How to Write Pillar Content for Your Website

The concept of pillar content on your website is pretty simple: You need a solid foundation of base articles to support the rest of everything else you might ever publish or share.

Pillar content is the “meat and potatoes” of your website – it’s your best work, and it’s also the work that is most shared and fills a need for your readers. This content will make them want to keep coming back for more and eventually turn into loyal readers and subscribers.

Today we’ll talk about what makes for good pillar content with some examples, as well as share some must-know tips for how to write pillar content that will consistently bring new visitors to your website.

Why Writing Pillar Content is a Good Idea

Pillar content are the articles you will reference to over and over again in all future articles you will ever write. These are your strongest articles, typically at least 1,000-2,000 words long. It takes at least 3-4 hours to write one of these foundation articles, because your goal is one thing: be epic.

Think about it: If you were building a giant skyscraper – wouldn’t you want to make sure your foundational columns and beams were strong before you start worrying about details like choosing a paint color or which knick knacks to display on the office desk?

It’s logically obvious, but for some reason, many new website owners find themselves spending more times changing widgets and themes far more than they focus on writing content.

I’ve made a quick graphic below to give you the #1 tip to make an awesome website 🙂

How to Create An Amazing Website With WordPress Widgets:

Stop widgetizing the widgets and start writing!
Might seem silly, but it’s true: No one visits your website to read the sidebar!

I’m guilty of getting caught up in design details as procrastination myself.

If you think my website looks hideous while you’re reading this, I assure you I’m not a horrible web designer or have bad taste. I just have found truly no one cares about your sidebar widgets, they care about your words.

In fact, I’m pushing to get this website live right now without caring about what the heck it might look like. I apologize in advance for having no “website must-haves” like my mailing list ready and probably not even good navigational menus. I trust if you like something here, you’ll most likely come back.

The Uglier Your Website, The Better You’ll Feel!

We used to have a saying among my early internet marketing friends: Ugly websites make more money. At the time, it was undeniably true.

Some of the most successful and popular websites started out with the worst designs you can imagine. Think Drudge Report, Amazon, eBay, Craigslist…even Google itself is pretty hideous.

Most of these sites have since done some cosmetic updating, but still aren’t ever going to win any web design awards. They didn’t care about having the greatest design of all time – They put the focus on their content. They put priority in building what people are actually interested in when visiting their site.

Strong Articles Mean a Good Foundation

Having a strong foundation of articles is key to building your website.

There are three main benefits of having strong, solid articles as the foundation for everything else you might ever write:

  1. These are the articles everyone will share and link to the most, building up links and social media traffic sources to your website.
  2. They serve as a starting point for someone new to your niche. “What’s that, you don’t know how to monetize your website? You’ve got to read my article on 28+ Passive Income Ideas.”
  3. They give you and your site authority – it helps people trust you. If you can write 2,000 words about a topic just off the top of your head, you must know what you’re talking about!

It should be obvious you need good pillar content by now, so let’s talk about how to write pillar content articles for whatever your niche might be.

How I Plan My Pillar Content

When I first start to plan out my content that I will be posting on my website, I begin very simply by thinking about what people I would like to attract to the website. Who will be my ideal readers? For those who do content marketing professionally for businesses, this is called identifying and creating a target audience profile.

I usually write my initial pillar content specifically for these two groups: The Beginner and The Struggling.

Writing for the Beginner

I write for The Beginner when share things I wish I had known or could find when I first started learning about a niche. This works in almost any industry or topic.

This also works well if you’re just becoming interested or getting started in a niche yourself, because you don’t even know what you might not know yet! It’s harder when it’s a topic you know a lot about – it’s very easy to take for granted all the things you know.

Side Note: This is why when I go to WordPress Meetups and WordCamps, I LOVE talking to people who are brand new to WordPress. I always tell everyone, you don’t know how much it helps me to help you! It gives me ideas for what I take for granted that I know to share on my own website that would help others.

The Beginner is a great target audience to start with, even if you would prefer to work with someone already familiar with the topic or niche. It helps build your website the authority as a “one stop resource”.

Those who have been in the field for a long time will recognize right away whether or not you have any idea what you are talking about. If you organize your content well, they will definitely recommend your website to others they meet who are just getting started, simply because it will be a fantastic resource and reference. This builds links and traffic to your site, so it is all good!

Once I have at least 5-10 articles catered to the absolute beginner, then I will get into writing for The Struggling.

Writing for the Struggling

The Struggling target audience profile for me is someone who is already well versed in the beginner concepts, but they still aren’t getting the results they want.

Let’s say you have a website that teaches people how build up their photography business. The Struggling would be someone who has had a photography business for more than 1-2 years, but they still aren’t at the level they want to be.

Maybe they want to find better ways to streamline the photo editing process, or maybe they need to brush up on how to get the latest style of photos.

Maybe they are a naturally talented photographer, but they struggle to find clients who actually pay them.

It’s always a good idea to start planning some pillar content for The Struggling, because they will likely be your beginners after a few months or a year.

Once I’ve identified what information is most useful for these two groups, I decide to do a little bit of keyword research. This helps me narrow down what I should prioritize as to what to write first.

Usually when I’m writing my first article aimed for beginners, I start to get a lot of ideas for other pillar articles I will be writing. For example, in that last sentence I just mentioned keyword research, but I don’t actually have an article to link to that explains it in more depth. Bingo: I’ve just got an idea for my next pillar article!

How to Organize All These Ideas for Pillar Articles

When I’m brainstorming for article ideas, I find creating a simple MindMap to be the quickest and most useful. There are a lot of different MindMap tools out there, many which are free. I use Scapple for MacOS, and here’s what a quick MindMap for a topic might look like:

Sample mindmap for pillar content on kayak niche blog
This is an example of what a MindMap for pillar content might look like on a website all about kayaking.

If you look at the picture above, you can see there are some “really basic” ideas catered to The Beginner, like types of kayaks, kayaking safety, and how to paddle.

You can see where you might start catering to The Struggling when you get into these topics:

  • how to transport kayaks easily
  • mistakes I made while kayaking
  • how to waterproof your gear
  • How to Use a GoPro camera
  • How to Go Fishing
  • Writing these pillar articles would serve as a foundation for every single article you would write from that point forward.

This way, when you write that review about a new kayak and all of it’s features later down the road, you can link to your pillar articles. For example, you’re writing a review of a kayak and you can now include why it might be a better choice for fishing.

Pillar Content Will Lead to More Article Ideas to Attract Your Audience

Some of your pillar content may even later help you to discover an unexpected audience, what I call a “niche within a niche”.

For example, if you write about fishing kayaks, you may attract anglers as readers. These anglers might be a little hesitant about kayaking at first, but once they realize it’s the best way to get to where the fish are they will soon become your beginners. As they move through the beginner stage, they’ll begin to value your other content even more.

From there you could start writing posts like “How I Find All the Best Fishing Spots” and “Best Bait for Use While Fishing”, because this will attract anglers to potentially become interested in kayaking.

Now We Make Lists! Lots of Them!

Once I have a MindMap all worked out, I will then often export it to text to bring into my next favorite tool for organizing content: WorkFlowy.

I will have to write an entire article all about using WorkFlowy to share why I love it and how it saved my sanity, but this is where it lets me organize all those ideas into lists and bullets. It’s magic.  In the meantime, here’s a quick screenshot:

Workflowy has saved me a few times from getting lost while planning content. It’s also free to get started to use. If you’d like to try it, join using my referral link and you’ll get an extra free 250 lists!

You can see in the image above, I simply organized the information from the MindMap into an outline. Now I have a list of what will be my pillar content to write about first. From here, I know I can continue building up on each of these articles.

For example, kayaking safety would focus on dressing for the weather and wearing a life jacket. This article would then link to “what to wear” and “choosing a life jacket”. And, once all of my pillar content is published, I’ll then be ready to expand even more on these main topic concepts, like “best neoprene clothing for kayaking” to “how to kayak in the winter”.

This method of planning may not be what works best for every single person out there, but for me it really cuts down on the development time instead of messing around with blogging schedules and calendars and spreadsheets.

Types of Pillar Content to Write

This is the hardest part for a lot of new bloggers and website owners – actually writing the articles to correspond to the ideas you have for what to write about!

There are a lot of types of blog content that work well, but for pillar content, I suggest sticking to one of these 4 article formats:

The List Article

This is an article that lists something, for example: “12 Kayak Safety Tips You Need to Know” or “101 Best Places in the United States for Kayaking”.

List articles are super easy to write {especially when you use an app like Workflowy!} – it’s usually just a matter of brainstorming and thinking of a number of items.

The only downfall to list articles is everybody tries to beat you with the numbers. If you write 25 ways to do something, no doubt someone is going to think of 50, or maybe even 101. If you can write the 101 ways article in your niche before anybody else does, do it!

The How-To Article:

How-To Articles usually include instructions to do something. Using our example, this might be articles like “How to Get In & Out of Your Kayak Gracefully” and .

The nice thing about this type of content is often times they can be supplemented with a video and they do really well for Pinterest.

The downside to these kinds of articles? Creating the content and a tutorial usually requires investing in some serious time or special supplies. Fortunately, the need for supplies is exactly how I use How-To Articles for Affiliate Marketing. {Someone remind me to do a post on that!}

The Conflict Article:

This is an article that might weigh the pros and cons about something or talks about something somewhat controversial within your niche. These types of posts generally get some attention and can often lead to organic, natural backlinks.

For example: “Kayak Gear You Probably Don’t Need to Buy” – an article like this would be helpful and breath of fresh air for readers overwhelmed by all the “must-have” gear articles on other websites. This gives your website a unique perspective that stands out in your audience’s mind.

The downfall? Sometimes you might get some backlash from the overall blogging community or find out that you made some people in the industry angry. Always try to be respectful if you go down this route – you don’t want to set fire to your site and destroy your online reputation.

The Product Review Article:

Product review articles encompasses reviews of individual products and can also cross-over to a round-up list post where many products are reviewed and compared. Examples in the kayak niche might be “25 Best Fishing Kayaks” or “Perception Kayak Review”.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of writing product review articles. Unless I am lucky enough to find a really obscure niche that doesn’t have a lot of competition, I tend to find it is super tedious and difficult to write something unique and original that isn’t just a rehash of what everyone else has already published.

Of course, as your blog grows these can always be added later, and often times need to be added later just so your site continues to build authority. After you begin to draw traffic from How-To and List type of posts the questions on gear, supplies, and reviews usually will start pouring in from your readers.

Of course, you’ll find other types of content and articles can be useful as well. I just find that for my main pillar articles, these are the 3 types I try to focus on. Only after I have a good foundation of 10-15 articles like these will I start getting into other content types such as general info posts, interviews, relevant news, etc.

The Formula for Writing Articles

Every single article I write follows this basic format:

Title, Introduction, Image, Sub Heading 1, 2, 3, Conclusion With Call to Action

Here’s an image of what I call the “Anatomy of a Blog Post”, taken from a slide I put together on a presentation at our local WordPress Meetup Group:

Anatomy of a Blog Post

Your average pillar content article should be at least 1,000 words, but that’s more of a bare minimum amount. This article is well over 3000+ words.

Word Count does play a big part in search engine ranking, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have 25,000 word articles. You’re writing blog posts, not an eBook. {Besides, if you have 25,000 words to say about something, chances are you could probably break that into several smaller articles and optimize those individual posts to bring more traffic than you would with one blog post.}

While the more words the better, you don’t just write to write for fluff purposes. Share examples! Give statistics. Show research! Use stories that back up and support your point. If you just write for the sake of writing words to get that word count up, it will just be boring to read. You really need to go in-depth on your title and topic.

Don’t Be Shy: Shock Your Audience in a Blog Post

You should always aim to keep your audience reading. You only have one goal when writing: Get someone to read the next sentence.

Why is there a lobster here?
Hi! I’m a lobster!

This lobster above illustrates my point perfectly.

Why is there a lobster here? That is a great question!

It’s a random picture that has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, but it gets your attention to keep reading, doesn’t it? While it’s totally random and doesn’t fit into this blog post all that naturally, there ARE a lot of ways you could weave why lobsters matter in internet marketing.

For example, many people would be afraid to branch out of their comfort zone and put a lobster in this article at all. It’s the perfect example to share one of my favorite videos about what a lobster can teach us about growth. Sometimes we have to go out of our comfort zones!

Most internet marketers will tell you no one has the attention span to read long blog posts, but I’ve found that if you break up your long blocks of text with images and examples in between, you’ll find that people still stay engaged, even when you are long past the 1,000 word count mark.

It also can help establish a place of trust and connection with your readers. It makes you memorable. There’s reasons why I can list off some of my favorite bloggers by name and memory, I don’t even have to search for them – they have that personality that shines through in every post they right.

Pillar Content Will Help You Attract an Audience for the Long Term

No matter what your monetization strategy might be, the longer people spend time on your website, the more likely they will feel connected to you.

This means they will also more likely be interested in your products or services you offer. If you provide value, they’ll be more inclined to check out your recommended resources {which hopefully contains affiliate links so you earn a commission!}.

Having 1,000 loyal readers is always better than 100,000 people who found you through a fleeting news article, because once that news is over, those visitors will never remember you even existed. By focusing on creating content that attracts readers who will then turn into loyal visitors, you’re setting yourself up for long-term success.

Side Note: Read one of my favorite marketing articles: 1,000 True Fans {opens in new window on a different website}.

Above All: Write From the Heart

Want to be let in on a little secret? This article, which is the first article published on this blog…is a pillar article. And while I haven’t necessarily put in ALL of my heart and tears {I’ll save the sob stories of how I was a failing internet marketer when I was a newbie for another post} – it was written from the heart, because I want YOU to succeed.

I want you to know what I know, I want my struggles to have been worth it, not just in celebrating my own success, but also to help inspire others to finally see the results they want in the world of website ownership, blogging and internet marketing.

Writing from the heart is what sets the main difference between “Just another WordPress niche site” to becoming “a really tremendous resource on this topic”.

I hope this article gives you a little bit of insight on how to plan & write the content for your blog or website. It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s actually quite fun and will become natural after some practice!

Do you have anything you’d like to share about how to write pillar content? What do you struggle with the most about writing and planning content on your website? Do you have any questions about writing pillar blog posts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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