OK, so saying SEO is dead is a bolshy statement, but SEO as we once knew it is, and there are far better ways to attract traffic and leads in 2018. It's not easy to keep up with the latest in SEO and right when you get a handle on what to do, the big search engines change the game. While there's tons of advice on the internet, most of it is old and contradictory at this point, and much of the opinion will promote the idea of building quality links with content external to your site. But in 2018 the way to win the game long term is to think about the quality of content on your own site and how that can attract and build rapport with your target audience. 

There are still to many business owners still working on optimising their keyword strategy, not realising that Google doesn't work that way anymore. Google's machine learning algorithms now award higher rankings for pillar pages and topic clusters. But why? That is the question you should be asking and one we want to discuss in this post.

Here's a quick introduction to the latest concepts in content marketing, along with suggestions on how to use it to rank better in 2018.

What Is a Pillar Page?

When people go to a site, they want more than a sales pitch. They generally want answers. For decades now, Google has struggled to find the right approach to automatically prioritising all the billions of websites out there to give searchers what they want in the first page. On the other side of the table, SEO experts are constantly experimenting to figure out how to rank higher on the results page for specific topics.

What's changed in 2018 is that people are - four or more words on average. About a fifth of these queries are so specific that Google says they've never seen them before. That's why Google is moving away from keyword-based algorithms to whole page analysis algorithms that can better match searchers with the pages they want.

The concept of a "pillar page" is a webpage designed to help the general public get answers on a specific topic, and only secondarily provide a channel to sales if the searcher wants to make a purchase or inquiry. A pillar page is a built around a single topic that can be tied to several other pages that delve into one aspect of the topic in more detail.

An ideal pillar page should solve problems, load quickly on mobile devices, and provide a great experience with vibrant visuals, easy readability, artistic layouts, and anything else that makes a site visitor want to look around for more information. We also recommend having some form of lead magnet on the pillar pages that will deliver (a truly valuable) asset for the site user in return for their contact information.


What Is a Topic Cluster?

You are never going to be able to predict the exact questions that site visitors are going to ask, nor can your sales page seek to discuss, in detail every aspect of your professional service. This is where the topic cluster really come into play. If you used the keyword "Financial Planning For Retirement" as a pillar content page, there are quite a few topic niches or “cluster topics” that can spin off this idea. You will then publish those topics that relate to the pillar and link them back to the pillar page. And because the Cluster Topics are specific in nature, these pages will rank well and attract exactly the right traffic. Once the site user has landed on your cluster topic page there should be clear ascension path that leads them to the Pillar Content page where you will have an Irresistible Lead Magnet to generate marketing leads for your business.

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Where Do I Go for More Information?

There are plenty of resources out there on pillar pages and topic clusters. Search Engine Journal has a valuable list of authoritative SEO sources updated for 2018. You can also look over some examples of great pillar pages on Medium. Just remember that nobody has the definitive answer on how to reach the top of the search results page. Everything is based on experimentation and even when you find something that works, search engines are going to evolve so your SEO strategy will have to evolve right along with them.

Mark Travers