It’s frustrating when you feel like you’ve exhausted every topic and you’re scraping the bottom of the idea barrel.
But there’s a silver lining on this gloomy content cloud: I have an enticing content pillar example that’s going to revolutionize your content planning!
In your journey through content marketing, you’ve undoubtedly come across the term ‘content pillar.’ Essentially, it’s a comprehensive piece of content based on a topic you want to gain recognition for.
This pillar can then be fragmented into smaller, more digestible subtopics and used across different platforms.
As a business owner, you understand the value of content marketing. You’ve probably already invested considerable time and resources. But somehow, the results don’t always meet expectations. Sounds familiar, right?
It’s not uncommon to struggle with content ideas. There’s always a temptation to cover a wide array of subjects. But here’s the catch:
To truly harness the power of content marketing, it’s critical to focus on one core subject, not 37.
Spreading yourself thin across multiple topics often results in unfocused and confusing content. These are common content marketing mistakes — and the results aren’t particularly useful for your audience.
The remedy? A structured approach to content generation that maintains a clear focus on your core topic, positioning you as a respected authority in your field.
Read on, or watch the video above.
Let’s examine this approach using a relatable analogy – dinner. And while we’re at it, we’ll also delve into a practical “content pillar example” to illustrate the process.
Oh, and did I mention the approach involves a tree? You’ll love it, I promise!
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
Picture this: We’re heading out for dinner to a new, trendy restaurant. Naturally, you’d ask, “What’s the cuisine, Pamela?” Now, what if I say, “Their sushi is excellent, their lasagna beats my mom’s, and their tacos are divine”?
That leaves you in a quandary, doesn’t it? Is the restaurant Japanese, Italian, Mexican, or a gastronomic mess?
The #1 question people ask when they find you online
The confusion here mirrors what happens when people first stumble upon your online presence.
To present a business story that’s clear, easy-to-understand, and valuable to prospective customers, you need to answer a critical question: “What’s in it for me?”
Or in marketing lingo, WII-FM. They want to know whether your content can address their needs or solve their problems.
Like a restaurant, your content needs to have a coherent ‘menu’—a clear set of topics. That way, prospective customers can instantly understand the value they’ll derive from your business. And in an era of waning attention spans, speed is of the essence.
“But Pamela,” I hear you say, “that sounds easier said than done.”
Hear me out.
Before we vacate our imaginary restaurant, let’s discuss how the chefs might structure their menu. They first decide on the overall food style, then categorize the menu into appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, desserts, and beverages. Each category features individual dishes tailored to customer preferences.
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.
Using content pillars give you a central theme, making your business’s primary topic crystal clear.
Content creation made easy — the Content Topic Tree
To illustrate this, let’s consider a tree – my ‘Content Topic Tree’ to be precise.
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.
This content marketing strategy can help you garner recognition from both audiences and search engines as an authority on your topic.
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!
It’s worth noting that this concept isn’t unique to me. You might have come across similar ideas like ‘content hubs’ or ‘content pillars.’ But I find the tree analogy particularly effective so I’m sharing it with you.
When all your content relates to an overarching topic, it becomes easy for people to find you online and comprehend your value proposition.
It makes it easier for search engines to perceive you as an authority on your topic, which ultimately strengthens your brand.
Content pillar example (the Content Topic Tree trunk) — paid newsletters
Let’s consider ‘paid email newsletters’ as our content pillar example.
This central topic—our trunk—has several branches extending from it. Each branch relates directly to the central topic and constitutes a subtopic you can repeatedly explore in various ways.
For beginners, five or six main branches are sufficient, with room for expansion as your content evolves.
Main branch topics
With ‘paid email newsletters’ as our trunk, our main branches could include topics like:
- Getting started
- Writing habits
- Newsletter formatting
- Selling subscriptions
Each of these main branches sprouts smaller branches—individual pieces of content.
I recommend that you have no more than 10 or 12 total.
You don’t need to figure this all out ahead of time! You can always add main branches later as you see them develop in your content.
Then we generate ideas from each of these main branch topics.
Small branches — individual pieces of content
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.
These small branches, which are individual pieces of content, could revolve around:
- Software to use for daily writing
- How journaling can help create your newsletter
- How to begin a daily content writing habit
From there, your individual pieces of content can be used to engage your audience by repurposing it.
Want a little assistance with writing your content? Check out Writesonic. It’s an AI writer that’s been trained on top-performing SEO content. It’s one of the business writing tools I use (and that’s my Writesonic affiliate link).
Leaves — repurposed content
The next step in our content pillar example is the leaves—repurposed content.
Repurposing involves taking your strongest content pieces and transforming them into different formats, which significantly boosts your content impact.
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.
Content Topic Tree thinking takes time, and it involves some pre-planning, but it’s a good investment.
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. Keep your Content Topic Tree plan nearby so you can quickly add ideas as they occur to you.
Bonus: Cross link to create new content ideas
You can find content marketing topic ideas by cross linking main branches in your content topic tree. This is a simple way to come up with new content ideas — that fall solidly within your pillar content.
Using our content pillar example, we can combine these two main branches: newsletter formatting, and selling subscriptions.
We get a new content idea: how to format your paid newsletter with a call-to-action that makes it more shareable, 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.
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!