Ultimate Guide to Writing Ultimate Guides

Ultimate Guide to Writing Pillar Content and Ultimate Guides

If you’re a digital marketer, website owner, or content creator, you’ve likely come across the term “ultimate guide” several times in your discovery.

Whether you want to build a terrace garden or learn content writing, you’ll find more ultimate guides on each topic than you can count. But what makes ultimate guides so special and why does everyone seem to create them? Let’s find out.

Why Should I Create an Ultimate Guide?

Creating an ultimate guide on a relevant topic helps you build brand expertise, authority, and trust. The E-A-T Framework (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) is a core part of what Google looks for in its Search algorithm. In 2015, Google released Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that primarily cover Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating as it pertains to the content that you write.

The Role of Ultimate Guides in Content Marketing

Traditionally, website owners and bloggers have based their content strategy on keywords. You find the most popular and relevant keywords in your niche. Thereafter, you select a focus keyword and optimize your content using it. It helps your website grab the spotlight in search engine results related to that particular keyword.

However, HubSpot introduced an alternative approach called the topic cluster model in 2017. Simply put, topic clusters are a group of content assets on your website that are linked to a common pillar page. While the pillar page gives an overall view of a broad topic, it is the cluster pages that extensively cover different aspects of the pillar content. The pillar page contains internal links to these cluster pages and vice versa.

Here’s what topic clusters look like:

Topic Clusters are a tactical way to support your content marketing efforts
Topic Clusters

Image via HubSpot

Hubspot defines Topic Clusters as follows:

“SEO is now shifting to a topic cluster model, where a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content for a overarching topic and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and to each other. This linking action signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic, and over time, the page may rank higher and higher for the topic it covers. The topic cluster model, at its very essence, is a way of organizing a site’s content pages using a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture.”

The video below breaks out how Topic Clusters are an important tactical part of organizing your content marketing strategy:

Topic Clusters: The Next Evolution of Content Strategy

Chances are there is already an abundance of ultimate guides in your niche. If you want to make yours successful, you must ensure that it stands apart from the crowd. In this blog, we’ll outline a few steps to publish great ultimate guides. But let’s first delve deeper into what they are and why they are important.

The biggest benefit of using topic clusters is that it helps organize your site architecture and streamline your content strategy. Moreover, it helps search engine spiders easily crawl your website and index key web pages. It also helps search engines discover new and updated content. Topic clusters are also a great way to target multiple keywords that have the same search intent.

Example of topic clusters can help your content marketing efforts
Topic Clusters and Keywords

Image via HubSpot

Publishing an ultimate guide on your website helps you reap all the amazing benefits of topic clusters. This is because the structure of an ultimate guide is a perfect fit for the topic cluster model. The main page serves as the pillar page that covers an overarching topic. On the other hand, the various chapters represent cluster pages related to the pillar content.

However, implementing topic clusters isn’t the only benefit of creating an ultimate guide. Let’s take a look at a few more advantages of ultimate guides.

Why Ultimate Guides Deserve Your Attention

A well-researched ultimate guide breathes life into your content marketing and SEO strategy. It has the potential to become viral and convert website visitors into subscribers or paying customers. Here are a few key benefits of creating ultimate guides:

Nurture Your Audience

A comprehensive ultimate guide provides your audience with a plethora of helpful and informative content. You can offer additional value to each reader, irrespective of whether they are first-time visitors or have been avid followers of your blog. It resolves their queries, addresses their pain points, and helps them learn new things.

This, in turn, makes them feel valued and look forward to your next blog post or newsletter. Moreover, an ultimate guide covers basic and simple as well as advanced and complex topics. This lets you cater to a wide range of audience members, from beginners to professionals.

Boost Website Traffic

A comprehensive and well-optimized ultimate guide skyrockets your website’s search engine ranking. It also lets you effectively implement the topic cluster model and target multiple keywords with the same search intent. This, in turn, drives more qualified website visitors.

Attract Backlinks

An ultimate guide typically includes a plethora of valuable insights, statistics, case studies, and examples. If other content creators find it valuable, they’ll likely use it as a reference in their blog posts. This, in turn, helps you attract plenty of authentic backlinks and ultimately, improves your website’s search engine ranking even further.

Increase Brand Awareness

When your readers derive value from your content, they’ll likely recommend it to their contacts. They might even share it on their social media profiles. This, in turn, expands your reach and takes your brand to a wide audience that would’ve remained inaccessible otherwise.

Improve Brand Authority, Trust, & Reputation

Publishing a valuable ultimate guide positions you as an industry expert. If you support your content with plenty of relevant case studies and statistics, your audience perceives you as a credible source of information. This, in turn, helps you win their trust and establishes your brand as an authority in your niche. Consequently, it reinforces your reputation as a content creator and a brand.

Drive Conversions

Use compelling and relevant calls-to-action (CTAs) in your ultimate guide motivates readers to check out your products or sign-up for your mailing list. Since you’ve already earned their trust, it’ll also be easier to convert them into paying customers. Thus, a well-written ultimate guide has the potential to skyrocket your revenue.

Repurposing Opportunities

Developing an ultimate guide requires weeks or months of extensive research and hard work. This, in turn, means you’ve assimilated a treasure trove of valuable insights, data, and other information. You can pack all the key information into an eye-catching infographic and share it on social media.

Likewise, you can convert the guide into an e-book and use it to increase email opt-ins. There are endless ways to repurpose an ultimate guide and generate renewed interest and traffic. This, in turn, helps you reap the benefits long after your content has been published.

Go Viral

When you repurpose an ultimate guide in the form of an infographic, video, or even ebook, it’ll likely be downloaded by many. If these users find the content useful, they may even send it to their contacts, who, in turn, will share it in their networks. This can set off a chain reaction of sharing and ultimately, make your content viral.

Long-Term Results

If you publish a detailed, well-researched, and insightful ultimate guide, it’ll likely remain relevant and valuable for a long time. This means it’ll continue to attract traffic and generate revenue even years after it has been published. Moreover, you can periodically repurpose the content to reach an even wider audience. This is likely one of the main reasons why ultimate guides are such a crucial part of your overall marketing campaign.

Ultimate Guides: A Closer Look

Simply put, an ultimate guide is a piece of long-form content on your website/blog that covers a topic in extensive detail. It usually comprises of a main page and multiple chapters. While the main page gives an overall idea of the topic, the chapters dig deeper into various aspects of the topic. The main page often includes a table of contents that links to individual chapters. Alternatively, many content creators embed deep links in a single page to break it into chapters.

Here’s an example of an ultimate guide by Moz titled “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO”:

A Beginner's Guide to SEO by MOZ - Ultimate Guide
An Ultimate Guide Example by Moz

Image via Moz

The main page touches upon the basics of SEO and what you can expect from the ultimate guide.

Sample Introduction for Ultimate Guides
Main Page of an Ultimate Guide

Image via Moz

It also includes a descriptive table of contents that links to individual chapters.

Sample Chapters in an Ultimate Guide
Example of a Table of Contents for an Ultimate Guide Pillar Page

Image via Moz

It’s worth noting how each chapter is dedicated to cover an aspect of SEO in greater detail. Moreover, the ultimate guide encapsulates basic topics like keyword research as well as advanced topics like technical SEO. It ensures that every reader derives some value from the ultimate guide, irrespective of how much they know about SEO. While novices can start from the basics, others can jump right away to complex subjects like link building and technical SEO.

Here’s another one by HubSpot titled “The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2020”:

The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2020
An Ultimate Guide Example by Hubspot

Image via HubSpot

Instead of linking to different chapters, HubSpot’s ultimate guide uses deep links to include all the chapters on one page.

Table of Contents for building an Ultimate Guide
Table of Contents for Your Ultimate Guide

Image via HubSpot

Needless to say, developing and publishing an impeccable ultimate guide requires you to invest time, effort, and resources. It’s only natural to wonder whether ultimate guides are even worth the hype. You’d be surprised to know that the aforementioned ultimate guide by Moz has helped the page grab the top position for the keyword “SEO”. Now that’s a big deal, isn’t it?

SERP Page Example
SERP Results Example

Image via Google

Do you need some more convincing? How about the fact that an ultimate guide helped Unbounce attract 9,800 paying customers within a span of 5 years. It also helped the company achieve annual revenue of $7 million.

It all started when Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner published a blog titled “The Noob Guide to Online Marketing” as a guest post on Moz. It’s a six-month marketing course packed into a 13,000-word article with an epic infographic. It covers a diverse array of marketing-related topics, from social media and email marketing to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and conversion rate optimization.

Here’s a part of the giant infographic:

Noob Guide
Noob Guide Infographic on Moz

Image via Moz

The “Noob Guide” went viral and garnered more than 150,000 downloads within a span of four years. It kept attracting website traffic and driving conversions long after it was first published. It’s even been converted into a 62-page e-book that can be downloaded from the Unbounce website.

Noob Guide by Unbounce
The Noob Ultimate Guide

Image via Unbounce

It’s worth noting that the “Noob Guide” showcases the writer’s expertise and authority over the subject. Moreover, it covers a wide range of marketing disciplines. These are likely some of the reasons behind its tremendous success.

It’s now time for us to outline the process of building a rock-solid ultimate guide.

Creating an Epic Ultimate Guide

So far, we’ve discussed the importance of ultimate guides and how they strengthen your digital marketing strategy. However, if you’ve checked out a few ultimate guides, you’d know that not all of them deliver on their promise. Additionally, every business owner and marketer is trying their hands at publishing an ultimate guide. Your audience, therefore, is already saturated with plenty of mediocre “ultimate guides”.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t create an original ultimate guide to attract your target audience. You just have to use the right approach to create and promote it. It’s important to understand that building an ultimate guide isn’t about publishing a lengthy blog post without any substantial insights and tips.

Instead, you should focus on empowering every reader with valuable and helpful information. Otherwise, your ultimate guide will fail to garner traction and yield the desired results. As with any other marketing technique, you must develop a solid strategy to create an ultimate guide.

We’ve outlined the following steps to help you create the “ultimate” ultimate guide:

1. Define Your Objectives

The main purpose of an ultimate guide is to drive organic traffic to your website by improving its search engine ranking. But what action do you want these website visitors to take? Do you want them to check out the latest tool you’ve developed? Or do you want them to book an appointment for a one-on-one consultation? Maybe you just wanted them to subscribe to your mailing list?

Here’s the thing – the website visitors that are lured by your ultimate guide may not return. You must use the opportunity to convert them into subscribers, leads, or customers using the right CTAs. That’s why it’s crucial to define the final objective of your marketing strategy. It’ll also help you monitor the performance of the ultimate guide and measure its return on investment (ROI).

Your goals will influence the topics you select and the keywords you target. Typically, you can set goals such as:

  • Increase email opt-ins
  • Get visitors to register for a webinar
  • Increase product sales
  • Build brand trust
  • Boost customer retention

2. Choose Your Topic

This is likely the most critical step of creating an ultimate guide. It has to be based on a topic that is popular and relevant. Otherwise, your audience won’t derive any value from the ultimate guide, irrespective of how original and groundbreaking it is. If you’re investing so much time, effort, and resources, you want to make sure that it’s going to find traction.

It’s recommended that you start following the most popular blogs in your industry. Take a look at what topics these blogs are covering and the response they’re getting. Check out the comments sections to understand what information their readers are looking for. Are they satisfied with what the author has covered or do they want more information?

Next, you search for relevant threads on discussion forums such as Quora and Reddit. The idea is to identify the questions your target audience is asking and understand their pain points. Likewise, monitor the comments sections of your social media posts to understand your audience’s needs and demands.

You can take this up a notch by following popular hashtags on Instagram that are relevant to your niche. You can also follow content creators on various social media platforms and check out the subjects they’re working with. It’ll help you identify trending topics and get a glimpse of information your target audience is looking for.

Another effective technique is to conduct audience polls and surveys. You can either conduct polls on Instagram, Twitter, etc. or send an online survey to your mailing list. Let’s say you’re planning to create an ultimate guide on Facebook marketing. Here are a few questions you can include:

  • What’s the most challenging aspect of Facebook marketing?
  • Why do you want to learn Facebook marketing?
  • Do you want to learn how to create successful Facebook ad campaigns?
  • Do you find it difficult to monitor Facebook ads?

Once you’ve selected a topic, you should analyze whether it demands an ultimate guide. Writing a 3000-word essay filled with fluff and calling it an ultimate guide won’t yield great results. Instead, you should understand whether there is enough material to discuss the topic. If it can be comprehensively covered in a long blog post, an ultimate guide may not be the best idea.

Moreover, you should analyze whether you’re confident about writing in extensive detail about the topic. Otherwise, you may have to hire an experienced writer. Next, search Google and find out if there are already any ultimate guides on the topic you’ve selected.

You should also check whether any of your competitors have created a successful ultimate guide. Don’t be disheartened if this is the case. Your ultimate guide just has to be better than the ones that are already available.

Analyze the available ultimate guides and identify the sub-topics they’ve covered. It’s also recommended that you check out the response to these ultimate guides including their comments sections (if any). Find out what information is missing from these ultimate guides, what more you can offer, and how you can add your distinct spin to the content.

3. Outline the Structure

Once you’ve selected the topic, it’s essential to list the sub-topics that represent its different aspects. Each subtopic can then be used to form an individual chapter of the ultimate guide. Additionally, you should outline the steps/tips/hacks that need to be covered under each sub-topic.

Let’s go back to the previous example of “The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Marketing”. Here are a few subtopics for the ultimate guide:

  • Creating a Facebook page
  • Utilizing Facebook groups
  • Boosting Organic Reach on Facebook
  • Creating Facebook ads

Here’s a sample outline using these sub-topics:

  • Creating a Facebook page
    • Introduction to Facebook business page
    • Setting up your first Facebook page
    • Completing your profile
    • Uploading your first post
  • Utilizing Facebook groups
    • Facebook pages vs. Facebook groups
    • Building a loyal community with Facebook groups
    • Increasing your reach with Facebook groups
  • Boosting Organic Reach on Facebook
    • Understanding your audience
    • Identifying high-performing content formats
    • Scheduling your posts at the right time
    • Selecting the right hashtags
  • Creating Facebook ads
    • Setting up your ad account
    • Creating your first ad
    • Monitoring and improving your ad

Outlining a structure at the onset will help you determine the content you want to include on the main page as well as individual chapters. Moreover, you can identify opportunities to insert examples, case studies, images, etc. and carry out your research accordingly. It also helps delegate responsibilities to different members of your content team.

Here’s an example of how HubSpot has outlined the structure for “Instagram Marketing: The Ultimate Guide”:

Table of Contents for an Ultimate Guide
Outline for an Ultimate Guide

Image via HubSpot

4. Select the Right Keywords

The conventional rules of SEO apply to ultimate guides as well. This means you must optimize the content using popular keywords related to the topic and subtopics. Otherwise, even the most comprehensive guide may not make its way to the top of relevant search engine results. The structure you’ve outlined in the previous step can come in handy during keyword research.

Start by identifying trending keywords that are relevant to each chapter. Next, you should carefully analyze the search intent behind these keywords. It’s also essential to check out the search volume and competition associated with each keyword. This will help you determine whether it’s worth targeting a particular keyword at all.

Likewise, you should search for keywords that are relevant to the main topic. It’s recommended that you target relevant long-tail keywords on the main page as well as different chapters. These keywords are often easier to rank for and drive more qualified website visitors.

The simplest way to identify long-tail keywords is to run a quick Google search for the topic/subtopic. You can use Google Keyword Planner to get more keyword ideas. You can also use tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz Keyword Explorer, etc. for this purpose.

As with blog posts, it’s crucial to organically include the keywords in your content. It’s recommended that you include keywords in the page titles, subheadings, introduction, meta descriptions, etc. If you’re using any images, try to include the target keywords in the image alt text, whenever relevant.

5. Spice Up Your Content

An ultimate guide is filled with an overdose of text. If you want to make it engaging, you must break the monotony of text with visual content like images, videos, infographics, charts, etc. Otherwise, the ultimate guide will come across as a boring wall of text and fail to hold the reader’s attention. It is, however, crucial to ensure that you only add images/videos when they’re relevant and necessary.

Here’s an example of how Moz uses images in “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO”:

SERP Page Example
SERP Results Example

Image via Moz

Additionally, you should include plenty of relevant examples, case studies, and statistics in your ultimate guide. Examples and case studies help establish that the tips you’re sharing have worked for other content creators and website owners. Likewise, supporting your claims with the latest statistics positions you as a trusted and credible source of information. It also conveys that you prioritize your audience’s needs and want them to derive maximum value from the content.

6. Make it Actionable

If you want to achieve the goals you’d set in the first step, you must supplement each chapter with relevant CTAs. It helps readers understand how you can help them apart from providing them with valuable content. You can use CTAs to increase email opt-ins, drive conversions, promote the latest products, showcase new content, etc.

Here’s an example of how HubSpot strategically uses a CTA in “Instagram Marketing: The Ultimate Guide”:

Ultimate Guide Call to Action (CTA)
Placement of CTA in an Ultimate Guide

Image via HubSpot

It is, however, important to use CTAs that are relevant to a particular chapter and the overarching topic of the ultimate guide. For instance, if your ultimate guide is about Facebook marketing, it won’t make sense to include a CTA to download an influencer marketing checklist. On the other hand, you can include a link to an upcoming webinar on Facebook advertising.

Here’s another example of how HubSpot uses the strategic placement of CTAs in another ultimate guide titled “Facebook Marketing: The Ultimate Guide”:

Facebook Marketing Ultimate Guide Example
CTA Placement in an Ultimate Guide

Image via HubSpot

It’s worth noting how the CTA is placed right after the section that explains how to add a cover photo on your Facebook page.

7. Promote Your Ultimate Guide

If you’ve optimized your content for the right keywords, it’ll likely make its way up relevant search engine results. But you can’t create an ultimate guide and wait for your audience to slowly discover it. Instead, you must outline a plan to spread the word about it.

Start by posting regular updates on social media about its progress even before the ultimate guide is ready. You can also include similar updates in your newsletters and other email marketing campaigns. It’ll help start a buzz and get your audience excited about your ultimate guide.

Make sure you distribute it across various social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. You can even use paid advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to reach a wider audience. Additionally, you can reach out to influencers and thought leaders in your industry via email. Here’s a sample email template:

Promoting your Ultimate Guide
Email Template for Promoting an Ultimate Guide

Image via CoSchedule

It’s also a great idea to repurpose the ultimate guide into other formats such as an infographic, e-book, video tutorial, etc. While an infographic will help you strike a chord on social media, a video can be instrumental in garnering traction on streaming platforms. Make sure you include a link to the ultimate guide whenever you’re posting its repurposed versions.

Likewise, if you’ve created a downloadable PDF version, you should build a dedicated landing page highlighting its benefits and takeaways. You can use PPC advertising to drive traffic to the landing page. You can even break the e-book into multiple chapters and send it as a series of autoresponders to your mailing list. Additionally, you can include CTAs and pop-up forms in other blog posts to promote the e-book.

8. Keep Updating

You’re creating an ultimate guide because you want to reap its benefits in the long-run. That’s why it’s essential to ensure that it remains relevant irrespective of how much time has passed since it was published. In other words, you must regularly revise and update it.

Start by replacing outdated statistics with the latest ones. Likewise, you should replace old examples and case studies with recent ones. It’s also important to look for any new trends or techniques related to the topic. Try to include them wherever relevant.

Ultimate Guide Best Practices

Now that you’re equipped with a robust strategy, you must be yearning to start building your ultimate guide. Here are a few useful tips that you should keep in mind:

Do:

  • Choose a relevant, popular, and evergreen topic
  • Make it comprehensive, original, and well-structured
  • Keep it engaging and visually appealing
  • Validate it with relevant data and case studies
  • Include strategic CTAs to drive conversions
  • Outline a promotion strategy
  • Repurpose it in different formats
  • Hire a team of writers, designers, and developers

Don’t:

  • Solely focus on driving website traffic
  • Think of its as just another long-form blog post
  • Prioritize length over value and quality
  • Ignore keyword research
  • Make it generic and devoid of concrete takeaways
  • Abandon it after it’s been published
  • Try to replicate existing ultimate guides

Conclusion

Ultimate guides can propel your website to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) and helps you lure the right audience. They’re also great tools for driving conversions, boosting brand awareness, and reinforcing brand reputation, authority, and trust. Moreover, a groundbreaking ultimate guide helps generate plenty of high-quality backlinks, further improving your website’s search engine ranking.

The best part is that an ultimate guide continues to deliver results in the long-run. However, it’s essential to outline a strategy to create and promote an ultimate guide. Start by identifying a topic that will immediately attract your target audience. Next, create a chapter-wise structure and identify the target keywords. It’s equally crucial to promote your ultimate guide through various channels and repurpose it in different formats to maximize traction.

Have you used any other strategies to build an outstanding ultimate guide? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Andy Steuer

Andy Steuer is the Chief Marketing Officer at WriteForMe. Andy has been CEO, CMO, VP of Product for 8 fast-growing companies in his career. 3 of those companies became Top 10 Internet companies. Content Marketing has always been at the core to differentiate these companies from their competition. You can always schedule a 1 on 1 meeting with Andy by grabbing some time on his calendar here. List articles below that have Andy on the byline on the rest of the page. Here’s my calendar link:https://meetings.hubspot.com/andysteuer » More blog posts by Andy Steuer

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