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ContentSEOTechnical

SEO Pillar Posts: Using Content Pillars To Outrank Your Competitors

content pillars

Taking a scattergun approach to content marketing? 

Shooting out tons of content just to see what hits?

This ad-hoc strategy is tiring and muddies your message for your target audience and search engines.

The fix?

Content pillars.

Structured pillar-cluster content powers authority and drives up search rankings.

Let’s jump in to find out what content pillars are, how they help, and how to use them effectively.

What are content pillars, and why are they impactful for SEO?

Content pillars are a strategic content structure to help establish authority and boost SEO rankings.

They’re big topics or themes that you cluster related content around. 

It’s a two-part show.

Cluster content surrounds pillar content. These pillars support and connect the clusters.

The pillars provide a comprehensive, high-level overview of everything your brand knows about the topic.

The clusters drill down into the details of particular aspects of that subject.

This creates content hubs that demonstrate your expertise on subjects related to your target audience.

Topic clusters and pillar content diagram.

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That might look something like this . . .

Pillar: Ultimate Guide to X

Cluster 1: Benefits of X

Cluster 2: Best practices for X

Cluster 3: X vs Y: feature comparison

Cluster 4: Pros and cons of X

To get the most out of this strategy, you need to create ‌connections between ‌pillars and clusters. 

But how?

With traditional written content, your pillars include strategic internal links to point consumers to more information about the topic (your cluster content).

Social media uses algorithms and natural-language processing to categorize content based on key terms in the content and caption.

To link clusters to pillars on social media, you need to use related keywords across related content and create series where you can.

But why organize your content this way?

Content pillars supercharge your search engine optimization (SEO).

They help your content rank higher in relevant search engine results on search engines and social media.

In fact, a quarter of marketers say that the content pillar strategy is the most effective way to improve search engine rankings.

By organizing your content in pillars and clusters, you create a map that shows search engines what you’re about.

You’re giving search engines a clear pathway to follow to categorize and rank your content under relevant search terms.

Plus, it shows the search engine which content is connected. Grouping content together shows your authority in a particular area.

When people link from your pillars to your clusters, it creates connections that say, “Hey, this is relevant content, too.”

The platform recognizes that you offer extensive value on the subject, ranking the content higher.

But why does it matter how high you rank?

Consider Google search results. 50% of all clicks go to the top three results. 

So, if you don’t push your content up the ranks, you simply won’t get the views.

Types of content pillars

There are a few different types of content pillars that help you dive into a broad topic, with the opportunity to link to detailed internal clusters. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

“Guide” pillar content

Guide pillars act as comprehensive manuals on an industry-specific topic. 

They give detailed insights and instructions to help understand how to harness the concept.

If your audience values expertise, this style pillar is for you.

The following proofreading and editing guide is a great example:

Pillar content blog about proofreading services.

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This guide provides readers with guidelines, explains the costs of editing and proofreading services, and offers tips and advice. Pay particular attention to how the pillar links to other relevant cluster topics to drive internal connections that improve SEO.

“What is” pillar content

This type of content defines a topic, giving explanations and examples to help readers understand all aspects of the subject.

Use this type of content to establish authority, especially when introducing a new concept or technology.

Here are some examples:

  • What is Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?
  • What is Cloud Computing? A Basic Explanation
  • What is SaaS? Understanding Software as a Service

Listicle pillar content

This format organizes information into a list. 

You can use these pillars to offer lists of tools, tips, examples, or reasons for doing something. 

This structure helps break down complex topics into bite-size chunks of information.

Typical listicles would look like this:

  • 10 Features to Look for in Project Management Software
  • 7 AI Trends Every Business Should Know
  • 8 Essential Business Automation Tips to Drive Growth

Here’s an example from monday.com’s Instagram, which is a pillar reel about international team management:

Pillar page example of a listicle on Instagram.

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The surrounding cluster reels dig down into this:

  • Improving team feedback culture
  • All about teams: Monday hacks
  • Thoughts for becoming a great manager

How-to pillar content

How-to pillar content teaches the audience how to achieve a specific goal or do a particular task related to your industry.

Use this type of content to demonstrate your expertise with practical, actionable advice. 

This content might look like . . .

How to identify your brand’s content pillars

Here are the strategies and tools to help you find the pillar topics best suited to your brand.

Review your existing pages

Analyze previous content to understand what works best.

Look out for content that has high engagement. 

Think about:

  • Time spent on page
  • Shares
  • Comments

Identify patterns among top performers.

Look for similarities in:

  • Content format
  • Topic
  • Length

Craft your future content bearing these popular features in mind.

Create buyer personas

Knowing your target audience helps you understand their search intent.

You need to understand what problems your target buyers have so you know why they’re searching online for help.

This way, you can use your pillars to demonstrate your expertise in solving these issues.

Create three to five buyer personas. Consider aspects like:

  • Demographics (or firmographics)
  • Interests
  • Occupation
  • Challenges

When you’re crafting your content pillars, you’re speaking directly to these three to five characters.

Conduct audience research

Content pillars solve your audience’s pain points.

Ask your audience what they’d like to know more about. Send out an email survey, publish a social media poll, or reach out to your top clients directly.

This helps you tailor content to your target customers.

Analyze SEO competitors

Organic competitors compete for the same keywords as you. A Google competitors analysis helps you identify the valuable content that competing sites offer.

Work out where you can gain more traffic by providing similar value.

Conduct a content gap analysis to see what they’re missing.

Add a pillar page or two to cover important topics that they miss. This gives you a competitive advantage, as you solve a problem your competitors don’t.

Use an SEO tool for keyword research

SEO tools and keyword research show you what your target audience is searching for online.

You can use tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, or SEMrush to identify popular target keywords.

Keyword research for pillar content.

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These tools can also show keyword rankings and related terms that guide your pillar and cluster strategy.

This helps you align your content with search volume.

Using content pillars to create a content schedule and distribute content

Here’s how you can create and schedule an effective content marketing strategy using pillars:

1. Identify a handful of content pillars

Use your keyword strategy to pick three to five prominent topics ‌related to your business.

For instance, if you sell software for inbound marketing, you might have three main pillar pages:

  • Inbound marketing strategies
  • Lead generation
  • Sales enablement

Remember, it’s better to do a few well than spread your SEO efforts too thinly.

2. Plan varied cluster content for each pillar

For each pillar, plan different types of content for each marketing platform you use. By offering variety, you cater to different audience preferences to encourage engagement.

Choose the types of content that your audience engages with best. Try content like:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Carousels
  • Podcasts

Align your content with your marketing goals. This helps you measure the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy.

Here’s what this looks like in action:

Marketing goal: Increase sales of a particular product

Types of content:

  • Product benefits infographic
  • Listicle blog post on how your product solves X problem
  • Client interview podcast on how they use your product

3. Develop a rotational content calendar

Be realistic about the content creation process.

Work out the time and resources you have to create, schedule, and manage content. You need to schedule in time to:

  • Design 
  • Create
  • Edit 
  • Schedule
  • Review
  • Repurpose and update

Pick a handful of marketing channels that fit your target audience and drive the most revenue.

To build up your content hubs effectively, you want to rotate pillars as you go.

Don’t create and release 10 articles on one pillar with nothing for the others.

Do cycle through the pillars, publishing an article on each in rotation.

Here’s an example of how a content calendar might look for a creative digital marketing agency:

Pillars:

Content:

  1. 5 Key SEO Trends for 2024 and How to Adapt Your Content Strategy
  2. The Art of Storytelling: How to Convey Your Brand’s Message Through Narratives
  3. The Intersection of Social Media and SEO
  4. The Ultimate Guide to Micro-Content
  5. Maximizing Audience Interaction: A Case Study on Successful Social Media Campaigns
  6. Building a Cohesive Brand Identity: Lessons from Industry Leaders

4. Create and publish content

To craft successful pillars, remember to follow the steps above. 

Identify the format, style, and content your audience best resonates with. Speak to their challenges and offer targeted solutions that demonstrate your expertise.

Create cluster content at a pace you can keep up with, focusing each piece on achieving your marketing goals.

Use SEO best practices in every piece of content. 

Your on-page SEO and technical SEO should be on point, whether that’s a TikTok caption or a blog article.

Pro Tip: Create templates for your content to speed up the creation process. You can use tools like Canva to do this.

Be sure to also use scheduling software to automate the publishing process. This saves you time in the long run and keeps release dates consistent.

6. Periodically review progress

Review your content to see what’s working best. 

Look for the content your audience engages with most and what’s bringing you closer to your marketing goals.

Use these insights to target your future content better.

7. Regularly repurpose and update 

Old content slips down the rankings as it ages. To remain relevant, update old content. Add new perspectives, data, tips, or insights.

You can also repurpose old content. Don’t worry, you’re not cheating — everyone’s doing it. Nearly all Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) plan to reuse existing content to increase efficiency and cut costs.

Expert quote on content repurposing.

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For instance, you can transcribe one of your podcast interviews with an industry expert, add in some filler text and images, and then post it as an expert blog article.

This is a great way to create content quickly and get the maximum SEO value from your content creation efforts.

Are content pillars useful outside of social media?

Yes, content pillars are super useful outside of social media.

The pillar strategy actually started to improve Google rankings with targeted keywords.

But this strategy isn’t dead.

Blogs still drive the highest return on investment (ROI) of any marketing channel.

By creating pillars around relevant keywords, Google (and other search engines) can better understand and categorize your content. 

The result?

Your web pages show up in more searches and higher up the ranks.

More views = more organic traffic = more opportunities to meet your marketing goals

Wrap up

Content pillars are key to a successful SEO strategy

They tell search engines what you’re about and they demonstrate your brand as an authority.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Content strategy is complex. We know—we’re the experts.

If you’ve got questions about content creation and authority-building, reach out. 

We’re about content that fuels growth, rather than content for content’s sake. Don’t spin your wheels. Book a strategy call with Omniscient today.

Here’s to your success!

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Cassandra Rosas

Cass is the Head of SEO Outreach and Link-Building at Omniscient Digital, she loves writing about topics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content operations, e-commerce, and social media marketing. In her spare time she likes listening to music, doing oil painting and watching SciFi movies.