You’ve heard the old saying, don’t put the cart before the horse.
It’s no different with content marketing.
Your team may have big SEO aspirations and the desire to position yourselves as the authority in your industry.
But your content needs momentum. Getting those wheels in motion to hit your goals begins in the planning stages. And one of the most effective content planning strategies is hub and spoke content marketing.
This article explores how to map out hub and spoke content marketing along with frameworks for developing each content piece.
What is Hub and Spoke Content Marketing?
Hub and spoke content marketing is a framework for building content that drives more traffic to a website.
If you’ve heard of topic clusters, it’s a very similar concept. The hub is a longform piece providing the most comprehensive content on a specific topic. It also must be a topic that has many offshoot “subtopics” so that you can create “spoke” pages around.
The hub’s content format and where it lives on a website depends on a brand’s goals.
If your goal is to drive organic traffic, your pillar piece may be thoroughly researched SEO content.
To capture each lead’s email address, the hub content can be an in-depth gated piece such as an ebook or longform guide.
Often, a ton of time goes into creating these information-packed pieces. So one way many marketers also increase the visibility of pillar posts is by publishing spokes.
Spokes are content pieces that go into more detail about a topic raised in the hub piece. The idea is to earn organic traffic for the hub page by funneling readers from the spoke pages—thereby making it possible to rank for a highly competitive keyword.
Different content formats can serve as spokes, including:
- Paid promotions
- Blog posts
These spokes link back up to the hub page, which makes it easier for Google to index—thereby increasing the likelihood that the hub page will appear higher in Google search results.
Why? Because Google cares a lot about site structure. If your website has a hub and spoke site structure where it can easily crawl all pages without expending all of its crawl budget, it will reward that site with a better search ranking in Google.
How to Choose Hub Topics
What are your customer’s most frequent questions? What's the biggest challenge(s) they have that your brand solves?
If you don’t know the answer, consider doing the following:
- Survey your paying customers by email.
- Interview your target personas in focus groups.
- Talk to salespeople who deal directly with customers.
- Dive into your competitor’s content; see what they’re engaging most with using Knotch Blueprint.
If you know their challenges and pressing questions, you’re ready to brainstorm hub pieces.
First, outline your goals. Are you looking to increase your organic traffic? Or grow and engage your email list?
By defining your marketing goals, the content type will become clearer. Many content hub examples come in two formats—long-form articles and eBooks.
Hub articles typically target high volume keywords (1,000 or more searches per month) to increase brand awareness.
Use Ahrefs, SEMRush, or another keyword research tool to estimate monthly search traffic for a given query.
After you identify target keywords, create unique content that stands out from your competitors using our WINS framework:
- Well written, creative copy that’s clear, concise, and most importantly, useful.
- Insightful content that incorporates a combination of original data, images to illustrate concepts, and expert level intel.
- Next level design, providing an intuitive UX experience through user-friendly website navigation.
- Search Engine Optimized, using on-page optimizations from keywords in your headline tags to a meta description with a clear CTA
By focusing on a core topic with your long-form article, you can build your brand’s authority, move up in search rankings, and satisfy user intent—the goal of a specific searcher's query.
A user experience study found 79% of website visitors scan each page to see what's relevant to them. To match user intent for any hub and spoke content, include the most important and relevant information first.
Once you cover the main points that meet the goals of a specific search, go into more detail. Ideally you want to cover every facet of the given topic.
Making it easy to find information and providing clear calls to action (CTA) will make your hub page as effective as possible.
Articles that rank highly for a single keyword tend to rank for many different keywords. For example, Sumo has a guide that contains over 400 power words marketers can use to drive conversions. This hub piece ranks high for many high volume searches including the following:
The guide has over 1,000 backlinks pointing back to it. Why? Because it contains actionable information and Sumo has a comprehensive hub content promotion strategy covering email, social, and other channels.
Some hub pieces like Cloud Elements’ Definitive Guide to API Integration include a gated ebook. These articles require that users provide an email address in order to access additional information contained in the ebook.
This article/ebook hybrid approach also benefits readers. They can discover the Cloud Elements article on Google. Then use their ebook as a resource while working through implementing an API.
If you’re worried about not having enough hub content, it's not too late. Most content marketers in a Databox survey indicated they had less than five pillar pages. If you can dedicate a few weeks to creating a handful of really great hub articles, you’ll already be ahead of most brands.
Creating Spoke Content
Spoke topics should draw from the hub's subject.
Let’s say your hub piece covers how to build a gaming PC.
SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool has a few potential more granular subtopics for spoke content such as:
- “how much does it cost to build a gaming pc”
- “is it cheaper to build a gaming pc”
- “custom gaming pc builder”
Next, visit AnswerthePublic to see more related searches based on your hub’s keywords.
You'll want to create at least three spoke posts that link back to your hub content.
Like pillar pieces, you can keep written spoke content engaging by:
- Breaking up information into digestible bullets (like this!).
- Illustrating points with images and videos.
- Using headings and subheadings to make content more scannable.
- Generally, making the content different from other pieces of content focused on the same keyword.
Use the strengths of other content channels to your advantage with spoke pieces. If your brand’s also leveraging video content marketing, videos posted on YouTube can funnel traffic to your website.
Patagonia publishes spoke-style videos onto their channel and points back to the hub piece in the description.
The Importance of Interlinking
Internal linking helps Google interpret the relationship between pages on your website.
Once you have published a hub page, ensure the related spokes' links are consistent and clear to search engines.
Every spoke needs to link back to the hub using the same anchor text (the clickable text containing a hyperlink).
For example, let’s say your hub targets “Los Angeles date nights” as a keyword. A spoke post covering date restaurants in LA can contain “date night in Los Angeles” as anchor text linking back to your hub. Every other spoke article should also use that anchor text "date night in Los Angeles" or some similar variation of it and include a link to the hub.
Linking In Hub Content
The hub needs to also link out to these spoke blog posts that explain aspects of the hub topic. Then a search engine knows each spoke is part of the hub.
When you link to any spokes in your pillar piece, they should all back up the expertise you establish in the hub content. There may also be other internal pages relevant to link out to in your hub content. Stick to linking out to spokes for the majority of your links.
You may find when developing spoke content that there are even smaller, sub-spokes you’ll want to create targeting low competition, long-tail keywords.
Then your sure structure might look something like this:
Hub and Spoke Content in a Marketing Funnel
Hub and spoke content fits into the top and middle of most marketing funnels.
After visitors consume your content, they may opt into your email list from your eBook or another lead magnet. Then you can nurture your leads further, sending highly relevant content within segmented email lists.
Ensure you are providing content that resonates with your target audience. Knotch for Email lets you see how your audience feels about the content you're sending.
Then you can engage them further using response-based targeting.
Remember, always put yourself in your customers’ shoes. After seeing a specific piece of content, ask yourself what will they want to see next or learn more about?
Mapping Out Hub and Spoke Schedule
In most hub and spoke content marketing models, the hub gets published first. Spokes in different content formats and channels then go up over the next to help boost the hub’s visibility.
Your publishing schedule for a hub and spokes may look like:
- Publish hub.
- Publish three blog posts as spokes on your website.
- Promote posts in your newsletter.
- Promote posts on social media.
- Retarget with link to hub on social media.
- Get five influencers to share hub content through their networks.
- Submit two guest posts linking back to your hub piece.
- Publish four blog posts as spokes on your website.
- Promote posts in your newsletter.
- Promote posts on social media.
- Create a webinar that contains tidbits or stats from the hub.
- Repurpose a webinar into a blog post.
- Publish four blog posts.
- Create an infographic and add to the hub.
- Promote infographic through link building and social media.
- Promote other content by email and social media.
Hub and Spoke Content Marketing: Wrapping It Up
To stay competitive on search engines, you'll need to regularly update your hub and spoke content with fresh data, tips, and examples.
Becoming a topic authority through hub and spoke content marketing pays dividends in many ways. Tying together this content into your social media and email marketing strategy, you can shepherd leads down your marketing funnel and retain existing customers.