The Contractors Guide to Pillar Content & Topic Clusters

Pillar Content

Content marketing trends change like the weather. What doesn’t change is the need for valuable content and its role within your marketing strategy as a business. 

You may have heard of pillar content and topic clusters before, but this guide is sure to clear up any fogginess and get your team on the path to creating evergreen content that adds significant value to your user experience.

Of course, this guide can be useful for any industry, but the examples used are construction focused.

What is Pillar Content?

In short, pillar content is an in-depth and informative piece of content based on a specific theme or topic. A content pillar is usually a large piece that can be broken up into smaller sections, content pieces, and other content materials. 

A pillar content piece is commonly in the form of eBooks, guides, reports, and checklists.

Generally, pillar content pieces are over 1,000 words and provide plenty of practical advice or tips, usually written in a tutorial style aiming to teach your audience something. 

Your pillar content should not only offer great insight and value,but it should also have long term appeal.

Why do you need Pillar Content?

Content pillars are the content marketing juggernaut when it comes to helping your business get found on the first page of search engines. 

Your SEO (search engine optimisation) efforts are likely to differ as your marketing strategy changes, but there’s one thing that will remain unchanged; the power of your pillar content.

As your business creates pages with the notion of becoming the go-to resource for your audience with unique, groundbreaking information,you will boost your search engine rankings whilst establishing your brand as an authority figure and thought leader of your industry sector or niche.

What are Topic Clusters?

Remember when I said you can break up your content pillar piece into smaller sub-topics? This is where your topic clusters are born.

A topic cluster is a collection of content pieces that can be grouped together by a shared main topic and other related subtopics. 

Topic cluster pieces should offer inclusive coverage of a specific subject. For example, a bespoke joinery company may produce a pillar content piece as a ‘how-to’ guide for choosing the right joinery design for each room. 

This piece would be a long-form article taking the reader through each room of their house, providing valuable insights and recommendations for getting the best joinery for their available space. 

The topic clusters to follow this piece could be anything from choosing joinery materials, sourcing the best fixtures and fittings, and even a subtopic on designing the perfect joinery for maximum use. 

The possibilities are endless and having multiple pillar content and topic clusters on your website blog will most definitely improve your search engine rankings. 

Your topic cluster articles can even be broken down further into info-graphics, email content, social media posts, videos and many more. 

Your best approach would be to research your audience to determine what type of media they respond to most and whatever you do, don’t overwhelm yourself with more than 3-5 content mediums to start with. 

Keyword Research & Your Topic Clusters

Keyword research is essential for creating both pillar content pieces and topic clusters. Your pillar content topic should include a broad term, around 2-4 words in length, and must be educational and industry specific, ensuring the content supports your products and services. 

Your prospects are likely to be at the awareness stage of their buying journey and are likely to be using various search terms and phrases surrounding your products or services, so keeping your content pillars and topic clusters education is paramount to your search engine ranking.

A simple, yet effective method for finding keyword phrases is to perform multiple searches on Google (or other search engines) to determine what your audience and prospects are already searching for. 

A good starting point is to identify 5-10 broad topics surrounding your business industry and sector, creating topic clusters around each broad topic in the form of long-tail keywords. 

Long-tail keywords are longer search queries (3+ words), highly targeted and specific to your topic cluster piece. 

For example, a person searching for help choosing their joinery materials using a long-tail query could be “what is the best material for kitchen joinery?”. 

Including this search query within your topic cluster material will help you rank higher on the search engines as it is likely to have low competition, whereas using the main search phrases like “best joinery materials”,or “kitchen joinery materials”, will have much higher competition. 

Unless your site has a well-established blog already, you are going to struggle ranking for the main search terms. 

As each subtopic is created into a piece of content, you must always link it back to the pillar content piece,otherwise it is pretty much pointless creating your topic clusters. 

If you have physical content already, dig through your archives to see if you have a content piece that covers your keywords and phrases. 

Your old content may need some updating, but it can save you time and give you some ideas for other subtopics to include within your topic clusters. 

The best practice for your keyword research is to keep a spreadsheet for all your keyword phrases and queries, including all long-tail phrases and buyer intent phrases. If your products or services are location or season specific, be sure to include these keywords when brainstorming your content topic ideas.

Typically, your topic clusters will look like this:

How to structure Pillar Content & Topic Clusters

Structuring Your Pillar Content 

The best pillar pages out there give your prospects the content they want without hiding behind a form (known as gated content). Don’t get confused though, your ungated content still plays a huge role in generating leads. 

Your pillar content page can be created in any format you want, but PDF downloadables are the preferred choice for long form content.

For a business in the construction industry, a pillar content page could resemble a modified landing page (a standalone web page). In other words, your pillar content page can provide an in-depth insight into your company’s services or products, while featuring an offer and conversion form.

By providing a strong pillar content page that takes your prospects through exclusive insights, proving your expertise and irons out any pain points your prospects may have surrounding your product or service, you will position your brand as an authority figure in your industry niche and will be the first company prospects contact.

The Ideal Pillar Content Page

By now you should get an idea on what a pillar page is, what it is used for, and why you need them. Once your topic is determined, there’s a few things you MUST remember:

  • It must include an offer and conversion form.
  • Include top navigation 
  • Include the core topic in your page title and page URL
  • Ensure the H1 tag refers to your core topic
  • Within your intro, define the core topic (if applicable)
  • Under the featured image, add an anchor-linked table of contents
  • Include elements such as bullets for conversion purposes.
  • All section headers should be H2 tags
  • All image alt text tags should reference your core topic
  • Do not overuse your core topic keywords, but reference it throughout
  • Internal links are only used for relevant resources
  • External links must be relevant to the core topic and authoritative
  • Insert your CTA at the end of your pillar page
  • Don’t forget a ‘back to top’ button for easy navigation

Organising Your Topic Clusters

So your content topics are planned out. Your keyword research is complete. Next step; structuring your topic clusters and pillar page on your website. 

Writing any article can be a tough task to say the least. For most SMEs in construction will usually publish any supporting articles on the company blog. It’s the easiest way to get your articles to your audience and your URLs probably look similar to this:

your-company.com/pillar-page

your-company.com/blog/supporting-article-1

your-company.com/blog/supporting-article-2

your-company.com/blog/supporting-article-3

Thing is, I’m a bit OCD when it comes to links as it improves your domain and page authority. When creating pillar content and topic clusters, your website URLs should look like this:

your-company.com/main-page

your-company.com/main-page/supporting-article-1

your-company.com/main-page/supporting-article-2

your-company.com/main-page/supporting-article-3

Fitting Pillar Content Into Your Content Strategy

Let me state the obvious; Pillar content gives structure to your content strategy. 

Pillar content will keep you focused on what truly matters to your business and your customer personas. 

Pillar pages will give your company direction, the ability to create in-depth content that will provide supporting material options that raises awareness and get your brand noticed in your area of expertise.

A content strategy can work wonders, as long as you have a sustainable content creation process that aligns with your company’s long and short term goals.

Efficiency. 

That’s all you need to achieve content marketing GREATNESS.

Efficiency can help you turn a pillar page into…

  • 5-6 Blog posts
  • 1 Lead magnet (maybe a short eBook or case study)
  • Multiple infographics
  • 5-10 Subscriber emails
  • 20-30 Social media posts
  • 3-5 Video scripts

Take note that your pillar page isn’t a one-time content piece. Your pillar pages are evergreen, and so they must always be ‘under construction’.

Updates, additions, and regular maintenance is what keep your content relevant and industry updates become the perfect opportunity for a content relaunch.

Your audience can also be your indicators to improve or change your content strategy. Your audience may even change completely over time. 

All you can do is get to know them. Well. If you need a nudge in the right direction, figure the basics out first:

  • How do they consume content?
  • What are their interests, needs, and pain points?
  • Do they prefer a particular presentation style?
  • What specifics are needed to turn visitors into conversions?

Remember, not all of your audience likes Facebook. 

Not all of your audience checks their emails. 

Not all of your audience read articles longer than a 2 minute read.

Get into the mind of your ideal customer and create your content strategy from there. Pillar pages and topic clusters are only the start, albeit a complicated one. 

I hope this article has helped you understand how valuable content can be used to heighten your company’s authority and can provide a sense of direction for company growth.

If you need help creating a content strategy, or need help writing engaging content and white label services, please send me an email today at… luke@burgessgroupmedia.com

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