Let's talk... content marketing
Let’s talk about something! What to talk about when there’s too much talk (researching/selecting pillars/topics to suit your business)
In the modern world of social media and content creators, it often seems that you can’t move for other people’s opinions, stories or commentary. With so much talk out there, it can be hard to determine what you should be listening to and what you need to block out. Many of us simply don’t have the time or patience to absorb everything, so we choose to only listen to those conversations that jump out at us.
If you’re running a business, you need to be part of the right conversations if you want to engage your audience. By doing so, you can promote brand awareness and build meaningful relationships with people who are genuinely interested in your brand.
However, with every business seeking to do the same thing, it can be challenging to find ways to cut above the noise and make sure your brand is getting the attention it needs. If you want to succeed, it’s vital to identify the perfect content topics and pillars that relate to your value proposition and captivate your customers. With the right pillars at the core of your planning, you can ensure that every piece of content you push out into the world along with every conversation you begin is relevant to your business and your audience’s needs. We know that in fulfilling a need, you will go on to create a lead.
This blog explains how you can find appropriate pillars to refine your content strategy and engage customers.
What is a content pillar?
When referring to a content ‘pillar’, we mean the key topics and subject matters that will underpin your content strategy. Imagine that your content marketing was a physical building: you need strong pillars to hold everything together and give your content suite structure and support. These pillars could spawn different types of content, including blogs, videos, webpages, etc, which act as the building blocks to your overall content strategy.
You will have a set number of pillars that should be related to your business, your products and services. For example, if I ran an arts and crafts store, topic pillars that I would consider using could include ‘knitting’, ‘painting’, ‘felt making’, ’embroidery’ and so on. All content created on behalf of my brand would be aligned with at least one of the pillars, with relevant sub topics and titles that explore the topic in more detail.
For example, if we took the ‘knitting’ pillar, possible types of content would include:
- A video guide demonstrating how to knit a Norwegian purl
- A blog titled ’11 knitting tips for beginners’
- A downloadable guide explaining common knitting terminology
- A case study detailing a hobbyists experience and enjoyment of knitting their own jumpers
- A product comparison guide for ‘which needles for which yarns’
To help in deciding the content titles, a good rule of thumb is to break down the topic into relevant categories – such as: What is knitting; Why knit; How to knit; Equipment to use; etc. From here you can start organising your content titles, making sure that you have enough in each category to be of value to your audience.
The benefit of structuring your content around pillars is that it enables you to explore topics related to your business thoroughly, answering all the possible questions your audience may have and finding new ways to add value to their lives. You’ll also become a trusted source of information, educating consumers as they seek to learn more.
When shortlisting your pillars, think about how well they align to your customers’ interests and needs. This means understanding your target customer well through research and analysis, and utilising that insight to inform the content planning process.
Once you have identified and selected the most appropriate pillars, you will then be able to utilise keyword research to identify the common questions people search under that topic realm, the results of which will inspire your content titles and help you to flesh out the pillar in more detail.
How to select topic pillars
Selecting relevant, timely, and captivating topics is the key to unlock great content. By choosing the right pillars, you should be able to craft blogs, videos, whitepapers and so on that attract people to your brand and guide them along their customer journey to an eventual purchase with your business.
We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to pick the right content pillars for your brand.
Use keyword research to identify what people are interested in
The first step to choosing pillars is ensuring the topics and titles you want to pursue have enough demand to warrant writing about, through the use of keyword research.
Start by searching on the broad topics related to your business, products and services, industries, sectors and so on. From here, you can identify related keywords which will help you build up a wider pool of potential topic ideas. You’re looking for those that have a consistent level of search traffic each month, meaning there are people already interested. If your topic or term is showing low or no levels of search traffic, you will need to rethink.
Over time, you may choose to add new topics as you complete pillars or introduce new products and services to your business – but remember to start with keyword research every time.
Utilise social listening
In addition to keyword research, utilising social listening is a way to identify more potential topics your business can tackle. Through social listening, you can determine trending conversations and consumer attitudes that will also enable you to uncover what people are interested in talking about.
The benefit of social listening is that it can help you to piggyback on ‘hot’ talking points to your content planning. By including these timely and trending subjects into your plan you will likely generate more interest, but only if you can get your content out quickly enough to leverage the timing. This will help you to boost brand exposure and help you to create a buzz.
After undertaking social listening and keyword research, you should have an endless list of potential topics. The next step is breaking these down into smaller content titles that will fulfil each pillar and bring them to life.
Look for common questions that people ask associated with each topic using keyword research. You’ll also want to check for long-tail keywords which show more specific interests’ people may have – for example, if your overarching topic is ‘knitting’, a long-tail keyword phrase like ‘knitting to crochet conversion’ might highlight a more niche need. A tool like Answer the Public can help you to check this, by searching a broad search term and generating a list of questions people have searched.
Ensure that every title you select is relevant to your pillars, as this will enable you to tie it directly into your products and services, create clear calls-to-action and avoid going off-topic.
Ensure you can add value
When trying to ensure that your brand stands out from the crowd, there is little point in regurgitating what is already out there. Try and create content that adds a new perspective or angle, making it fresh and unique, this way it will add more value for your audience.
Focus on the pillars and titles that will give your reader’s something they couldn’t get elsewhere. An excellent way to check this is to conduct competitor research and look at high-ranking content for the keywords you are targeting. From here, you can seek ways to better it.
You should also be prepared to use any expertise or specialist knowledge you have to strengthen your content and provide helpful information to your customers as they navigate their purchasing decision. This will allow you to build your authority as an expert in the field.
By creating valuable content around your pillars, you will gain a competitive edge, access SEO benefits and engage more customers, on top of improving your customer conversion rates as you guide their purchasing decision.
Make sure your titles link
When you start creating content under your pillars, you may find that different titles overlap as they are all centred around the same topics. Due to this, it’s a good idea to link between titles at relevant stages. It’s worthwhile creating a set pillar page that serves as an index to your sub topics, exploring all the facets of that topic in summary, and including hyperlinks to any related blogs.
By linking blogs together where subject elements overlap, you make it easy for users to navigate around and explore that topic in more detail, which can help them gain enough information to make a decision and move along their buyer journey.
It will also boost your SEO by creating links to your site, allowing Google to understand the topic you are discussing, and enabling you to retain customers on your website by giving them other places to go, rather than sending them to your competitors to find out more.
Keep the pillar theme present on all platforms
Finally, once you have set out your pillars, ensure they underpin all your content. This doesn’t just mean blogs or webpages; it could also tie into your social media posts, emails and so on.
By ensuring that all your activity links to at least one pillar, you can clarify your brand experience and set out what customers can expect from you, and helping you maintain consistency across your content so that everything you share is relevant to your value proposition somehow.
Refining your content strategy with set pillars is crucial if you want to focus on topics relevant to your products and services that will pique the interest of your target customers. Finding appropriate pillars will also enable you to find topics where you can add value through your business’s expertise.
With carefully selected pillars behind your content, you can ensure that you contribute to all the conversations that matter, helping you to engage with potential leads while becoming a trusted and heard voice among the crowd.
The result will be happier customers, increased conversion rates and a content plan that works for your business, making the time and effort in implementing it worthwhile.