Learn how to use pillar pages to boost your search rankings by 40%

Pillar pages, along with the use of topic clusters, are not often discussed when it comes to content creation and management, but when used correctly, it could become an excellent asset for search ranking boosts. 

After all, in any discussion about marketing online, the content remains one of the primary factors driving traffic to a website. A company could employ numerous techniques to improve website traffic, but without the right kind of content and content marketing, the visitors won’t stay for long. 

SEO tuning is also important in mobile-optimized websites, as many people who browse through their phones are often in transit and looking for something interesting to read to pass the time. And if they happen to be caught in a topic cluster that they like on your website, they will stick around.

When it comes to good content, there are many techniques to try. Some tell a story for a brand even when they don’t appear to do so implicitly. But one of the underutilized but effective tactics to draw in traffic and even boost search rankings with content marketing is through the use of topic clusters in pillar pages.

The Pillars of Content Marketing Success

pillar page content

The term “pillar page” may not be as familiar to some people online, but content marketers may have heard of the term before in the race to keep up with the changes Google implements on its search engine. As the company dictates the way SEO works through tweaks in its algorithm, SEO marketers have to adapt to it. 

There’s always a constant need to adjust to the changing algorithm, and with those changes come updates to any company’s content strategy. And one of the more recent updates suggests that topic clusters may be the way to go.

One of the more significant changes that Google has put out onto its algorithm is that it takes a site’s “authority” as part of the qualification of whether or not a website or web page is going to rank high on search results for specific keywords. 

This means that not only do content specialists have to create excellent content with the right keywords, but they would have to structure the content on the site in such a way that it demonstrates their authority of a particular subject. 

Because of this significant change, it becomes evident that companies need to use a pillar page and topic clusters to establish their site as the kind of authority that Google’s algorithm will place high up on the search results.

A pillar page is defined as a page that can give the reader comprehensive overviews of a topic. It works in conjunction with the topic clusters. Imagine the pillar page as the trunk of a tree. 

The topic clusters are the larger, support branches of this tree, spreading out into smaller branches or subtopics. The topic clusters themselves are interlinked articles and web pages discussing a specific topic or revolve around a particular keyword. 

The pillar page connects and holds them together, giving the website structure, and helping Google understand the site better.

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Power of the Topic Cluster: Why Use It or Pillar Pages?

Consider this: When was the last time you took a “wiki walk”? This is an instance where, in the middle of reading an article, you click an interesting link within it, linking to another page within the same site that discusses a different aspect of the same or similar topic. 

Soon, you find yourself traversing through multiple pages, reading your way around the site. This is what topic clusters are noted for; they can give customers interconnected sources of information that will keep them on the site and engaged. 

This web of connected content experiences is of incredible value to any website and the reader seeking vital information. Furthermore, it establishes the site to Google as an authority in the matter.  

It might be a little strange, choosing topics over keywords, but Google’s changes to the algorithm don’t only rank pages now with considerations for authority. It also now has a better understanding of semantic keywords, conversational language, and other colloquialisms. 

As a result, it can better understand what the user is searching for and what specific topic cluster they want. Keywords alone can’t define the complexities of the human language used to search for something they are looking for, and they can’t always determine the intent of the searcher.

Take, for example, someone searching for a movie or TV show. They only have a vague memory of a scene and a location, but not the name. If the algorithm still relied on just keywords, the results wouldn’t send back what they were looking for since the keyword to the movie or the show would be its name. 

But with the new algorithm change, the topic cluster is picked up. Words about the movie or the TV show are taken into account and return the title as a search result. 

The topic clusters will work the same way for company websites as customers search for something related and end up at the site’s pillar page that holds it all together. 

Suppose a potential site visitor is browsing for travel through Europe, and a site’s pillar page has several good sightseeing destinations for different European countries. In that case, it could rank high on the new algorithm. Furthermore, the customer will click on the pillar page itself, but they’ll head to the whole cluster, looking through pages of individual countries’ famous destinations.

Quality vs. Quantity: Why Choose? Get Both.

marketing content quality

The reason people are on the internet because it’s the single most incredible information tool in humankind. People go to search engines and browse websites to learn something and for entertainment. And if the website provides high-quality content in large quantities, users will keep coming back. 

However, for many websites, many information ends up being a haphazard mishmash of various topics. It can be cumbersome. 

After all, one of the cardinal rules of creating content for websites is to be as concise as possible; having much content on a website could make it difficult for search engines to crawl them. The individual pages would also end up competing with each other on the rankings. 

But a website carefully structured to use the topic cluster or pillar page strategy will have a large quantity of useful content that has already been carefully sorted and classified, making it easier for users to navigate. It improves the overall user experience and makes users keep coming back to it. 

It further boosts the site’s presence as an authority on the subject when it’s easily navigable, understandable, and informative. And most of all, it will make sure that search engines can still crawl them quickly and efficiently, leading to better rankings.

Clusters and the Real Impact on SERPs

google serp

Cambria Davies and Hubspot took a more in-depth look into whether topic clusters impact website presence in search engine results pages (SERPs). The study, which was extensive in its findings, underscored that more interlinking took place with this content strategy. And the website did far better in SERPs with more interlinking. 

The more tightly woven together the content was, and the more internal links produced by the strategy, the higher the SERP placement. There were also more views and impressions from users.

The same also applied when they increased outbound external links. After creating a new topic cluster, they created outbound external links in the subpages towards other pages that had relevant content on the matter. 

This method shows Google that the topic cluster created is a one-stop-shop for a great deal of information on the subject, making Google rank it higher in the SERPs.

These strategies showed clear indicators of growth. This was compounded by updating existing site content to reflect more current information and adjusting it to the new content strategy, which led to a definite boost in the organic traffic growth pattern. 

Posts with updated content, optimized links, and added page relevancy increased weekly search traffic growth. Maximum growth was also achieved when the site doubled down on a single, primary topic across all its content. 

Ultimately, utilizing topic clusters for your website makes it more engaging and valuable to readers. Meanwhile, having a pillar page to organize the clusters makes it easier and more efficient for Google not just to learn your site but also builds the site up as a trustworthy authority not just in specific keywords but also on topics.

Bump and Boost: Tips to Boost Rankings Through Clusters and Pillars

search rankings

Using clusters and pillars makes it far easier to climb up the ranks of Google’s search results, especially after the significant changes to the algorithm. It’s time that site owners take the opportunity to restructure their site and its content and start generating pages containing related content. 

To get started on developing topic clusters for a website to give it that much-needed ranking boost, you could try the following tips:

Create a pillar page or article.

Going back to the tree analogy—first, there needs to be a robust foundational branch. Start with a piece of content or a page on the site that discusses the main topic. From this page, the topic cluster can begin by linking the article to other pages within site, all falling under the pillar’s primary subject. 

These could be articles further elaborated on specific points in the main article or other aspects that haven’t been discussed. This is also an excellent tactic for using target keywords with a high search volume and plenty of competition and difficulty. Start with a short-tail keyword for the pillar and then long-tail keywords for the subsequent articles linked to it in the topic cluster.

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Do a comprehensive audit of the current content.

Using a pillar page and clusters strategy will require an overhaul of how content is distributed from the website. It’s hard to reorganize when you don’t know what you have. One crucial thing that site owners shouldn’t overlook is doing an audit of the existing content. 

Categorize them into their topics, and determine where bridges or clusters can be built among them. The topics can be pretty broad, and you might be surprised at how much existing content can be changed, expanded, or even be turned into their pillar with supplementary articles.

Dive deep into the pillar pages.

The topic selected for a pillar could be pretty broad. If you start with something like “IT security,” it could expand into any number of topic subpages, with some of the subjects becoming their pillars as well. 

At this point, don’t be afraid to dive deep when building the pillar page itself. It could go all the way up to 3,000 words or more. Organize it by cutting it down to subheadings and subcategories—digestible chunks similar to what happens on a Wikipedia page. 

Remember, this page’s goal is to branch out to as much of the cluster as possible. It becomes central to the rest of the cluster as a hub for all the other pages users will click from.

Strategize the subtopics.

The problem with choosing a broad main topic is what to write about it next. There are just so many potential options and new topics that could branch out from it. They might even end up being topic clusters of their own. Instead of going through each possible connection, strategize the subtopics or articles that will come after the pillar. 

One great way to do this is to connect with the customer service team or social media team. Ask them the most common questions, what is often asked by the current customers, and what potential customers typically look for. From there, you can start planning out subtopics to link to the central pillar that also answers customers’ questions.

Check for gaps and dead zones.

Once you’ve done a complete audit of the existing content, identify what connects to a pillar, what can be expanded, other present issues, and figure out what isn’t there. Gaps in the content, issues, or topics that haven’t been addressed can be identified in doing these. 

From here, these topics could be added to the content strategy. The new subtopics and subpages can be carefully constructed according to the new layout and fit better among the new clusters. They can also address new ideas and concepts that the company may want to introduce to answer the queries or a business’s natural expansion.

Try to use LSI keywords.

When creating your pillar page or designing your topic clusters, Latent Semantic Indexing keywords are another tool that you can utilize for better search engine placement. These are the keywords that are connected to the main keywords found within the pillar page. 

With the LSI keywords, Google can make the search experience better for users to determine the search’s intent. Sprinkle in these keywords through the content, creating more context on the post instead of just using the same keywords over and over.

Guest post articles are your friends.

The other advantage of using topic clusters is that they can aid significantly in an existing backlinking campaign. Backlinking and other similar strategies work well in conjunction with this structure, but it can improve further by creating a guest-posting strategy. 

This allows you to publish posts by way of high-quality publications. At the same time, you can link back to your pillar pages on the topic. This will significantly boost the search ranking and establish the site as a considerable authority. The topic clusters don’t have to just be on your site—it could be on other authoritative websites.

Add a “relevant content” section after the blog posts.

You might have noticed that on many authoritative sites (news sites, popular blogs, and more), each post is followed by a content section at the bottom. This relevant content section contains “further reading” for your site visitors. 

If they haven’t clicked through the links in the article’s body, they’ll find more informative pages and articles about the topic they just read about elsewhere on the site. This relevant content doesn’t have to be restricted to links to more articles either; it could lead to reviews, comparative notes, infographics, or other content that they might want to read about.

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Pillar page examples

Also known as a content pillar, topic clusters, or power page, a pillar page or pillar post is a web page that covers the overall topic in-depth and links to the clusters of related content. Three commonly used pillar page types are:

  • 10x content pillar page
  • Resource pillar page
  • Product or service pillar page

10X content pillar page

A 10x pillar page generally contains your owned media – the content you own and control. The format is similar to an ungated e-book or a guide.

Resource pillar page

The resource pillar page is a bookmarkable reference page of valuable like-themed links. When creating pages like this, your linking strategy is essential to consider. Let’s review three ways to create it.

Service pillar page

If your business offers various products and services, you might benefit from a pillar page focused on a product or service. A good example is the Matrix Marketing Group’s service pillar page on its marketing manufacturing services.

Final words on Pillar Pages

All in all, the topic cluster strategy and the use of pillar pages is one that calls for an overhaul of a website. It’s a transformation specifically designed to adhere to the new algorithm, as defined by Google. 

It will take a significant amount of work and content shifting and all original content that would need to be created. But once all is said and done, it can give the website a surprising boost in Google search result rankings. 

Beyond that, it could establish the website as an authority, not just to Google, but to readers as well, driving them to come back to reference the site over and over again. All it takes is to grow the site like a tree—with strong foundations, branches, and continually letting it grow.

Have you experienced challenges in dealing with Google’s algorithm changes? Would topic clusters be something that could work for your website? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

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General FAQs

What is a pillar page?

Also known as a content pillar or power page, a pillar page is a web page that covers the overall topic in-depth and links to the clusters of related content. Three commonly used pillar page types are 10x content pillar pages.

How many pillar pages should you have?

There are no explicit guidelines for how long your pillar page should be, but if youre going to be comprehensive, you should probably aim for at least 2,500 words and try to stay under 6,000 (remember, you‘ll go more in-depth on subtopics in other posts).

What is the topic cluster?

What Are Topic Clusters? A topic cluster is a group of interlinked web pages. They’re built around one piece of pillar content targeting a broad topic, linked to several related but more narrowly-focused pages.

Why are topic clusters important?

topic cluster is multiple pieces of content grouped by a shared topic and related subtopics. As a whole, these pages offer comprehensive coverage of a specific subject. That enables visitors to satisfy their search query while visiting your site.

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