The Value of Content Pillars

Cody Pierson

Back in 2016, as part of their Whiteboard Friday segment, Moz introduced the concept of ‘10x content.’ The idea was, as Google gets increasingly smarter and your competitors’ SEO gets increasingly better, the best way to stand out is to produce a piece of content 10 times better than whatever your competitors have produced.

Fast forward a few years, and we’ve seen that idea become the pillar that supports a whole approach to SEO and content marketing — and it’s called, unsurprisingly, pillar content.

What is pillar content?

Mechanically speaking, a content pillar is an ungated, longform (1500+ word) piece of content that provides a comprehensive look at a single topic (check out this HubSpot article for some great examples). At first blush, it resembles a long blog post, but pillar content typically has more graphical or interactive elements than a standard blog post.

Pillar content also has a longer shelf-life than the average blog post, because it’s meant to be your definitive look at a specific topic. If something related to that topic changes, you should be changing your pillar content to reflect that.

How do we identify content pillars?

A good content pillar should be two things:
  1. Central to your business
  2. 10x better than anything else on the internet about that topic

Finding a topic that checks both of those boxes involves laying out all the topics you could realistically write about, deciding which ones are most important to your business, which ones your target audiences are talking or asking about and which ones you can realistically produce ‘10x content’ for. Where those three Venn diagram circles overlap, you’ve got your pillar content.

Odds are, you’re going to want to write about a few things that somebody else has already nailed or that don’t have quite enough traffic to warrant a pillar. Resist that temptation and just keep brainstorming. Try approaching a larger topic from an industry, or geography-specific angle. Try drilling into the sub-categories of your product offerings.

Regardless of what you settle on, the exercise of choosing an area of focus for your content efforts will be beneficial for your content team.

Should we stop traditional blogging?

Did you write everything there is to know about your pillar topic in that one 1500-word article? I didn’t think so! That means it’s time to bust out the editorial calendar and figure out all the other stuff you’ve got to say about that topic.

Ironically, content pillars are best when they don’t stand alone, so you shouldn’t give up traditional blogging. What you should do is use your blog as an opportunity to explore sub-topics of your main topic, talk about how new developments affect your main topic or provide next-level content on your main topic.

This allows you to produce smaller pieces of content to answer more specific questions or topics (which are still super-valuable content) about your pillar piece, and it provides an SEO boost to your pillar article by feeding it a steady diet of internal links.

What does an agriculture pillar page look like?

Agrimarketers spend a lot of time producing content, but it rarely delivers the impact we want. Maybe it’s because we’re all writing the same stuff at the same time – spring herbicide tips, anyone? – or because we assume that our audience is too busy for anything bigger. Either way, we’re missing a crucial opportunity to establish our authority and provide valuable information for our audience.

Agriculture is a diverse, technical field full of innovation. This means there’s an opportunity out there for every ag organization to identify the topic they want to be the expert in and plant a flag. If you need some inspiration, below you’ll find a few examples of pillar pages in the ag space:

All three of these companies took a topic that’s relevant to their audience, central to their business and a common source of confusion, then turned it into valuable, search-friendly resource. These pillar pieces are great fodder for social, an excellent theme to base a whole content calendar around and – with some ongoing effort – a great source of organic traffic.

To learn more about pillar content and how it fits into your overall digital marketing strategy, download our eBook, Growing Digital: 7 Ways Agri-Marketing Can Become More Digital in 2019

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