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7 Steps to a More Strategic Editorial Calendar

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7 Steps to a More Strategic Editorial Calendar

Updated January 6, 2022

Too many companies focus on the logistics of their editorial calendar – what days content is publishing, at what times, and at what cadence – and ignore the strategic elements. Anyone can schedule blog posts regularly, but the best content marketers create robust, strategic editorial calendars.

Instead of thinking of your editorial calendar as a schedule of content, consider it the implementation plan for your documented content marketing strategy. While the strategy most likely won’t change dramatically over a year, your editorial calendar will. Plan content in quarterly sprints so you can adapt topics to real-time changes in the industry and content based on real-time performance.

Plan #content in quarterly sprints so you can adapt topics to real-time changes in the industry, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

This seven-step guide details how to build an effective editorial calendar by:

  • Determining who needs to be included
  • Identifying goals for the quarter
  • Deciding the content mix and publishing cadence to support those goals
  • Documenting your mix and cadence decisions on the editorial calendar
  • Brainstorming topics
  • Planning for flexibility
  • Measuring results to determine the success of your plan.

Step 1: Plan content creation capacity by determining who is involved

The best content assets should be influenced by a range of viewpoints, not just one person in the marketing department. The people involved should include subject-matter experts, writers, editors, graphic designers, distribution specialists, and potentially an outsourced content creation partner.

The best #content assets should be influenced by a range of viewpoints, not just one person in the marketing department, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

While most of these roles represent the content creators and distributors, subject-matter experts are different. Their primary duties are not about creating content. Build relationships with subject-matter experts who can offer specialized insight into relevant topics for your editorial calendar. These individuals should make sense as the “faces” of your company. They also should be willing (or required) to make time to serve as a subject-matter expert.

TIP: I’ve seen great results from interviewing subject-matter experts on topics, then writing the content and getting their approval on the draft. You and your marketing team are the experts on writing engaging content. Leave the writing to your team and use the SMEs to share unique insights.

Once you decide who will be involved, you need to determine how much time each can devote to the content over the quarter. (And later, you’ll use that information to detail the quantity and type of content assets to be created and distributed over the three months.)

In practice, you’ll need to decide how many SMEs you can rely on and how many hours they can devote across the quarter.

If each of three SMEs can devote six hours over the quarter, for example, you could create nine pieces of long-form content. Figure one hour of the SME’s time per article for an interview, then one hour per article to review and approve the draft. (That’s two hours per article and three articles per expert.) You would end up with nine articles by the end of the quarter.

If you have 10 additional SMEs and each can devote two hours over the quarter, each SME could do a two 30-minute interviews and 30-minute draft reviews. You would end up with 20 blog posts at the end of the quarter.

Then consider how many additional content pieces your team can create without SME involvement. The total (SME-supported pieces plus the pieces your team can create on its own) is your capacity for the quarter.

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Step 2: Identify your goals for the quarter

Now that you’ve determined your content marketing capacity, think through your goals this quarter and how content plays into them.

I’ve found most companies have one of these three goals for their content marketing:

  • Improving brand awareness through thought leadership
  • Increasing leads generated through content
  • Improving search rankings for targeted keywords (SEO)

Pick your primary goal for the quarter. It will give you a clearer view of the content types that should be created and the topics to focus on. Consider these examples:

  • Goal: Improving brand awareness through thought leadership

Content mix: Heavy on guest articles in relevant publications and videos; topics geared toward areas of subject-matter expertise

Content mix: A new piece of gated content; guest-contributed articles that include landing page links to your site

Content mix: Topics determined by a keyword research report; heavily geared toward on-site content with some guest-contributed articles with backlinks

Step 3: Determine your content mix for the quarter

Use the insights you’ve gained from identifying your team’s capacity and goal to develop your ideal content mix for the quarter. You can create dozens of content types, including guest-contributed articles, videos, case studies, and static or interactive infographics. If you’re tight on capacity, stick with written content because it’s the least expensive to produce and the easiest to create with a small team.

Create your ideal #content mix based on available resources and a single goal, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Using the team capacity described above with a goal of lead generation, here’s what a well-aligned content mix would look like:

  • Six unique-topic, guest-contributed articles with backlinks targeted to publications visited by prospective customers
  • 18 blog posts on your site – three posts for each topic addressed in the six guest-contributed articles
  • Two gated pieces of content (white papers) – each long-form guide aligned with nine blog posts
  • Two drip campaigns (one for each white paper)

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Step 4: Specify details on the editorial calendar

This fourth step is where a lot of people start the editorial calendar process – plotting the calendar. But this step involves more than plotting the day each content asset publishes.

Work backward from the ideal publishing date and schedule the following dates on the calendar:

  • Topics confirmed
  • Author assigned
  • Questions submitted to subject-matter expert (or outline created for the writer)
  • Answers submitted from subject-matter experts
  • Content piece draft completed
  • Content piece edited
  • Content piece approved (also note who is the final approver for the piece)
  • Content piece uploaded to a platform or submitted to a publication

By including each of these dates on the calendar, you’ve taken what was once a vision – “we hope we can publish this many pieces of content in a quarter” – and turned it into a plan of what you can do based on the timeline you’ve laid out.

This calendar also serves as a one-stop shop that enables everyone involved to stay up to date on progress and due dates.

Make sure to assess other priorities and activities – those which you control and those which you can’t, such as product launches, big company events, holidays, guest publication dates, etc. Figure those into your planning process too.

By thinking through all of this on the front end, you’re less likely to end up with an editorial calendar that needs to keep changing. Though some things will change, plotting the deadlines you do control will help you and your team stay sane.

Step 5: Brainstorm to finalize the topics for each content piece

Now that you’ve scheduled the content for the quarter, it’s time to determine what you’ll be writing about. This step comes late in the process because brainstorming is more focused when you’ve accounted for your available resources, overall goal, and quantity of content pieces.

Brainstorming is better as a later step. After you know resources, goal, & content mix, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Using our example, we now know:

  • The content campaign needs two overarching themes to create the two cornerstone pieces — the white papers.
  • Those two broad themes must be broken down into nine naturally aligned blog posts.
  • Those themes and blog posts also must relate to six relevant and engaging guest-contributed articles.

You also know who is going to author each piece of content as well as which subject-matter experts are involved. You can vet a brainstormed topic by asking “Can this person speak to this?” or “Is this person an expert on the topic?” This procedure will ensure that you end up with the best content.

A free-for-all brainstorming session can be fun, but it doesn’t result in the most productive meeting. Create a structure for your brainstorming sessions to ensure that they stay on track. Here’s an agenda for my company’s 60-minute brainstorming meetings:

  • 10 minutes – update on what’s in progress
  • 20 minutes – brainstorming relevant blog ideas
  • 20 minutes – brainstorming guest-contributed article ideas
  • 10 minutes – confirming deadlines and responsibilities and updating the editorial calendar

The important thing is to brainstorm a group of topics at once to ensure that they align. This is the difference between a plan to produce a bunch of content and a strategic content marketing plan.

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Step 6: Practice consistency and build flexibility into the plan

Companies make their biggest mistakes with their editorial calendars by putting in a ton of work on the front end and not following through. This happens for a lot of reasons. A boss pops in at the last minute with random content requests. Another executive needs a blog post to cover a conference where he or she is speaking, or news in the industry demands a fresh guest-contributed article commenting on the impact.

Companies make their biggest mistakes with their #editorial calendars by putting in a ton of work on the front end and not following through, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You can handle this two ways:

  • Throw the editorial calendar out the window and change focus every week based on the whims of the team. (I don’t recommend this.)
  • Build flexibility into the editorial calendar. (I recommend this.)

You might have noticed that our example content mix doesn’t use the team’s capacity for the quarter. This is intentional.

Based on the resources available, the team could produce up to 17 more pieces of content. But by not building out the plan to capacity, I built in flexibility to work on other pieces of content as they arise.

TIP: If one person in your company is known for coming up with a different, must-do random thing every week, build that into the plan. Simply schedule a spot for “Joe’s Crazy Content Idea” each week.

The important thing is to let your content plan set up your brand for success. When an unexpected request pops up, it doesn’t distract the team from the planned content mix because you built in a capacity for flexibility.

Step 7: Measure your content success

The metrics to gauge the success of your editorial calendar are based on your content marketing goals. However, I recommend tracking these bare minimum metrics to see how well your content is performing against your goal:

  • Metrics for brand awareness – social shares on published guest-contributed articles, clicks back to your website, new connections on LinkedIn, and people reaching out to your subject-matter experts
  • Metrics for lead generation – clicks back to your website from published guest-contributed content, the conversion rate for blog posts, new leads generated from gated content
  • Metrics for SEO – links earned through published guest-contributed content, traffic from organic search, rankings for your target keywords

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Be strategic from the first step

Following a strategic approach to your editorial calendar is a never-ending process. But that ongoing work should be affected by your evaluation process. Review your key metrics toward the end of the quarter as you begin to plan for your next three months.

It gets easier each time you plan the editorial calendar for the next quarter because you’re simply tweaking your previous plan rather than starting from scratch. Let me know in the comments how this seven-step guide to creating your next editorial calendar works for you.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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What It Is And How It Works

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What It Is And How It Works

Is a dedicated development team model the right option? Despite seeing several statistics showing how outsourcing helps minimize development costs, you are still determining if it’s the right choice for you.

Well, when it comes to choosing a suitable outsourcing model, one of the essential things is knowing what your requirements are and which model will benefit your business. Choosing the best of the three outsourcing models is a difficult task.

Don’t worry. We are here for you.

This guide will help you decide which model is best for your business. Specifically, we will focus on a “dedicated development team model.” You will know what makes the dedicated team model better than other models. Let’s dig right in!

What is the dedicated development  team model?

Dedicated development team model is a type of business model that outsources software development . Usually, the client and the service provider sign an agreement that provides long-term software specialists. This is one of the most prevalent partnership models with fixed prices.

In the dedicated development team model, the team works on a specific project full-time, reporting directly to the client. The outsourcing company assists clients in recruiting, administrative support, and maintenance. This model works best for long-term projects.

There are many benefits to the dedicated team model, but to make an informed decision, we must also consider the alternatives.

Dedicated development team model vs. Time and Material Model

Another format that is usually compared with a dedicated development model is the time and materials model. In the time and material model, clients pay for the time and effort. This model gives scope for in-depth research, but it doesn’t guarantee the client will work with the same team throughout the project.

The time & frame of this model suits short-term projects and software that doesn’t require regular updates. Both models have their perks.

To conclude, time & frame models are best for short term projects, while the dedicated team model is best for long-term and vague requirements.

When to choose a dedicated team model?

A dedicated development team model can be beneficial for certain types of businesses. Your focus should be to determine if this suits your business type. Here’s, a quick checklist that will reduce your brainstorming :

  • When your business is in the early stages, i.e., a startup,
  • When the scope of work is vague,
  • When working on a complex and long-term project.

This model is perfect if you are one of the businesses that may need to extend the contract further.Lately, we have discussed vague requirements and the liberty to extend the scope. Yes, that’s the most significant advantage of the dedicated team model, but the real question is how this works. To begin with, we will have to know how the dedicated development team model works.

How does the DT management model work?

Dedicated team management is divided into four steps. Read below :

Discovery Phase :

The first and foremost step is to find out the client’s needs. During this discovery phase, the company and client sit down together to discuss requirements, budget, and how to manage the team.

In short, the following things are discussed in the discovery phase:

  • What are the project scopes?
  • What is the required number of team members?
  • Figure out the skills and expertise required in the team.
  • Negotiate the development costs.

Team Set Up

Following that, the company selects team members based on requirements. The number of developers, designers, project managers, and quality assistants depends on the requirements of the client. Companies begin to hire developers based on their requirements and demands. The core member of the team consists of :

The dedicated team’s structure consists of the following members

UX/UI designers

UX/UI designers work to ensure that users have an easy and enjoyable experience while using the software.

Quality assurance specialists

These members monitor, inspect, and propose a measure to improve the software according to the client’s needs.

Projects managers

Managers are responsible for teams productivity and ensure client demands are being fulfilled

DevOps engineers

DevOps engineers are specialists who have a wide range of knowledge of development and operations. This includes coding, infrastructure management, and all necessary methodologies.

Front-end & Backend Developers

Front-end developers design the visual aspect of the website to make it easy to navigate and useful, while back-end developers refer to the structure that helps the website function properly.

Development Phase

The development phase is when the team starts to work on the project. The dedicated development team model is managed by the client’s team, therefore, the client assigns work to team members. The next big task is to establish a communication bridge for regular meetings, reports, and progress.

Besides these developments, they also facilitate the following tasks :

  • Assign tasks and monitor them regularly.
  • Manage costs and taxes.
  • Establish a proper work environment.

In this phase, roles and responsibilities are outlined, and a development plan is created, in house team. Along with that, the team starts to keep track of progress and milestones (e.g., daily calls, reviews of issues and progress, etc.).

Once the team is set up , the main task is to keep up with the progress and manage the process well. After completion of  software, it is  released to the client’s end-users for testing, deployment, etc.

Well , the role of outsourcing companies doesn’t end here.

In the dedicated development team model, work continues; clients still need to update and improve in design, structure, and features. The client and the outsourcing company sign contracts that let them extend work boundaries.

Besides this, the client also gets access to all the insidious work. Such as  clients can monitor teams and management and all the other management systems.

Conclusion

To sum up , Dedicated development team model can be beneficial for businesses looking to build apps or software at a reasonable cost with minimal effort required on their part, especially if you have a small budget for your project.

Besides, you must explore your requirements and needs and then decide which model is suitable for you.

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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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