In last week’s #SEMrushchat, we asked for opinions on pillar content and topic clusters. Our community shared their insights on the benefits of pillar content, topic clusters, creating an effective subtopic hierarchy, best practices, and identifying an ideal topic for your pillar content.
Several members of our community mentioned using the SEMrush topic research tool to help generate ideas for topic clusters and for creating a substantial piece of pillar content. I took a couple of screenshots to show those of you that haven’t used it, the data and research capabilities. If creating content is part of your job, this is a tool that will make your life a lot easier.
Whether you use this tool or not, pillar content could be beneficial for your business, so read the suggestions below to get started. If you are a pro at pillar content and topic clusters, be sure to share your insights in the comments.
Q1. What differentiates pillar content from other kinds of long-form content?
Pillar content comprehensively and compellingly answers a question or educates about a topic – then offers the opportunity to create offshoots of niche-focused parts of that topic. There are so many tentacles to it, which isn’t always true of long-form articles.
Grouping your content together as topics in a way that suits the content consumer (user) rather than the way you structure your business. Preferably it’s on evergreen URLs. Your other content spins off this and supports it. internal linking structures are key.
Pillar content can easily be broken up by subtopic and redistributed as several pieces of smaller content.
I tend to view pillar content as the “crown jewels” of your website content — it’s uniquely valuable, better than anything else out there quality & maintained/ polished consistently. It should represent the best of what your organization has to offer.
To me your pillar content is what makes you stand out, it’s about you, written by you. You explain and engage with your audience about what you do and how you do it. Your other long-form content could be about achievements you’ve made plugging in other content
it’s the content that can stand alone; it’s the sole content your target audience could read and know exactly what you do, and what sets you apart from anyone else.
Q2. Why are pillar content & topic clusters essential for a good content strategy?
It boosts your authority, keeps your site organised for the user and usually consists of evergreen content that you can update.
Hate to suggest E.A.T. but clustering great content in a well-structured site shows some E.A.T and that gives users a warm fuzzy feeling of being in the right place – this is trust-building that’s good for the brand.
Pillar #content gives an overview of the brand and builds authority for the online audience. Topic clusters are important for a deeper dive into each of the topics/concepts covered in the pillar content. Key to fulfilling the customer journey creatively.
Pillar content explains everything about the core business including features, benefits & so on. Whereas topic clusters are based on providing further information in detail – specific categories. Pillar content is macro-level & topic clusters content is micro-level
Topic authority for multiple queries. It represents a deep understanding of the topic & builds ranking authority w/ Google bc Google wants to provide queries with the best answers. If you’re answering from all angles (clusters), you’ll answer more queries.
They can establish your site as an authority on a subject with lots of relevant, informative content that avoids duplication. Topic clusters also allow for a regular publication calendar, so you can feed expertise into the ether slowly rather than all at once.
Honestly? They’re not. They CAN be. But it depends on how your content strategy is defined. “Content” is basically everything you can create. So do we always need pillar content and topic clusters? No, we don’t. They can be a good investment, but it depends.
Q3. How would you identify an ideal topic for your pillar content?
Understand user intent, review competitors & volumes. But most importantly identifying a topic we can provide the best possible answer/content in.
Overlap your target personas on your sales funnel/buyer’s journey. What questions is your audience asking from Awareness to Close?
Something that is: * Relevant to your business and it’s target audience.
* Something you have a lot of knowledge of.
* Something you’re passionate about. Can’t stress that last point enough. If you’re not enthused, your audience won’t be. #semrushchat
I would try and find a topic that could act as a ‘parent’ to many subtopics and interlink between them, and back to the ‘parent’.
It would have to satisfy the following criteria: 1. Relevant to our audience and industry?
2. Does it fit the keyword strategy we want to rank for?
3. Can we create more topic clusters from this?
4. Is it evergreen?
5. Does it comply with the customer journey?!
Again, kinda depends on the brand and what the vertical looks like, but I could go for a scalable topic I want to show expertise in. It’s not even about being unique. Long term thinking is important here. Pick something you can run with forever.
Q4. What are the best ways to develop an effective subtopic hierarchy for your cornerstone piece?
Divide and conquer. Turn each question into its own subtopic and prioritize based on importance and relevance.
Totally depends on the story you’re telling. What are the core elements of the story, then the details, then the fluff. But don’t ignore volume, buyer’s journey, user intent, and ranking difficulty.
Really, it just needs to make sense to the end-user more than anything else. Is there a flow or progression in questions/answers? Other step-based order/flow? It might also be helpful to think through the funnel/lifecycle stages.
Planning. There are some good mind mapping tools out there that can help you put together a topic and all the things you can think about being connected to it. It’s a great way to plan your content.
Braindump ALL the ideas, then organise and trim it back according to customer journey, high search volume for subtopics, and the “context” of current search results to make sure you’re not wildly off track for what people want when they look for that topic. #semrushchat https://t.co/Lk5Vy5h4I
Q5. What are the best practices for pillar content creation?
Relevance. Focus on what’s relevant to your business first and foremost. And certainly, be careful of trends.
What you *don’t* include in your pillar content is as important (if not more important) than what you do include. Take your time. Do your research. Write something that is clearer, more comprehensive & more valuable than everything else out there.
Look at your SERP’s, keywords used, and SERP’s around your topic, Look at competitors – note the unused keywords in your content, build these into the pillar content, and make those pages a resource, as it reassures/enhances the user journey on the site.
It’s all about the basics for me. Strong, quality content that provides value for your audience. Written for them using language they understand. Packaged in an attractive setting. You know it when you see it. Do that. (And leave all the lingo at home!)
Do your homework: research topics, user experience pain points, market place, competitor tactics, & much more. take your time: great pillar content is game-changing. poor pillar content is confusing and appears sloppy and erratic.
One thing that stands out to us is ‘Stay Authentic’.
There should always be intent and goal in sight when planning pillar content. Also, committing to create more content branching from the pillar. Summary:
Have any pillar content tips?
We would love your thoughts on the questions and tweets above, so please share in the comments below. We also want to thank everyone that participated in the chat. We will be looking for your expert insights this week, where we will be discussing pillar content creation; SEMrushchat starts at 11 am ET/4 pm BST on Wednesday, December 4th.