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13 November 2019

SEO: The Rise Of The Pillar Page

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At AndAnotherDay, the pillar page has become an integral part of our Content Marketing strategy. But what exactly is a pillar page? In this week’s release, we delve into a condensed history of content marketing, the pillar page, and how it became such an important element of content marketing.

A Brief History Of Content Strategy

The use of strategic content to grow business dates back as far as can be sensibly recorded. Way back in 1732, Benjamin Franklin published the yearly ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack’. The sole objective of his publication was to promote one of his first endeavours – a printing business. As far as the world can tell, this is one of the first recorded pieces of “Marketing” content.

 

 

Fast-Forward A Century & A Half...

Within 150 years, we began to arrive at text-based advert publications. John Deere – The most famous tractor brand throughout history, began publishing text-based ads by the 1890’s. Though primitive and basic, the messaging is clear – “Buy a John Deere tractor!”

Back Into The Timewarp...

Jumping to the edges of the twenty-twenties, we now have search engines which are, quite literally, bursting at the britches with content from billions of sources. Both paid and organically boosted content are constantly competing for the top, most visible spots on page one of your favourite search engine.

So, we arrive at a point where search engines need a way to prioritise which content should be displayed to who, where, and how. This is how the Google algorithm came to be.

The Ever-Evolving Algorithms.

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While this may sound like the title of a very vague Philip Pullman novel, the search engine algorithm is a very real concept and changes. Frequently.

People first started taking the algorithms seriously back in 2003, when the beast began to stir after noticing how much content on the internet. More specifically, how much bad content was on the internet.

In what was called ‘The Florida Update’ during the months of 2003, websites (including retailers who relied on affiliates to drive traffic) using spam tactics of the decade prior (e.g., keyword stuffing, using multiple sites under the same brand, and hidden links) to rank for high-demand keywords saw their rankings catastrophically diminish right before the lucrative holiday season.

It seems that this was the key turning point for producers of bad content. However, for those guilty, it was only the beginning.

The Snowball Effect

As the changes began to pick up pace, the restrictions began to flow equally as quickly. At the very tail end of 2005, ‘The Big Daddy’ updates were rolled out.

Here, we began to see spam URLs & paid links get the chop and incur penalties. This update changed how Google handled technical issues such as URL canonicalization and redirects. Some websites didn’t make it into the Big Daddy data centers, due to unnatural linking (e.g., excessive reciprocal linking, linking to spam neighborhoods)

In 2009, ‘The Vince’ update took place. Google’s Vince update was a quick, noticeable change in competitive keyword terms to favor first page rankings for big brand domains vs. previously ranking sites (typically less authoritative sites and sites that had won this coveted visibility purely through organic efforts).

In 2012, over 20 algorithm updates we rolled out.

So Where Is The Algorithm Now?

In 2019, there have been 5 core updates. The most recent of these has been referred to as “BERT”. This stands for ‘Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers’.

The BERT Update, which is allegedly the biggest change to the Google search algorithm in the past 5 years. Google uses BERT models to better articulate search queries. They have said this change impacted both search rankings and featured snippets and BERT will be used on 10% of US English searches.

So, Where Does A Pillar Page Come Into This?

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First, we should establish exactly what a pillar page is.

A pillar page is a page on an industry-relevant topic, that is deliberately left very broad. For example, if you are a materials handling business, you could have a pillar page on the warehousing industry in your area.

The idea being, you surround this page with what we call ‘topic clusters’, which are series’ of articles that relate more specifically to your pillar page topic.

A good example here would be a software business. If you had a pillar on Software, your topic clusters could consist of: Common problems with software, common fixes or service-related topics.

Personally, we have found pillar pages to generate very quick returns in terms of SEO improvement. As such, we have formed our own unique formula for the creation of content based on the pillar page model, which also complies with the HubSpot methodology.

So Why Do They Work?

The algorithm in its current state favours the pillar page format. Provided that the quality of your content is up to par, by creating an enhanced map of links within your own well-ranking pages on your site, you can actually boost your SEO scoring intrinsically.

It also places a good amount of pressure on any agency or copywriter to produce the volumes of content required to generate a strong organic SEO push.

When posting good content regularly, with related topics on the correct channels, the pillar page format is an excellent strategy. It can yield remarkably fast results, and save a lot of money PPC activity.

Conclusion

In summary, it’s likely that the algorithm will continue to evolve past favouring the pillar page. However, in its current state, it’s evident that it’s an essential model to be considering in your strategy.

If you would like a consultation on your content strategy, or lack thereof, we are happy to oblige. Content is the key to a good overall SEO score which, we have ascertained, is the key to visibility online.

You can view a full history of Google’s algorithms here. If you’d like to get in touch to discuss your strategy, please do so over on our Contact Page.

Thank you for reading!

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