Click-baity post title aside (I apologize)… if you’re writing a blog, chances are, you hope your content is going to be read by other people. I’m no marketer, and I only blog for the fun of it, but I can tell you a few things I’ve learned from keeping my main Gaming and Geek blog going for so many years (Spot of Mummery is too young to give proper examples).
What are Pillar Posts?
Pillar posts. Evergreen content. The 80/20 rule.
If you’ve not heard these terms, do some searching, but don’t take everything you read to heart. I’ll give you an overall summary here.
I can vouch that the 80/20 rule is real and can be applied to my blogs. This rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your work. Or in the case of blogging – 80% of your traffic comes from 20% of your content. I’d actually wager it’s more like 90/10 for me.
What this means is, very often you’ll notice that a small subset of posts on your blog are the ones that consistently get the most attention and traffic. If you keep up with your analytics, and your blog has been around long enough, you know exact the posts I’m talking about.
These are your blog’s Pillar Posts. The posts that continue to bring in traffic even if you slack off writing new posts. Not that any of us would do that, right?
Though, I don’t suggest leaning too heavily on your pillar posts because the Net changes fast and furiously. What may be a popular topic for a few months can just as quickly fade.
Discovering Pillar Posts
I wrote my first real pillar post by accident. My gaming blog leans towards FFXIV content. This is good for me as a blogger due to the fact the game continues to change and grow over time. This gives me lots of things to write about when new systems and patches release.
My first pillar post – which remains my strongest post even today – I wrote back in late 2018. This was when the Bard Performance system was somewhat new and people were trying to figure it out. I didn’t realize it had become a pillar post until 2019 – these things can happen unexpectedly.
I stumbled upon the Bard Music Player (which had a different name back then), which is a program that simplifies music playing and makes it more accessible to everyone. Now days, just about all the bards you see playing in FFXIV use it – including the big name troupes.
But back then, BMP was unknown unless you were really searching for a solution. I was so excited about the program when I found it that I wrote a blog post about it. It’s not a full guide because I knew that programs like this can change (I linked to the official manual page and Discord), but I did give an overview of how it worked and how to get started.
Somewhere down the line, BMP took off in the community. So did the traffic for this post. It remains my top post even years after I wrote it – which is crazy to me. It’s actually pulling in more traffic this year than it did last year and the year is only half done!
Because I know that this post is so important to my traffic, I make an effort to update it if any of the content goes out of date. You might notice on the post that I’ve got things scratched out, revised and have included a date of last update at the top. This is my attempt to keep this pillar post as evergreen as possible – though thankfully, BMP doesn’t change much in the way of setup or use.
Learning from your Analytics
I don’t suggest that bloggers sit there and watch analytics. Nothing’s more boring and disheartening than looking at numbers that go up and down without any direct way to control them.
However, I do suggest that you look for trends in your analytics. This can lead you to discovering why people come to your blog and what they’re looking for.
Here’s my analytics so far this year on my main blog and what I’ve learned from them:
Notice a trend?
Most of my highest traffic posts are guides – posts created to be purposely informative and helpful. The two at the top are my best performers and have been around for years. I try to keep those updated if any changes come out that would alter the validity of the guide.
The three guides in the middle are new pieces I wrote this year. In fact, I wrote the Fashion Report guide a couple weeks ago. I expect the traffic for those to be somewhat fleeting as the excitement for Fetes will eventually wear off and the Fashion Report guide was mostly of interest because of the Make it Rain event happening in FFXIV right now.
The Happy Easter post was a complete fluke and I have no idea why it got so many hits. It’s just a post with an Easter image that I put out there years ago. Go figure.
The Doman Enclave is an old post but I see it ranking up there quite often. I didn’t think about it until I wrote this post, but maybe that means people are searching for a guide to the Doman Enclave, and it would serve me well to write one!
The Better Full Body Screenshots is an old guide and it doesn’t contain nearly as much information on GPose as it could now. The fact that it’s doing this well tells me that I might want to revisit this topic, write a new post and expand it to be more helpful. That could be my next pillar post, maybe?
How to Write a Pillar Post?
So now that we’ve talked about what Pillar Posts are and how to identify if you have one… more importantly, how do you write one? I can give you a few tips, but I can’t give you an absolute answer because there’s so many variables to this.
You can spend time researching Google search terms to find the popular things that people are searching for in your blog’s topic focus. But if you’re like me, you blog as a hobby and not because you want to spend your free time researching and determining search term validity. I’ve honestly never bothered with it.
That leaves a bit of instinct, luck and knowing your audience.
I’m a gamer and I write about games. I know the games that I play fairly well – especially my main topic game FFXIV. Again, I’m lucky that I write about a MMO because it’s always evolving and currently doing well at bringing new people in. So the things that I know like the back of my hand can be turned into useful information for all these new players who don’t have that experience.
Basically, if FFXIV releases a new feature, and it takes a bit of know-how to get into it, these are great topics to create informational how-tos for.
For example, the new Firmament Fetes were released this year. I ran them a few times and picked up a lot of information just from doing them and listening to tips in main chat. But I could see how this feature could be overwhelming and confusing to players.
I knew by instinct that writing a guide to Firmament Fetes would likely get attention. I was right. People wanted to know how to get the best score in fetes and they were looking for a guide.
When Reddit Beats You To It (This Usually Happens)
I will say this: there was already a guide for fetes put together on Reddit a day before I wrote my post.
Don’t let that keep you from tackling a topic, though. Not everyone goes to Reddit or forums for their information. Also, posts on Reddit fade and fall off the front page, which makes them harder to find unless Google picks them up.
If there is a Reddit post about the topic, I don’t read it until after I’ve written my own – and that’s mostly just to confirm that I’ve got correct factual information. I want my post to be as original and different from the Reddit guide as it can be. With a blog, you can lean heavily on in-line images and pleasant looking formatting – things that Reddit is often weak to use.
If you Google the Fete topic, the search engine has given its preference to my blog post over Reddit’s, which is a huge help. So, again, don’t let the fact that someone on a forum or Reddit has already written something stop you from tackling the topic – just make sure you are original in your approach.
Should You Only Aim to Write Pillar Posts?
It would be logical to think – Hey, if pillar posts drive the most traffic, then I should make every post I write a pillar post!
Well… not really. Remember the 80/20 rule? I feel that even if you aimed to write pillar posts every time that even then only a handful would get the traction you want.
I would personally never approach blogging that way. The pillar posts I write tend to be informative and how-to. They require more time, effort and research. It sure would start to drag on me if everything I wrote on my blog was a bland how-to that I had to spend hours pulling information together to write.
I feel it’s actually far better to write a variety of content.
Informative posts that help people are super important. But posts that entertain people or get them hyped about something are important, too. Just as important are opinion pieces where you open up a little bit about yourself to the reader as you discuss something you’re passionate about.
Blogging isn’t just about pulling in numbers, it’s about building an audience and connecting with people. A pillar post might bring someone to your blog, but once they’ve got the information they came for, they’re just going to bounce unless they see something else about your blog that keeps them there.
That’s where the rest of your posts come in.
So I while I encourage you to write the best content you can for every post (you never know), I don’t suggest aiming to only write pillar posts. And I don’t suggest that you rely only on pillar posts and traffic to maintain your blog. Building an audience who returns is the foundation of community, and that’s what will make your blog stand out and keep it around in the long run.
And, trust me, it’s what will make you a happier blogger in the end. Numbers aren’t everything.