It used to be relatively straightforward to improve your SEO rankings. You would pour hours into a stand-out blog post tied to what your audience was looking for (e.g., raising venture capital) and Google would return pages ranked according to what it felt provided the best information related to that long-tail keyword.
If your well-researched post were helpful enough to the searcher, it would appear on or near page one. A content marketing win! But then the internet was swamped with an overabundance of high-quality, 700-word blog posts tied to specific keywords like “raising venture capital.” This made it harder for Google to discern between them.
Topic Clusters Will Make or Break Your Content Marketing
So to determine which content would appear on page one, Google changed the way it ranked; your spectacular post was no longer enough. Instead, your company had to be an authority. And an authority in Google’s eyes is not a company that has written lots of stand-alone, keyword-peppered blog posts.
An authority is a company that has created a comprehensive, very long page of content about one topic (e.g., raising venture capital). This is called a pillar page, and at first glance, it looks similar to an ebook. But a 3,000-word minimum pillar page hyperlinks out to more narrow content (e.g., how to select VC firms to pitch to, what VC firms look for in a founder), which are called sub-topic blog posts. These blog posts are related to the pillar topic and hyperlink back to the main pillar page.
These hyperlinks are critical to show Google that your content is connected and your site architecture is optimally organized. This hub proves your authority to the search engine and allows you to reap the SEO benefits. Together, this group of interlinked content - pillar page, sub-topic posts and hyperlinks - is known as a topic cluster. Google ranks topic clusters higher because it believes the content most accurately answers any and all questions a searcher might have.
This Google preference is why Hubspot says creating pillar pages and topic clusters is a "requirement" to improve your SEO. Digital marketing leaders agree: “Google isn’t hunting for just a strong blip on the keyword radar anymore. It’s searching for the epicenter of information related to a search,” says Danielle Rhodes from Impulse Creative..
Benefits of pillar pages and topic clusters
Although thinking through and creating this long-form content takes time, this SEO strategy produces numerous benefits.
When you deliver a superior (and more organized) user experience via comprehensive pillar pages and clusters, Google rewards you with a higher ranking. Google prefers this hyperlinked structure because it’s easier for the search engine to crawl and index.
Increase traffic (and time on your site)
Since Hubspot shifted its content strategy from keyword-based to topic-based in 2017 and began creating pillar pages, traffic to its resources page spiked 107%. Visitors also spend more time on sites with pillar pages and topic clusters, decreasing bounce rates and increasing the company’s reputation.
Long-form copy, which is north of 2,000 words like a pillar page, has been proven to convert better. In a Marketing Experiments test, long copy converted better than short copy by between 40 percent to 45 percent.
Help the sales team
In our on-demand, self-service culture, many people want to educate themselves online first - before talking to a salesperson. Pillar pages and topic clusters enable them to do just that. They can quickly and easily access content that answers all of their questions at whatever stage they’re at – top, middle or bottom of the funnel.
The more you can educate prospects before they “pick up the phone” to your sales team, the more qualified your lead will be and the more time you can save everyone.
Grow email lists
By providing your pillar page as a PDF download option, you can better serve visitors by offering them consumption choices. At the same time, you can capture their email addresses, which can help you effectively nurture and convert leads.
Increase high-quality backlinks
Outstanding, in-depth content naturally garners backlinks and shares; people want to be associated with the best. This is why pillar pages have a higher likelihood of receiving backlinks than blog posts.
Boost thought leadership
When you provide the most exhaustive and superior content out there on your topic in a highly visible way, you place a bold stake in the ground that proves you're the leader. This builds your credibility and trust with audiences who matter. And it can differentiate your brand from the competition.
To learn how Team Solo can help you build them, please click here to download “The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters That Improve SEO.”