Iterating Bredemarket’s first pillar page

I’ve spent this afternoon posting messages to selected Facebook and LinkedIn pages, showcase pages, and groups talking about updates to blog content (and in one case a LinkedIn article).

If you look at the updated blog posts/LinkedIn article in question, you’ll see that they now start with this statement:

(Updated 4/16/2022 with additional benefits information.)

Then, when you scroll down the post/article to a benefits discussion, you’ll see this insertion:

(4/16/2022: For additional information on benefits, click here.)

This post explains

  • why I made those updates to the blog posts and the LinkedIn article,
  • how I added a new page to the Bredemarket website, and
  • what I still need to do to that new page to make it better.

(Why, how, what: get it?)

Why I updated selected blog posts and a LinkedIn article

I talk a lot about benefits on the Bredemarket blog, but all of the conversation is in disparate, not-really-connected areas. I do have a page that talks about the benefits of benefits for identity firms, but that doesn’t really address the benefits of benefits for non-identity firms.

Then, while I was taking a HubSpot Academy course, I found a possible way to create a central page for discussion of benefits.

A pillar page.

By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=638837

According to HubSpot, the need for pillar pages arose because of changes to Google’s search model.

Google is helping searchers find the most accurate information possible — even if it isn’t exactly what they searched for. For example, if you searched for “running shoes,” Google will now also serve you up results for “sneakers.” This means that bloggers and SEOs need to get even better at creating and organizing content that addresses any gaps that could prevent a searcher from getting the information they need from your site.

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page

What does this mean?

Now, your site needs to be organized according to different main topics, with blog posts about specific, conversational long-tail keywords hyperlinked to one another, to address as many searches as possible about a particular subject. Enter the topic cluster model.

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page

How I added a new page to the Bredemarket website

So I created the page https://bredemarket.com/benefits/ to work as the hub of a wheel of content regarding benefits.

But not all the content that I’ve written on benefits.

I’ve curated links to selected content (both on the Bredemarket website and on LinkedIn), provided a brief quote from the content in question, then provided a link to the original content for more information.

After that, I went out to each of the “spokes” in the topic cluster and linked back to the new content hub on benefits as illustrated above.

What I still need to do to the new page on the Bredemarket website

At this point the people who REALLY know search engine optimization are shaking their heads.

“John,” they are saying to me, “that’s not a pillar page!”

They’re right.

It’s just a very crude beginning to a pillar page. It lacks two things.

Multi-layered keywords associated with the “hub” topic

First, simply linking selected “benefits” pages together in a wheel is extremely simplistic. Remember how search engines can now search for both “running shoes” and “sneakers”? I need to optimize my wheel so that it drives traffic that isn’t tied to the specific word “benefits.”

Choose the broad topics you want to rank for, then create content based on specific keywords related to that topic that all link to each other, to create broader search engine authority….

For example, you might write a pillar page about content marketing — a broad topic — and a piece of cluster content about blogging — a more specific keyword within the topic. 

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page

A logical organization of the pillar page

Second, a pillar page needs better organization. Rather than having what I have now-a brief definition of benefits, followed by a reverse chronological list of posts (and the article) on benefits, the pillar page needs to address benefits, and its relevant subtopics, in an orderly fashion.

Pillar pages are longer than typical blog posts — because they cover all aspects of the topic you’re trying to rank for — but they aren’t as in-depth. That’s what cluster content is for. You want to create a pillar page that answers questions about a particular topic, but leaves room for more detail in subsequent, related cluster content.

From https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page
Example of a REAL pillar page. From https://www.hubspot.com/instagram-marketing

HubSpot directs its readers to HubSpot’s own pillar page on Instagram marketing. Frankly I don’t know that I’d want to write something that long, but you can see how the pillar page provides an organized overview of Instagram marketing, rather than just a reverse chronological list of content that addresses the pillar topic.

More to come

So my pillar page on benefits certainly has room to grow.

But at least I’ve made an agile start with a first iteration, and the search engines can start processing the existing cluster of links as I make improvements.

And as I create additional pillar pages. I already have an idea for a second one.

SEO NVI, HRF VVI (Search engine optimization not very important, human readable format very very important)

I’ve been trying to add more local (Inland Empire West) content to the Bredemarket blog. Obviously I’m attempting to promote Bredemarket’s services to local businesses by writing local-area content such as these two recent posts centered on Upland.

City Hall and Public Library, Upland, California.
By Rockero at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3949535

Old SEO

Back in the old days, I might have done optimized for my local audience by going to the bottom of relevant pages on the Bredemarket website and inserting hundreds of words in very small gray text that cite every single Inland Empire West community (yes, even Narod) and every single service that Bredemarket provides. In the old days, the rationale was that this additional text would positively affect search engine optimization (SEO), so that the next person searching for “case study writer in Narod, California” would automatically go to the page with all of the small gray text.

Of course, that doesn’t work any more, because Google penalizes keyword stuffers or content stuffers who make these unnatural pages.

More modern SEO

I use more acceptable forms of SEO. For example, I’ve devoted significant effort to make sure that the two phrases biometric content marketing expert and biometric proposal writing expert direct searchers to the relevant pages on this website. (Provided, of course, that someone is actually searching for a biometric content marketing expert or a biometric proposal writing expert.)

First two results (as of April 1, 2022) of a DuckDuckGo search for biometric content marketing expert. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=biometric+content+marketing+expert&t=h_&ia=web

I believe SEO is important.

However, SEO is not very important (NVI).

(As an aside, I commonly distinguish between “important” stuff and “very important” stuff. And you also have to distinguish between importance and urgency; see the Eisenhower matrix.)

What is very very important (VVI)? Human readable format (HRF).

The two audiences: the bots, and the real humans

And SEO-optimized content may differ from human-readable content because of their different audiences. SEO text is written for machines, not people. In extreme cases, SEO-optimized text is unreadable by humans, and human readable format cannot be interepreted by machine-based web crawlers.

Machine readable and human readable formats. Olav Ten Bosch. From https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Machine-readable-and-human-readable-formats_fig1_327385570

Here’s a comparison:

Machine readableHuman readable
Easily parsed and processed by systemsEasily read by humans
Hard for humans to readHard for machines to read
Adheres to FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable)Communicates with humans via visual presentation
Example: machines have problems reading tables like this oneExample: humans can easily read and understand tables like this one
Google’s gonna hate me for putting this table into a post, but real human beings won’t. See https://control.com/technical-articles/machine-readable-vs-human-readable-data/ for a fuller explanation of the differences between machine-readable and human-readable data.

Here’s another example of how SEO-optimized text and human readable format sometimes diverge. I mentioned this example in a recent LinkedIn article:

I recently updated my proposal resume to include the headline “John E. Bredehoft, CF APMP,” under the assumption that this headline would impress proposal professionals. However, when I ran my resume through an ATS (applicant tracking system) simulator, it was unable to find my name because of its non-standard format. Because of this, there was a chance that a proposal professional would never even see my resume. I adjusted accordingly.

From https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-happens-when-proposal-evaluators-longer-human-bredemarket/
By Humanrobo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18947366

In this case, I had to cater to two separate audiences:

  • The computerized applicant tracking systems that read resumes and decide which resumes to pass on to human beings.
  • The human beings that read resumes, often after the applicant tracking systems have pre-selected the resumes to read.

I was able to come up with a workaround to satisfy both audiences, therefore ensuring that (a) my resume would get past the ATS, and (b) a human that viewed my ATS-approved resume could actually read it. It’s a clumsy workaround, but it works.

While that particular example is complicated by the gate-keeping ubiquity of applicant tracking systems in the employment industry, it is not unique. All industries are depending more on artificial intelligence, and almost all human beings are turning to Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and the like to find stuff.

These are our users (who use search engines for EVERYTHING)

There’s an old example of how dependent we are on search engines. In a famous case over a decade ago, people used the Google search engine to get to the Facebook login page, and were confused when a non-Facebook page made its way to the top of the search results. The original article that prompted the brouhaha is gone, but Jake Kuramoto’s summary still remains. TL;DR:

ReadWriteWeb posted “Facebook Wants to Be Your One True Login“.

Google indexed the post.

The post became the top result for the keywords “facebook login”.

People using Google to find their way to Facebook were misdirected to the post.

The comments on the post were littered with unhappy people, unable to login to Facebook.

There are more than 300 comments on this post, the majority of them from confused Facebook users.

Despite the fact that RWW added bold text to the post, directing users to Facebook, and the fact that the post is no longer the top result for “facebook login”, people continue to arrive there by accident, looking for Facebook.

From http://theappslab.com/2010/02/11/these-are-our-users/

What if we can only optimize for one of the two audiences?

So people who create content have to simultaneously satisfy the bots and the real people. But what if they couldn’t satisfy both? If you were forced to choose between optimizing text for a search engine, and optimizing text for a human, what would you choose?

If it were up to Google and the other search engine providers, you wouldn’t have to choose. The ultimate goal of Google Search (and other searches) is to mimic the way that real humans would search for things if they had all of the computing resources that the search engine providers have. It’s only because of our imperfect application of artificial intelligence that there is any divergence between search engines and human searches.

But until AI gets a lot better than it is now, there will continue to be a divergence.

And if I ever had to choose, I’d write for humans rather than bots.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13018 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5480820

After all, a human is going to have to read the text at some point. Might as well make the human comfortable, since the bots aren’t making final binding decisions. (Yet.)