Organic content can pay off in the long run, with increased traffic to your site, new leads and conversions. However, not all organic content is created equally, and what worked 10 years ago doesn’t necessarily have the same effectiveness today. Like your elders have probably reminded you at some point, times have changed, bucko.
Organic content is more than social posts and blogs—there are new content types at the top of the food chain. It's time to meet the new king of the organic content jungle—pillar content.
Creating Pillar Content
Providing value is the key to an effective organic marketing effort. If you want to drive traffic and generate leads and backlinks, give people something of value. One way to do this is by organizing your content around a particular topic relevant to your organization.
Determine what topics on which you want to be seen as an "authority." Those topics are your pillars. Each pillar should have a pillar page, which will act as a kind of mothership or foundation for content on that topic. The pillar page should be a long-form, comprehensive resource that covers the topic in-depth. By long-form, we mean north of 1,000 words in many cases, plus graphics and/or videos.
The page should naturally include terms and answers to questions that people use when searching for content around this topic. Cover the fundamental, on-page SEO bases by referencing the topic in the page title, URL and H1 tag.
If you have any existing content that covers a subtopic of the pillar page, link it back to the pillar page. This helps search engines recognize that all of this content is related. A subtopic piece should be shorter and answer a specific question related to the overarching topic covered by the pillar page. Ideally, you should plan to have around six to eight subtopics, each with a piece of content, linking back to the pillar page. If you’ve been creating content for a while, you may already have these!
Sharing Pillar Content
Once you get your pillar page off the ground, it’s time to share. This is where your digital distribution channels come into play. Share your pillar page through email and social channels. If you can get it in the hands of industry influencers to share on their websites or social channels that’s the best-case scenario! The more backlinks coming from reputable places the better, as it indicates to search engines your content is valuable enough to be shared by others.
Also, be sure to give the pillar page a prominent, easily accessible place to live on your own website. Including a CTA ("call to action") in your pillar content can help you generate leads from the traffic you drive to the page.
Refresh Old Content
Do you ever look back at old photos, perhaps in a high-school yearbook, and wonder what you could have possibly been thinking in that captured moment? If only we had do-overs! Well, if you look back on your older content and have similar feelings, don’t fret. It’s absolutely possible and highly recommended to go back and refresh that old content, unlike your yearbook memories.
Update your old content with with new research, graphics or links to other great, relevant articles. Again, organic efforts need to provide value to the end user. What’s missing from older content that could provide value? If you have outdated data points, try to find the most recent information, update your content and re-share it! When looking back at older content, always ask yourself if you would publish the same thing today. If not, what needs to be done to get it to that point? Then be proactive and make the changes happen.
Focus on People—and Intent
In any organic effort, especially when publishing website content, remember to focus on people. Yes, you want your content to include keywords and rank highly in search results, but don’t get tunnel vision. It’s not mindless robots using search engines—people use search engines to find answers to their questions. If your content provides valuable answers to those questions, your content will rank more highly.
Don’t just identify specific words people use in searches—try to uncover their intents. Why are they searching with this term? What are they trying to discover with the search? Are they just looking for a correct spelling? Is it a simple question that’s answered by a Wikipedia entry?
Search engine algorithms are developed to the point that they can better understand the intent behind searches. Subsequently, search engines attempt to meet those intentions with content that best delivers what searchers want. When Googling “temperature in New York City,” the first result isn’t an article detailing the history of meteorology. It’s a snippet from Weather.com with the current temperature for New York City.
When you’re planning out content for topics and subtopics, put yourself in the shoes of your users, and try to emulate the searches they would carry out. Analyze the results, and ask yourself where you think you can get your content in the door.