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How to Use Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters to Raise Your SEO Ranking

So you want to raise your SEO, and you have heard everything under the sun from backlinking and guest posting to other, potentially black hat techniques like keyword stuffing, using invisible text, and “cloaking,” a method that presents utterly different content or URL than what the search engine spiders expect.

But what if there was another way to raise your SEO game without having to resort to one-off techniques that could get you into major trouble and shut off your website to the search engines for good?

By creating pillar pages and topic clusters, you can raise your SEO with a long-term strategy that evolves alongside your content.

How to Develop Your Content for SEO and the End User

With so much content being available on the internet, Google was forced to come up with strategies to better aid the searcher.

As a result, Google has released a slew of updates in the past five years with the most notable being the Hummingbird Algorithm update that focused on breaking apart and analyzing phrases rather than specific search queries.

A few years later, Google updated search again with its RankBrain AI based update that found pages based on past search history with similar themes and keywords.

This created a new way for content marketers to be seen by their target audience.

When you create focused and detailed content that is relevant to your ideal user, you can start to rank higher in the search engines.

What is a Pillar Page and Content Cluster?

pillar page or content pillar is a web page that covers a broad topic in depth with links to and from clusters of related content.

If you think of it as a tree, the pillar is the trunk of the tree with the main topic idea, and the different branches are the content clusters that relate back to the trunk.

For example, if you maintain an electronics blog, you could have a pillar page that is related to the core topic of cell phones.

Some branching content clusters could include model reviews, the different apps you can download, or what kind of camera quality you get with the phone.

Identifying these separate subtopics that relate back to the core topic can help you rank higher in search engines for “cellphones.”

Connecting pages to and from each other via hyperlinks can significantly aid the user experience of your webpage visitor as well as the functionality of the search engine.

How to Create a Pillar Page

There are two types of pillar page formats: the resource pillar page and the 10X pillar page.

A strong resource pillar page will include the core topic at the top and contain multiple subheadings containing links to both internal and external resources.

This page solves for the user as well as allows you to generate inbound links from the sources you use on the page.

By developing an outreach plan that informs the sources you are linking to that your resource pillar page exists, you can increase your chances of getting similar treatment from those pages linking to your internal pages.

The 10X content pillar page is made up of your owned media and is identical in form to a free, ungated eBook.

This page solves for the search engine by clustering like themed content on a specific subject and addresses for the page visitor by allowing them to view your content before deciding if they want to download it.

The trick here is to offer the webpage as a downloadable PDF resource for users that wish to enter their email address.

Google search

How Does it Look On Google and What Is An Example?

When you have strong subtopics that link to the core topic pillar page, Google rewards you by including your specific page as a page result or snippet.

For example, if someone types in “top phone cameras,” your review of the Galaxy S5 may come up as a snippet because it provides value to the searcher.

In one example, Townsend Security, an encryption and keylogging solutions provider, worked on a steady stream of product marketing blog posts, white papers, webinars, and podcasts to steadily grow their traffic throughout 2015.

However, in one month alone in 2016, competition for the keywords they used increased while larger rivals outspent them on paid advertising.

This resulted in a nearly 40% loss of organic visitors from March to April.

As a result, they developed a 10X pillar page for their encryption key content and promoted it via answering questions on Quora, commenting on other blog posts, and contributing as guest posters on other websites all while linking to the pillar page.

A few months later, organic traffic went up by 17% during the first month of 2017 and 32% from February to March of 2017.

A pillar page and the relevant content subtopic pages that make it up can be the key to SEO nirvana for your website.

By linking relevant topic web pages back to a “trunk” or pillar page, you can better aid both search engines and users.

Promoting a 10X pillar page through social media and outreach to other web pages that you link to on your resource pillar page can significantly aid your SEO efforts by providing a valuable source of information to your core audience.

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