization rank for the core services you provide, and core problems that you solve.
Start Moving to Pillar Pages Now
HubSpot is so committed to this approach that they're sun-setting their built-in keyword tool and moving their clients to pillar pages.
But this shift is not limited to HubSpot clients, it impacts everyone hoping to be found through organic search. So, everyone.
We're moving our clients to this approach, you should consider moving to pillar pages as well.