Content is king when it comes to SEO.
- Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%), according to Aberdeen.
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads, according to DemandMetric.
- 71% of a B2B respondent pool stated they reviewed a blog while on their buying journey, according to Demand Gen’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey.
But not all content is created equal.
Get your strategy wrong and you’re likely to be left with little to show for your content marketing efforts.
To make sure you get the highest return on investment on the time and marketing budget you invest in creating content in 2020 and beyond, stick to the hub and spoke content strategy.
What is the hub and spoke model?
The hub and spoke model – also known as the topic clusters model – is a simple and effective way of increasing the traffic to your website.
The strategy consists of hub pages and spoke pages, which work together to increase your site’s relevancy for an entire topic in Google’s eyes.
So, rather than trying to rank individual pages for specific keywords, you create an entire hub of pages that have high relevance and authority around a more general topic.
How the hub and spoke method works
The hub and spoke model refocuses your content marketing strategy from targeting keywords to targeting topics.
For example ‘social media marketing’ might be a key phrase that’s incredibly valuable for your business.
Your current content strategy might consist of dozens of disconnected articles that target long-tail keywords related to ‘social media marketing’, all hosted on your generic blog.
In contrast, the hub and spoke strategy simply organises those articles in a way that packs a much harder punch in the Google search results.
For example, you’d create a ‘social media marketing’ hub page targeted at that short-tail – and incredibly valuable – keyword.
And then you’d create spoke pages that target long-tail keywords related to ‘social media marketing’ that the hub page would link out to.
Through your URL structure and internal linking strategy, you’d structure these pages in a way that showed Google – and visitors to your site – that they make up an incredibly authoritative content hub on the topic of ‘social media marketing’ as a whole.
Why is the hub and spoke method important?
It’s important to approach your content marketing efforts using the hub and spoke method because:
- It allows you to target entire topics that are key to your businesses success, not just individual keywords – increasing your site’s visibility and traffic.
- Content hubs build your brand’s authority by comprehensively covering a topic.
- Hubs create a better site structure, which will improve both your SEO and UX.
- Content hubs can help generate more leads and backlinks.
Hub and spoke examples
To help you visualise exactly what a hub and spoke content strategy looks like, here are a few best-in-class examples of the method in action:
Cloud Elements’ definitive guide to API integration is a comprehensive introduction to the topic that includes hundreds of internal links out to related articles across the site.
This is a great example of how to leverage your company’s in-house expertise to create deep topic relevance that results in huge SEO success.
Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO contains an entire book’s worth of expert advice on getting started with SEO.
It not only covers the topic better than any other guide on the internet, but also links out to hundreds of related Moz guides that cover their topics in just as much detail.
National Guitar Academy
National Guitar Academy’s guide to how to learn guitar is another perfect example of an effective hub page.
The key sub-topics of the wider subject are all briefly covered, and then readers are prompted to read a detailed article on each specific subject:
How to build a hub and spoke strategy in 8 steps
If you’re investing in a content marketing strategy today, you should be following the hub and spoke strategy to make sure it’s driving traffic and generating leads.
Follow this simple eight-step process to execute the hub and spoke strategy across your site:
1. Do some keyword research (to find topics to cover in-depth)
Every effective content marketing strategy is built on a foundation of detailed keyword research.
Without performing keyword research, you’ll be guessing at the topics and queries your target audience cares about and searches for.
And you’ll have no idea which subjects to build your hub pages around – or what long-tail keywords you should target with your spoke pages.
So, open up your keyword research tool of choice and follow Blogging Wizard’s guide to keyword research to find all the short- and long-tail keywords relating to each of the topics your target audience is interested in.
2. Map keywords to your hub pages
Once you’ve got your keyword data, you need to determine which terms you’re going to build hub pages around.
The most successful hub pages are targeted at terms that receive significant search volume and your business is a natural authority on.
Lawsuit Legal’s guide to how civil lawsuit compensation works is a great example – a comprehensive guide on a topic they’re a natural thought leader on.
The result? The top spot in the Google search results for a term their target audience is highly likely to search for:
Find your hub page keywords by asking yourself:
What short-tail keywords do our target audience search for that we can build an original and valuable content hub around?
3. Map keywords to your spoke pages
Once you’ve chosen the keywords you’re going to target through your hub pages, you need to identify the long-tail keywords that stem from the topic.
When you’re doing this, it’s important to realise that these spoke pages don’t all need to be long-tail variations of the keyword the hub page is targeting.
For example, the spoke pages stemming from a hub page targeting the keyphrase ‘how to swim’ should include ‘how to swim front crawl’, ‘how to swim breaststroke’, and ‘how to swim faster’.
But for the biggest impact, it should hit related terms like ‘swimming breathing tips’ and ‘beginner swimming mistakes’ as well.
So be sure you’re not being one-dimensional in your keyword research and instead cover every sub-topic.
Also, remember that your spoke pages don’t always have to be new content.
Unless you’re executing a content strategy for a brand-new site, your existing content can almost definitely be repurposed as spoke pages through a content refresh.
So, don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to start from a blank slate when you’re launching a hub and spoke strategy.
You could actually have all the assets at your disposal already and just need to rethink the URL structure.
4. Create a logical URL structure
The way you organise the content on your site using subdomains and internal linking sends a clear sign to Google – and your site’s visitors – about how they’re connected.
So, it’s crucial that you map your hub and spoke content out in a logical URL structure if you want the biggest return on investment from this strategy.
Here’s what that might look like with our ‘how to swim’ example from earlier:
The hub page would sit at the domain level on www.mysite.com/how-to-swim.
Each spoke page would then sit on this subdomain:
By arranging content into silos through their URL structure, you’ll help both Google and the user understand that you are an expert in this particular subject area.
Grouping multiple articles around the same hub topic makes your site much more authoritative on a subject than if you had a one-off article on that topic hidden somewhere in your blog.
This is especially important for a site with a lot of content. For example, FreshBooks – a site with hundreds of blog posts – divides its small business resource hub into categories:
The site’s URL structure also follows these categories:
This is a textbook example of a well-executed hub and spoke URL structure in practice, and one you should aim to follow with your own strategy for the best results.
5. Write your content
Now that your hub and spoke strategy has been laid out it’s time to start crafting content that attracts new customers.
Like any content marketing strategy, the hub and spoke method succeeds or fails based on the quality of your content.
Best-in-class content organised in an inefficient way is still going to outrank mediocre content that’s been arranged in the hub and spoke strategy.
So be sure you’re creating detailed, engaging, and well-written content that’s at least as comprehensive as the pages already ranking for the keyword your targeting.
This especially applies for your hub page, as competition for short-tail keywords with high search volume is going to be fiercer than for the long-tail keywords you’ll be targeting with your spoke pages.
One simple way of making your content stand out from the rest is to incorporate plenty of visual elements.
For example, Broker Engine’s guide to meeting templates uses simple annotated images to bring the content to life:
Simple additions like this can help elevate your content from run-of-the-mill to exceptional.
6. Promote both hub and spoke pages
Ask any marketer: ‘build it and they will come’ simply doesn’t apply to content.
Which is why you need to spend almost as much time promoting your content as you do creating it if you want to dominate the Google search results in your niche.
First, craft engaging social media posts to push your new guide out to your followers.
Last but not least, execute an outreach campaign (the step-by-step guide to outreaching your content in growth marketer Nadya Khoja’s content framework will help you here).
7. Track your performance
One of the many benefits of the hub and spoke strategy is that it makes it easy to measure the ROI of your content marketing efforts.
Because your site’s URL structure is so uniform, you can quickly discover which topics are the biggest drivers behind the metrics that matter.
For example, you can simply filter all the URLs that include the hub subdomain (such as www.mysite.com/how-to-swim/)in Analytics to find out the impact that the entire topic cluster is having on your SEO KPIs.
And the easier it is to access the relevant data, the easier it is to revisit and improve your content marketing efforts.
8. Revisit and improve pages
Once your hub and spoke strategy is up and running and you’ve created topic clusters that target your business critical short- and long-tail keywords, it’s well worth redirecting your efforts from creating new content to refreshing existing articles.
And while rejigging a piece of content so it better meets the need of a search query is always a good use of your content marketing time and budget, internal linking is often the most effective lever to improve your hub and spoke content.
Ensuring each URL is tightly linked to every other URL in its topic cluster is a key part of the hub and spoke strategy. With a strong internal linking strategy, you simply won’t generate the kind of topic relevance that makes this method so effective.
But when you’re constantly posting new content it’s easy to forget to go back and make sure each new article is being linked to from the existing hub and spoke pages from its topic cluster.
So if a page in your hub and spoke strategy isn’t performing as well as you’d like, make sure there are internal links pointing to it from the rest of the pages in the topic cluster as your first port of call.
Content strategy and the marketing funnel
Content marketing is one of the most effective inbound marketing channels at your disposal.
And the hub and spoke method will ensure you’re getting the most from your efforts at every step of the funnel.
It will help attract more leads through the top of the funnel by improving your ability to rank on the first page of Google for your target keywords.
It will also help drive those customers through the buyer journey, as they’re more likely to delve deeper into connected topics that will be easier to navigate to through your improved UX.
Together, these will help increase the amount of sales you make through the same content marketing efforts – simply by changing the way you organise the content on your site.
If you’re investing in content marketing today, then you should use the hub and spoke strategy if you want to see the biggest possible return on your investment.
If you’re already executing a content marketing strategy, then it’s not a huge departure from your current approach. It’s simply a different way of structuring your content for the biggest impact.
However, the hub and spoke method can lead to a huge improvement in your content marketing results – especially when combined with the rest of our content marketing advice.