Content Marketing

Why pillar pages are an important part of SaaS content marketing strategy?

On this blog, we talk, quite frequently, about the value content marketing adds to the long-term sustainability of your SaaS business. We have discussed how content marketing is vital to getting your brand noticed, and what you should do to make sure your content stands out from competing pieces of content.

Always remember: Competing content is not necessarily created by your competitors.

Today, I thought we would look at a crucial, yet often ignored, aspect of content marketing strategy. Creating pillar pages.

We would look at what pillar pages are, why they are important for your SEO performance, how they fit within your broader content marketing strategy, and how you can go about creating them for your SaaS business.

What exactly is a pillar page?

We have talked about the importance of creating your brand into an authoritative and credible figure in your niche. Pillar pages help you do that.

Simply put, pillar pages are designed to be the single source of truth on any given topic. They are created with the intent of being the authoritative resource on the topic. The one resource a reader can refer to, to get the most information and value on the topic it covers. Different businesses create pillar pages in different formats. From exhaustive how-to guides and walkthroughs to lists of inspirational examples, as long as the content serves as the ultimate and often the only guide the reader will need, it is a pillar page.

Think of this blog as an example. We cover different areas of marketing quite extensively, and often in quite detail. But, due to the sheer magnitude of all that needs to be talked about, we end up having multiple stories on a single topic - for example, content marketing. We have talked about content marketing and content marketing strategy many times, and will talk about it more in coming weeks, months and years. But, what if there was one blog post dedicated at being a comprehensive guide on content marketing. It would be touching up on all the different facets of content marketing, and linking out to different specific articles on individual aspects and areas of content marketing that we have talked about in past, or would be covering in future. This comprehensive guide would be our pillar page on content marketing.

Essentially, the pillar page would be like a crash course in content marketing that would touch upon the different facets of it, in brief, and the specific articles it links to would be deep dives into those facets, and may also contain links that helps the reader dive even deeper into the topic.

Because of the exhaustive nature of the content of your pillar page, it tends to be longer than most of your usual content. There are pillar pages out there that range from anywhere between 20 minutes to even a 50 minute read.

Think that’s unlikely? Here is an hour and half long pillar page for you:

pillar pages 1

This is why many businesses choose to compress the broader original content of their pillar pages as a whitepaper or an ebook and just use the pillar page as a landing page. However, that is not the right strategy to execute the creation of a pillar page since it puts your main content behind a gated framework (for example, an email opt-in form).

pillar pages 2

Ideally, you want the full content of your pillar page indexable and searchable by search engines.

So, to do it well, you should consider breaking it down into several sections, and including interactive elements such as video embeds, embedded social media posts etc. so as to make it more engaging and less tedious to go through.

How pillar pages leverage your audience’s search behavior?

If you have read my previous posts on leveraging keywords in your search strategy, you know I am not a huge fan. I would rather focus on phrases and search queries instead of bland keywords. The reason behind that is simple - with time, search engines have been improving their search ranking algorithms to make them more aligned to conversational searches.

Almost two third of searches on Google are four words or more, which means more and more users are searching using fragmented or even complete sentences. And search engines have been updating their search methodology to use these searches to display results that serve the audience the exact information they are looking for.

And with time, this longer form search behavior would become even more prominent, thanks to people using voice searches, connected devices and smart assistants more and more.

And then there is the problem of plenty. There is a lot of content out there - on any given topic, and the magnitude of this content availability is increasing day after day. So, search engines can take a more hardened approach to serve users extremely precise results to search queries and still have a lot of options to serve to the users needs.

With the users making more detailed queries to avoid and sift through the junk, and skimming content and featured search results to arrive at the information they seek faster, creating content that’s aligned perfectly with the search intent of the user becomes extremely crucial.

Pillar pages help you circumvent these problems, and give you prominence in front of a wider audience by serving content that’s meaningful to them, and eventually leading them to more promising, engaging content you wanted them to discover in the first place.

Bottom line, your pillar pages help you address as many searches as possible on any given topic. While conversational long-tail keywords can be detailed as individual posts and articles, your pillar page is designed to be the rallying point for all these different clusters of information being sought by your target audience.

How should you structure your content with a pillar page strategy?

Hubspot has created a nice pictorial representation of how your content organisation and structure changes once you start incorporating pillar pages in your content strategy.

Before:

pillar pages 3

After:

pillar pages 4 pillar pages 5

Basically, you segment your content into broader topics you want to rank for, and then create content based on specific search queries within that broad topic. With different pieces of content under the bigger umbrella linking to each other, you start using a more deliberate structure and order to link your content together to get more pages to rank in search results and getting more and more searchers find the exact information they are looking for in an easier manner.

Look at it this way. Your pillar page is like a university “101” course on a subject. And the underlying pages are where you dive deeper into different subjects and courses that emanate from it.

Potential pitfalls when executing pillar pages in your content strategy

Like it is with everything, the right execution is the key to achieving success with your pillar content strategy. Poorly executed, this can do you more harm than good. Here are a few things you should keep in mind while creating pillar pages for your SaaS product:

1/ Don’t go overboard with internal linking

It is quite easy to get sucked into the trap of linking all your content pieces from a particular topic in your pillar page. That will most definitely get you in trouble.

Always remember, Google tends to penalise too many internal links. The penalties are even worse if many of the links are considered irrelevant.

2/ You need to have a ton of content around the topic

If you look at some of the pillar pages floating around the web, you would find a common theme in the titles.

“The most comprehensive guide to content marketing” “The only guide to email marketing you will ever need” “All there is to know about growing your business using Facebook Ads”

See a pattern there? They all present the perception of being a one-stop solution to the topic at hand. You can’t do that with just one piece of content, can you? It is hard to call something the most comprehensive guide if the overall content within (directly and indirectly - via pages they link to) isn’t comprehensive enough to put a book on the topic to shame.

So, when you create pillar page for a topic, make sure you are not just presenting a skeletal structure, rather you have enough meat on the bones.

3/ Don’t start with pillar pages

Pillar pages take a lot of time to create. They are expansive, and even though they don’t cover each aspect in great detail, they do touch up on most of the, if not all the different facets of a particular topic. And then, there is the fact that each pillar page is supported by a myriad of related content. All in all, it takes weeks and months to come up with all the content that makes a great pillar page.

It would be extremely disappointing to put in all that time, energy and heart into creating something only to find out your audience is not one bit interested in it. In the world of inbound marketing, just offering something of value isn’t enough, it needs to also be something your audience seeks an answer to.

So, don’t start with pillar pages.

Go about your content marketing business as you would have had before, and keep an eye out on the traffic they generate - specially the organic/search traffic. This is the traffic that you are looking to tap into. Once you see a pattern emerge - i.e. a common underlying theme emerging in your most popular content - you will have a definitive idea of the topic you should be creating pillar pages for.

Wrappin’ up

Your pillar pages are the wide, strong shoulders the rest of your content stands on. While you content on its own is capable of reaching out to a massive audience, creating pillar pages puts its performance on overdrive.

Pillar pages gives your content an even wider reach, more engagement, and creates a formidable presence for your SaaS business as an expert in your niche.

Oh. And let me answer a question I get asked the most - “Are pillar pages just another form of a blog post or are they a page on my SaaS website?” It can be both. It all depends on how you decide to structure your pillar pages. If you want it to be more text heavy, it can go as a blog post. On the other hand, if you want to break it up into small, easily readable segments, each linking to another page detailing out the sub-topic, a page divided into sections is a good way to go about it.

Thoughts and feedback? Talk to me.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers,

Abhishek

Subscribe to Benne Analytics Blog

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox