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Updated Astra WordPress Theme Offers Stronger Performance

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Updated Astra WordPress Theme Offers Stronger Performance

The popular free Astra WordPress theme just updated to version 3.8.0, offering faster performance on the backend and the frontend, improving the workflow to make it easier and faster to design a website while also making the design controls more intuitive and powerful.

Free Astra WordPress Theme

Astra is a free WordPress theme that has a rare five star rating on the official WordPress theme website.

According to the Astra theme home page, the them is trusted by organizations like Stanford University and NASA and is used by over 1.6 million websites.

It’s popularity is due to how easy it is to design with while also being light on code to improve performance.

It is engineered to be SEO-ready out of the box, including Schema.org structured data code integrated into the theme itself.

Astra also works well with all major page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder, Divi, Visual Composer, SiteOrigin, WooCommerce and many others.

One of the major reasons for its popularity is the ability to import ready-made starer templates that are appropriate for different industries and uses.

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The free version of the Astra theme has been updated to version 3.8.0.

There is also a paid pro version of the theme and that one has been updated to version 3.6.8.

Simplified Design Flow

The redesigned Astra theme now features an easier design flow that helps publishers and designers make websites faster.

Thoughtful improvements to the Latest Posts Block automate design features so that it just looks right without having to fuss with little design details.

The headings, link colors and fonts all come with default states that are based on the theme style settings.

The Pullquote block and the Quote block were also improved, fixing a style issue that kept text left-aligned even when the text within the quote was centered.

The Astra announcement explained:

“Previously, when you moved the quote to the middle-centered or right-centered position, it still showed as left-aligned. This has now been changed and looks much better. ”

More Control Over Design Elements

In addition to making some style elements automatic, Astra now provides more freedom to change how the page design looks.

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For example, the newly updated theme allows users to change the colors of links, made it easier to change margins and padding, and added more control over the borders so that they can be styled according to a users preferred width, color and even radius.

Astra added the ability to disable the header area at the top of page on a global/sitewide basis.

Design controls have been updated to make them more intuitive and easy to use. For example, dropdown controls are now available through button selection controls.

There is also a new way for publishers to adjust the default content width to any desired size by adding a filter to the child theme.

Astra noted:

“…now you have better control over the sidebar and the content layout with the visual layout designs to choose from right inside the block editor.

Page Elements where the number of toggles has been reduced or will appear conditionally which in turn will load the page faster.”

Performance Improvements

Astra continues to focus on making their theme faster than before. While the performance improvements may seem modest, even small improvements can result in more sales, conversions and page views. So this is a big step in the right direction.

The improvements made are to the backend for users who are designing and also to the frontend where site visitors will have a better experience.

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According to Astra:

“A study says that the usage of CSS on your website is directly proportional to the speed of your website. The more CSS you use, the slower your website will load.

With the speed of the website being one of the major ranking factors, it is very important to minimize the usage of CSS.

That’s what we have done with the block editor. We have used the built-in CSS of WordPress and reduced the usage of CSS in the theme.”

Backend Improvements

On the backend, Dynamic CSS has been reduced from 21.4 KB to 7 KB. Static CSS is reduced from 21 KB to 15 KB, and the page size on the backend is reduced from 588 KB to 547 KB.

Frontend Improvements

On the frontend, CSS has been reduced from 9.77 KB to 4.44 KB and the page size has been reduced from 111 KB to 106 KB.

Other changes to the backend include moving the font customizer controls to React JS in order to make it faster to use.

Astra Theme Keeps Getting Better

The free Astra theme is trusted by nearly two million websites worldwide because it makes designing websites easy, particularly with the built-in template importer.

With the improvements to site performance and the design functions, Astra continues to earn the position of being one of the most popular WordPress themes in the world.

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Citations

Read the Official Astra Theme Changelog

Changelog for Astra Free Version 3.8.0

Read the Details of Theme Improvements

Improved Block Editor Experience with Astra

Official WordPress Astra Theme Page

Astra By Brainstorm Force

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SEO

8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

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8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

Pillar pages are high-level introductions to a topic. They then link to other pages, which are usually more detailed guides about parts of the main topic.

Altogether, they form a content hub.

Example of a content hub

But not all pillar pages look the same. 

In this guide, we’ll look at eight examples of pillar pages to get your creative juices flowing.

Excerpt of beginner's guide to SEO by Ahrefs

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 1,200
Backlinks: 6,900
Referring domains: 899

Overview of Ahrefs' beginner's guide to SEO in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is our very own pillar page, covering the broad topic of search engine optimization (SEO)

Why I like it

Besides the fact that I’m biased, I like the custom design we created for this page, which makes it different from the articles on our blog. 

Even though the design is custom, our pillar page is still a pretty classic “hub and spoke” style pillar page. We’ve broken the topic down neatly into six different chapters and internally linked to guides we’ve created about them. There are also custom animations when you hover over each chapter:

Examples of chapters in the SEO guide

We’ve also added a glossary section that comes with a custom illustration of the SERPs. We have explanations of what each element means, with internal links to more detailed content:

Custom illustration of the SERP

Finally, it links to another “pillar page”: our SEO glossary

Takeaway

Consider creating a custom design for your pillar page so that it stands out. 

Excerpt of Doctor Diet's ketogenic diet guide

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 92,200
Backlinks: 21,600
Referring domains: 1,700

Overview of Diet Doctor's ketogenic diet guide in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Diet Doctor is a health company focusing on low-carb diets. Its pillar page is a comprehensive guide on the keto diet. 

Why I like it

On the surface, it doesn’t exactly look like a pillar page; it looks like every other post on the Diet Doctor site. But that’s perfectly fine. It’s simply a different approach—you don’t have to call out the fact that it’s a pillar page. 

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Diet Doctor’s guide is split into 10 different sections with links to its own resources. The links bring you to different types of content (not just blog posts but videos too).

Video course about keto diet for beginners

Unlike the classic pillar page, Diet Doctor’s guide goes into enough detail for anyone who is casually researching the keto diet. But it also links to further resources for anyone who’s interested in doing additional research.

Takeaway

Pillar pages need not always just be text and links. Make it multimedia: You can add videos and images and even link to your own multimedia resources (e.g., a video course).

Excerpt of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 5,600
Backlinks: 2,800
Referring domains: 247

Overview of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Wine Folly is a content site devoted to wine knowledge and appreciation. Its pillar page, as expected, is about wine. 

Why I like it

Wine Folly’s pillar page is a classic example of a “hub and spoke” style pillar page—split into multiple sections, with some supporting text, and then internal links to other resources that support each subsection. 

Supporting text and links to other resources

This page doesn’t just serve as a pillar page for ranking purposes, though. Given that it ranks well and receives quite a significant amount of search traffic, the page also has a call to action (CTA) to Wine Folly’s book:

Short description of book; below that, CTA encouraging site visitor to purchase it

Takeaway

While most websites design pillar pages for ranking, you can also use them for other purposes: capture email addresses, sell a book, pitch your product, etc. 

Excerpt of A-Z directory of yoga poses

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 11,100
Backlinks: 3,400
Referring domains: 457

Overview of Yoga Journal's A-Z directory of yoga poses in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Yoga Journal is an online and offline magazine. Its pillar page is an A-Z directory of yoga poses.

Why I like it

Yoga Journal’s pillar page is straightforward and simple. List down all possible yoga poses (in both their English and Sanskrit names) in a table form and link to them. 

List of yoga poses in table form

Since it’s listed in alphabetical order, it’s useful for anyone who knows the name of a particular pose and is interested in learning more. 

What I also like is that Yoga Journal has added an extra column on the type of pose each yoga pose belongs to. If we click on any of the pose types, we’re directed to a category page where you can find similar kinds of poses: 

Examples of standing yoga poses (in grid format)

Takeaway

The A-Z format can be a good format for your pillar page if the broad topic you’re targeting fits the style (e.g., dance moves, freestyle football tricks, etc.).

Excerpt of Atlassian's guide to agile development

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 115,200
Backlinks: 3,200
Referring domains: 860

Overview of Atlassian's guide to agile development in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Atlassian is a software company. You’ve probably heard of its products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, etc. Its pillar page is on agile development.

Why I like it

Atlassian’s pillar page is split into different topics related to agile development. It then has internal links to each topic—both as a sticky table of contents and card-style widgets after the introduction: 

Sticky table of contents
Card-style widgets

I also like the “Up next” feature at the bottom of the pillar page, which makes it seem like an online book rather than a page. 

Example of "Up next" feature

Takeaway

Consider adding a table of contents to your pillar page. 

Excerpt of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 114,400
Backlinks: 2,900
Referring domains: 592

Overview of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Muscle and Strength’s pillar page is a massive database linking to various categories of workouts. 

Why I like it

Calling it a pillar page seems to be an understatement. Muscle and Strength’s free workouts page appears to be more like a website. 

When you open the page, you’ll see that it’s neatly split into multiple categories, such as “workouts for men,” “workouts for women,” “biceps,” “abs,” etc. 

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Workout categories (in grid format)

Clicking through to any of them leads us to a category page containing all sorts of workouts:

Types of workouts for men (in grid format)

Compared to the other pillar pages on this list, where they’re linking to other subpages, Muscle and Strength’s pillar page links to other category pages, which then link to their subpages, i.e., its massive archive of free workouts.

Takeaway

Content databases, such as the one above, are a huge undertaking for a pillar page but can be worth it if the broad topic you’re targeting fits a format like this. Ideally, the topic should be about something where the content for it is ever-growing (e.g., workout plans, recipes, email templates, etc.).

Excerpt of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 39,100
Backlinks: 1,100
Referring domains: 308

Overview of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Tofugu is a site about learning Japanese. And its pillar page is about, well, learning Japanese.

Why I like it

This is an incredible (and yes, ridiculously good) guide to learning Japanese from scratch. It covers every stage you’ll go through as a complete beginner—from knowing no Japanese to having intermediate proficiency in the language. 

Unlike other pillar pages where information is usually scarce and simply links out to further resources, this page holds nothing back. Under each section, there is great detail about what that section is, why it’s important, how it works, and even an estimated time of how long that stage takes to complete. 

Another interesting aspect is how Tofugu has structured its internal links as active CTAs. Rather than “Learn more” or “Read more,” it’s all about encouraging users to do a task and completing that stage. 

CTA encouraging user to head to the next task of learning to read hiragana

Takeaway

Two takeaways here:

  • Pillar pages can be ridiculously comprehensive. It depends on the topic you’re targeting and how competitive it is.
  • CTAs can be more exciting than merely just “Read more.”
Excerpt of Zapier's guide to working remotely

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 890
Backlinks: 4,100
Referring domains: 1,100

Overview of Zapier's guide to working remotely in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Zapier allows users to connect multiple software products together via “zaps.” It’s a 100% remote company, and its pillar page is about remote work. 

Why I like it

Zapier’s pillar page is basically like Wine Folly’s pillar page. Break a topic into subsections, add a couple of links of text, and then add internal links to further resources. 

In the examples above, we’ve seen all sorts of execution for pillar pages. There are those with custom designs and others that are crazily comprehensive.

But sometimes, all a pillar page needs is a simple design with links. 

Takeaway

If you already have a bunch of existing content on your website, you can create a simple pillar page like this to organize your content for your readers. 

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Keep learning

Inspired by these examples and want to create your own pillar page? Learn how to successfully do so with these two guides:

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.  



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