By now, most people are familiar with the phenomenon known as “binge watching.” For those who aren’t, binge watching refers to consuming digital video content in mass quantities via the Internet or various streaming services.
Let’s say you go to YouTube to watch a video, or you log on to Netflix to check out an episode of a TV series everyone is talking about. The next thing you know, you’ve spent several hours watching multiple videos or episodes in succession because:
- You kept clicking on recommended content similar to what you started watching,
- You chose to autoplay the next video in the queue,
- Or you simply couldn’t pry yourself away from the screen because the content was so entertaining and engaging.
Most companies would be beyond ecstatic if visitors to their site spent hours consuming their content. The reality is, people spend a small fraction of that time browsing a website, anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The challenge for marketers is to maximize the average session duration (or time on site) and minimize the bounce rate for their clients. The longer someone stays on a website, the more likely they are to respond to calls to action and become a business lead – or even better, a customer.
That’s where pillar pages and topic clusters come in. The inbound marketing experts at HubSpot define a pillar page as a “comprehensive resource page that covers a core topic in depth and links to high-quality content created for the supporting subtopics.” They define a topic cluster as “6-8 subtopics that address specific questions your customers may be exploring related to the core topic of your pillar page.”
Pillar pages and topic clusters call for a long-term content marketing strategy that includes the creation of a lot of articles, blogs, case studies, white papers and more. This requires a commitment from both marketers and their clients to create this content regularly. While it takes time and effort to populate pillar pages and topic clusters – because high-quality content doesn’t just fall from the sky – doing so invariably generates positive results for several reasons.
Content (Not Keywords) Is the Present and Future of SEO
Google and other search engines have become amazingly sophisticated in recent years. Simply sprinkling keywords and phrases into web copy and meta data doesn’t cut it anymore in terms of improving a site’s search ranking. While it’s still important to include keywords whenever possible – being careful not to overdo it or compromise the readability of your copy – search engines can now actually read and understand longer-form copy, put it into context and reward the most informative and valuable content with higher search results. People who use search engines have raised their games as well by asking more detailed, complex questions rather than relying on simple keyword queries. Modern search engines can understand these questions and actively seek out the best answers to those questions.
Everyone Appreciates an Expert
When they want their questions answered or their problems solved, most people prefer input from an authority on the subject. As discussed above, search engines understand this and generate results accordingly. In the B2B space, the challenges potential customers face often are quite complicated and cannot be sorted out in a paragraph or two. Articles, case studies and white papers are better ways for businesses to get in-depth about information that is the most beneficial to site visitors. As such, this is the type of content that is most likely to rank higher in search results. In addition to the SEO benefit, longer-form content can be given aesthetic appeal with graphic design elements such as infographics and made available as a download. This adds perceived value to the content as something worthy of keeping and referring back to later, which makes it ideal for use as gated content that can only be obtained by submitting an email address and becoming a qualified sales prospect.
The Missing Links
By nature, pillar pages and topic clusters are designed to group related content together. This reinforces to site visitors and search engines alike that there is a breadth of information available, and your site is the best place to learn more about a specific subject. It also organizes the content in a way that makes sense to anyone or anything looking at it. Finally, having a good supply of related content available lends itself to effective interlinking, which actively ties everything together. When someone reads one of your articles, notices a linked word or phrase that piques their interest, clicks on it and arrives at another piece of content they just have to read, suddenly you have an approximation of a “Game of Thrones” binge-watching scenario. It might not result in someone staying on your site for an entire afternoon, but it will increase your average session – and hopefully your sales.
Creating engaging content – and lots of it – doesn’t generally appear on a list of exciting things to do. Most people would probably prefer to spend several hours watching an entire season of “Better Call Saul” than writing an in-depth article or case study. But the sales potential of a content strategy that includes pillar pages and topic clusters should be very exciting to anyone tasked with generating Internet leads and boosting a business’ bottom line.