Pillar Marketing 101: What is a Pillar-Based Marketing Strategy?
Speaker 1: Welcome to Page One or Bust. Your Ultimate Guide to getting on page one of search engines. In this episode, we're taking you to Pillar Marketing 101. What is a pillar based marketing strategy? Why do we believe in it and how to get started. Answers to those questions and more just ahead. All thanks to your co- host and SEO experts, Christopher Day and Ryan Brock. Plus. A newcomer joins the show. But before we get into this special episode, here's a brief word from today's sponsor. Page One or Bust is brought to you by DemandJump. Get insights, drive outcomes with DemandJump. Get started creating content that ranks at demandjump. com today. And now, here are your co- host Christopher Day and Ryan Brock.
Christopher Day: Hello. Welcome back to Page One or Bust. This is Christopher Day and as always joined by my co- host, Ryan Brock, the Chief Content Officer at DemandJump. How you doing, Ryan?
Ryan Brock: Yo, doing well. How are you?
Christopher Day: I'm doing great. I'm excited about today. Today is a special episode. We have some big news to share here in a minute, so stick around for our exciting announcement about the show. But first, today's episode is all about getting back to quantifiable value delivery that you can put into action today, pillar based marketing. But before we dive in, let's introduce today's special guest and get to our big news.
Ryan Brock: Yes, today we are very excited to be joined by my friend, my compatriot in marketing, my fellow foot soldier in the trenches of the digital world, Drew Detzler, the Vice President of Marketing at DemandJump. Drew, how you doing today?
Drew Detzler: Great, thanks for having me, guys. I've been looking through the window, watching you guys have all this fun for long enough and wanted to be a part of it.
Ryan Brock: That's true. Drew has been the puppet master of this whole situation. He's been that Wizard of Oz, producer in the background setting this whole thing up for me and Toph here.
Christopher Day: I love it. The reason we have Drew on today is to introduce you to your new Page One or Bust co- host. Drew Detzler will be taking over as co- host moving forward. So I am stepping back from day-to-day operations as a CEO at DemandJump moving to a board role and going to be taking over Elevate Ventures as the CEO to establish the largest growth equity fund in Indiana, and then continue focusing on our startups here in Indiana. So I'm really, really excited about that, but obviously we'll be involved highly with DemandJump on a quarter to quarter basis. Today we're tackling three big questions. What is a pillar based marketing strategy or what's starting to become known as PBM? Why do we believe in and use PBM or pillar based marketing? And how do you simply get started?
Ryan Brock: That's right. Yeah. We thought today would be a really great time to introduce Drew because Drew has been at the nexus of pillar based marketing from the very beginning alongside all of us, and with Toph departing here in the very near future. We thought rather than just pretend Drew is Toph in a season two recast sort of situation, we'd actually take the time to have a little bit of a passing of the baton here from Toph to Drew.
Drew Detzler: I don't think I could pass for Toph anyway, so this is a better way to do it.
Ryan Brock: Just got to spike your hair up a little bit.
Drew Detzler: Yeah, I can do that.
Christopher Day: You're going to crush it Drew.
Drew Detzler: Yeah, looking forward to it.
Christopher Day: So Ryan, talk to us. What is a PBM strategy?
Ryan Brock: Yeah, so I'm glad you are asking because we took a step back for our dear listeners here, why aren't we doing this? Why don't we have another external guest on the podcast this episode? It's because we've been talking to you for how many episodes has it been guys like 10, 9, 12, something like that, episodes and more and more we've been sprinkling in this term pillar based marketing and we've been sort of positioning you as our audience to think a little bit differently about SEO, right? We've talked about SXO and we're going to get into that a little bit later, but thinking a little bit differently about those tactics that we've all become very comfortable with, and in some cases for me with SEO, very uncomfortable with, honestly, over the years, and we are excited about this podcast. We're even doing this podcast in the first place because at DemandJump, we feel like we are the world's first and only pillar based marketing platform, and we see pillar based marketing as being an entirely new philosophy in marketing. It's something sort of account based marketing or inbound marketing before it, content marketing, SEO, it takes little pieces of all those things, compliments ABM really well. Again, we'll get to that in a few minutes here, but really it throws everything that we knew or thought we knew about SEO and driving organic traffic out the window and replaces it with a set of best practices driven by this philosophy that the experience of anyone buying online is not a funnel. It's not a one way moving sidewalk. Exactly. We think about spiderwebs and how any topic you search online is not existing in a vacuum. And also all of these assumptions marketers have made about, hey, maybe I am in a business that sells used tractors. And I think that when people want to buy a used tractor, they search for used tractor. And that's where I need to be to be, to be on page one to drive rankings. There's only 10 spots on page one for anybody to actually show up and get the line share traffic because as we know, something like 95% of all web traffic goes to those top 10 positions on page one. Furthermore though, that's not really the buying journey, is it? Drew, let me ask you a question. Last time you shopped for something, did you just search for that thing or did you ask any questions first? What does your normal research process look like when you're looking to buy?
Drew Detzler: It's very rare that you go directly to the buying stage. You're searching things for weeks, months, sometimes years before you actually make a purchase. So you're asking questions in and around that topic. At least I am, although I haven't searched for a used tractor in a while, but when I search for other things that I am buying, yeah, I'm asking questions well, before I'm getting to that actual purchase phase.
Ryan Brock: You'd think I'd be better at coming up with an example on a fly after a dozen these episodes or so. But yeah, used tractors.
Christopher Day: Well, Ryan, to go back to one of the old B2C, one of my favorite examples. I don't purchase lipstick personally, but for all of those manufacturers out there making lipstick, the most powerful question in the world that we see in our platform is what does lipstick stand for? And so if that question's not being answered, and you talk about keywords, in real life, we don't talk to ourselves in keywords. We don't communicate back and forth with one and two and three word exchanges. We actually have sentences and those sentences that we communicate to each other, trigger other questions that we have about what we're talking about. And that's exactly what happens online. Same thing.
Ryan Brock: And I mean with a used tractor, I've never bought a used tractor, but I'd assume just like if I was looking for a used car or something, the first thing I might do is start comparing manufacturers. What manufacturer do I want? Or what's the advantages of different types of tractors? There's so many ways that I can start learning about what I need to know to make that purchase, but I'm rarely going to jump towards, give me a list of tractors to buy as the very first thing that I look at. So back to the start of the question, what is pillar based marketing? What is the strategy? Pillar based marketing says, " Forget about that one term you want to rank for and think about networks. Think about an entire network of questions and search behavior surrounding that term. And then map the most relevant contextual pieces or questions and keywords in that network to specific pieces of content." We're talking pillar pages of 3000 plus words, sub pillar pages of 2000 plus words, supporting blog posts that really get in nitty- gritty and answer long tail questions about a topic with specifically placed links and calls to action, all in an effort to recreate as much of that really important content network on your website. That network, that search engines already exists out there in the real world, you're going to recreate it on your website. You're going to follow best practices, and in doing so, you're going to exponentially increase the value if each individual piece within that network. And you're going to get to page one a lot faster than any other SEO tactic could ever, ever promise.
Christopher Day: What I love, Ryan, is early on when you were talking about what is a PBM strategy, you mentioned ABM, right? Account based marketing and how PBM and ABM really run in parallel. So the account based marketing, you're trying to look at all the people involved in the decision making process at a company that should buy your product or service. And on one of our recent episodes, right, Sangram Vajre, co- founder of Terminus and author of the book Move, told us about why he recommends using pillar strategy to his peers and how ABM, account based marketing, and how pillar based marketing, PBM, how they really work hand in hand, which I think is interesting.
Sangram Vajre: What I also love about the pillar, the way I think about pillars is I encourage now, as many companies I am advising or on the board of and even our own team, we say, " Look, create one great piece of content that you can gate and stick with that and drive every other thing to that one piece of content." Because if people who are listening to this, and if they're in marketing right now, and if your scorecard looks like I need to do three webinars a quarter, I need to do two eBooks a month, I need to write five blog posts. If that's what your tactical menu of options look like, you know, are essentially talking about being in the nineties might as well, right?
Christopher Day: inaudible.
Sangram Vajre: Totally. But if you actually say, " You know what, we're going to create a definitive guide..." In your case, you might say a definitive guide, " On how to do SCL." Maybe that is your pillar content. If I use the word pillar with your permission on that, then that's what literally is driving everybody to, oh, all this awesomeness that you're creating, where you are giving the objective information that people are finding and coming to. And if all of that is all free, all free, all free, all free, but then it points to this one thing all along with every single blog post, every single content you ever create through that one definitive guide or one state off, whatever that report is, it literally becomes your only piece that of content. You don't have to anymore go after, well, that piece of content works better da, da, da. It is literally keep that living, breathing, make it awesome, make it new, make it fresh every year, but create that. And I think every company has the ability to do it, but for some reason we always go down to the lowest level of creating as many pieces as possible as opposed to the best pieces that can drive the business.
Christopher Day: So as we just heard from Sangram, right? Oh, the reason we're all doing this is for a lead generation, what's the on ramp to get that qualified traffic to your business so that can out- maneuver your competition and get people interested in buying your product, right? Or your service. And so Drew, talk to us about how we think about that and why we believe in PBM at DemandJump and what your experience has been.
Drew Detzler: Yeah, absolutely. Simplest answer to why we believe in PBM is because it works. It is the most comprehensive way to explain to search engines that you understand the network and the topics around a given pillar. It really is as simple as that. It works and why does it work? It works because you are signaling to those search engines that you know about X, Y, Z, and so on around a given topic and not just about used tractors for sale. You know about all those subtopics. And you are the expert on that given pillar search engines and thus builds trust with the end user. And so when they come back and visit you and ask all these different questions, when it does come time to purchase, you're in their mind, they trust you and they see you on page one.
Christopher Day: One way I kind of think about it is organic alignment, like absolute quantifiable, organic alignment to that target market behavior. And I almost think about it in terms of if I'm aligned to you individually with the questions that you're asking, et cetera, if I focus on that alignment first, everything else will handle itself by default. Because what do search engines care about? They care about user experience. They don't care about any of us as companies. They care about the people that are actually using the search engine to try to find in research evaluation decision mode, trying to find product, service or information.
Ryan Brock: Imagine you were at a party and you walked up to a group of people and you heard what they were talking about, but instead of engaging them in that conversation, you just started spouting off about yourself and something that has nothing to do with what's being talked about, right? You would not make many friends at all. And I think search engines are just trying to make it so that we're a little bit more real with each other online. And if we are saying we want to be seen as an expert in a topic and we're ignoring what the actual existing conversation is online around that topic, then we don't deserve to be a part of the conversation.
Christopher Day: That's spot on. And that actually happens in real life. We all know those people at parties that like to come in hot and talk about themselves and nobody wants to listen to them. And that's the whole key thing is listen, right.
Ryan Brock: And I really like what you said too about quantifiable, because that to me is the difference here. And Drew, I'd like to hear some from you on this as well. I know for me, the biggest problem I had is as a content marketing leader, specifically the owner of an agency who was selling content marketing and purportedly, therefore selling organic traffic to my customers is I feel like for a very long time it was nowhere near as quantifiable as something like paid search. We couldn't actually wrap real goals and metrics around it because we knew we'd just lose at them because we didn't know where we were starting. And then there was this other problem where because other aspects of digital marketing were becoming more quantifiable, people started expecting for content to be quantifiable even though the tech wasn't there yet. So I know I lost a lot of sleep, and I'm just curious, in your career as a marketer, how quantifiable do you feel like content or organic content has been and where do you think we are now with it?
Drew Detzler: It's infinitely more quantifiable than it has been in the past. At the end of the day, to kind of tie back to Sangram's clip, the end goal is to drive leads or drive sales or drive revenue. The end goal is to drive sales. And in the past, SEOs and content agencies, not to speak ill of you, Ryan, you were not this example, but-
Ryan Brock: You don't know. I might have been. I very well might've been.
Drew Detzler: Yeah, we'll see. We'll see. In the past, SEOs and content agencies have driven towards traffic. Traffic is the goal. Hey, it's working, we're driving traffic. But as we've talked about, and as you guys have talked about quite a bit, it's not about more traffic, it's about the right traffic. It's not about more content, it's about the right content. So driving leads, driving sales is the end goal. If you're driving towards traffic that may not result in leads. It's about writing the right content, driving the right traffic that drives leads and drives sales. And I think that's more quantifiable now than ever.
Ryan Brock: Certainly you go back as far as 10 years ago, and it kills me now to think about how much effort was wasted by myself and members of my team, writing content that was never intended to be read by a human being. It was just there to prop up a fake website that would be used to do back linking towards end customers. We knew when we were writing it that nobody wanted to read this crap. We didn't even want to be writing it.
Drew Detzler: And it still happens. I mean, it still happens. People listening right now have created content within the year, I'm sure that has no intention of being read by a human, and it's just there to prop stuff up.
Christopher Day: The way I think about it is it's the holy grail. If I know what you are thinking and I can align anything I say and do to what you are thinking, what you're feeling, right, the pain you're trying to solve or the desire you're trying to fulfill. If I talk about it through your eyes, using your words, answering your questions, we are going to build exponential trust faster.
Ryan Brock: Yep. Yeah, it's interesting to me what you're basically capturing Toph, is that it took to this point in the organic aspect of digital marketing for our digital conversations to catch up with our analog conversations in the past. Before we just had to guess at what people wanted and throw it out there. I'm remembering our conversation with MJ Peters and how she talked about how all of these old SEO practices that we all sort of forced ourselves into because we thought that's what the search engines wanted or we thought it would win, how they can really be more harm than help, especially if we're still holding onto them today.
MJ Peters: I have a great story that exhibits exactly this point actually. So back when I was at SensorX, we had a big pillar page piece of content, which I didn't know was a pillar page at the time, I just wrote a bunch of content that I thought was helpful, and I actually left because I was in a rotational program for a period of time after writing that pillar page. And then I came back and in the interim, the company had hired like an SEO intern and it was her first job. And they had her working to quote unquote, " SEO", optimize different pieces of content on the website just following a checklist, which probably said things like keyword stuff this, write this way. And nothing wrong with this particular intern, she didn't know any better, but she was changing all of these things about the article. And when I read it, when I came back and I read it after she had been in there for a while, I was like, oh my God, this doesn't even mean the same thing as when I originally wrote this article. inaudible And I was like, now I need to fix this. So I went over and I was talking to one of our sales managers and I was like, " Oh man, I got to rewrite this article now not technically accurate anymore." And he kind of went white, " Oh my God, I send that to customers to explain this concept. You need to fix it." And I was like, " It's fine, I'll fix it." But it just goes to show you, if you just wrote follow SEO, quote unquote, " best practice," you're going to actually eventually get to the point where you're diminishing the value of the content to the customer, and you don't want to cross that line.
Drew Detzler: It's the guesswork. To get back to PBM and who pillar based marketing is for, who should latch onto pillar based marketing, it's any marketer that wants to have confidence in what they're doing and that the content they're creating is the right content. I've been in rooms in the past where we're trying to decide what content to create, and it is complete guesswork, right? It is, " Hey, I did X, Y, Z last week and I bet a lot of people are doing that." That's literally how it goes. Slap it on the board, get it on the list and write it. Where pillar based marketing is knowing the exact content to create to drive those results. And it's not guessing, it's not throwing stuff up on a whiteboard. This is what people are searching and you can leave at the end of the day having confidence that what you did was the right thing. Every marketer here has left for the day thinking, was that the right thing to do? Was that the right campaign to create? Was that the right keyword to use? Every single one with pillar based marketing, you leave knowing that that's what people are asking. You're writing the right thing.
Ryan Brock: We're going to have a few things in the show notes for this episode. One of the things that we're going to link though is going to be some slides to a presentation that captures exactly what the results of this approach to marketing have been. We're talking a matter of three weeks, four weeks, six weeks, going from sometimes zero page one rankings for these mission- critical pillar topics to dozens, sometimes even hundreds. This is white hat, this is legitimate, and it's because we're aligning with real inaudible. And as someone who's been doing SEO and content for a decade, it's nothing even close to what we've seen in the past. Even when you had the most money in the world to spend, you knew that you were not going to be able to see results for six months or longer. And even then you had to hope that your guests after six months was right and that you were dialed into the right thing. We're skipping all that.
Christopher Day: So all of our listeners out there are going, " Okay, this sounds amazing. How in the heck do I get started? Help me. Help me help myself. How do I get started?"
Ryan Brock: If you are interested in learning the basics of pillar based marketing and getting them implemented in your business in a matter of just a day or two, the best advice I can give you is to go to university. demandjump.com and sign up for DemandJump University where we teach certifications in pillar based marketing along a strategist and a writer pathway. So if you're a strategist, you want to learn how to choose pillar topics, identify what is the actual pillar that I should be going for, my business should be going for, building the right strategy around them, publishing that content in the right way, measuring your results, the whole nine yards, we can get you certified in that. The same thing for writers who want to make sure that the content they're writing embraces actually relevant SEO best practices that we have proven and quantified and explored and said, " You know what? This is what's contributing to the rankings, and we're going to throw out all the rest of the junk." So that's free. And all you need is a DemandJump account, which is also free to get in and start learning about it. So really excited to get that out there and get people going. The second bit of advice is in a vacuum, if we want to step aside and be a little bit more agnostic about how do you get started with this strategy, the first thing is you just need to understand what are all the different pillar topics that your business could begin developing content around? If you have a few different service lines, a few different product categories, identify which of those categories is the most competitive, is a place where you have room to grow and take away traffic from your competitors. Think about where there's enough search volume that you can actually start driving results. And then from there, it's a matter of really mapping that network and then you develop that content. And one of the magical things about pillar based marketing is you develop, let's say, 16 pieces of content to start with. You drop it all at once. And that velocity of publication leads to very fast results, and it's a lot of work all at once. But we feel, we've seen time and again, and I don't think we've really actually ever seen any failures, no matter the industry, as long as we're following these best practices, that that hard work really, really pays off exponentially.
Drew Detzler: That's right, Ryan. In fact, one of my favorite episodes is with Nick Wojdyla, who at the time was the director of digital marketing at Cummins and now heads up marketing at Belden, where he shared why he says, " All the hard work is worth it."
Nick Wojdyla: We have articles and pages that were created 10, 15 years ago that still generate traffic to this day, and it's an investment we made a long time ago. And so-
Ryan Brock: Even better, we've found that an article like that, maybe 15 years later, something gets out of date, you go in and you update it. We've found that the search engines love that. They're going to reward you for going in and make the difference. So yeah, I mean that long- term approach is something that a lot of marketers are a little bit too antsy, I think, to wait for and see what happens.
Nick Wojdyla: Yeah, I agree. So I think it's just getting everyone to really compare it to say, all right, well, if you're spending X on this paid tactic or whatever the thing might be, what if you spent that on organic? And granted, you may not get the results tomorrow.'Cause again, with the paid ads, I turn ads on today, I'll get clicks today or tomorrow. Organic, okay, it may take some time, but it's going to come, it's going to ramp up, but it's going to stay up there somewhere. It might plateau, but it's going to stay pretty consistent. It won't go to zero hardly ever or over a long period of time. And so getting people used to that, and I think the other challenge that we used to see a lot, I don't even know how I would say this, but everyone wants to rank for everything related to what their company does. Depending on what you do as a company that might be near impossible or might not just make sense. We'd always get feedback of, " Oh, I searched for this and we're not showing up," but we do 200, 000 things. It's going to be tough to rank for all of those tomorrow. What's the priority? And what do we really want to rank for and all that. So there's a lot of... I wish there was as much energy put into that at companies as there is put into, again, paid advertising or even an events team that does trade shows. You have a dozen people supporting an events team. You definitely don't have a dozen people supporting organic SEO content and driving pipeline, but you should.
Christopher Day: This has been a great episode guys, introducing in a more official way today, pillar based marketing, helping our listeners understand what it's all about and then how they can literally just go take action and get started. This is the path to not be one of the folks that's in the 90. 63% of all webpages and blogs get zero traffic. If we woke up every day and knew that nine tenths of our day was going to be a waste of time, that would not be a fun future.
Ryan Brock: But that is my past. That is my past. And that's why we're so motivated by this. There was a time when you had to accept as a content marketer that you don't know which pieces you're going to write are going to get attention and get traffic and take off. And man, what a wasteful existence.
Drew Detzler: We've all been there. At the end of the day, pillar based marketing works and pillar based marketing gives you confidence.
Christopher Day: Well, everyone, thank you so much for listening. And Drew, welcome to the show as the co- host of Page One or Bust. So excited to see the future episodes. There are a lot of things that you guys have lined up that I think are going to be awesome. In fact, I heard through the grapevine that some of the future shows might even involve writers and maybe round tables of writers who are actually putting this to work in real world practice and are crushing it across all kinds of industries in B2B and B2C. So thank you everyone out there for listening. This has been an awesome episode. Welcome, Drew-
Ryan Brock: Yeah, Drew.
Christopher Day: ... asco- host to Page One or Bust, and we will see you all next time on Page One or Bust.
Speaker 1: Page One or Bust is brought to you by DemandJump. Know the exact content to create to increase first page rankings and drive outcomes with DemandJump. Get started for free today at demandjump. com.
The days of ranking content based solely on SEO best practices are over. In this episode, co-hosts Christopher Day and Ryan Brock introduce listeners to a more effective way to drive traffic and boost ROI: Pillar-Based Marketing (PBM). They share practical tips on how to get started, and later, announce an exciting new addition to the show. If you’re ready to move past keyword stuffing and low-quality content to dramatically improve your marketing efforts, this episode is a must hear!
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