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2022 Local SEO Success: The Year of Everywhere

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2022 Local SEO Success: The Year of Everywhere

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

“Everywhere!” is going to be the ebullient byword for approaching a brand new year of local search marketing with gusto. In 2022, the opportunity is there for local businesses to be everywhere customers are looking at a time when they are particularly open to change, whether that’s exploring new companies, testing new brands, or trying new modes of communication.

Public health, and its direct impacts on local businesses, will remain unpredictable. However, what’s as sure a bet as you’ll find anywhere these days is that if the companies you market can be found and liked by customers, you can significantly expand the number of neighbors you get to serve with care, compassion, and a commitment to making this a very good year for brick-and-mortar shops and SABs.

Let’s set you up for success with seven local SEO precepts for the year ahead, some expert commentary, and many signs of good things to come!

1. Converse with customers everywhere, with extra kindness

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”

At that next meeting in which you are training staff who directly interact with your customers and clients, spend a minute listening to Ms. Warwick’s classic to get rooted in your deepest humanity and make a pact to bring these powerful feelings into every communication you have with the people you serve. We’re all going through so much these days, and even a few extra words of kindness can make the friendliest impression on a customer who could be sorely in need of being treated with respect and consideration.

The great news is that 2022 will offer the local brands you market a feast of options to make meaningful connections. To set the table, you should consider establishing all of the following mediums that make sense for the business and its customers:

  • In-person

  • Curbside messaging

  • Home delivery messaging

  • Text messaging

  • Direct Messaging, including Google Messaging

  • Live Chat

  • Email

  • Review responses

  • Review requests

  • Phone

  • On-hold phone messaging

  • Telemeetings

  • Website forms

  • Surveys

  • Social media exchanges

  • Post-transactional landing page messaging

  • Call-to-action text

All of these can be managed with honoring language that conveys your appreciation of your customers.

Don’t forget that the plain-old copy on websites is meant to be the start of a conversation, too. One of the best local search marketing agency tips I heard in 2021 came from Near Media co-founder Mike Blumenthal who suggests checking out Riverside.fm because it solves the age-old dilemma of having clients who are great at talking about their industry expertise, but have difficulties writing about it. With this remarkable video recording service, you can efficiently record this type of client and then use the results to create both video and text content. Brilliant!

I’ll paraphrase Leadferno CEO Aaron Weiche in saying, “If you want to sell everywhere, you must converse everywhere,” and I can’t think of a better way to sum up how important it will be to talk well with your local community in 2022.

2. Look everywhere for supply chain gaps

I was heartened when 2021 began with half a million new businesses starting up, but I also felt an uneasiness about the system undergirding retail: the global and consolidated national supply chain.

Did it happen to you that when you couldn’t get name brand hand sanitizer in 2020, your need was fulfilled by a local distillery? Did it happen to you that you found a regional flour mill to put bread on your table, or someone on Etsy to sew you a cloth mask?

The pandemic exposes the results of the race-to-the-bottom economics which began around the time I was born; large US companies decided to outsource manufacture to whatever region offered the cheapest labor. Now, after watching even Amazon flounder to deliver goods to shoppers due to global supply chain chaos, some American economists are calling on the nation to reshore manufacturing.

There has never been another moment in my own lifetime so filled with opportunity for any entrepreneur who can step up locally, regionally, or nationally to fill supply chain gaps and provide reliable production of essential goods. That local Etsy sewist can make t-shirts that don’t rip apart after a year of wear, in keeping the emerging philosophy of buy less/use longer. That potter downtown can replace your imported dishes when they break. That olive oil, pasta, masa harina, peanut butter, and soy milk can be grown and produced from start to finish in the US, too, rather than imported at a carbon cost that’s become too high.

Pre-pandemic business models that may have passed their shelf life can be retooled by entrepreneurs who know how to produce essential goods or organize others with these skills, and your marketing savvy may be best employed in building yourself a niche in the local supply chain right now, when it is so clearly needed.

3. Build back green everywhere you can

Much as I support the concept of reshoring, I feel serious qualms about it, too, because it triggers in my brain the spectre of rising smokestacks, just when we are in critical need of new, sustainable production methodologies.

If 2021 was the year that you, your staff and your customers found life, business and norms completely disrupted by heatwaves, wildfires and floods, you know in your bones that we’ve reached the end of the fossil fuel road. It’s simply not sustainable to create a new national or local supply chain with the old energy sources that brought us Climate Change, nor can we, in good conscience, continue the practice of using poorer nations or the poorest parts of our own nations as the toxic dumping grounds of industry.

I often encounter the attitude that individuals can’t do anything to make a difference on climate and I’ve personally experienced this melancholy, but local businesses can collectively meet the 71% increase in searches for sustainable goods with a nearby supply chain which significantly reduces the 1 billion+ tons of carbon emitted by long-distance shipping. The closer to home we grow, make and sell goods, the better. Meanwhile, there are a range of other green practices available to nearly all local businesses and no shortage of ideas for greener startups.

Make 2022 the year your local business drafts a climate action-based policy and publicizes it on your website, your Google Business Profile via posts and description, your social feeds, your video media, and via local news. 92% of customers say they feel more trust in businesses that are environmentally and socially conscious; it’s a win for everyone to make your company that kind of business.

4. Make your website key to customers shopping everywhere

Google wants to be the “transaction layer of the Internet” and, right now, it’s free for the local businesses you market to facilitate virtual window shopping by adding products to your Google Business Profile and, in the US, to get your products featured in Google Shopping via the Merchant Center.

The trouble with Google, though, is that everything they offer you for free is something they can put a price tag on at any time, and renting your customers back from Google for any purchase is never going to be as strong a position for a company as owning those sales outright.

With the pandemic’s acceleration of e-commerce (a 39% increase happened this time last year) and local delivery (here to stay), it’s now a basic business investment to build shopping carts into local business websites. If you can, choose a strong product like Shopify that will distribute your inventory feeds to multiple channels for customers who are now shopping everywhere, including social sites like Instagram and Meta/Facebook.

However, while you are greeting customers with multi-platform shopping options, my advice is to make your website the central hub of all this activity, as much as you possibly can, most particularly for repeat transactions. Don’t let any third party offer an easier shopping experience, better support, or more information than your own website does. Make the user experience so good that one-off customers who found you elsewhere come directly to your site for their second purchase.

5. Look for good organic SEO teachers everywhere to strengthen your website

With links and on-page SEO consistently making up about one-third of the perceived factors that drive local pack rankings, 2022 is the year in which local business owners and their marketers should prioritize the acquisition of organic SEO education. Chances are, you already have your local SEO education well in hand, but to provide the kind of discoverable, usable experience that will bring people to your site and keep them coming back, organic SEO has become a must-have. It supports your local rankings and multiple stages of your customers’ journeys.

As with our own local SEO industry, the organic SEO industry is polluted with information that isn’t actually accurate or helpful. You need resources that act as good teachers. Here is my list of five free organic SEO learning assets here at Moz that are respected for their usefulness, simplicity and depth:

Everyone learns best in their own way; socially follow generous organic SEO practitioners whose communications make the most sense to you and whose tips you find yield results. Two of my own favorite SEO teachers here at Moz are Dr. Peter J. Meyers and Tom Capper, and I tugged at their elbows to give me their predictions of the year ahead in organic SEO.

Pete says:

“Google is signaling their intent louder and louder these days, and that leaves us with a pretty boring answer about the future: “Expect more of the same.” Google will continue to push the limits of what “organic” means and experiment aggressively with changes to keep ad dollars flowing. Passage indexing caused a lot of confusion in 2021, but I believe it’s part of a broader push to repurpose content on the web. Combine that push with advances in NLP and the recent increase in title rewrites and the bottom line is that we will have less control of what appears in SERPs in 2022. This is going to require increasing awareness of how these changes impact CTR and search engagement and a renewed focus on controlling what we’re able to control (and measuring the rest).

Pay close attention to core updates if post-pandemic consumer behavior shifts — including a return to brick-and-mortar commerce — as these may require manual intervention by Google in ML systems. If 2020-2021 taught us anything, it’s that the world still drives Google more than Google drives the world.”

Tom says:

Title rewrites, continuous scroll, indented results… the back half of 2021 has shown that Google does not consider the SERP to be at all sacred. There’s a willingness to change and experiment, even when (as with the title rewrites) the changes feel half-baked or amateurish. We should be ready for more of the same in 2022, especially with Google’s talk of its MUM technology powering new and more complex result types. SEOs need to be open-minded and adaptable – sure, complain that these results are harder to measure and target than what went before, but make sure you’re trying to win at the new game while you reminisce about the old one. At the same time, we should expect to see an increased harshness of Page Experience as a ranking factor, with Google quietly ramping up from the extremely conservative, slightly botched launch.”

It’s a lot to absorb, but you can do it with good study habits over the next twelve months, and the comforting thought that even the best organic SEOs are continually learning.

6. Look at reviews everywhere for business intelligence more than rankings

For as long as online local business reviews have existed, the majority of industry discussion has been about how the ratings, number and text of reviews may impact local search engine rankings. It’s an important topic, but preoccupation with it can:

  • Overlook that reviews are a primary vehicle for responsive customer service, just like SMS or email

  • Contribute to business owners being the primary drivers of review fraud, buying fake positive reviews for their own brands and creating the reality in which nearly 11% of Google’s review base is fake, according to a landmark 2021 report by Greg Sterling.

  • Obscure that reviews are a free ongoing source of direct consumer feedback which depicts the health of a local business and its major quality control issues, as in this important Near Media/GatherUp study demonstrating how inventory issues at Walmart correlated with a rise in consumer complaints being published as online reviews.

Make 2022 the year your reputation and reviews strategy focuses less on sheer numbers or ratings of reviews, and more on auditing and analyzing the sentiment within the overall review corpus. Moz Local customers will have the advantage of their dashboard pulling in reviews from multiple sources for basic sentiment analysis, highlighting trends in what customers are praising or blaming as the new year moves forward. Repeat mentions of topics like employee rudeness, long wait times, disappointment in products, incorrect citation information, communications barriers, or accessibility issues signal the need for structural fixes that could directly impact profitability, with all the mystery taken out of the matter by consumer candor.

Needless to say, 2022 should also be the year that any serious company bans the purchase of fraudulent reviews. A business will learn nothing useful about its performance from singing its own praises.

7. Look for silver linings everywhere and share them with your community

It can be a valiant act to fully face difficulties while choosing hope in hard times. If you make this choice in 2022, your honest yet optimistic communications can be of real service to your community. Here are three silver linings that could be coming our way in the year ahead:

New treatments for COVID-19 could come to the local rescue

While the pandemic didn’t alter the behavior of some groups, and other groups have been experimenting with their comfort zones in returning to activities outside the home, McKinsey has done a good job tracking the continued caution being exercised by about half of Americans. If 2022 realizes the rumored promise of a medication like Monulpiravir or Paxlovid, it will be the single most impactful difference between the new year and the last two. At the start of the pandemic, Kaiser estimated that about ⅓ of US adults risked serious outcomes if infected, due to their age and medical conditions. I can’t think of a more hopeful image than vaccinations and new COVID-19 treatments potentially enabling 90 million people to greet the world again in greater security.

Monopoly losses could be local business gains

Have you noticed that antitrust has become daily news and that even a short list of some of the recent investigations concerning monopoly is indicative of a shift in regulatory activity? There are two sources of potential good in this for small businesses. One, if governing bodies are willing to directly take on monopolies like Amazon and Walmart, it could directly create a fairer marketplace for local businesses. Two, and this is the aspect that interests me most, local businesses have the opportunity to ride the customer wave of anti-bigness that appears to be gathering momentum.

In this changing environment, being proud of being small can be speak to the aspirations of shoppers whom surveys indicate would be more committed to shopping locally as a result of the pandemic once it eases (82%), do so because they want to keep their money in the community (57%), and choose to shop nearby because of the unique product selection (61%). This will not be an easy road, particularly in the US, but I see hope in a shopping public that wants small-batch over mass-produced, is becoming educated about the detriment of monopoly on local economies, and that has a built-in feeling of loyalty to small businesses.

Regulated tech can support small businesses instead of undermining them

Check out Squarespace’s “everything to sell anything” suite and sign up to attend a virtual event hosted by the American Independent Business Alliance this year. Then take a moment to appreciate the wonder of just how simple it is becoming for any entrepreneur with a great local business idea to market their offering with immense sophistication while finding nearby support in a Buy Local association.

It’s never been easier to build a good, optimized website, shoot amazing photos and videos, get a shopping cart as facile as the big brands have, huddle with business peers for solidarity, and take all the other marketing steps that lead up to finally getting to talk 1:1 with a customer. That’s the point I hope we never lose sight of in local search marketing : everything we do is meant to connect people and increase the quality of life in local communities. If governments will do their job to protect economic and human diversity, we can do ours of making our towns and cities really fine places to live with accessible goods and services for everybody.

That’s the hope I’ll be taking into 2022, everywhere I go in the industry, and it’s an optimism I hope you feel and can share with all your clients and customers in the new year ahead!

Image credits: Ianqui Doodle, Detroit Derek Photography, KJBax, and Celeste Lindell.




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Looking for a Content Marketing Job? Follow This Advice To Get Noticed

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Looking for a Content Marketing Job? Follow This Advice To Get Noticed

Does anyone enjoy job hunting regardless of the circumstances?

But if you’ve recently lost your content marketing job or fear the ax might fall soon, you feel pressure to do it – and like you have no time to waste.

The good news is that excellent content marketing jobs are available for the taking (or the making if you’re entrepreneurially minded.)

To rise in the challenge you didn’t want, you must condense years of knowledge, skills, and experience into compelling materials to attract a new employer. Then you must get your carefully crafted profiles in front of recruiters. The key to success for both steps involves standing out from all the other candidates competing for the role you want.

In a recent Ask the #CMWorld Community livestream, Work It Daily’s J.T. O’Donnell and TogetHER Digital’s Amy Vaughan shared what today’s recruiters want and the disruptive ways to get on their radar.

Take a disruptive approach to find your next #ContentMarketing job, says @JTODonnell and @CafeScribbler via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You can watch the conversation or scroll down to read the highlights of their productive chat.

Take time to grieve, but don’t wallow

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale puts job loss among the top 10 stressful life events. When headlines fill the news about massive tech and media company layoffs, corporate hiring freezes, AI replacing creators’ jobs, and a slowing economy, a job loss can feel downright paralyzing.

Ignoring those feelings won’t make them go away and might make it more challenging to focus on finding your next job.

That’s why J.T. recommends taking some time to grieve before you begin a job search. “It’s an unexpected loss. You need to feel it and go through the emotions,” she says.

But don’t get so lost in your misery that you miss a new role that might pop up. “In my experience, people often end up in a new position and say, ‘This turned out better than I expected. I would’ve never come across this opportunity if this change wasn’t forced upon me,’” J.T. says. “Know that a lot of other people have ended up on the better side of it and get ready to move forward.”

Update your job search tools – and how you use them

First, revisit your resume and LinkedIn profiles. You need to ensure they’re updated, consistent, and precisely targeted to the roles you’re considering.

If it’s been a while since you last looked for work, you may need to relearn the rules of a productive job search.

For example, while application tracking systems (ATS) have been around since the 1990s, their time-saving features have made recruiters more reliant on digital tools in recent years. In fact, a 2018 study found nearly 99% of Fortune 500 companies use them. Advanced functionality has improved the software’s ability to create more accurate candidate profiles and match them to applicants’ work history details.

Optimizing your resume with keywords in the job description is essential to getting your resume discovered by potential employers.

Optimize your resume with keywords in the job description to get your resume discovered through digital application systems (and employers), says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You also need to know formatting and information trends to make it past the digital gatekeepers. Your resume should be easily skimmable, results-focused, and tailored to the role in the application.

In a related discussion on CMI’s Slack channel, Headstart Copywriting’s Susan Varty shared a resume template that follows modern digital processes and trends.

The template structure, as shown in the image below, separates information into clear sections. She also details what to write in each section:

  • About: Here, you’ll introduce yourself, mention the role you’re interested in, and describe your qualifications in a relevant way.
  • Career highlights: These should be active statements that summarize the accomplishments you’re most proud of, so recruiters can skim the copy and understand who you are and what you can offer.
  • Work experience: Rather than list the roles you’ve played, use this section to describe how your work has helped previous employers achieve their business goals.

Click to download

J.T. also recommends updating your LinkedIn profile to ensure it aligns with what appears on your resume. “Recruiters pay attention to the resume and LinkedIn work history section. The information that appears there should be identical. Otherwise, they may be confused about which version is accurate,” she explains.

The information that appears on your resume should be identical to your work history section on @LinkedIn, says @JTODonnell via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Stand out with a disruptive job search approach

Amy says recruiters will read resumes – and cover letters – that make it to their desks, but they spend only a few seconds on each.

You can’t expect to compete based on skills alone. But demonstrating your personal motivation to do the job for that employer can give you an advantage, J.T. says.

Finding the best opportunities where you can convey that motivation requires a disruptive job search. The technique helps you discover a relevant connection between your passions and career intentions and communicate it to employers who stand to benefit.

The more intentional and storified approach should work well for content marketers because you’re well-equipped to follow it. It also circumvents the gatekeeping systems by giving you a more relatable connection to prospective employers.

Take a more intentional and storified approach in your #ContentMarketing job search, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

J.T. summarizes the disruptive job search process:

  • Pinpoint the work you’re most passionate about: Think carefully about the kinds of work you want to do, not just where you might want to do it. What lights you up? What do people come to you specifically for? This will be the centering principle for your candidate story.
  • Create a bucket list of company targets: Don’t just apply for any and every role that matches your skills and interests. Research companies to find 10 to 20 that would genuinely benefit from your unique perspectives and specialized focus.
  • Get clear on why you want to work for each company: Hearing that they’re a great place to work and offer great benefits isn’t enough to prove you understand the business and its goals. What is it about them that you’ve come to learn is different and special?
  • Make a personal connection: Think about what you can bring to the role at the company. Be specific about your knowledge of what they do, who their customers are, and how you can contribute to the business outcomes you know they want to achieve.
  • Craft the details into a cover letter: Once you’ve outlined your relevant connection points, you can put those details into a cover letter that speaks to your unique understanding of the business and the distinct value you can contribute. “When you can get that story into someone’s hands at an organization, you’ll be amazed at what can happen,” J.T. says.

(Net)work your story into a job

“People need to meet you and see continuity in what you say and do. That can’t always happen unless they get that chance to meet you in person,” Amy says.

Networking can feel one-sided and awkward when you’re under pressure to find a new role. But you can make it more productive with these tips from J.T. and Amy:

1. Turn on LinkedIn creator mode

J.T. points out that LinkedIn has pivoted itself into a creator tool. Use it to prove the points you would discuss in a cover letter and attract the right attention.

Activating creator mode on your profile tells LinkedIn’s algorithm to note (and share with others) the content you share. It also gives access to additional tools that can extend your reach.

Here’s how to turn creator mode on:

  • Click the Me icon in the nav bar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage.
  • Click View Profile.
  • Scroll down to the Resources section of your profile. If it shows “Creator mode: Off,” switch it to on.

Click Next on the Creator mode preview pop-up window.

  • Add up to 5 topics (hashtags) to indicate what you post about the most.
  • Click Done.

2. Create and share relevant content on your feed

Think about your specialization areas and speak about them regularly in your LinkedIn feed. Creating new content (or reposting your content on other platforms) on those subjects helps prove your expertise.

You can also curate and add commentary to third-party news, articles, videos, and other relevant stories. It shows you’re in touch with what’s happening in that space and have something of value to add to the conversation.

Be sure to post consistently – J.T. recommends at least once a day – to build an audience of followers.

3. Use hashtags responsibly

Using the right hashtags on your LinkedIn content can introduce your content to people who aren’t in your network. But, Amy points out, it can also help you tap into a hidden job market – roles that don’t get posted but have recruiters looking to fill them.

She explains recruiters may take this approach when they have a great opportunity that would attract a lot of candidate interest and don’t want to get bombarded with applicants.

4. Incorporate personal passions into your work persona

Attracting an audience with your thought leadership content can help you rank higher on LinkedIn searches and gain the attention of more recruiters. But since just about any job applicant can position themselves as an expert, Amy suggests taking an extra step to stand out from the pack: Cultivate a personality brand.

If you’re a regular CMI reader, you’re probably familiar with the reasons to build a personal brand (and if not, I’d highly recommend reading Ann Gynn’s definitive post on the topic). But, Amy says, a personality brand is a bit different.

As she explains, job searchers often struggle to associate their passions outside of work with the work they want to be known for. But creating stories that tie together those interests can make a person more memorable to recruiters and others who can help advance the job search.

Amy explains what this might look like: “[In my content], I talk a lot about groundedness, nature, and empathetic leadership. To me, those things are all tied together because I like to be very grounded in how I lead and very calm in how I approach difficult work situations. Or maybe you are an endurance athlete, and you can build a connection on how your love of endurance sports goes hand in hand with your strong work ethic.”

The content related to your personality brand can make your networking feel more organic. “If you’re reaching out to people in your network just to get a job, they’re going to sniff that out,” Amy says. But if they know you because you’ve shared a relatable story or something of value, they may be more willing to connect with you and help with your search.

Use your content marketing strengths to prove your value to employers

Losing a job never feels good. But with a more precise job search approach, stories that demonstrate your unique expertise, and ways to create a personal connection, your unemployment status won’t last long.

Want more help with your job search journey? Register to attend TogetHER Digital’s free virtual career fair for women in digital on Feb. 23, 2023. And for more-detailed job search help (including action plans, templates, and examples), J.T. O’Donnell is offering our readers an exclusive $20 discount on Work It Daily’s job search packages. Use code CM20 when you sign up.
Need more guidance to hone your content marketing skills? Enroll in CMI University and get 12-month on-demand access to an extensive curriculum designed to help you do your job more effectively.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Pillar Pages: Why and How You Should Add Them to Your Content Strategy

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Pillar Pages: Why and How You Should Add Them to Your Content Strategy

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

In a recent study, we found that our pillar pages are magnets for links, organic traffic, and newsletter subscribers — especially compared to regular blog posts. Here are the results that both types of SEO content generated over the course of a year:

Do these results mean you should ditch your blog strategy in favor of pillar pages? Not exactly.

Here’s the catch: You really can’t have one without the other, and it all comes down to content mapping. I’ll explain exactly what I mean in this article.

What is a pillar page?

A pillar page is a piece of content that comprehensively covers a broad topic. Pillar page — also sometimes referred to as hub and spoke — content weaves together a wide range of relevant subtopics (spokes), organizes them all in one place (hub), and effectively showcases your subject matter expertise for the broad topic.

Pillar page content should be easy to navigate for readers looking to learn — at a high level — about a particular topic, but should also offer relevant resources for them to dive deeper. 

Example of related resources found on a pillar page.

It’s kind of like the choose-your-own-adventure of content marketing.

Topical authority: why it’s important

When it comes to content creation for SEO and digital marketing, you don’t want to create content around any old topic. Instead, you want to reinforce your brand’s topical authority with every new piece of content you create (be it a blog, a pillar page, an eBook, etc.).

Let’s put it this way: If you’re in the business of selling mechanical keyboards, it doesn’t make sense to publish a blog article about the best recipes for a summer BBQ. Unless you’re recommending that your customers grill and eat their mechanical keyboards, which is (highly) unlikely.

Instead, it’s more helpful to your brand — and your audience — if you cover topics related to mechanical keyboards, like:

  • What is a mechanical keyboard?

  • Mechanical keyboards vs. regular keyboards.

  • Custom mechanical keyboards.

  • How to transition to a mechanical keyboard.

  • Pros and cons of a mechanical keyboard.

By covering as many topics related to mechanical keyboards as possible, you’re building a foundation of informational content that tells search engines: “Hey, I know a lot about mechanical keyboards!”

And the more content you have that starts to rank for important search terms related to mechanical keyboards, the more likely searchers will see you as an authority on the subject. Ideally, they will start coming back to your content when they need to learn more about this specific topic.

Pillar pages + blogs = a match made in content marketing heaven

A well-executed and organized pillar page is one of the best ways to showcase to your audience (and search engines) that you have topical authority in a specific area. Blog posts help you achieve topical authority by allowing you to cover a wide range of relevant subtopics in great detail, and pillar pages organize all of that content into a nice, user-friendly package.

Let’s take a look at this tactic in action.

We built our content marketing guide as a pillar page, which allowed us to cover a slew of subtopics related to the broader topic of content marketing, all in one piece of collateral. 

All of these subtopics are organized into sections on the page, with a hyperlinked table of contents at the top to allow readers to pick and choose exactly what they’d like to learn about:

Then, throughout the page, we offer readers the opportunity to go deeper and learn more about each subtopic by linking to relevant blog content:

What is content mapping?

A pillar page is a great tactic if you’ve got a lot of existing blog content all focused on a particular parent topic. It’s one of our favorite ways at Brafton to repurpose and repromote our blogs.

But you can also create a pillar page with all brand-new content — it’ll just take more research, planning, and production time to complete.

Enter: content mapping.

Content mapping is the process of assessing your target audience, understanding what they are trying to achieve, and helping them along that journey with branded educational and commercial content. Its scope can span the entirety of your content marketing strategy or a single piece of pillar page content.

Why content mapping matters in content marketing

The planning (or content mapping) of a pillar page is just as important as the research done to choose the correct keyword to target for your business.

Pillar pages are kind of like the books of the marketing world. If you were an expert birder, for example, you wouldn’t set out to write a book about bird-watching without doing any research. Especially if you’ve spent a lot of time writing and publishing articles about bird-watching on your blog. You’d want to understand a few things before starting that book, like:

  1. Which of my blog posts generated the most interest from new and returning readers? (i.e. pages with the most new and returning visitors, as seen in your web analytics tool).

  2. Which blogs kept readers coming back for more? (i.e. pages with the most newsletter subscriptions, or the best newsletter subscription rates).

  3. Which blogs did my industry peers find most useful? (i.e. pages with the greatest number of high-quality referring domains and backlinks).

These questions can be answered by looking through your web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and Moz Pro.

Example of content analysis by top linking domains.

You’d also want to understand what the competition looks like before you spend dozens of hours writing thousands of words to fill a book.

You’d want to answer questions, like:

  1. What do my competitors’ books on bird-watching look like? (i.e. the types of bird-watching subtopics the page 1 results cover).

  2. What does Google think searchers want to see when they search for bird-watching? (i.e. the types of content that are found on page 1 for your target keyword — and surprise! it might not be books).

  3. How long and detailed are my competitors’ books? (i.e. the level of complexity and comprehensiveness of the content ranking on page 1).

These questions can be answered by manually reviewing relevant SERPs and utilizing TF-IDF tools like Clearscope or MarketMuse to understand the breadth of subtopics and types of content ranking on the first page.

Example of manual SERP inspection.
Example of TF-IDF content analysis.

Once you understand which of your content performs best and which content Google and other search engines prefer to rank highly for your target keyword, you can start piecing together a plan for your pillar page.

A note about internal linking

Before we dive into the how-to portion of this piece, we should also acknowledge the importance of internal linking to this whole process.

And I’m not just talking about throwing in a link to a related product/service at the end of the page and calling it a day. The internal linking structure of your pillar page is literally the glue that holds the whole thing together. It helps readers easily navigate to related resources to continue learning from your brand. And it helps search engines understand the relationship between your pillar page content and the additional content you’re highlighting on the page.

But when it comes to internal linking, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Including too many internal links throughout your content can cause a frustrating user experience or look spammy, so use caution and make sure the only internal linking you do on the page is extremely relevant to the parent topic.

If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve got too many internal links on the page, you can run it through Moz’s On-Page Grader tool, which automatically counts the number of links on your page and flags if you’ve got too many.

Tip: Keep in mind that this tool will count ALL links found on the page, including those in your main navigation and footer, so the “Too Many Links” warning could be a false positive.

As Moz explains: Google recommends you don’t go over 100 internal links per page, because it can dilute the SEO value sent from the pillar page to the linked pages, and it can also make it more challenging for users and crawlers to navigate all of the content.

Two data-led ways to map out content for a pillar page

There are a couple of different ways to approach the construction of this type of content, but they each rely on organic search data to lead the way.

1. Planning a pillar page and related resources (all from scratch)

Let’s pretend you don’t have any prior content created about a particular topic. You’re basically starting from scratch. Let’s also assume the topic you’ve selected is both core and commercially valuable to your business, and that your domain realistically has a chance of ranking on page 1 for that keyword.

Let’s say you’re a pet food company and one of your main products is cat dental treats. Once you’ve determined that this is the exact keyword you want to target (“cat dental treats”), it’s time to start your research.

Step 1: Manually inspect SERP to understand searcher intent

First, we’ll start by manually inspecting the first SERP for this keyword, and answering the following questions:

  1. What types of content are on the first page of results?

  2. Why are people searching for “cat dental treats”?

By answering these two questions in our SERP analysis, we’ll make sure that our plan for creating a pillar page to rank actually makes sense and it’s what searchers want to see on the SERP. We’ll also better understand all the reasons behind why someone might search this keyword (and we can then address those reasons in the content we create).

So let’s answer these questions:

Question 1: What types of content are on the first page of results?

Answer 1: The first SERP includes a variety of product ads, a People Also Ask section, and a selection of organic blogs and product pages.

Types of content found on the SERP for “cat dental treats.”

Question 2: Why are people searching for “cat dental treats”?

Answer 2: From a quick analysis of the SERP, we can deduce that people want to know why and how cat dental treats are important to a cat’s health, and they also want to know which cat dental treats work best. Perhaps most importantly, it’s highly likely that they plan to purchase cat dental treats for their furry companion(s) in the near future.

Step 2: Select related keyword ideas for blog content

Since you don’t just want to create a pillar page for just the primary keyword, you also want to pinpoint a selection of related subtopics to be written as blog content.

For this part of the process, head over to your keyword research tool, plug in your target keyword and (with an eye for topics that you’re well-suited to cover), jot down a list of keywords and phrases.

Here’s our list of potential blog topics:

  • Best cat dental treats.

  • How do cat dental treats work?

  • What to look for in cat dental treats.

  • Do cat dental treats work?

  • Can cat dental treats replace brushing?

  • Vet recommended cat dental treats.

  • Grain-free cat dental treats.

Step 3: Choose subtopics to cover in your pillar page content

Next, you’ll want to review the subtopics mentioned in the top ranking results. While this process can be done manually (by clicking into each result on the SERP and jotting down the topics mentioned), a TF-IDF tool like MarketMuse makes this part of the process much quicker:

These TF-IDF tools analyze the top 10-20 results for your target keyword and automatically present the common subtopics mentioned in each piece. This gives you a very good understanding of what you’ll also need to cover in your piece to compete for a top-ranking spot.

Here’s the list of subtopics we’ll want to cover in this pillar page, based on our MarketMuse data:

Step 4: Create your outline and plan content

Now it’s time to connect the dots from your research. The best way to do this is to start by structuring your pillar page outline, and then going back in and filling in the areas where you want to create supporting blog content.

Here’s an example of what the end result might look like:

H1: The Complete Guide to Cat Dental Treats: For a Fresh-Breath Feline Friend

H2: What are cat dental treats and how do they work?

  • Topics to cover: Cat dental treats
  • Blog post to support section:
    Title: How Cat Dental Treats Work (& Why Your Kitty Needs Them)
    Keyword: how do cat dental treats work

H2: What are the benefits of cat dental treats?

  • Topics to cover: Clean teeth, fresh breath
  • Blog post to support section:
    Title: Do Cat Dental Treats Really Work? (Here’s What The Experts Say)
    Keyword: do cat dental treats work

H2: Are cat dental treats an acceptable alternative to brushing?

  • Topics to cover: Cats dental health
  • Blog post to support section:
    Title: Cat Dental Treats Vs Brushing: Everything You Need To Know
    Keyword: can cat dental treats replace brushing

H2: Do vets recommend using cat dental treats?

  • Topics to cover: Veterinary oral health council
  • Blog post to support section:
    Title: Vets Recommend Using Cat Dental Treats — Here’s Why
    Keyword: vet recommended cat dental treats

H2: The best cat dental treats to try

  • Topics to cover: Purina dentalife, Feline greenies, natural ingredients, artificial flavors.
  • Blog post to support section:
    Title: 5 Of The Best Cat Dental Treats & Why We Love Them
    Keyword: best cat dental treats
  • Blog post #2 to support section:
    Title: What To Look For In Cat Dental Treats
    Keyword: what to look for in cat dental treats

Creating an outline for a pillar page isn’t easy, but once laid out, it helps us understand the content that needs to be produced to bring the whole thing to life.

Here is our list of content to create (based on our outline):

  1. Pillar page: The Complete Guide to Cat Dental Treats: For a Fresh-Breath Feline Friend

  2. Blog #1: How Cat Dental Treats Work (& Why Your Kitty Needs Them)

  3. Blog #2: Do Cat Dental Treats Really Work? (Here’s What The Experts Say)

  4. Blog #3: Cat Dental Treats Vs Brushing: Everything You Need To Know

  5. Blog #4: Vets Recommend Using Cat Dental Treats — Here’s Why

  6. Blog #5: 5 Of The Best Cat Dental Treats & Why We Love Them

  7. Blog #6: What To Look For In Cat Dental Treats

The best way to tackle this list of content is to create and publish the six blog posts first, then once they are live, you can write the pillar page content, placing hyperlinks to the supporting blog posts directly in the copy.

2. Planning a pillar page from top performing content

For this next method, let’s say you already have a ton of published content about a particular topic, and you’d like to reuse and repromote that content within a pillar page dedicated to that topic.

All of the steps in the previous process apply, but for Step 2 (Select Related Keyword Ideas for Blog Content), do the following:

First, you’ll want to understand which of your existing pieces generates the most interest from your audience. Let’s use our web analytics data for this. In this example, we’ll look at Google Search Console data because it shows the actual search performance of our website content.

Let’s use the topic of “content creation” as our desired pillar page keyword. Search for the query in Google Search Console (choose the “Queries containing” option): 

Pull all of the pages currently generating impressions and clicks from terms containing your topic, placing those with the highest clicks and impressions at the top of your list. Here’s what this might look like: 

As you can see, most of the content we’ve created that also ranks for keywords containing “content creation” is blog content. These will be highly useful as related resources on our pillar page.

Now, go back to your TF-IDF tool and select the subtopics related to “content creation” that you want to cover in your pillar page. Example:

  • Social media content

  • Content creation tool

  • Content creators

  • Content strategy

  • Content creation process

Finally, map your existing blog content to those “content creation” subtopics. The initial mapping may look something like this:

You may not be able to map each blog perfectly to the subtopic you’re covering in your pillar page, but that’s  OK. What’s important is that you’re providing readers with relevant content (where applicable) and that content, as you’ve seen in your Search Console data, is already proven to perform well with your organic search audience.

Pillar page planning templates and resources

Pillar pages take an incredible amount of time and planning to execute, but they are worth every penny.

Here’s an example of the success we saw after producing one of our more recent pillar pages, “How to Rank on Google:”

Growth of referring domains and links to the page since its launch in April 2022.

Here’s a template of the outline used to bring the page to life (and you can use it for your own pillar page). Just make a copy and off you go. Good luck!

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11 Free Email Hacks to Step Up Your Productivity

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11 Free Email Hacks to Step Up Your Productivity

If you’re anything like me, a solid portion of your day is sifting through your inbox, sending emails to junk, and responding to time-sensitive emails.

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