5 Steps to Planning Profitable Pillar Content

You have a burning question about business, so you do what any online entrepreneur would: you ask Google or peruse Pinterest. That's when you discover a new-to-you website that's so good, you want to spend all afternoon reading their blog.

You might start with the popular posts that are listed in the sidebar or on a "start here" page. They're the gateway to other topics you're interested in, which are easy to find through the blog's related posts or categories. You share their best posts as you go, so your biz besties can learn from this awesome blog, too---and of course you sign up for their email newsletter before you leave the site.

It may seem like good luck that you found such a useful blog to follow, but it wasn't. It was intentionally planned pillar content. 

What is pillar content?

Pillar content is the foundation of your entire content strategy. These are the blog posts (or videos, podcast episodes, etc.) that attract readers to your site and wow them with a crazy amount of helpful knowledge. You're putting your best foot forward as you introduce new readers to your brand.

Think of it as a first date with your target readers. These aren't the posts that invite new readers to sign up for a signature package or $1000 course. You're not proposing marriage, you're just trying to get a second date!

Pillar content should go above and beyond in answering your readers' questions and solving their pain points. This is your first opportunity to turn a new visitor into a raving fan. Make sure you get it right with these 5 steps to planning profitable pillar content.

5 Steps to Planning Profitable Pillar Content

5 Steps to Planning Profitable Pillar Content

1. Decide what you want to be known for.

We tend to think of people as they were when we first met them. That's why you're so surprised when you find out your high school class clown is now an accountant. People are going to remember you based on their first interaction with your brand. What do you want to be known for?

Your expertise should relate back to the products or services you want to sell. My services all relate to helping people build business blogs in an intentional way, so my pillar content focuses on blogging tips for business owners. 

This is tough for many business owners who are passionate about several things. Try this exercise to narrow it down: Imagine that you're wildly successful. You've just made a book deal, and your inbox is flooded with interview requests. What's the central theme of that book and those interviews?

Example pillar content: The Anatomy of an Irresistibly Good Blog Post

2. Know your readers' pain points.

Pillar content draws readers in by giving solving their problem in a clear, actionable way. Not only does this prove your expertise, it builds trust with your readers. They'll know from the get-go that you're not just talk, you're someone who can actually make a difference in their life and business.

You can't solve someone's problems until you know what they are. Get tuned in to your readers' biggest pain points. Browse social media and pay attention to what your ideal readers ask over and over again (Facebook groups are especially helpful for this). If you have an existing audience, you can also send a survey to get a better idea of what they're struggling with.

Example pillar content: How to Spend Less Time Blogging (without Sacrificing Quality)


3. Create a related opt-in offer.

This isn't just about building your email list. This is your opportunity to impress new visitors with a free resource that actually solves their problem.

We've all had the experience of being drawn to a website by a catchy headline and a pin-worthy graphic, only to find useless content on the other side. Pretty graphics are all well and good, but they don't make for long-lasting readers.

Make your opt-in as actionable and valuable as you possibly can. You don't necessarily need to create a new opt-in freebie for every single piece of pillar content. Having two or three freebies to choose from is a great starting place. Then you can include the most relevant opt-in as you create your pillar content.

Example pillar content: 5 Myths You Believe About Content Strategies (That Are Dragging Down Your Business)

4. Do keyword research.

Pillar content only works if people can find it. One of the main goals for your pillar content is to drive traffic to your site. Using strong keywords and following other SEO best practices will make it more likely that the right readers find your posts.

Follow these basic tenets of SEO to give your site a better shot at appearing on page one of Google:

  • Use a keyword planner to choose a keyword that has low competition, but a medium to high search rate. 
  • Use your keyword in your post title and at least twice in the post content itself.
  • For bonus points, include your keyword in a subhead. This tells Google that it's an important term in your content.
  • Fill out your post's meta description with a short teaser explaining what your post is about. And of course, include your keyword!
  • Use alt tags to make sure your keyword is attached to any images in your post. You can also rename your image with a keyword-rich title.

5. Choose a strong call-to-action.

A call-to-action (CTA) is your chance to tell readers exactly what action you want them to take next after they read your blog post. Check out this post if you need to brush up on the basics of a strong CTA.

Remember, the goal of pillar content isn't to sell anything. You want to build trust and keep new readers engaged with your brand. Good CTA options are asking readers to share the post on social media, directing them to a related post that might help them out, or including a high-value opt-in offer (if it's not already part of your post).