Nessie. Bigfoot. La Chupacabra.
Chances are you’ve heard or read something about these mythical* creatures. You might fall on one side or the other in terms of how “mythical” you think said creatures are.
*Bigfoot is real. The jury is still out on the other two, though.
But that’s beside the point. Myths become so because they operate in equal parts fact and fiction. There's just enough truth to hook people but just enough iffy information to keep people from fully buying in.
So where do myths and pillar blog posts intersect? Pillar pages are a highly effective, sometimes misunderstood, element of the content marketing toolbox. To maximize their potential, dispelling any myths and confusion surrounding them is a must.
Pillar blog posts don’t slither below the surfaces of Loch Ness, traipse around the Pacific Northwest, or skulk around America’s heartland. Pillar posts’ lack of arms, legs, and movement make such activities impossible.
So what is a pillar page? Here’s how Influence & Co. defines pillar blog posts:
A pillar blog post is an in-depth blog post, to be published on a company blog, that covers all aspects of a specific topic. These blog posts are 1,500 to 3,000 words long, and they are optimized for search.
Let’s dive a little deeper into some of the elements of that description:
The first part of that description that might jump out at you is just how long a post we’re talking about. A 2,000-word post is a big'un as far as blog posts go.
But pillar posts can afford to go long because they are, at their core, comprehensive and informative pieces of content. While a whitepaper might chew up just as many words (or more) as a pillar post, it's usually gated with an intent to capture downloaders’ information. A pillar post is more effective as an accessible forum to go in-depth on whatever subject warrants the space.
Pillar pages have the word count and room to explore the full range of a topic. To put it in perspective, let’s temporarily stray from myths and stay in the fiction realm.
Think about your favorite season of your favorite TV show. In some cases, there's one season-long story arc that carries viewers from point A to point Z. A pillar post is kind of like the outline of that arc. It lays everything out, provides direction, and generally gives readers all the context needed to get their arms around a topic.
For example, a client we worked with wished to rank and be the industry leader for the keyword "security infrastructure automation." Although it wasn’t a new concept, we worked with the company to create a basic pillar page that would leave security infrastructure automation novices with all the info they need in order to understand the subject.
Search-optimized content is becoming more and more of a must-have for companies looking to invest in content marketing. With the added length a pillar post affords, companies have the room to not only discuss their desired topics at length, but also rank in search results for unique and insightful keywords.
The all-encompassing nature of a pillar post means that a topic will be covered from every angle. From the "why" behind it to the challenges it faces to the benefits it provides to potential action steps, pillars aim to inform. Optimizing them with keywords that people are searching for allows those searchers to find the information they're looking for and learn from your expertise.
So we can now confidently understand what a pillar post is. Now it’s time to home in, clarify, and outright debunk common misunderstandings surrounding pillar pages.
Look, myths are fun. They explain the seemingly unexplainable, can build community, and can even be allegorical in a way akin to our favorite books and fables. And though pillar posts most likely won’t feature tales of forest dwellers, farmland nuisances, or sea creatures, they, too, can teach lessons and educate the world.
The ensuing are actual pieces of feedback we've heard from clients regarding pillar posts. Here, we’ll clear up the myth surrounding pillar posts to hopefully display what these pieces of content bring to the marketing table.
Believe it or not, this one comes up pretty often. To this one, I guess the short answer is, “Well, yeah, kind of.” However, when you create a pillar post, you don't just take a few related blog posts and smash them together.
Pillar posts cover multiple facets of a subject at a high level. Then, you take a topic cluster approach and create shorter related blog posts that dive into those individual areas more specifically — these are called cluster content. All of this cluster content links back to the pillar post and vice versa. This creates a web of helpful content for readers, and it creates a linking ecosystem to give your site an SEO boost and help your target readers find your insightful content more easily.
In the same way an authentic voice and unique insights are paramount to credible content marketing, a thorough optimization research process that uncovers organic keywords is a must. At Influence & Co., our teams conduct quarterly keyword research to figure out where our clients should steer their content in order to remain relevant to their target audiences.
From those findings, content topics are developed that allow our teams to identify corresponding keywords that can help the content appear in the target audience's search results and move the conversation forward. The sheer length of a pillar post means that research will yield a lot of SEO findings. But the goal is to apply the same thinking to SEO and keywords as general thought leadership — the more authentic and genuine it is to the subject at hand, the better. It’s more like "keyword peppering" than "stuffing."
When confronted with this piece of feedback, one of our teams countered by comparing a pillar page to a menu for a site’s visitors. When scanning a menu, you might see an item that catches your fancy. With a pillar blog post, the same flexibility allows readers to jump from the longer post to a smaller blog post or an article that goes into more depth within a shorter word count.
So even if a reader doesn’t finish a pillar post, it’s likely that something from that post will intrigue them enough to click away to a shorter piece of content that still aligns with and illustrates your expertise. In other words, it’d be great if everyone finished reading a pillar post, but its worth isn’t defined by reading it end-to-end. If half — or even a quarter — of a pillar post engages a reader and it brings visitors to your website, the post has done its job.
By no means do pillar blog posts pique the public’s imagination and curiosity in the same way as the Bigfoots, Nessies, and Las Chupacabras of the world. But by grounding them in the real content marketing value they provide, pillar posts are an effective tool for anyone who's trying to bust through search results and establish credibility.
I’m a senior editor at Influence & Co. I’m a childless advocate of the dad joke, a pun enthusiast, and a friend/foe of the omelet. I just laughed at something dumb, and I won’t apologize for it.