Unfortunately for all you creative gurus and literary geniuses out there – great content is no longer enough. It’s not enough to to write content (because content is king) in the hope that it wangles it’s way into those SERPS (search engine results pages). Similarly, churning out post after post is also becoming increasingly redundant.
In order to effectively boost organic traffic to any website, an integrated SEO and Content strategy is necessary. None of these approaches can exist in isolation – not successfully at least. For example, a brilliantly written and thought provoking blog post is almost useless if it is not optimized for search engines – the key to bringing in organic traffic. That being said, there is still value in ensuring that the content you are producing is of high-quality. Research is beginning to show that in fact Google does take into consideration the quality and detail of content.
So how can you ensure that your content isn’t going to waste?
Have a content strategy, and make sure content pillars are at the very centre of it.
So what is a ‘Content Pillar’ ?
To put it most simply, a content pillar is a page on your website on which a broader topic can be broken down into various sub-themes or variations. This page would then internally link to several other pages and content pieces on your site which cover the sub-theme in question. So if you’re an online shopping site a content pillar could be ‘shoes’, this pillar would be supported by several sub-themes across the site such as ‘sandals’, ‘sneakers’, ‘boots’. You could also introduce mens or ladies shoes but this all depends on your product and objectives for the website. These are examples of how product category (they hold multiple products that are similar in theme) pages can form part of your overall content pillar strategy.
Before we continue let’s look at a quick example from our own site. One of our content pillars would be our blogpost entitled ‘The most in-demand digital marketing jobs in 2016’. If you have an eye for detail you’ll notice the URL for this article contains “/blog/digital-marketing-jobs/”. Hence ‘Digital marketing jobs’ would be the broader theme for this content pillar. This post would be an ideal content pillar as it covers a broad range of sub-themes such as content marketing, SEO and career guidance. These sub-themes allow for the content pillar to be continuously referenced and internally linked throughout the site. For example our Career Guide Checklist page contains an internal link back to our ‘most in-demand digital marketing jobs’ blogpost. Similarly, the pillar is also supported through an internal link in our ‘T-Shaped Marketer’ Blog post. Over time, these internal links strengthen the authority of the content pillar. It’s also important that these content pillars are externally linked or referenced on other content sharing sites.
What makes a content pillar?
So you’re probably wondering what makes ‘The most in-demand digital marketing jobs in 2016’ a content pillar and other blog posts not? It’s all about creating evergreen content. This means that the article or content pillar needs to be timeless. You’re probably thinking, “But the title includes 2016, how can it be timeless?” The beauty is in the smaller details. You’ll notice the URL string “/blog/digital-marketing-jobs/” doesn’t include the date. This means that when 2017 rolls in we can update the article and tweak the title – but the URL stays the same. Why does it matter that the URL string stays the same? It’s the URL that gathers authority over time in the eyes of the search engines and ultimately dictates a page’s ranking on the results page. So you could overhaul your content, but maintain your ranking potential.
That’s the beauty of evergreen content pillars. While an evergreen article can be updated to align with current trends, the heart of the content ultimately does not change. That’s one of the reasons we love using blog posts as content pillars. Not only do blog posts drive social engagement and traffic, but they are easily able to be repurposed and optimised to drive greater traffic.
Another feature of content pillars is the broad-based nature of their content. This allows for articles/pages within your website to more easily link to them. Remember our example of the shoes? The ‘shoes’ was the content pillar, and the pages linking to it were more niche, such as ‘sandals’ or ‘men’s shoes’. This explains why our article ‘The T-shaped Marketer’ could not be considered a content pillar – it’s simply too niche. Instead, it would be one of the many articles or pages on our site linking back to our content pillars.
A case study (or two)
In January of this year we updated and pretty much overhauled one of our content pillars – “All you need to know about Internet Marketing in South Africa”. We added some more recent statistics, refined some of our thought processes and added a funky infographic or two – ultimately we gave our content pillar an extreme makeover. It was a big risk and we knew it, but it paid off in the end and continues to grow its market share of “online marketing” search traffic.
As you can see initially the traffic to the blogpost dipped but we managed to hold our breath until it not only increased, but accelerated higher than ever before. That’s not all – it brought in new traffic to the site.
(Fig 1.1 Traffic to blogpost content pillar: “All you need to know about Internet Marketing in South Africa”)
While this article has focused mostly on blog posts as content pillars (as they drive a lot of traffic), they do come in various other forms. Let’s take a page on our website which markets our courses for example. To save time, we’ll call it “/training”. Although it’s a static page, it’s still serves the function of a content pillar. By blogging effectively, and continuously internally linking to this pillar we are able to drive more traffic to this page and ultimately boost its keyword rankings. This ultimately means more organic traffic.
As you can see below, an increase of traffic to our blogpost directly caused an increase of traffic to our static page. At the end of the day, this is important because it is this static page which is littered with ‘Calls to Action’. Remember, your content strategy needs to align with your business goals.
(Fig 1.2 Traffic to static content pillar: /training)
Creating content pillars does take time, it may even call for a total restructuring of your website, but once the structure is set up the results will speak for themselves. They’re also far easier to maintain than they are to set up.
It’s also important to remember that if you’re providing content as a service to a client, you should be clearly communicating this process to them. Often clients will be pushing you for volume because that’s how they derive value. The more posts the better right? Not really. Value should come in the form of website traffic (new visitors), which has a ripple effect of generating new business or whatever the website objectives are.
So what’s the moral of the story?
You can’t just churn out content anymore and expect to meet business objectives – whether it be traffic, or conversions. Content needs to be structured and architectured to align with an overall content strategy. After all, what’s architecture without pillars?