Google gets smarter every year and is constantly updating its algorithms. It’s constantly trying to improve search results in order to show users the most relevant, useful information.
In recent years, this has meant moving towards topic-based results rather than focusing on keywords. For example, if someone searches for a specific question that’s related to the topic of AI, they’re more likely to see AI-focused results than answers from any industry.
As a result, the keyword research that a lot of us dutifully carry out when generating blog ideas is becoming less relevant and our SEO checklist has changed.
So, how do we structure our blogs and come up with blog post ideas that will perform well in search results with these new rules in play? There are so many different topics within the tech industry and lots of blog posts to compete with, so how do we push our blog posts onto the first page?
What are they?
Pillar posts are long blog posts that cover a broad topic. You may have heard of cornerstone content, sometimes called ‘hero’ content, and this is essentially the same thing.
Sticking with the AI example, you could write a beginner’s guide including an overview of things such as neural networks and deep learning. Then, every time you write a blog post that is related to AI in some way, you would hyperlink back to this blog post using the same ‘AI’ hyperlink text each time.
What this does is structure your content and create a network of related posts, helping Google to identify the topics under which to list your blog posts in results.
How do I know what pillar topic to focus on?
You need to know what your target audience is searching for and what they’re interested in. So, it only makes sense that the first thing you should do is identify your target audience accurately.
Once you’ve done that, observe what they talk about on social media and use sites like answerthepublic.com and the Keywords Everywhere chrome extension to find out what they’re searching for. You could also ask your current clients what tech topics they’re currently interested in learning more about too.
Use your findings and observations to help you to settle on a particular topic. There are lots of different topics to write about, but you have to make sure you pick one that has enough traffic and interest to be worth it and will generate lots of blog post ideas in the future.
Subtopics and blog posts
What should my blog posts be about?
You know I mentioned those smaller topics within your pillar post? Topics such as neural networks and deep learning? These are your subtopics.
List every one of these that you mention in your pillar post in a spreadsheet and use them, along with some research, to help you generate blog post ideas.
Under your neural networks subtopic, for example, you could write about how they’re used, the different cool things they’re used to do, the advances that have been made using them within different industries, and so on and so forth.
Having these subtopics will help you to create a variety of content and will give you a starting point whenever you sit down to brainstorm ideas.
Creating a network
The most important thing to remember when writing your blog posts is to add internal hyperlinks. Link every single one back to your pillar post and link them to one another wherever you can too.
If you briefly touch on a topic that you’ve gone into more detail on in another blog post, make sure you add a link to that post so they can learn more about it.
In the future, you could write pillar posts for each of your subtopics and link all of them together along with your overarching pillar post. The bigger and more structured your network is, the better.
So, are keywords not relevant at all?
Yes, keywords are still relevant. They’re still important if you want your blog posts to rank for specific search terms.
The best way to use keywords to improve your SEO is to use long tail keywords to form blog post ideas. These are phrases of three or more words that are much more specific than just ‘AI’ or ‘neural networks’.
An example here would be ‘neural network Morpurgo books’. If you were writing a blog post about a neural network that was being used to replicate the style of Michael Morpurgo’s books, you would want to list for searches that are both AI-related and for people searching specifically for information on that.
What this pillar post structure does is allow you to include these more niche blog posts in your overarching ‘AI’ blog network and still write for specific search terms. If someone searched for something loosely related under the ‘AI’ topic umbrella, yours could be listed. Additionally, if someone searched for your more specific topic, you’d be very likely to rank highly.
Tip: don’t just include ‘neural network morpurgo books’ in every other sentence. It wouldn’t make any sense, of course. Because you’re already writing about the topic, the four words are specific enough that they should organically crop up throughout your post, which is more than enough. Different combinations of these words used fairly often are enough to let Google know what the post is about.
- Create a network of blog posts using pillar posts as the centre of the structure.
- Do keyword research and use subtopics to create blog post ideas.
- As you write more and more, expand your network by creating pillar posts for your subtopics too.
One last tip…
A great app for organising your blog structure is Mindly.
The layout can help you to plan your blogging network with a centre pillar post, subtopics in the next layer, blog post ideas in the next, and then as many layers as you need.