Blog posts, onsite copy, metadata. These have been trusted weapons in the content marketer’s arsenal for many years.
But recently, the battle for SEO supremacy has changed. Google has grown smarter while users' search habits have evolved.
The result? Those ol’ tricks just don’t work like they used to.
Luckily, content marketers have been working away to develop a new approach. A modern approach. A more strategic approach. A secret weapon.
And today, we’ve got our hands on the blueprints.
What could this secret weapon mean for your SEO battle plans? Let’s explore...
Observing the battle scene
Currently, around 7.5 million blog posts are uploaded online every single day. Yep, you read that right - 7.5 million.
Of these, we’re willing to wager that a significant proportion are written by fellow soldiers of the SEO army. This means many of these blog posts constitute optimised, top-of-the-funnel content targeting longer-tail keywords.
But this approach doesn’t pack quite the same punch as once did.
This is primarily due to an evolving search landscape. 64% of search queries now contain four words or more, meaning terms are now taking a more conversational tone.
Why? Well, this is owed in part to the rise in popularity of voice searches made through accessible virtual assistants such as Alexa, Google Home and Siri.
We’re also observing a trend towards more detailed search queries. This is representative of users’ desire to find the right information - and fast. Detailed search queries enable users to bypass the ‘junk’ and find the content that’s most relevant to their search - and search engines are getting smarter at helping them along the way.
The battlefield has changed in recent years, and so too should your weapon arsenal.
Through the magic of machine learning, Google’s algorithm has adapted to understand context, relevance and value more acutely than ever before. This includes the ability to translate and process synonyms and colloquialisms.
This means that a user who searches for ‘sweatshirts’, for example, will now also be served a relevant page for ‘jumpers’, without the page needing to be optimised for ‘sweatshirt’ related keywords.
For content writers, the combination of detailed search queries and ‘super synonym’ machine learning means our scope for relevant keywords rankings has increased. A lot.
As content writers, we need to address as many of these search variations as possible, and all without sacrificing the value of the information being offered.
Enter our secret weapon.
The secret weapon: pillar content
Smarter users and smarter search engines may sound like you’re fighting an uphill battle with your blog content from the off.
But fear not, and feast your eyes on the blueprints for our secret weapon: pillar content.
What is pillar content?
As we’ve touched on already, the traditional approach to SEO-driven blog content entailed creating individual blog posts and optimising for specific target keywords in the hopes the piece will rank.
Now, though, this is a bit like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
So, how do you navigate your warship through a sea of disorganised, competing content? Pillar content.
Our secret weapon was inspired by the concept of topic clusters. Pillar content enables you to assert authority on any given topic. It does this by creating a logical and valuable blog infrastructure that provides unrivaled value to both user and search engine each step of the way.
How does this work?
Pillar content places an emphasis on the architecture and organisation of your blog posts. This boasts a series of benefits from both a user and search engine perspective.
It all starts with your pillar post.
Your pillar post forms the foundation of your topic cluster, and should therefore be focused on the primary overarching topic for which you’d like to rank. This post will cover all aspects of your topic within a single piece, but will purposefully leave room for further exploration of each.
From here, you can begin creating your cluster content. This content is a series of separate blog posts that explore the individual components of your overarching topic in closer detail. Of course, be sure to optimise for relevant keywords along the way.
The pillar post will link off to your cluster content and vice versa, creating a network of content around any given topic that signals semantic relevance to Google. Do this using the same hyperlinked keyword, and, every time one page performs well, your entire topic cluster will receive a boost.
The logic here is actually pretty simple. By creating a streamlined blog infrastructure through pillar content and topic clusters, you’re creating an optimised architecture of information that serves three distinct purposes:
- Helps search engines ‘join the dots’ between your relevant content
- Helps readers find the information most relevant to them
- Enables closer, more detailed explorations of topics
Summarised? You’re demonstrating expertise, authority and trustworthiness: the perfect recipe for SEO success.
How to use
Creating successful pillar content requires you to think beyond the keywords. Instead, start by thinking about your topic.
Once you’ve settled on the overarching topic you’d like to rank for, you can then begin brainstorming blog post ideas. Think about the interests and challenges of your audience within your topic - what information do they need, and what are their most common pain points?
From here, you can then explore relevant keyword opportunities to suitably align your topic cluster with user search activity.
This should give you an overview of your pillar’s architecture: you have your main overarching topic and the more niche components you want to explore.
Your pillar post itself should look to find the balance between being broad enough that it’s not treading on the toes of your cluster content, but not so broad that the topic can’t be explored within a single pillar post.
To do this, feed your users the foundational information they need within your pillar post, then provide incentive for them to explore further. Do this successfully, and you’ll be able to nurture them through to conversion by creating a content cluster that aligns with each different step of their journey.
Staying up to date with the latest content best practices is integral to creating content that drives the results you want to see. To learn more about what other secret weapons we have hidden in our arsenal, get in touch with Paragraft today. We can’t wait to help you win your battle for organic visibility.