Creating an in-depth pillar blog is no easy feat, yet content marketers know these long-form pieces are a key component of an overall search strategy.
Join Jeff Coyle and Kyle Leach, Senior Content Strategist of Beacon Digital Marketing, for a discussion on creating the best pillar blog post. You’ll get these questions answered and more:
- What’s the best way to approach creating a pillar blog?
- What are some tips and tricks for the writing process and getting a project across the finish line?
- How can you work with your designers and web dev teams to create an appealing piece that is more than headlines and blocks of copy?
- What results can you generate by putting the effort into pillar content?
Click to view the entire conversation.
Kyle Leach, senior content strategist from Beacon Digital Marketing, joins MarketMuse co-founder Jeff Coyle to talk about pillar content, B2B tactics and content strategy.
First off, they discuss pillar pages, including correct definitions, ambiguous definitions, and when pillar pages are appropriate for a B2B or B2C company product, service, organization, and what is Kyle’s personal definition of a pillar page?
Kyle feels that pillar blogs are about covering a core subject (related to something you sell) from an educational top level perspective, and then leaning into target keywords.
There are a couple different ways that a pillar can come about, explains Kyle. “It can be at the beginning of engagement, or it can be after some time with a client when we’ve written several blogs on dovetail keywords about that subject.”
Jeff sees a pillar page as a way to connect other types of content you might have already built or are planning to build.
Kyle agrees, explaining that “for the most part, we build pillar content for early stage awareness. There are some cases where we’ll look to build pillar content for advanced users, but for the most part, we cover that subject in general.”
He reveals that they are really intentional in the pre-draft process. They run their SEO, looking at competitors ranking higher in search, looking at the target word count. They make sure to start the collaboration right from the beginning and look for a particular writer that’s a good fit for the client.
Kyle adds, “I start to think about 10, 12, 15 elements to break up the copy, and then I run it by my client. We collaborate right away, so we don’t get too far along when somebody scraps the whole thing.”
He also emphasizes the importance of using subject matter experts. Often they’ll get someone from the client’s company and spend 30 minutes interviewing them about the subject. It’s a full collaboration — you have to get the right elements with the right keywords, along with the right subject matter expert, and you have to present them with the same brief.
Jeff concurs, thinking that putting the data and the effort into research and finance will help you move the piece along quicker so you can actually get it live, get people reading, get people engaging, and get people converting.
A live audience member had a question about the difference between pillar pages and pillar posts. Kyle sees pillar pages as more of a web page that’s further down the bottom of the funnel. They are almost like image copy and a paid ad.
A pillar blog is like a library, and people who have a question always research to find the answer. In Kyle’s view, “if you find the pillar blog, you’re gonna find a piece that will answer almost every question you may have.”
Another audience member asked if cornerstone content is different. Both Kyle and Jeff agree that pillar post, pillar page with support — those are all synonyms for hub spoke, cornerstone and support.
Jeff further adds that “The pillars of a company’s website are like representations of the company’s pillars in almost like a conversion component. The key is to know where the pillar fits in the infrastructure of the site and what you want people to do next.”
He likes to go through pillar blogs and circle the stuff that’s unique in value that no one else no other company could have provided. If he can’t circle anything, he considers the content to be derivative.
Jeff picks up on Kyle’s use of the term dovetail and asks him to explain it.
Kyle responds that dovetail keywords are very specific to a topic where you can add additional terms onto that search term.
Jeff expands on the idea explaining that adding a variant to a page changes the intent, to which Kyle adds that augmenting a suffix or prefix to a page changes the intent to a middle of the funnel page.
After receiving validation from the client Jeffs asks rhetorically, what’s next?
Kyle says that they move into drafting mode after getting the outlines approved and the transcript of the interview downloaded. Then it’s “Let’s just write like a good piece, like you’d want somebody to read it. At Beacon,” Kyle explains, “we do have an internal revisions phase, so the writer can go back and make some strong edits to make sure the voice, the tone, and the style are in the right place.”
As an editor, Kyle thinks about his design team and web dev team, and starts making notes about how he sees various elements coming into play.
Then comes the question of content briefs and whether Beacon’s writers make use of them and if so, how?
Kyle’s approach is that a content brief typically will provide a framework, but “then the reins are loosened. I will structure the piece as it goes down, but I do have a section called Key Points, and then I give the writer the freedom to write around it as they will.”
Jeff wonders if Kyle does anything about how it’s gonna look in their pre-copy and if they get a sign-off on that.
Beacon seems to put a great deal of emphasis on client communication. “Yeah, I do put a lot of thought into the presentation of it, and I ask a lot of questions to the designers and web dev folks at Beacon.” He’ll use existing resources and marry them together with new ones, and design the piece to see if he’s going to click off the screen.
While these notes are highly condensed, Jeff points out that “if someone were to track back this entire conversation so far, you could have a skeleton already for your process.” So it’s well worth watching the entire conversation.
Jeff asks Kyle a trick question, “how do you measure results of a pillar page?”
“It’s a tough one,” responds Kyle,”because different metrics mean more to different people. We try and circle around with reporting, put some more metrics that might mean something to some of the C-suite.”
Kyle reflects how they’re looking at other pages on the topic, on the site that are performing better than the pillar, and whether they can add another link into the pillar that would help generate better metrics.
Jeff expands on this saying that you need to “understand how this page is being enabled on search results, page features, if you’re doing a gated content, asset or content upgrade, and how users are landing on this page and way finding to other sections of the site.”
When the question of what content tools arose, Kyle exclaimed, “MarketMuse has really helped us with our intent of writing good pieces at Beacon, and it’s also helped us raise the quality of every piece we write.”
More than a few webinar attendees raised the question of interlinking pillar pages with their supporting content. Kyle offered this piece of advice, “I try to get two to three internal links within the first 200, 300 words of the piece, and I try to be less salesy and more educational, more informative about the subject.” He also mentioned that he uses MarketMuse (Connect) to help him in this regard.
Kyle Leach is a Senior Content Strategist at Beacon Digital Marketing, where he specializes in creating strong search and content strategies for B2B SaaS companies.
Kyle brings his years of editorial experience writing and editing for newspapers, magazines, higher education and sports entertainment to his work in SEO-driven content creation.
His eye for good copy and SEO knowledge consistently drive results for B2B brands looking to reach new audiences, drive search rankings, and keep prospective and current customers engaged.
What you should do now
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