In that article I looked at exactly what a Pillar Article or Pillar Content is (or flagship content…or cornerstone content or tent pole content or whatever you want to call it). I also looked at why it’s so important to create this type of content for your blog or website. And I also looked at three ways you could generate ideas that could become pillar content.
In Part 2 of this article I want to look at two topics:
- The structural components of pillar articles
- How to promote pillar articles
So let’s start with the components that go into pillar articles.
The 6 Structural Components Of Pillar Articles
Here are the 6 main structural components of pillar articles:
- (i) Headline
- (ii) Set Out And Define The Problem
- (iii) Show Your Audience How To Solve The Problem – Preferably Step By Step
- (iv) Adding Graphics and Multimedia
- (v) Troubleshooting
- (vi) Resources, Checklists, Action Plans and Links
Let’s look at them, one by one.
1. The Headline
Headlines are really important.
Your headline has to entice prospective readers to actually click through and read your article. But the headlines for pillar content should contain keywords within them as well.
In case you don’t know, I don’t ever – EVER – write for Google. I never sprinkle keywords into my posts; I never deliberately target long tail keywords, or any of that stuff. And you probably think I’m wrong – and that’s cool.
But for articles that you are deliberately and consciously creating as pillar articles I think that approach is wrong. One of the benefits of pillar articles is that they will draw organic search engine traffic to your website or blog over time.
To maximize their effectiveness, you need to include keywords in the headline.
Now I’m not going to get all SEO on your ass and start talking about keyword research – you’ve probably got a good idea what your main keyword (or keywords) should be before you start writing. And five minutes spent with the Google Keyword tool will give you a pretty good idea whether you’re right or not. And if you’re wrong, it will tell you what the right keyword should be
Just so I’m clear – this is one instance where you should make sure you have an important keyword in the heading of your post. And you need to do it in such a way that your heading is enticing to prospective readers as well.
(What’s ironic though is that headlines for pillar content can be blander than the headlines you need to make your ‘normal’ content enticing – the prospect of a definitive guide on a subject is often enough to get people reading.)
2. Set Out And Define The Problem/Benefits
In this part of your pillar content you need to clearly set out the problem that your pillar article addresses. Is it to create Facebook landing pages? Is it to learn how to drive traffic to your website via Stumbled Upon? Is it to learn how to format a particular brand of Hard Drive for a particular hardware/software combination?
Whatever it is, you need to set out what problem you’re going to help your audience solve.
Additionally you may need to do some gentle ‘persuasion’ that the benefits of solving the problem make the investment of time worthwhile.
Setting out the problem, and then educating your audience on the benefits, is a good transition from the headline of the pillar content to the main body of the article itself (which is the ‘tutorial’ part.
Note that I did this in Part 1 of the article, where I defined what pillar content is and talked about the many benefits of that kind of content.
3. Show Your Audience How To Solve The Problem – Preferably Step By Step
This is the meat of your pillar content – actually walking your audience through the steps necessary so that they can actually implement your solution themselves.
To do this you need to create a step-by-step tutorial that your audience can use as a blueprint and follow. You need to make the tutorial detailed enough so that they will be confident that if they follow the steps you list out, they will achieve the results that you set out to deliver.
Now creating step-by-step tutorials isn’t hard, but like any form of writing it can take some practice to become proficient at it.
What’s crucial in this part of the pillar article process is that the steps you outline are sequential, that you don’t omit an important step, and that they are sufficiently detailed so that your audience can actually implement them.
A good model for creating step-by-step tutorials is a recipe. In a recipe you get a sequential series of steps telling you what to do with the ingredients.
Or if you go to eHow.com you’ll find a gazillion tutorials broken down into step-by-step instructions – often a significant layer of detail is missing in these tutorials, but you’ll get some ideas on how to break down your topic into its constituent elements and lay them out in a step-by-step fashion.
One way of layering in this extra detail is by using graphics or multi-media elements.
4. Adding Graphics, Multimedia etc
The old cliché holds that a picture paints a thousand words…and pictures and/or graphics can definitely improve your pillar content.
Graphics can take the form of screenshots, images or diagrams. The question to ask to help decide whether to use graphics or not is: will a graphic enhance comprehension of this stage of the article?
If your pillar article is software related, then consider screencast videos as a way of presenting your pillar content.
Note: if you are going to create pillar content in screencast video format then you should definitely create a written version first, with multiple screenshots. This allows you to connect with members of your audience who don’t like video – and also ensures you get long tail SEO benefits. Search engines can’t search the audio tracks of videos for keywords – yet. So you need to help them to help others find your pillar content.
The whole purpose of creating pillar content is to empower your readers by helping them achieve results with a task themselves.
The biggest disconnect you can get is if your pillar content has logic holes in it – and this stops your readers completing the task successfully. If that happens, all of the benefits of pillar articles will be lost.
To ensure you don’t have these logic holes what you need to do is to find people from your audience who can actually test your pillar content out. If you generated your ideas from a target profile, go back to that target profile with a PDF version of your proposed article, and have them go through it.
If they get results – you’re on the right track. If they don’t – find out where they faltered and why, and amend that step.
If you generated your ideas from a forum, then send a private message to posters on the Forum who asked the original question. And offer to send them a step-by-step tutorial to help them. The quid pro quo is that you want them to report back to you if there are any logic holes in your content.
If your pillar content addresses frequently asked questions, then write a paragraph at the end of that pillar content asking for feedback. If you get feedback that indicates you have a logic hole, then amend your article accordingly.
Depending how evergreen your pillar content is, you may have to consider updating it too as time passes – either with extensive rewriting, or with a new post.
6. Resources, Checklists, Action Plans and Links
This last step in the writing process is not something that I’ve seen in many pillar articles – but seems a logical step in the process.
Remember that one of the aims with pillar articles is to increase your expertise factor with your article – which helps build trust, audience engagement, etc. Adding additional sections, which give your readers a complete picture, will assist with this:
6.1 Resources In this section you can link to resources where your audience can go for more information on the subject of your pillar article.
6.2 Checklists Adding checklists at the end of your pillar content can help your audience gather all the resources that they need before they start implementing. (For example a recipe always starts with a checklist of ingredients.)
6.3 Action Plans An action plan is a condensed version of your pillar article – and succinctly lays out the steps that your readers need to take in order to achieve the desired result. Action Plans are great guides for the audience to actually implement your material.
6.4 Links If there are examples on the web of content that does what you are teaching in your pillar content, then link to it so that your audience can see for themselves what successful implementation looks like.
How To Promote Pillar Articles
Once you’ve hit the ‘Publish’ button on what you consider to be a Pillar Article then it’s time to start promoting your pillar article.
I wrote a post recently on 10 Ways You Can Promote Your Posts. All the advice in that article holds true – especially the advice about knowing where your target market hangs out online, and what form of content they prefer. And positioning the kind of content they prefer in those places.
So depending on your market that could mean the usual suspects that get talked about: Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Blog Commenting, etc.
And all these are good – and should be your starting points in promoting your pillar content. But most pillar articles are time consuming to write and research – and your ideal outcome is that the time you spent writing the pillar content initially is rewarded by the benefits that you get from that pillar article.
My friend Ankesh Kothari from www.successnexus.com often advises bloggers to spend twice as much time promoting posts as they spend writing it. As a rule of thumb, I think it’s a good one.
So here are some of the things you could do to promote your pillar content in the first week or so after it goes live to get an initial buzz going. Hopefully from there it will ‘mature’ in terms of people finding it, linking to it, and it continuing to give you benefits long after you’ve written it.
1. Link To It In Your Sidebar
Look at this screenshot from Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income blog:
Just underneath Pat’s ‘Subscribe to My newsletter’ box you’ll find not one, but two lists of posts. There’s a cool box with clickable tabs to view either ‘Hot’ Posts or ‘Most Commented’ posts, and there’s a list of 7 important ‘pillar’ articles on diverse topics that stand a great chance of attracting the attention of new visitors to the blog.
Here’s another example of why Great Headlines are important. Write an enticing headline here and you could be attracting new visitors to your blog to important pillar content forever, with all the benefits (lower bounce rates, higher engagement, higher percentage taking action, etc etc).
Note: Only link pillar articles here. If you don’t have any yet – then wait until you have. (Another reason you should actually research and get some written!)
2. Triberr Strategies For Maximising Twitter Efforts
Some people like Triberr…some people don’t. That’s a line in the sand you’ve got to draw for yourself. If you don’t use Triberr….maybe skip ahead to strategy number 3. If you do use Triberr….then read on.
Here are tips for you that can maximize the effect of using Triberr – especially on important posts.
2.1 Put A Hash tag In Your Headline
Take a look at this screenshot:
These are tweets from members of the mighty Anubis tribe on Triberr – and notice that for all of them the hash tag ‘#blogger’ is…well hash tagged. If there are particular hash tags for your market area, then if you include them into your headline they will show up when your tribe mates automagically tweet out a link to your post.
Once your post has gone through it’s run, then you can go back and re-edit the headline and take out the hash tag symbol. Unless of course you want to do the next strategy:
2.2 Send Your Post Out to your stream again
From your dashboard in Triberr there is an option to queue your post again. Yep it costs bones – and depending on how many people you want to link out again and how many followers they have will affect the cost (in bones).
But for a pillar article the cost is minimal and it will serve to help get the word out.
2.3 Get your tribe mates to manually tweet the link as well.
This one depends on your engagement with your tribe. In One Tribe At A Time – which is my tribe – I regularly email the guys and gals and keep them posted with what’s happening. We welcome new members by email – when Triberr was down, I emailed everyone in the Tribe and told them to reply to everyone if they had a post going live that needed manual tweeting like ‘back in the day.’
If your tribe is receptive, you can email them (or use the Tribe Council) and tell them you’ve written an important post and ask them to manually tweet it (and maybe leave a comment too).
Of course you need to offer quid pro quo down the line too – but that’s a given as far as I’m concerned.
2.4 Strive to Get Post Karma
This is a feature of Triberr I’ve not yet been able to trigger. Basically if you write something that’s good enough to be given ‘karma’ by fellow tribesmen, the mysterious Triberr Algorithim will get tribes that you’re not even a part of to tweet out your post.
The secret is to strive for excellence with your post.
3. Email Out To Your Network
If you’ve been building a network of bloggers whose blogs you comment on, and whose posts you tweet out links to, then now’s the time to ask a small favour.
Simply email them, tell them you’ve written what you think is a great post, ask them to come visit and if they agree that it IS a great post could they please link out the post with a tweet? And maybe leave a comment.
You have to be sure you’ve written at least a good post to ask this of other bloggers though. If you’ve written something crappy you’ll instantly burn any good will you’ve built up.
4. Getting Onto Link Posts
Getting onto Link Posts is a great way to get those important links – especially if you have keywords in the headline – and getting eyeballs to your post too.
Don’t rely on people who create link posts just finding your post. Point them in the right direction by sending them an email.
Kudos to Kristi Hines of Kikolani.com. Not only does she create an incredible link post every Friday, but this is just one of the many promotional tips you’ll find in her book ‘Blog Post Promotion – The Ultimate Guide’ (and nope, that’s not an affiliate link. Hope you get some buyers Kristi J )
Again, be sure you’ve written something that’s at least good, and preferably is great. If you’ve written something crappy then you’ll burn up any good will. To quote De Niro from Stardust: “a lifetime to build, moments to lose.”
You should be able to find bloggers who are known for link posts in your market area – in fact, you probably already know who they are! So email them, and tell them about your post and see if they can include it in their next link round up.
5. Rewrite Your Pillar Article As A Forum Post
This was discussed in the 10 Ways To Promote article that I linked above – and kudos to Jason Fladlien for this one.
Give your article a week or two to build a bunch of links by your own actions – and give Google the chance to index it – and then rewrite it and post it on the most popular forum in your market area.
Make sure your Forum signature is enticing but non spammy to draw traffic from the Forum back to your blog. As I said in my original promotion article – this is something just about NOBODY is doing. That’s a big clue as to how potentially effective it could be.
Tip: you need to have built some relationships on the Forum before you do this. Don’t post a rewritten pillar article as your first post on a forum.
6. Turn Your Pillar Article Into An eBook – And Use Pay With A Tweet or Cloud Flood to Spread It Virally
This is a way of using Twitter if you don’t use Triberr. (If you use Triberr…you can use this too 😉 )
If you’ve not heard of Pay With A Tweet or Cloud Flood, these are free services that allow people access to content either by tweeting out about that content, or by ‘liking’ it on Facebook.
So, potentially spreading your content virally.
I’ve wanted to test out one of these services for ages – now is the chance. Here’s what I’m going to do – on Monday I’m going to compile these two articles into an eBook and add some additional content in the form of a detailed Action Plan, and a pillar content check list.
Anyone will be able to get access to that – but it will cost them a ‘tweet’ or a ‘Facebook’ like. I’ll be really interested in seeing effective this strategy is in spreading my content and also broadening my audience.
It’s important if you do this to have a goal with the eBook version. Do you want to get more subscribers to your newsletter? Do you just want to extend your brand? Have a clearly defined goal, and make sure the eBook reflects that goal.
In my opinion this is a ‘can’t fail’ strategy. Even if it’s a damp squib and only five people do the ‘pay with a tweet’ thing – I’ll have a created a PDF resource that I can use to promote One Spoon At A Time in other ways.
7. If It’s An eBook….Get It On Kindle (and Nook…and Smashwords…)
If you’ve taken the trouble to turn your pillar content into an eBook…then you should take the trouble to publish it on Kindle.
You can either list it for free. Or for $0.99. Or $1.99. Doesn’t matter. Get it listed….this is another can’t fail strategy in my opinion.
And of course Kindle isn’t the only eBook platform. There’s Nook, there’s ePub, there’s Smashwords….and probably a bunch of others too.
8. Create a Wikipedia Page
This is one that you’ll have to test for yourself – because if you create a Wikipedia page on your pillar article topic, there’s a high probability that the Wiki page will be number 1 on Google for this topicand get a lot of visits.
And you might be thinking: why would I want to do that?
Well the answer is that you can create LINKS on a Wikipedia page (and no, they’re no follow links). But if you create the page then you can make sure that your link goes first.
And if your original pillar article consisted of two articles….why then, surely you should create TWO links on Wikipedia right?
On my bass guitar website I’ve had good traffic from simply adding links to existing Wikipedia pages. Seriously, if there’s no Wiki page for your pillar article topic, get over there and create a profile, write an article and link back to your site.
It might not work great for you….but you won’t know until you try and test it.
9. Posting a Link to Your Content On Someone’s Facebook Wall
This is an interesting one – and treading a fine line between promotion and being over pushy (and maybe a bit spammy).
If you follow someone in your market area who has a good following on Facebook, then you can post a link to your pillar article on their Facebook wall. And their fans will see it.
If you’re gonna do this, you should probably email the person and tell them you’ve written a post that you think their readers and fans would be interested in, and asking if they mind if you post a link.
The worst case scenario is a flat out no.
Most people who say no will respect you for having the courtesy to ask. (Seemingly it’s a courtesy that’s rare on the old Interwebz!).
If your post is genuinely good there’s a good chance that they’ll say yes. Especially if you’ve interacted on Facebook with that person and his audience.
Tip: Don’t do this if you’ve never interacted with someone on Facebook. That will just look clumsy at best, and spammy at worst.
10. Adapt The Article To Other Formats
We looked at including multimedia elements earlier – but if you write a good piece of pillar content, then rewrite and adapt the pillar content for other mediums. Either audio podcast or video podcast.
Don’t just read a written article as is, and narrate it over a slide show of the graphics. Work out how to adapt an article successfully to other mediums and do it.
And then get those other formats out there and publicize those.
Resources and Links
As I wrote above, I’ll be compiling Parts 1 and 2 into a PDF document and making it available for download via Pay With a Tweet or Cloud Floor on Monday.
That PDF will also contain additional information – including resources, an Action Plan that you can use as a Blueprint to create a pillar article and links to different examples of pillar articles in different market areas.
If you want to create pillar articles – and if you blog I can’t think of any reasons why you shouldn’t – then the PDF will help you with the implementation of the two posts I’ve written.
Today we’ve looked at how to actually create our pillar content and then – and just as importantly – how to promote our pillar articles initially.
Over time your pillar article should generate its own momentum – but you do need to kick start that momentum.
Remember Ankesh’s advice: you should spend at least twice as much time promoting your pillar article as you spent writing it. To repeat, as a rule of thumb this is really good advice.
Edit: I just read Srinivas Rao’s great guest post on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income blog:
In this post Srinivas talks about creating what Dave Navarro calls a ‘mini-product.’ You could use the steps I’ve laid out in these two posts to create a mini-product as well as pillar articles.
So now it’s your turn! In the comments section below I want you to post any reasons why you can’t create pillar content? Have I left out a step? Why aren’t you working on this now? (And remember, you can use these steps to create a mini product instead of a Pillar Article.)
And don’t forget to come back on Monday for the PDF. I promise it will be highly valuable and well worth the cost of a tweet or a Facebook like!