Pillar Posts: How to write great pillar posts that everyone likes

When I was asked to write an article for this blog about pillar posts and what they meant to me, my first inclination was to give you the same bubbly, warm-hearted response that you would find on most of the A-list blogs (like Yaro Starak and Darren Rouse’s Problogger)….you know the routine….you need to build at least 4 authoritative articles that will become the foundation of your website…

The problem with this is that saying you need to build pillar posts is easier said than done, especially if you are in a competitive niche…

So, instead of focusing on the obvious (yeah, yeah…you need to write great, engaging content to engage an audience), I have decided to be contrarian in nature and show why I don’t necessarily buy into the premise that you need to manufacture pillar posts in the way that you have been accustomed to hearing.

What is a pillar post anyway?

A pillar post, as defined by most, is simply a post that is timeless in nature and helps solidify your blog’s authority in whatever niche you happen to be in.

Think of a pillar post as a solid foundation for which your entire website is built on. Your pillar posts are the ones that will likely be the most talked-about among others in your niche and link to. It typically is one of the definitive posts on whatever topic you are discussing, ideally speaking.

They can be “link bait” in nature and typically should be definitive with your website’s mission statement (although this isn’t always the case)…

The 2 most popular pillar posts are:

Authoritative Guides– ex. the complete newbie’s guide to making the most money from your Adsense site, 2 of the best methods to potty training your 2-year-old, the DIY guide to installing a toilet…even if you aren’t good with your hands…
Lists- ex. the top 4 tips to get massive traffic, 17 ways to get quality backlinks, 14 traffic generation tools you need to use, the funniest 100 youtube videos…ever…
…that’s Cliff’s note version of it at least…

Okay, so you know the shorthand version of what a pillar post is.

This shouldn’t really be news to you at all.

After all, if you create good content then you should get noticed, right?

If you listen to the likes of Yaro and Darren, it would seem to appear that it should be just that easy. It isn’t but that is another story altogether…

Pillar Posts
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Pillar Posts

The Authoritative Guide to Building Pillar Posts

I building some pillar posts.  My latest blog (on internet marketing) which is just a couple months old gets traffic on some of my posts that would have most bloggers grow green with envy. I want to show you my take on how to build pillar posts the right way…

I am arranging these as theories because although they work for me, they may not necessarily be slam dunks in your market. It is all based on your skill set and experience within your niche…

Theory #1- Faking it until you make it will only take you so far….and your “pillar posts” will suffer…

I am in a niche where everyone claims to make more money than they actually do. If you own a “make money online” (MMO) blog and are faking it, then chances are that your pillar posts won’t be strong or credible enough for people to link up to you.

I say this with reservation though. If you happen to be a good enough writer, then you may be able to get further than the average blogger simply because you can B.S. your way through a post.

The problem with the fake it until you make it pillar post is that most of the time it is nothing more than a regurgitated article from a series of articles online…

In other words, you aren’t experienced enough to write something original. Your “keyword research guide” will come across as the same old, same old, seen it before the type of guide.

The end result? A collective yawn across the internet, despite the fact that you spent hours trolling information to find what others claim work.

Theory #2- You don’t get to pick your Pillar Posts. Ultimately, your audience will pick them for you

This theory can be quite disconcerting to the blogger who spends the majority of his day writing 500 word sugary sweet posts rather than focusing on well-researched articles.

After all, if this is you…then you will be putting a lot of stock in the random few times that you decide to write something that actually matters or is a defining moment in the life of your website.

And because you write these types of posts so infrequently, it is a huge gamble. What if the article you just poured your heart, soul, time and energy into doesn’t take?

This is what I call the pillar post conundrum…

You simply can’t manufacture pillar posts and expect them to be great….ultimately, your audience will decide for you what is great and what isn’t.

Theory #3- Because You Can’t “Pick” your Pillar Posts, Why NOT Make Every Post a Potential Pillar Post?

Conventional wisdom among bloggers is that you need to post daily to keep and attract viewers. But, it is my belief that most of us don’t have enough smart things to say on a daily basis to actually merit posting.

What results is the typical 500 word sugary “I am posting just to post” post?

If you aren’t posting GREAT information whenever you post, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. In the make money niche, there are hordes of MMO blogs that write short blurbs in the hopes of keeping their fans complacent.

There are also a lot of bloggers that believe that if you write lengthy posts, that you will lose your audience’s attention….ummm…yeah….if you write crappy (pardon my language) posts, you will. But if your posts have the WIIFM factor and tell a believable story, then they will be willing to read on.

I have never approached blogging this way and I don’t think bloggers should take the “blog just to blog” approach either…that is unless they just want to be another blog that is like every other blog out there…

If you are willing to believe that you aren’t in control of what posts actually become pillar posts, wouldn’t you agree that the more pillar type posts that you create, the stronger your foundation will be?

Long-winded posts may not be the answer to creating pillar posts, but I can guarantee that more people will get more out of your long posts (because people will scan and cherry-pick what they want) than a short “been there, done that” post that seems to appear in force on most blogs.

Just my thoughts though…

Theory #4- Contrarian Pillar Posts **POP**

A very wise man once told me that if you go against conventional wisdom, then chances are better that your post will resonate than if you go with the flow. Sounds like a no brainer, right?

One of my favorite bloggers in the world did this.

While the rest of the blogging community was saying that in order to make money online, you needed to embrace the social media platforms, this particular blogger stated plainly that it was an exercise in futility.

While the rest of the blogging community said that subscribers were a great litmus for success, he said it was nothing more than an ego stroke.

When others stated that all you needed was traffic to make money, he said that you needed to be targeted traffic and that the social sites like Digg and StumbleUpon only created the impression that you were doing well….you get the picture, right?

The kicker for this particular blogger was he was right. The result? More traffic, more readers and more money.

It is easy going with the flow. But as the great Earl Nightingale once said, (paraphrased) “when in doubt, go in the opposite direction of the public…because the majority is almost always wrong…”

Theory #5- It ain’t what you say…it is how you say it…

I am an internet marketer first and a blogger second, so I totally understand the importance of a good story that resonates with your audience.

What I mean by “story” isn’t necessarily the words I type….it is far deeper than that…

I have run across very good posts from relatively unknown blogs that will probably not do much from a traffic or link perspective. The problem?

They write in a very generic, vanilla type of format.

Their words don’t jump off the page and slap the reader across the face.

They don’t tell a convincing story, although their information is correct.

In other words, they don’t project the things that will resonate with their target audience.

I will say this once (and this is not a slight to my English as a secondary language friends)- If you are a good writer that can write in a way that speaks your story directly into the heart of your audience, then your posts will go much further than if you can’t write that well…

People may want to learn…but they want to be entertained as well….they want to believe in your story. If you are writing a post that is saturated (like keyword research), you need to express the story in an entertaining and unique format. Be contrary to convention and you may find yourself with a winner.

Theory #6 “One-Up” your competition and own your niche

Top 10 lists are now boring because everyone is doing them….if that is the case, why not do a Top 100 list?…

The reason why I even mention this is because bloggers in markets, on the whole, are lazy creatures.

We want the most bang for our buck in the smallest amount of time. We want something for nothing. We want to be spoon-fed guarantees that work…..

If you are in a competitive niche, the optimum thing to do is to take an already saturated idea and make it better than the best. I know, it is easier said than done, right?….not really…

If you are doing a resource guide on social sites, why not create a directory of social sites that Google actually ranks higher in the SERPS than its competitors? Make it an ongoing project so that people will revisit it to see what works and what doesn’t (since many will fall out of favor as quickly as they rise)…

…you get the picture…

If your competition is doing one thing, your key to rising in popularity and authority is to simply do it better.

Theory #7 Your Pillar Post won’t Stand a Chance if No-one Knows it Exists

As a blogger, it is very easy to forget that creating content is only a small part of becoming a successful blogger. Most bloggers are content to roll the dice and hope that someone somewhere will like their stuff enough to link up to it. This rarely happens.

If you are a new blog and don’t have the traffic to justify what articles your audience likes on your site, then it becomes more of a guessing game. You need the traffic to get the data, you need to determine what is sticky and what is “throwaway” posts.

Advertising & Promotion = Traffic

If you don’t have a new blog and have established what your audience likes, then why not promote your best posts in the same way that someone would promote a product?

Chances are, if people are linking to your post, then more people will link to it if you promote it.

Once again, this is a no-brainer but I am amazed at how many bloggers will skip this step and expect to be recognized on the merits of their material.

Ultimately this is the case, but unless people know you exist, it doesn’t matter how good your material is.

(Just an Aside)Creating Series as Pillar Posts

This is more of an aside to this as SBA mentioned this when asking me to write a guest post. I will say this only once and then give my reasoning behind my thoughts.

I don’t do the typical series posts. I don’t. I don’t like them. I don’t think that series work that well from a search engine perspective and driving traffic through organic listings.

I know most bloggers will disagree with this because, in their minds, it is all about content and creating as many posts as possible. Most create posts to help with regular crawling and to maintain interest with their readers.

It is all about content

Don’t get me wrong, it is all about content. But there are a couple of problems with building a pillar post series. Both are in regards to the search engines.

First of all what is better?….a 5,000-word article on {your niche here} or a 6 part 500 word series on the same thing? The content is the same. You are just giving your readers the impression that you are doing more, right?

From a search engine perspective, it is likely that your one 5,000 word article will do better than your 6 part series because you have all the information (content) in one place…along with all the latent semantic keywords that would come with the project.

Also, the fewer posts you have, the more likely that they won’t be missed by the search engines and will get indexed.

In other words, your one authority post will come across (ideally) as ultimately the authority on whatever you are talking about and get ranked accordingly.

This isn’t just theory…it is a fact that has been documented by SEO professionals who have made it their career to rank well in the search engines……

Now, let’s take a look at this from someone who may link to your post. If you have a series, then the best thing that could happen is that only one part of your series gets linked to by everyone so that part will have a chance to compete in the organic listings. The worst thing that could happen is if you have several links being divided over several parts of the series….not very cool.

So, from an organic search perspective, your chances of ranking your pillar posts actually increase when it can be found on just one page.

Granted, these are my thoughts behind what I do.

I have personally seen more success by approaching my blog network this way rather than rely on the conventional wisdom of the masses.

You may disagree or you may agree. We may meet somewhere in the middle of half of my theories.

Here is what I hope you have gotten from this reading:

1. The best pillar posts are made from experience. Because of this, faking it until you make it won’t create the best foundation for your blog or website. Instead, spend time looking at the popular conventions in your niche and find different angles by questioning why…

2. You can’t manufacture pillar posts– Ultimately, your audience will tell you what sticks and what doesn’t.

3. Making every post your ‘best post’ is the best way to build a solid foundation- If you treat every post as a pillar post, then you will find that people will value (and link to) your site more often.

4. When in doubt, go against popular convention. Be contrarian. Don’t be like everyone else out there. Challenge what is claimed to be the right way. Don’t be scared of controversy…

5. Build believable stories that resonate with your audience– Write in a way that personifies YOU. Skip the vanilla how-to guides and inject some personality.

6. “1-up” your competition’s pillar posts– Always focus on making your articles better than the ones that are out there….more information…challenge their dominate frame of thinking…

7. Promote and advertise your posts, not just your website– If you have a post that is getting a lot of link love, roll with the momentum and promote it.

8. Creating Series as Pillar Posts may not be the way to go– From a search engine perspective, it is a lot harder to rank a 5 part series than a single post. From a linking perspective, more people will be more likely to link to your post if it is all one giant article…provided the information is good.

Pillar Posts: How to write great pillar posts that everyone likes
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Blogger and Entrepreneur. You can follow him on Twitter. At Onlinedecoded.com, he writes mostly about Blogging and Technology Tips

2 thoughts on “Pillar Posts: How to write great pillar posts that everyone likes”

  1. Great post Umapathy and and somewhere I think it makes sense. We have plenty of information everywhere and people can easily get what they want then what all are those factors which will drive traffic. I think at the same time people love to get entertained and want to keep themselves in your shoe to actually understand how that happened to you and how you solved yourself.

    This thing make content interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi,

    Well written post. Pillar posts are something through which get more information clearly about the topic. I must say that this is one of the long post of urs.


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