What Is a Pillar Page in SEO? Best Practices & Examples

Pillar pages come in all shapes and sizes, but they all do one thing: provide a broad overview of a topic and link to relevant, detailed pieces of content.

June 28, 2024
Written by
Lizzie Davey
Reviewed by
Nate Matherson

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A pillar page is the center of a topic cluster — a group of webpages that completely cover a topic. Pillar pages provide a broad overview of the main topic, and they link to pages that address subtopics or add more details. 

Topic clusters not only make it easy for website visitors to find exactly what they need, but also send all the right signals to search engines — thereby boosting a site’s visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Creating pillar pages and cluster pages of relevant content helps increase your topical authority, is key to a strong internal linking strategy, and helps you build backlinks from external sources.

What Should Pillar Pages Contain? 

Pillar pages should cover a broad topic in an authoritative way. A good pillar page provides a comprehensive overview and serves as a central hub linking to related content that provides details or covers subtopics. 

For example, you might have a pillar page that’s an overview of SEO — it would include information about what SEO is, explain why it’s important, and provide steps for creating an SEO strategy. You might target a keyword like “what is SEO” with this page. 

Each section of this pillar page might link to individual blog posts or pages that go deeper into specific topics. These pages might include standalone articles about different elements of SEO, such as technical SEO, creating high-quality content, and choosing primary keywords.

Why Pillar Pages Are Important 

Pillar pages are a crucial component of a good internal linking strategy, and they help Google understand what your website is about. 

Here’s what they can help you do: 

Build Topical Authority 

Think of a topic cluster as a network of interlinked pages that, together, provide a comprehensive resource on a subject. Topic clusters are helpful for your site visitors, and they signal to search engines that your site has authoritative and well-organized content, which can boost your visibility, page rankings, and topical authority.

For example, if you’ve written a host of high-quality, linked posts about the ins and outs of SEO, you’re telling Google that you’re an authority on this subject. Google will come to understand that your website has useful, relevant information, and it will feel comfortable serving your posts to searchers. 

Improve Internal Linking 

A good topic cluster is supported by internal linking. Essentially, the pillar page links out to the topic cluster pieces, and vice versa, to create an interconnected library of content. This type of internal linking helps search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your website, making it easier for them to index your content. 

Internal links to related pages guide users through your site, keeping them engaged and encouraging them to explore more of your content. And there’s another benefit: internal links distribute PageRank (page authority) and ranking power across your site, enhancing the SEO performance of new and existing pages. 

Rank Better for Long-Tail Keywords with Cluster Pages

Pillar pages often target high-volume, high-competition keywords, which can make ranking tricky — especially if the keyword is very broad. But pillar pages are important for building out your site structure, which can help more cluster pages rank better for longer-tail keywords.

Internally linking from pillar pages to cluster pages serving long-tail keywords will ultimately help those cluster pages rank better in search.

Generate More Backlinks

When your pillar pages end up ranking for broad, high-volume keywords, they end up attracting backlinks. Pillar pages make for highly referenceable and linkable content, since they not only broadly cover big topics but also link out to helpful in-depth content.

Many sites out there want to link to comprehensive guides on a topic (for example, if they don’t have the resources to create one themselves), and these links can help you rank higher on SERPs.

For example, the Digital Marketing Institute’s pillar page about SEO has accumulated backlinks from more than 300 referring domains.

Provide a Better Experience for Users

Readers are likely to stick around if they’ve found a well of useful content. Linking between pillar content and relevant cluster content can keep visitors on your site longer — another signal to Google that your content is relevant and useful. 

Identify Content Gaps 

The topic cluster strategy helps you comprehensively cover a topic. It also helps you uncover content gaps. By creating a pillar page, you’ll often uncover other primary keywords that your content should address.  

An Example of a Pillar Page 

Our comprehensive post What Are Backlinks in SEO? A Beginner’s Guide targets a very broad keyword: “backlinks.” 

As you can see, it has a monthly search volume of 8,100, and its competition (or difficulty score) is eye-wateringly high at 100. But it links out to more specific pages within the topic cluster — for example, there are links to posts on guest blogging, link bait, building backlinks, and domain authority

The Different Types of Pillar Pages

Most pillar pages provide a comprehensive overview of a topic. They often have titles or subheads like “What Is X?” “Why Is X important?” or “How to Do X”. 

Here are some of the most common types of pillar pages.

Ultimate Guides

These are all-inclusive guides to a specific topic. 

This Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing by HubSpot covers everything from what email marketing is and how to get started to important regulations and email marketing tips. 

Each section links out to further reading about specific subtopics. For example, there are links to pieces about compliance regulations, email newsletters, and choosing an email marketing tool. 

Creating an ultimate guide to a broad topic is one of the easiest ways to build out a comprehensive pillar page. They tend to follow a “what, why, and how” structure, with a description of the topic, an explanation of why it’s important to the reader, and a step-by-step guide to getting started or taking a specific action. 

“What Is” Pages

These pages answer the question they pose: they describe a common practice or object before diving into more detail. Our “What Are Backlinks in SEO?” post is a good example of this type of pillar page.

Once you’ve explained the primary keyword, you can continue to highlight why it’s important and provide other information that readers might find useful. Within each of these sections, you can link out to cluster topics that offer practical tips or more focused reading on specific aspects of the primary keyword — for example, “how to build backlinks” or “the benefits of guest blogging” 

How-to Pages

These pages are practical pillar pages that walk readers through a specific task or action. They’re most useful for targeting keywords about a common practice, task, or activity, and highlighting your expertise by showing readers you know what you’re talking about. 

For example, this piece on Masterclass links out to various cluster pages, including pages that cover how to use writing tropes, how to write a book proposal, and how to find a literary agent. 

It acts as a one-stop shop for anyone wanting to write a book. If readers want to learn more and dive even deeper, they can branch off to the cluster pages to continue learning about the book writing process. 

How to Create a Pillar Page

There are two ways you can create a pillar page: 

  • Start with your pillar topic.
  • Start with your cluster topics. 

Both are valid ways to do it. Here’s how to do both. 

Method 1: Start with Your Pillar Page Idea

You can reverse-engineer this process and start with your pillar page before breaking it down into content clusters. This works well if you have a highly relevant broad keyword that you want to rank for. 

Here’s how to do it: 

1. Identify Your Core Topic

First, identify the broad topic for your pillar page. For example, if you want to rank for the keyword “ecommerce SEO” because you have an ecommerce SEO tool, you might choose to create a pillar like one of these: 

  • The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce SEO
  • What Is Ecommerce SEO? Everything You Need to Know
  • How to Implement Ecommerce SEO 

2. Conduct Keyword Research

Use a keyword research tool to identify high-volume competitive keywords related to your core topics. You can use these keywords to start mapping out the structure of your pillar page and relevant cluster pages. 

Here are some additional terms related to the pillar page keyword we’ve chosen: 

These terms can inform the different sections of your pillar page or the cluster pages you create. For example, you might create a section about building an ecommerce SEO strategy, one about running an ecommerce SEO audit, and another with some ecommerce SEO tips. Each of these sections will offer a brief overview of the subtopic and a link to a page with more details.

If you are ever confused as to whether a cluster topic should be broken out into a cluster page or served only by the pillar topic, the easiest thing to do is to look at the search results for both keywords. 

For example, if you notice that the search results are largely the same for a cluster topic and a pillar topic, you’ll serve those keywords on the same page. However, if the search results are much more specific to the keyword for a cluster topic, that would suggest that the keyword should be broken out into a cluster page (and you’ll internally link over to it from the pillar page). You can do this process manually or use a keyword clustering tool to automatically group and split keywords based on SERP results.

3. Outline Your Pillar Page

Using your keyword research, start outlining your pillar page, section by section, making sure you include all relevant keywords. In an ideal world, each section of your pillar page will become its own standalone cluster page, so bear this in mind as you outline. 

Tip: structure your pillar page with sections that cover the what, why, and how of your core topic and highlight which sections or keywords will become their own standalone posts. 

Method 2: Come Up with Your Cluster Topics First

This is the method we used to create our SEO pillar page about backlinks.

First, you need to create a cluster of keywords within the backlinks topic space.

You can do this with a keyword cluster tool: either type in your core keyword, and it’ll return relevant cluster topics, or upload a list of existing keywords and let the tool group the most relevant terms. 

This example shows keyword clusters for the term “backlinks”: 

You can see the primary keyword for each cluster topic and drill down into the secondary keywords for each result. For example, you might create a cluster piece about backlink building, one about how to get backlinks, and another one covering backlink checkers. These will all link to your pillar page and vice versa. 

The next step is to choose the keyword for your pillar page. 

Usually, this will be a high-volume, competitive keyword that covers all the bases. 

For example, here, we might choose “backlinks,” which, in the aggregate, receives 37,710 searches each month and has a high competition score.

Tip: choose a keyword that you know you can write a lot about and cover from different angles. You want to be able to write several cluster topic pieces about various aspects of your pillar page keyword, so don’t limit yourself. 

Once you have your pillar page keyword, you can run it through a keyword tool to find relevant search phrases that you can either incorporate into your pillar piece or link out to as cluster topics. 

Write and Optimize Your Pillar Page Content 

Once you’ve mapped out your pillar page and potential cluster topics, it’s time to create the content. Write high-quality, engaging content that draws on your unique experience and expertise, and optimize for search engines by naturally incorporating keywords, using headers, and adding relevant external links. Don’t forget to link to your cluster posts from your pillar page and vice versa.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Pillar Pages

Using a pillar page strategy can be an effective way to improve your internal linking structure and boost your search rankings — but you have to do it right. Google actively seeks out high-quality, informative content that its users find useful. 

Here are some common mistakes website owners make when creating pillar pages. 

  • Choosing a topic that’s too broad or too narrow: Make sure your pillar topic is broad enough to cover various subtopics but not so broad that it becomes overwhelming. 
  • Neglecting quality over quantity: Focus on creating high-quality content that provides real value to your readers rather than just trying to cover as many keywords as possible. 
  • Poor internal linking structure: Make sure your pillar page and cluster pages are well linked, to help users and search engines navigate your content effectively. 
  • Ignoring SEO best practices: Don’t forget to optimize your content for SEO, including keyword usage in header elements, title tags, and alt text for your images. 

Final Thoughts 

Pillar pages and topic clusters help to build your topical authority. They show Google that you’re an expert on a topic. In addition, they keep visitors on your site longer by providing detailed, useful information about topics they care about. 

Pillar pages come in all shapes and sizes, but they all do one thing: provide a broad overview of a topic and link to relevant, detailed pieces of content. Start by researching high-volume, competitive keywords to identify potential pillar page topics, and then drill down into long-tail keywords to find your accompanying cluster topics. 

Lizzie Davey

Lizzie is a freelance writer for B2B e-commerce and SaaS brands. Over the past ten years, she's written millions of words that have turned readers into customers and loyal fans. When she's not typing away at her desk in Brighton, she's creating resources for freelancers, practicing aerial silks, or hopping on a plane. Lizzie has worked with several fantastic content marketing teams, including those at Zapier, Shopify, and Klaviyo.

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