How do you write a killer pillar article that works like a “madman” for you? A skillfully crafted pillar article can, indeed, make a killing for you online . . . (If you just read this and are smiling, I did my job; I captured your attention!)
Do any of you remember a favorite book that you read over and over again? Why? The tale just grabbed you. You were interested in the subject matter and the author knew how to craft a riveting story. Or perhaps you had a favorite study manual that you thumbed so much that you near wore it out–now, strictly speaking, it may not have been your “favorite” thing to read–especially when you wanted to put your feet up and relax–but you may have prized it because it was a treasure-trove of critical information. You turned to it again and again to get answers to your questions. You felt confident that if you absorbed the information, you would benefit, maybe by getting top marks or earning a certificate or a diploma.
When you look at the paragraph above, what two points stand out and how can these be used in creating compelling and effective (killer) pillar articles?
- I made the point that what makes a book a favorite is that it contains entertaining subject matter, presented in a skillful fashion, which sets it apart from other books and draws in the reader.
- I showed why written content–even if it doesn’t have the “thrill factor”–can still be highly valued and sought out when necessary, as an authoritative resource, if it offers important information to the reader.
In sum: pillar articles should be written skillfully and should be chock-full of useful, usable information that readers turn to again and again as a resource. When this happens, your blog traffic and your earnings skyrocket.
As successful blogger, Yaro Starak says “A pillar article is usually a tutorial style article aimed to teach your audience something. Generally they are longer than 500 words and have lots of very practical tips or advice . . . This style of article has long-term appeal, stays current (it isn’t news or time dependent) and offers real value and insight to readers.”
Pat Flynn (The Smart Passive Income Blog) says: “This kind of post is a deadly piece of ammunition in a blogger’s arsenal because it can drive massive traffic, easily become viral and drastically raise the value and authority of the blog and its owner.”
That’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but how do I put all this into practice? How do I actually write a “killer pillar”?
How to Write a Killer Pillar Article
1. Research–Because a pillar article is comprehensive and designed to teach your reader something of value, the very first step you should take is to research your subject matter thoroughly so that your pillar article has that ring of authority. Jot down or type all points you plan to present in your article. Don’t think you can whip off a longer article and fool either readers or the search engines by simply drawing it out. If you want an article that works hard for you, you have to work hard at creating useful content that will be turned to as an authoritative resource.
2. A Catchy Keyword Title–Your pillar article title should contain two elements: 1. your chosen keywords (which help to make your article search-engine friendly) and 2. wording that is catchy enough that it draws in readers visually and mentally. While you do not want to get overly fancy (because search engines key in on keywords, not word-play), you should also try to stir reader interest. A blending of the two satisfies both search engines and your human readers.
Generally, the rule of thumb is that you should create a title using words that people would key in when searching. The problem with this approach is that such a title, while effective in relation to search engine optimization, may do little to inspire your human readers to actually click through and begin reading your article. Search engines may return relevant results (a listing of articles, which use certain keywords effectively in their titles) in response to a query but those titles have to look interesting enough that searchers feel compelled to click on them to learn more.
You’ll notice the title of this pillar article. Now, it contains the keyword phrase “how to write a pillar article.” Searchers would likely type keywords such as “pillar article” “write pillar article” “writing pillar articles” or “how to write a pillar article.” Any of these keywords and keyword terms might be typed by someone looking for information about how to write a pillar article. And no doubt there are a gazillion articles titled identically. I added the word “killer” to make the title more compelling. Is it a suitable keyword? No. But I’ll bet it caught your eye, didn’t it? It was designed to stir your curiosity. As I mentioned, there are probably untold numbers of articles titled “How to Write a Pillar Article.” You, the writer, should spend time thinking about how to write a title that stands out from the crowd and draws in readers. In a listing of results returned via a search engine, what will make your article outperform all the rest? If you can capture reader attention with a catchy title, you up the ante, which will make your article far more competitive.
Adding a Benefit
Study the title again . . . what else stands out? I added a benefit/advantage: “that outperforms the competition.” Now, most people who plan on writing a lengthy pillar article will want it to perform well for them. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Someone who undertakes the task of creating a pillar article wants it to be competitive. This article, that promises to show readers how to write a pillar article that outperforms, is far more compelling than simply “how to write a pillar article” (ho-hum). When you create your pillar article title, ask yourself . . . Why? To what end? For what purpose? Doing so will help you to identify a benefit you can point to in your title.
Let’s take the ball and run with this with the titles below:
- How to Carve Soap
- How to Sing
- How to Make Money Online
If we look at the first example, we can ask: why would anyone carve soap? When you think about the “why” you will immediately identify the “end” or “purpose.” What did you come up with as a benefit for the reader and that would make for a stronger title? Here’s what I thought of:
- How to Carve Soap into Cute Animals So Kids Wash Their Hands
Okay, on to the next title. Why would someone want to sing–to what end or for what purpose?
- How to Sing So Well You’ll Snag a Recording Contract
In both examples above, readers would see why doing these things would be to their advantage and they would be far more likely to read the articles.
Let’s look at that last title. Ask yourself why someone would want to make money online, to what end or for what purpose. Are you catching on to the process?
- How to Make Money Online so That You Can Retire at 40
Pillar articles are also known as “Flagship Content” (Chris Garret) and “Cornerstone Content” (Brian Clark). This is because the information could be said to be presented layer upon layer. We’ll next discuss these “layers” in the third step for creating killer pillar content that outperforms the competition.
3. Pillar Article Body–By the time you get to constructing the body of your pillar article, you should have already raised a question, touched on a problem or clearly identified what your article promised to cover. In your pillar article body you go about outlining points or steps your reader can take, which will inform and/or solve the particular problem.
Pay attention that you present your points in logical progression, layer upon layer. You are taking readers by the hand and, through your tutorial, are guiding and teaching them how to do something, step-by-step. Your pillar article body is where you deliver the goods.
4. Make it Interesting–Did you ever sit in class and found yourself nodding off because the teacher spoke in a monotone? You learned that even an interesting subject could lose its luster, if the tone used to relay it was lifeless. In like fashion, pay attention to how you relay your information to your readers. Ask yourself: is my pillar article a snoozer or would it grab readers’ attention? Give careful thought to your wording. If you were sitting in a class and listening to your pillar article being read aloud, would it put you to sleep or would you stay interested? You might even try reading it out loud and recording it, then listening to it to see if there are sections where it lags and that cause you to lose interest. Because pillar articles are complex and longer, it is your job as the writer to keep things snappy.
Now, you may be thinking: but my subject matter is dry and technical. That may be true but be innovative in how you construct your article. You’ll notice that while this article is about a dry subject: “how to create a pillar article,” I kept it 1. entertaining and snappy by using a compelling title and 2. by including interesting opening paragraphs:
- I captured readers’ interest by asking them to remember a favorite book or study manual
- I gained trust by establishing common ground (using scenarios readers could relate to)
- I then used readers’ experiences to illustrate my points that a pillar article should be written skillfully and offer detailed and helpful information
You’ll notice I’ve asked questions throughout this article to keep you, the reader, engaged and thinking about the material.
I’ve even employed a bit of humor with words such as “madman” and “snoozer”. At the end of the day, we are all still human beings. A bit of well-placed humor can make reading a long article less of a challenge.
As can be seen, a writer can use a number of devices/techniques to make longer articles interesting.
5. Specific, Actionable Steps–By the time you have worked through the body of your article, you will have either presented specific points or, if your pillar is a how-to tutorial, given your readers steps to take to solve a problem. If it is the latter, are you just presenting general information or specific, actionable steps? Why do I ask? If the information does not inspire your readers to take action, how compelling is it . . . really? Remember, a pillar article is not a general article but a comprehensive tutorial that you want people to turn to as a master resource. Why is this so important? The more specific and actionable your steps are, the greater the likelihood your article will become a star performer, attracting more and more readers, shared across social networks, linked to, and basically rising like cream to the top, outdistancing competing articles, not only because of the information it offers but by the way that information is presented.
6. Adding Media–Because a pillar article is a long tutorial, adding images, diagrams, videos or any other visual element can make things more interesting. Using different media helps to 1. inform your article and 2. breaks it up for your reader. As I stated, the type of audience that reads pillar-type articles is likely serious about learning and will stick around instead of flitting off into cyberspace. You can reward that commitment, however, by adding visual assists to your article.
7. Recap–When you reach the wind-down point of your pillar article, this is a good time to reinforce in your readers’ minds the main points of the article, so that when they finish reading, they will have a good overview of how to tackle their problem and solve it. They will have learned enough to feel confident that they can now start on their task, and, if you have done your job, they’ll return to your pillar article to refresh their memory about how to work through and complete each step or reference it each time they plan to initiate yet another step.
8. Conclusion: All Wrapped Up and Tied With a Bow–If your information is “all wrapped up and tied with a bow” it has been compelling, specific, tied together in logical fashion and presented in an attractive package. By the end of your pillar article, all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed and your reader is satisfied that your article has taught valuable information that can be used to advantage. If you have accomplished all of this, you will have created a pillar article that actually has a bit of the “wow factor” because your reader will be thinking: wow! I actually learned something valuable from this, and thus your pillar will be a real “killer,” an article that outperforms the competition.
A good way to do this is by means of the recap–and we will do this for this article. Can you remember the sections outlined in How to Create a Killer Pillar Article That Outperforms the Competition? Here’s a recap, for easy reference:
- Catchy Keyword Title
- Article Body
- Make it Interesting
- Specific, Actionable Steps
- Adding Media
- Powerful Conclusion
Let’s elaborate on these specific steps. I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and take the short test below to see if you can answer the following questions:
- Research–what type of research should you do so that your pillar article goes beyond “general”?
- Title–what three tips did you learn about how to write pillar article titles?
- Article Body–what did you learn about how to construct your article body?
- Interest–Can you name five ways to make your pillar article interesting?
- Specific, Actionable Steps–why are actionable steps important?
- Adding Media–what two things did you learn about visual aids and what they do for your readers?
- Recap–what is one word/one technique you can use to reinforce the points or steps you’ve covered in your article?
- Powerful Conclusion–what will you do to give your pillar article a powerful conclusion?
8. Conclusion: All Wrapped Up and Tied With a Bow–If your information is “all wrapped up and tied with a bow” it has been compelling, specific, tied together in logical fashion and presented in an attractive package. By the end of your pillar article, all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed and your reader is satisfied that your article has taught valuable information that can used to advantage. If you have accomplished all of this, you will have created a pillar article that actually has a bit of the “wow factor” because your reader will be thinking: wow! I actually learned something valuable from this, and thus your pillar will be a real “killer,” an article that outperforms the competition.
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