Pillar Pages, Topic Clusters, and Internal Linking, Oh My!
Updated: Oct 26
Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters
Pillar pages organize your web pages through internal linking and related content.
Topic clusters are the web pages linked to and from the pillar page with related information.
What is a Pillar Page?
A pillar page contains the central subject from a topic cluster. The in-depth, high-quality content on the pillar page links to other relevant pages forming the topic cluster. Designing your website around pillar pages will help you organize your website's internal linking for better SEO.
Most importantly, pillar pages provide extensive, useful information for your customers. Remember, content is the key to a successful pillar page and topic clusters. Without the content, you have nothing for your customers.
As you can see in the illustration above, the central pillar page is like a hub. Pages with relevant content, represented by the smaller circles, link to and from the pillar page at the center. Using this model to set up your web page is right for your SEO for many reasons.
First, you are providing content for your customers with links to other helpful related, useful information.
Second, search engines have a clear path for their bots and spiders to find and crawl these pages.
Third, you're giving a clear picture of the website structure.
The SEO rewards could be significant if the pillar page format is followed.
As you can see in the example above, there are four main pillar pages, and each of these pillar pages has a cluster of other pages that support the main idea on the pillar page.
The quote below talks about the search engines, like Google, desire for high-quality content with the pillar page design.
"As it turns out, the search engine giant [Google] has changed its algorithm to favor topic-based content, making pillar pages a requirement for content marketers who want to maintain a high SERP ranking." –Hubspot
Information comes in many forms, and the type you choose should support your customer's needs. White papers, charts, graphs that prove a point, or documents researching a topic with backlinks to help the point, these are some forms your information can take.
The most important thing about the information you provide is that your customer finds it useful. Make sure all the information you supply is not about selling your customer a product or service. The sale comes much later in the buyers' process. Help your customers solve the issues they came to your site to solve first before you try selling anything.
Your content should be original and through to qualify as an excellent example of a pillar page.
Recall your days writing research papers in college. You have an introduction with an argument and an explanation about how you're going to prove the point. You lead the reader through the problem or case, explaining each issue thoroughly. You’re laying out a better way to think about the issues. You end the research paper with a well-written conclusion on how solving the problem your writing about will work based on the research you did. You supply citations to prove your argument even further and credit your sources. You never once used a sales pitch about how great you are or how you can do the best job possible.
Step to a college research paper:
Get familiar on the subject
Pick a topic
Form a thesis
Create an outline
When you are working on your content strategy, organize it similar to that of a research paper you wrote in college. Doing this will help you write a great pillar page.
Cluster Topic Pages
Cluster topic pages are an extension of the pillar page. The concept for topic pages is topics that support and are relevant to the pillar page content — not the same subject but related to the pillar page.
A great pillar page could have upwards for 10 or 12 links, or more, to other related, relevant pages. The linked pages are still in-depth, but the content might not be as long as the pillar page.
Topic clusters with links to the pillar pages allow you to provide even more relevant information that will help the searcher find answers to the issues they came to your site to solve.
The Information Process and Things to Think About
Always write for people first. If you are writing for the search engine first, it will show in the results.
When you write for people first, you will achieve better SEO rankings in the long run.
Research the subject thoroughly. Don't gloss over the information. People want to learn and are using your web pages for research to make a decision.
When searchers visit your site and find the information they want, they will become happy, loyal customers in the long run.
Don't go for the short goal. You will disappoint your customers and the search engines. Search engines like Google will take notice and rank your page poorly too.
Trust builds loyalty, and that, too, is a marketing strategy.
If a searcher goes to your site and finds credible information that helps them, they'll be much more inclined to choose you when it's time to buy.
Let's Dissect a Pillar Page.
A pillar page is about a specific subject that can branch off into other topics, or clusters, related to the central pillar page.
Any other relevant pages on your website, email campaign, blog post, or social media campaign can link back to your pillar page.
Pillar pages are naturally longer because they go in-depth on a subject. The subject is well researched and has the information your customers are looking to find.
Pillar pages will help you organize your content into understandable ideas that are easy to follow from the start of a customer's search. Ease of browse-ability is what you are going for here.
When you set your content up using the pillar page example, your SEO will benefit too. Your customers can find your information quickly, as well as search engines. The pillar page example is a logical web page structure for your website. You are cleaning up the clutter if you will. A clean site is an excellent website.
Boosting your rankings with internal linking is also a plus and will benefit your SEO.
Google's primary responsibility is to understand your website. A pillar page with links to relevant supporting topics, if set up correctly, will tell search engines what your business and site is all about.
A pillar page strategy will organize you, your website, and your search engine traffic.
Search engines like pillar pages because they have a lot of information contained in them and help them understand the site and web page better. They can then follow the link to relevant topic pages with additional information. Google would love to see pillar pages dominate the internet because most of them explore a subject in detail with quality content.
How do I get started on a Pillar Page?
The most important thing you want to do is make your customers happy by providing the information they are looking for to solve a problem they are having. Research what problems your customers are trying to solve?
Make a list of all the subjects related to your business that need to be explored.
See what your competitors are using for their topics.
Your keyword researched should have uncovered phrases for subjects your customers are already using in their online searching. Keyword research might be an excellent way to discover what information you need to be covering.
More Pillar Page Ideas and Cluster Topics
When you type a subject into Google, the search engine will try to suggest items as you type. Look at those suggested topics. It will give you a hint as to what to write about because people are already searching for those topics.
Below is an example from Google's search using "organize the…" Use the suggested answer as topics for a blog post that then links to a relevant pillar page.
If you need even more suggestions, go down to the bottom of the search results page and see "Searches related to…" for your subject. These are also good ideas because people are already searching for them.
Following the pillar page design will help your content marketing strategy and will begin to make sense to you, your customers, and search engines.
Follow this outline for your pillar page:
Write a headline that pulls your customer into the page to find out more.
Write an introduction that builds credibility by making a case to read the whole article.
If the content is lengthy, add hyperlinks to the different sections or add a table of contents.
Separate the sections to make the organization clear to the reader.
Some pillar pages will be structured similar to e-books.
A Call-to-Action is not necessary on a pillar page, but adding one is okay.
Lists and numbers break up the copy making it easier to read, scan, and follow the flow.
Design the page with contrasting colors for ease of reading.
Graphics and photos will help explain and support your topic, along with breaking up the text blocks.
Add links to relevant pages within the text of the page.
The end of the pillar page with links to relevant pages.
The Sale Pitch Does Not Belong on a Pillar Page
Think of it this way, you're looking for information related to your business, are you ready to buy a product the first time you set eyes on a web page?
No, you're looking for information. You want to do some research before you make a decision. Reading information about the subject you are researching is the reason you went to a search engine in the first place.
We all know what it is like to submit a query and get page after page of search results from companies trying to sell you their products without answering your questions. Search engines, like Google, want to cure the no information problem, and the right kind of pillar page will help correct the lack of information problem.
Examples of a Few Pillar Page
Global App Testing
Note the "QA Testing Resources" on the right side of the page with links to other pages in their topic cluster.
Note the list on the left side of the page for links to other pages in their topic cluster.
Search engines are using new algorithms designed to provide the best possible answers to a searchers' queries. Search engines are rewarding high-quality informational content and penalizing irrelevant or selling content.
With the information provided on a central pillar page, the article is naturally longer with more substance, which is what that the searcher and search engines want. When the searcher requires more information, they then have links to relevant topics on the linked cluster topic pages.
Don't be stingy with your knowledge. Become the expert of choice in your industry, locality, or field. It's a bold marketing choice.
About the Author
Wendy Danko is an SEO and Web Design Consultant at WenKo LLC. Having a design background has its perks, especially when it comes to website design and SEO. Wendy is determined to help every one of her clients improve their website and SEO. With website improvements, her clients have uncovered new leads to grow their client base.