Pillar pages for SEO: what is it?

General SEO 5 minutes reading time

When writing and creating content for your website, you want to structure it in a way that makes it easy for readers to find. Pillar pages help to organize your content, and it also has a positive effect on your SEO. You are working on the user-friendliness of your website. This is relevant for the visitor, but also for your search engine optimization. Do you want to know how you should set up pillar pages, what evergreen content is, and how you can get started with it? Then read on!

Create a clear website structure and optimize the user experience

An optimal user experience of a website ensures that the end user stays on your website longer, clicks through naturally and takes in more information. This increases the chance of achieving the ultimate goal: converting the visitor into a customer. To do so, an internal link structure is required. By setting up pillar pages, you can provide a clear navigation. This helps visitors to find relevant content and to navigate further to specific subjects.

 

What is a pillar page?

Whether you have a website that is about ‘marketing’, ‘cars’ or something as tasty as ‘cakes’, there are some topics that you just can’t stop talking about. Broad and general topics like these are actually short tail keywords, with a lot of competition in the SEO field. It is difficult to score well on these keywords in the search results page of search engines (SERP), but pillar pages can certainly help. Pillar pages deal with specific themes that fall under the main subject of your website and therefore have the function of a navigator. They are often long blogs or articles that cover every aspect of the overall topic.

Pillar pages are often set up to optimize the user experience of your website. Suppose you have a website about ‘cakes’, then you can set up pillar pages for themes such as ‘cake baking’, ‘cake decorating’, ‘cake recipes’, etc. It is important that these pages are well-organized and that they provide coherence between the different and underlying pages. It is important that these pages are well organized and provide coherence between the different and underlying pages. From pillar pages, you can link to deeper sub-topics. These sub-topics are called topic clusters. These pages give you the opportunity to delve deeper into topics.

Why is a pillar page so important?

A pillar page should be only one click away from the home page. They provide structure and navigation. It is recommended, therefore, to integrate a table of contents on such pages. This not only ensures that the website can be indexed better, but also achieves better results in the SERP. The use of links and backlinks are also crucial. You can use them to link to underlying pages, which draws the visitor deeper into the website. This ensures an optimized user experience. Moreover, search engines also value structure.  Google prefers websites with clear hyperlinks and logically linked content.

A pillar page also shows that you have a lot of knowledge about a specific topic. Pillar content is, in fact, evergreen content, content that remains relevant forever. You work on the authority of your website, which in turn can have a positive influence on your backlink strategy and thus your domain value. Also, a search engine like Google values pillar pages and will therefore recognize you as an expert in the field. This is very closely linked to the Google E-A-T update, with which Google measures your expertise, authority and reliability.

What is evergreen content?

As a marketer, you want to realize quality content and make it available as clearly as possible. The goal is for this content to be recognized as valuable and trustworthy by search engines. Pillar pages consist of what is known as evergreen content. This is content that does not date, as it concerns topics that remain relevant. Think of a pillar page with content about “10 tips for the best apple pie”. Make sure that evergreen content is always updated. According to a study by Neil Patel, following the Google Core update (2020), it can be seen that sites that update their content regularly saw a growth in their traffic, where websites that do not or minimally do so saw a decrease in traffic.

Effect van het dagelijks tot regelmatig updaten van content op pillar pages

Pillar content versus cornerstone content

In practice, pillar and cornerstone content are difficult to distinguish from each other. Both content strategies are in fact:

  • Long read content; a text of many words, on average 5000 or more
  • It is 'evergreen content'; content that does not date and remains relevant
  • Clear navigation through table of contents
  • The page contains headers and sub-headers
  • Rich media are used; images, videos, infographics, etc.
  • Easy-to-find pages from the homepage

In theory, pages with cornerstone content are called the cornerstones of your website. These are the most valuable pages of your website. You are known for them, and they are the foundation on which other pages are built. Think of ‘blogs’, ‘FAQs’ and other pages with a lot of authority and quality. So, this too is not very different from pillar pages. It’s more about the positioning of the term.

HubSpot, which is one of the most important and largest players in the field of marketing tools, first introduced pillar pages as a content strategy and with that, the term got a name in the world of online marketing; SEO specifically. They describe a pillar page as the foundation of the underlying topic clusters. A pillar page covers all aspects of a specific topic. The purpose of a pillar page is to connect all the content on your website by using hyperlinks. From the pillar page ‘cake recipes’, hyperlinks lead to topic clusters such as ‘red velvet cake recipe’ or ‘apple pie recipe’.

 

Voorbeeld van een pillar content met hyperlinks naar cluster content

What is the difference between a 10x pillar page and a resource pillar page?

There are several types of pillar pages. The so-called 10x pillar pages are pages that mainly link to their own content. Content that does not need to be downloaded, but is directly readable for both the visitor and a search engine. Google can, for example, immediately read and evaluate the content. To convert the visitor to a customer or lead, it is usually the case that 10x pillar pages give the visitor the option to download an e-book. The e-book contains all the content about the subject. This is where you collect personal data.

A resource pillar page, as the name suggests, focuses on sharing resources. Both internal and external links will be found on such pillar pages. The goal is to inform the visitor as well as possible about a specific topic, even if this means sending the user to another website with relevant information. You can use resource pillar pages for link building and thus work on your backlink profile. This in turn has a beneficial impact on your SEO score. A well-known platform and good example of this is the website Wikipedia.

Getting started with pillar pages

Before you can get started with your content strategy around pillar pages, it is advisable to create a mind map in advance, together with a keyword research. A mind map is a brainstorming strategy that allows you to focus on one subject and list related subjects around it. This allows you to map out which concepts and search terms are relevant, whereby the main subject is a much sought-after search term. Through keyword research, you find out everything about the search behavior of your target group. This way, you find out which search terms are relevant to write content for.

Write pillar content

From the mind map, write a page of pillar content for the primary topic. Keep in mind that pillar pages are ‘long read’. They are very informative pages, where you make use of rich content. Take plenty of time to develop this page and provide evergreen content, so it remains relevant for a longer time. The table of contents on this page is an important element, since both visitors and search engines use it for navigation. This also requires clear headers and sub-headers. Within the text you name the cluster topics that hang under the theme, these are usually specific blogs or pages with a highlighted topic. Internal linking to these specific sub-topics is crucial for navigation and the internal linking profile.

Create cluster topics

The cluster topics are designed based on themes that emerge from pillar pages. You can already give shape to this during the brainstorming session. These pages ensure that the website visitor gets a more in-depth perspective on the main topic. You show broad knowledge, the visitor does not need the website to find further information. For SEO, the focus is really on long tail keywords. By focusing on specific long tail keywords, you ensure that pages with the same topic do not have to compete.

Jarik Oosting - eigenaar SEO bureau SmartRanking

This article is written by Jarik Oosting

Jarik is an SEO consultant at and founder of SmartRanking. With over 12 years of SEO experience, he and the team of SEO specialists at SmartRanking help companies from small to large become more findable. He specializes in strategies, analysis, technical SEO and migrations.