Ever heard of a “matryoshka” doll?
If not, you’re probably not all that familiar with the Cyrillic script.
No worries – in simpler terms, it’s a Russian doll. You might’ve played with one or two at your grandparents house while growing up – from what I’ve seen, the elderly tend to cling to these sorts of things.
Anyway, if you’re still drawing a blank, a Russian doll is a set of wooden dolls that decreases in size just enough to fit inside the one that precedes it.
Check it out:
Image Source: Flickr
They normally separate from top to bottom, and once opened, reveal a smaller, yet strikingly similar doll on the inside. As this process is repeated, smaller dolls continue to appear until the smallest is discovered.
Oddly enough, I have no ties to “Mother Russia.”
My father-in-law recently offered to take me to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but apart from that, I know next to nothing about the world’s largest country.
As such, you might be wondering why I’m spending so much time on Russian dolls. It’s a fair question, but truth be told, there’s a simple reason for it – content pillars.
Still scratching your head? That’s what I thought.
Trust me – the similarities between Russian dolls and content pillars are easily identifiable once you know what a content pillar is.
Bloggers and content creation
But first, let’s talk about blogging.
For bloggers, content creation is important – without it, you’ve got little more than another abandoned blog, left to collect digital dust in some deserted corner of the World Wide Web.
Because of this, bloggers set on growing their platforms frequently spend countless hours every week creating content. In their minds, the more they write, the more they publish. The more they publish, the better off their blogs will be.
And though true to a certain extent, there’s a smarter, more effective way to go about doing things without producing droves of low-quality, high-volume blog content – this is where content pillars come into focus.
Coming to better understand content pillars
Content pillars are lengthy, information-heavy pieces of content. They can be about anything and can take the form of just about any long-form content type.
The following are a few real-life examples from different industries and areas of interest. Whether you’re blogging for yourself or for business, content pillars are essential:
1) Automotive – Blog Posts
Image Source: SellMax
2) Social Media – E-Books
Image Source: Kickstagram
3) Solar Energy – E-Guides
Image Source: Solar Tribune
Content pillars aren’t the easy way out
Let it be known now, though…
To create an awesome content pillar, you’ll need to put forth a great deal of time, effort and energy. Content pillars are carefully researched and often feature primary research or data.
The more unique, valuable information you can provide, the better.
Think about it – the vast majority of blog content online is garbage. More often than not, it consists of regurgitated information that’s meant to please search engines – NOT readers.
Image Source: NYS Zone
When done correctly, however, not only will your content pillars directly address your audience’s most pressing pain points, they’ll also build rapport with Google as an authoritative, go-to resource for high-quality information.
Creating a content pillar can be a painstaking process, but it’s well worth it.
Now that you know what a content pillar is and have seen a few examples, let’s get back to the Russian dolls …
Finally, content pillars and russian dolls
The beauty of content pillars is that, just like Russian dolls, they can easily be broken down into a series of smaller, more manageable sizes.
Yes, your grandmother might be content to have a massive work of traditional Russian art on full display in her living room, but it’s likely that you’d be happier with something a bit smaller.
Thanks to the nature of Russian dolls, you’re able to have the best of both worlds …
Big and small – content pillars work the same way.
Putting an end to the ‘Quality vs. Quantity’ debate
Let me ask you this – are you familiar with the term “dichotomy”?
A dichotomy is the division between two things that are seemingly incapable of coexisting. For example, you’ve heard someone say, “If you’re not for us, you’re against us,” right?
In this situation, there appears to only be two options. However, upon closer examination, what we actually have on our hands is what’s known as a “false dichotomy.”
Image Source: YouTube
Why? Well, in reality, it’s entirely possible to be neutral.
Similarly, the creation of content pillars does away with the whole “quality vs. quantity” debate.
Instead of being forced to choose between two opposing forces, by breaking down a well-crafted content pillar into smaller, bite-sized content types, you’re able to have both at the exact same time – plenty of quality long-form content and plenty of quality short-form content.
Even better, after a sizable effort upfront, literally everything is speedily spawned from the same source – an initial content pillar.
Content pillars speed up content creation
Regardless of your interest or area of expertise, here’s how a content pillar could potentially be broken down during your blog’s next round of content creation:
Start Here – 1 content pillar in the form of a 5-chapter e-book can easily become…
- 1 Lead Magnet
- 1 Content Upgrade
- 5 Blog Posts
- 5 Infographics
- 5 Video Scripts
- 5 Nurture Emails
- 10 Facebook Posts
- 20 Tweets
Does this structure sound at all familiar?
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
[Cough, cough] … Russian dolls.
Yes, there’s some editing that will need to take place as a content type distances itself further and further from an original content pillar, but the heavy lifting is all but over.
The end result?
Using a single core piece of content, you’ve supplied your blog with the research, survey information, quantitative data and commentary to build out enough media-rich posts and marketing materials for an entire month.
With content pillars, long gone are the days of massive brainstorming sessions and all-night writing binges. Now, you’re no longer just a blogger – you’re a content marketer, too.
Case study: Content pillars can accelerate your blog’s growth
If ever there was a publication that didn’t need any promotional help, it would be The New York Times. However, though traffic isn’t much of an issue for the publication’s website, it was still able to experience tremendous audience growth through the use of a content pillar.
Back in 2013, a statistics student named Josh Katz was interning with the Times.
At one point during his internship, he stumbled across a 10-year-old Harvard study on regional dialects in the United States. You’ve read academic journals and know how dry they can be – this one was no different.
Though lengthy, complex and hard to understand at times, the study was loaded with unique findings and groundbreaking data.
Unbeknownst to Katz, he’d essentially found a content pillar someone else had created.
Recognizing the value of what was in front of him, Katz quickly developed a series of algorithms to help extract the most important information from the report. Then, working with a team of graphic designers, he created a series of user-friendly heat maps to visually engage audiences.
What was Katz doing with all of this, you ask? Creating a quiz for site visitors.
Image Source: The New York Times
But not just any quiz …
Pulled directly from a content pillar, Katz’ quiz provided The Times with more hits (in less than a month, mind you) than any other one-off article that year.
And of course, there’s a happy ending to this story – later on, Katz was hired as a full-time staff editor.
Case in point?
If someone else’s content pillar produced such solid offshoot content, as a seasoned blogger, imagine what you’ll accomplish when given 100% control of the message …
It’s time to get to work.
Wrapping things up
That’s all she wrote, folks. I’ve said my piece, managing to focus far too much on Russian dolls in the process – now it’s time for you to get in on the action.
In the comments section below, let me know what you think of content pillars, and how you see them becoming a part of your blog’s long-term future. As always, I’ll be checking in periodically to interact with you.
Until then, best of luck with your blogging endeavours!
Guest Author: Lucas Miller is a Freelance Copywriter and Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, tweeting or attempting to play pickup basketball, he’s working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the “World’s Greatest Pompadour.” To get more tips on how to start your own six-figure freelance copywriting business, join his free newsletter.