Wouldn’t it be amazing if you never ran out of content topic ideas again?
Good news — this post features a single content pillar example that will rock your world!
What’s a content pillar? It’s a piece of content on a topic you want to be known for, that can be broken into subtopics and you can use when repurposing content across your channels.
Content marketing means sharing helpful, useful, engaging content that establishes you as a trustworthy expert on one core topic.
Every online business owner I know struggles with coming up with content ideas.
But it’s important to choose your one core topic and build your content marketing around it.
Not 37 topics — one core content topic.
I get it. You need to write something. But straying from your core content topic is one of the most common content marketing mistakes. The result? Your content is unfocused and confusing for your audience.
The approach I’m going to show you will help you create content so you can be seen as a respected expert on your core topic.
Read on, or watch the video above.
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I’ll illustrate my approach by taking you to dinner. Then we’ll look at a content pillar example to walk through the process, step by step.
It involves a tree, and you’re going to love it!
When I started my online business, I didn’t think of myself as a writer. Since then I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words and two books about content marketing — Master Content Marketing and Master Content Strategy.
If I can learn to do this, so can you!
A content pillar example — with a tasty analogy
Let’s take a look at how a content pillar example can work by going out to dinner.
There’s a new restaurant that I want us to try.
Your first question to me might be, “Hey, what kind of food do they serve, Pamela?”
And my answer is, “Well, their sushi is fantastic, their lasagna is better than my mom’s, and their tacos are to die for.”
What do you do with that information?
You’re left wondering — is it a Japanese restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, or is it just a confused restaurant?
The #1 question people ask when they find you online
When people first find you online, they have questions, too.
But the number one question is, “What does this business have for me?”
Or, “What’s in it for me?” Which is called WII-FM in the marketing world.
When people go online, they’re looking for something for themselves.
When they find your content, whether it’s a blog post, podcast, video, or social post, they want to know if you have what they want.
That’s why it’s important to have a cohesive menu of topics that you create content about, just like a restaurant needs a cohesive menu of food.
To present a business story that’s clear, easy-to-understand, and valuable to prospective customers, you need to answer the question, “What will I find here for me?”
And you have to answer that question quickly. Our online attention span is short.
This isn’t as hard as it might sound.
Before we leave the restaurant, let’s talk about how the chefs could organize their menu. (It’s hard to resist such a tasty content pillar example, even if it’s just an analogy.)
First, they make decisions about the overall style of food that they serve.
Then they develop individual categories for their food, like appetizers, soups, salads, fish, meat, poultry, pasta, side dishes, desserts, and beverages.
Within each category of food, they develop individual dishes that they know their customers will love.
This is what we’re going to do for your content. We’ll develop content topics that will work with market research techniques to create irresistible offers — offers that meet the needs of your customers.
We’ll tie them all together to a central theme so that you and your business is known for a topic, and it is crystal clear throughout.
Content creation made easy — the Content Topic Tree
And we’ll use a simple analogy: a tree that I created to develop my own content. Specifically, my Content Topic Tree.
This is a content marketing strategy that will help you to become known to both people and search engines as an expert on your topic.
But first, I want to acknowledge that this concept is taught by many people using different terms. Some people teach how to create content hubs on your website: main content topics with lots of related topics that are linked to it.
Some people will share content pillar examples that are one main piece of content with related content.
Me, I’m a visual person. I have always thought that the best way to create content marketing topic ideas is to think about them as a tree.
The analogy works beautifully, which is why I want to share it with you. To do this thinking for your own business, download my free Content Topic Tree worksheet.
The worksheet will help guide you as you think through this process. Using the Content Topic Tree will ensure that your content grows organically over time from a central theme.
When everything that you create pertains to the same overarching topic, it’s easy for people to find you online and to understand the value of what you do.
It’s also easier for search engines to position you and your work as an authority on your topic, which will enhance your reputation as a personal brand or business brand.
You can use my free worksheet to think through the elements of your Content Topic Tree.
Content pillar example (the Content Topic Tree trunk) — paid newsletters
First, we have the trunk, your central topic. What is the central, overarching topic that you create content about? Choose one, and make it comprehensive enough that it encompasses what your business offers.
Here’s the content pillar example we’ll use to grow your Content Topic Tree:
Let’s say that you want to become known as someone who’s an expert on helping people create paid email newsletters.
Your trunk, or central topic, is paid email newsletters. From there, you’re going to think about 10 to 12 main branches that grow from this trunk.
Your branches should directly relate to the central topic — the Content Topic Tree trunk.
These are topics that you’re going to come back to over and over, and talk about in many different ways.
I recommend that you have no more than 10 or 12 total.
If you’re just starting out, try to think up maybe five or six. You do not need to figure this all out ahead of time! You can always add main branches later as you see them develop in your content.
Main branch topics
With paid email newsletters as our content pillar example, or trunk of our Content Topic Tree, the main branch topics might include:
- getting started
- writing habits
- newsletter formatting
- selling subscriptions
Then we generate ideas from each of these main branch topics.
Small branches — individual pieces of content
Then we have small branches, which are individual pieces of content that grow from the main branches.
Let’s look at one of our branch topics: writing habits.
The pillar content example, or trunk topic, is paid email newsletters. And one branch that comes from paid email newsletters is writing habits.
The individual content pieces we create all relate to writing habits, which are a component of paid email newsletters.
The ideas for the small branch content could be things like:
- what software to use for daily writing
- how journaling can help you create your newsletter
- how to begin a daily writing habit
From there, your individual pieces of content can be used to engage your audience by repurposing it.
Leaves — repurposed content
Repurposing is a smart way to get more impact from existing content. Consider taking your strongest pieces of content and repurposing them into a different format.
Here are a few examples:
- written content becomes audio or video
- audio content becomes a written transcript or a slide deck
- video content becomes an ebook or a podcast episode
- snippets of a blog post, audio, or video becomes a social media post
You can use whatever media are most comfortable for you and what your audience likes to engage with.
You don’t have to generate new ideas for every piece of individual content! As you publish new content, you can adapt what you’ve created for other channels.
A smart content marketing strategy creates a cohesive business story
You can see from our content pillar example how powerful this is.
Once you’ve thought through the Content Topic Tree, you’re going to easily be able to create content that tells a cohesive story about your business.
A cohesive story is an easier story to remember and share.
Doing this Content Topic Tree thinking takes time, and it involves some pre-planning, but it is so worth the effort.
This plan will keep your content on track and ensure that you tell a consistent story over time.
And it’ll keep you from creating a taco dish and putting it on the menu at your sushi restaurant, confusing your prospects and customers.
I recommend that you give your mind a chance to work on your content ideas in the background. Time is the marketing secret that’s hiding in plain sight!
As you go about your day, you’ll find content ideas bubbling up when you least expect them. So keep your Content Topic Tree plan nearby so you can quickly add ideas as they occur to you.
Bonus: Cross link your branches to create new content ideas
Here’s something else. You can find content marketing topic ideas by cross linking main branches in your content topic tree. This is a fun way to come up with brand-new content ideas that fall solidly within the Content Topic Tree.
Take two of the main branches on your list and combine them to come up with a new source of inspiration.
Using our content pillar example, let’s combine these two main branches: newsletter formatting, and selling subscriptions.
You could create a piece of content about how to format your paid newsletter with a call-to-action that helps people share it with friends, so you can sell more subscriptions.
That piece of content could be called How to Format Your Newsletter with a Shareable Call to Action.
That’s just one example. Once you’ve created your Content Topic Tree, the main branches can inspire an infinite number of content topic ideas. Just use your imagination.
Remember to download your copy of my Content Topic Tree worksheet so you can take this powerful content pillar example and use it for your own content!