What is Pillar and Cluster Content?

‘Customer centricity’ is the phrase on everyone’s lips, and it’s easy to see why. Putting the audience at the heart of everything allows businesses – across practically every industry – to build strong relationships that organically drive conversions; an essential factor at a time when buyers don’t want to be sold to. And so, over recent years, there has been a growing, widespread shift towards businesses putting their customers first, and building processes and protocols deeply rooted in the needs of their audience.

And Google is no different.

Google is placing ever increasing importance on creating enhanced user experiences, adapting its algorithm to double down on meaning and context in a bid to provide better, more relevant results to its users. And with user searches becoming more and more detailed – mainly driven by the conversational aspect of voice search – Google is striving to provide search engine results that meet these highly specific search terms.

To do this, it’s vital that Google not only scans web content, but actually comprehends it, too. And this is where strategic pillar and cluster content can be your secret weapon.

Introducing Pillars & Clusters

Pillar and cluster content is website content that’s been built around a structured, collapsible framework that can expand to elaborate more closely on a particular topic.

It’s a bit like a flow chart which starts with a single idea, and then branches off into separate yet connected arms. The pillar content provides readers with a broad overview of a subject matter, while the clusters offer information on niche areas.

Think of it like this:

  • A pillar page provides an easy-to-absorb summary that covers an entire topic from start to finish. It offers a basic introduction into a particular area, briefly touching upon all of the important points included within the subject at hand. A pillar page is usually long form content to ensure all bases have been covered.
  • A cluster page focuses specifically on just one of the niche points covered in the pillar. It goes into much more detail, closely examining a particular area and essentially exhausting this point with the help of in depth research and analysis. A cluster page is often shorter than a pillar page, around 500 – 1500 words typically.

For example, imagine a business sells smart home devices. In this instance, a good pillar page would introduce the concept of the smart home, briefly looking into what a smart home is, what different types of devices are available, how they work, and the benefits they can bring. Cluster pages would take each of these points, and turn them into detailed pages that are not only linked to the pillar, but also work as standalone pages.

Pillars, Clusters, and SEO

The big question is; how does pillar and cluster content align with Google’s ranking algorithm? And the answer is simple: it helps Google to understand what content is about.

Think about how you normally create content. You probably create individual pages that are each optimised for a specific keyword, right? The problem with this approach is that it divides topics up into distinct sections, so that visitors only ever get one part of the story at a time. Exactly the same thing happens for Google; it only sees a small snippet. To fully understand the meaning of your content, Google needs to see the big picture.

That’s what pillar and cluster content does. By linking relevant clusters around a centralised concept, it becomes easier for Google to understand what you’re saying, ensuring that it can incorporate your pages into relevant results for audience searches.

Putting Your Audience First

The benefits of pillar and cluster content extend far beyond the confines of SEO. While organising your content using this model can help to improve ranking and boost online visibility, it can also help you to take a more customer centric approach and deliver an experience that better satisfies your audience and maximises on-site engagement.

How? When done correctly, pillar and cluster content can be used to guide your audience along the customer journey… without them ever needing to leave your website. While we all know that there’s no such thing as the ‘average’ customer journey, we do know that customers generally follow a pathway that takes them all the way through from awareness at the top of the funnel, to consideration, and decision.

In many cases, customers jump from one resource to the next in order to tick these boxes; a process that can result in loss of the customer at some point during the journey. The ability of pillar and cluster content to cover everything from basic overviews right down to in depth analyses means that they can get everything they need to make an informed decision right there on your own website, maximising chances of conversion.

How to Create Pillar & Cluster Content

The most effective and efficient way to incorporate the pillar and cluster framework into your content strategy is by taking a simple five-step approach to content creation:

  1. 1

    Choose a Topic

    You can use keyword research and analysis to identify what your target audience is searching for, just as you would when creating standard content for your website. This can provide you with ideas for broad, ‘umbrella’ topics that you can delve into.

  2. 2

    Break it Down

    Once you have a topic, you’ll need to break this topic down into smaller, bite size chunks that focus on just one specific area of the broader subject matter. ‘Fashion’, for example, could be broken down into clothing, accessories, trends, history, and so on.

  3. 3

    Create Clusters

    Every content creator will have their own preferred way of working, but it can often be easier to work on detailed clusters first, exhausting individual ideas and building strong, standalone pages that can later be brought together into a wider informative bundle.

  4. 4

    Summarise in Pillar

    Vital points in cluster content can be cherry picked and used to summarise each cluster within a broader pillar page. Pillar pages should always try to provide an end-to-end look at a specific subject matter, even if only briefing touching upon certain areas.

  5. 5

    Build Hyperlinks

    The final aspect of building pillar and cluster content is to bring everything together into one ecosystem. This is done by creating hyperlinks between the pillar and the individual clusters. This can make it easier for your visitors to effectively navigate your website.

Ready to get started with your own pillar and cluster content strategy? Get in touch for a custom quote.

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