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What Are Content Pillars?

Date published: December 18, 2023
Last updated: February 20, 2024

Content creation is a vast and intricate process. It can take multiple forms and can serve many needs. 

Content pillars are a common tool marketers use to channel their content marketing strategy efforts. They provide a sense of purpose and focus that is difficult to achieve when a marketing team generates individual and unrelated content.

If you’ve heard of content pillars but aren’t sure what they are, it’s worth investigating. Here is a breakdown of what content pillars are, the many forms they can take, and why you really should be using them as an integral part of your content strategy.

What Are Content Pillars?

Content pillars are substantial and lengthy pieces of educational content that a business builds around each of the primary concepts that it wants to emphasize as a unique selling point for its business model. Pillars tend to be long form pieces of content, running around 3,000 words, depending on the marketing philosophy you’re following. 

To truly be a content pillar, these resources must also have the potential to break down into a variety of derivative resources and materials. Each of these focuses on a unique and detailed section of the primary content pillar, uses similar keywords and topics, and links back to the original central resource.

What Are Pillar Topics?

Every business has a core topic or many themes that they focus on. This could be something specific, like a marketing company emphasizing the ability to help clients gain organic traffic. It could also be broader, such as a tech company prioritizing innovation.

Usually, there are a handful of themes that a company values above everything else. There are three or four areas where a brand attempts to truly set the standard and excel above the competition. Pillars should focus on these select areas.

What Are Other Words for Content Pillars and Their Supporting Content?

Content “pillars” are a common name for large, central repositories of information that focus on the specific themes for which a company wants to be known. The analogy makes sense since these pillars provide structure for the content creation process and hold up a brand’s larger content strategy. 

However, in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, there are other terms that refer to this kind of content, too. For example, content pillars are also called content topics or content categories. Some marketers refer to content pillars as “buckets,” too. The imagery here, once again simple, as content pillars buckets hold the primary information that their supporting resources draw on and link back to.  

Creating content also goes beyond the primary pillars. In many cases, as marketing teams build out from a pillar, they will create sub-pillars that go in-depth on supporting topics. From there, they will create even smaller individual blog articles and social media content that makes individual, highly targeted support points. Altogether, these pillars, sub-pillars, and blog and social posts are called topic clusters.

What Types of Content Do Pillars Include?

As we already mentioned, a pillar is a very long resource that usually contains at least 3,000 words. These live on your website. They are keyword-rich, usually focusing on around 15 to 20 high-value keywords that are particularly relevant to the larger topic. Pillars also serve as a primary option for internal linking.

There are many supporting resources that a team can build out from a pillar. This starts with a variety of on-site relevant content, including sub-pillars and smaller blog articles related to the subject.

While these are the essential elements that make up a content pillar strategy, a well-constructed pillar and its ancillary resources can spawn the creation of countless additional marketing assets. For instance, content creators can generate on-theme off-site content such as a social media post and email marketing campaigns that link back to your pillar page. They can also create gated content, like whitepapers and demos, that can help potential customers work their way down the sales funnel.

Why Are Content Pillars Beneficial to Content Marketing Strategy?

A content pillar strategy has a number of important benefits. For instance, it can:

Image showing the benefits of what are content pillars

From on-site SEO to social media marketing, pillars can provide a synergy that impacts all of your content marketing efforts.

What Is an Example of a Content Pillar?

To get a better idea of what pillar content looks like, let’s go over some content pillar examples. Consider the marketing team at a hypothetical fintech budgeting app company that wants to use a content pillar template to boost its content strategy.

The group starts by identifying three themes that lie at the core of their software: general budgeting tips, investment strategies, and paying off debt. They decide to build a pillar for each of these, starting with mobile-friendly tech. 

From there, they lay the groundwork, conducting keyword research and observing competing resources. They build out a 3,000-word pillar on the mobile-friendly concept that covers all of the major aspects of that theme without going into too much detail in any one area.

Next, they create three or four sub-pillars detailing support themes, like fintech security on mobile devices, mobile check deposits, and maintaining mobile-friendly websites. They break these down into further support resources, starting with a highly targeted blog post, or more, for each sub-pillar.

Along with developing the actual pieces of the pillar, the group puts together a content calendar to help guide the creation and publication process. They also develop a plan to generate supporting content to post on social media channels and send out via email campaigns. The final result is a keyword-rich, interlinked series of on-site valuable content that leads to countless additional off-site content opportunities, all of which reinforce a theme that the brand prioritizes as part of its key content marketing strategy.

Using Pillars to Supercharge Your Content

Content pillars breathe purpose and direction into every great content piece that you create. They give you a central point to build off of and focus your content marketing messages on a few essential themes.

If you’re unsure what those themes are for your business or you need help creating a strategy to build pillared content around them, consider finding a reputable content marketing agency. A third-party partner can ensure that you make the most of your pillar pages and keep your content creation process efficient and effective both now and for the long-term.

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