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November 30, 2016

How to Create and Execute a Content Hub Strategy?

by Tom De Baere

how-to-create-and-run-a-content-hub

 

Online competition is intense. Soon, great content is only going to make it to page 3 of Google. Bigger competitors have more content and better content. And bigger budgets to promote that content.

To compete, you need to focus on a topic, and keep focussing on that topic to create a compounding effect. A content hub, along with a content hub strategy, helps you to focus on a topic, by publishing focused content on a central place.

This blog post covers some fundamental questions that need to be answered to build your content hub strategy:

  • What decisions you need to make before starting a content hub.
  • The concept of a content hub, and the different types of content hubs (branded and native),
  • a special case: e-commerce and content hubs.
  • and how to run a content hub operation.

Let’s get started!

Why a content hub and a content hub strategy? Many reasons

main-benefit-of-content-hubs

Consistent and focused publishing of content on content hubs provides increased visibility of content. (Image Source: OrbitMedia)

Websites and blogs are well understood. We understand what they are, and what they do. But the term “content hub” gets many confused. Is it a blog? Is it a website? Both?

In it’s core, it’s a place on the web that is entirely brand owned, a place where brands act like publishers.  A content hub can serve the following objectives:

  • Build and Show your Authority: online buyers follow the leaders and trust the authorities. Consistently publishing trustworthy content is a proven way to build thought leadership;
  • Create Visibility and Traffic: consistently publishing content assets or media assets on a content hub, at least content that buyers seek, creates a compounding amount of traffic that grows in value over time.
  • Create Engagement: as content hubs are not as sales pages, readers are more inclined to sharing, signing-up, trying, attending, …
  • Control the experience: a content hub is entirely under your control. This is different to social media or content platforms such as WordPress or Medium, where the owners of that platform can change the rules any time to fit their objective, but not yours.
  • Generate leads: content on content hubs can serve any purpose, ranging from awareness, consideration or acting upon call to actions.
  • Provide Data & Insights: content hubs provide you with a ton of data, which can inform you on the domains of interest of your audience. This new insight will help you in progressively be more effective at publishing. In some cases data is the only thing you want from a content hub, to spot trends, predict trends, or test new concepts or ideas.

 

The ultimate goal of any Content Marketer

Content hubs are ideally fit to create an audience and building trust with your target audience:

  • Creating an audience: with more and more content being published on the web, it is increasingly difficult to have your content found on Google. Being found on social media is also tricky, as social media platforms control the algorithm. These platforms can change their algorithm making your content more difficult to be found, forcing you into “pay-to-play”. Content hubs consistently serve your audience with content they want and need.
  • Building trust: If you do this right, it entices them to subscribe to your content. Once you have an audience that is loyal to you because you consistently serve their content needs, you are building trust. And when they trust you, they will be more inclined to move the relationship one step further, meaning stepping into something you have to offer.

Content hubs are a crucial part of modern marketing strategies. They build audiences that can be monetized, but they require understanding of content marketing, and time to build that audience.

What is a content hub ?

content-hub_visibility_pillar

You could compare a content hub with a large, unique and very visible tower…

A content hub is a destination where website visitors can find branded-, curated-, social media-, user generated- or any type of content related to a topic.

Compare it with the image that I used as the featured image on this blog post. It shows the biggest tower in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa. I’m not sure if it is still the biggest tower in the world, but it probably still is. A massive thing, that’s the least you can say.

More important: you can’t miss it! It’s a landmark. It’s there to stay.

The same thing with a content hub. It contains content, focused around a certain theme, build-up over a longer period of time. Because it is such a dense environment of content about the same subject, it becomes visible.

Very visible, if you run it properly.

Generally a content hub is smaller than a website, but certainly it’s bigger than a blog. The best ones are microsites or branded resource centers to help visitors find the information they seek in the form they prefer.

Here a couple of links to a couple of slideshares that bring together some of the best examples:

 

 

Different types of Content Hubs

In my experience you can categorise all content hubs on the internet into 2 categories:

  • native content hubs and
  • branded content hubs

 

different-types-of-content-hubs

What’s the difference between a native content hub and a branded content hub? And when should you use one or the other ?

 

What is a Native Content Hub?

When the content hub is part of a website, I call it a native content hub.  Usually the content is created in a specific environment of the website, but it’s part of the website. This gives you a lot of flexibility to link content with products, applications, and vice versa. A native content hub is always linked to a brand: it is clearly branded, and contains your logo.

The disadvantage is that the visitor sees that what you are trying to do: sell products. Sometimes when you want to build authority, provide openness and authenticity, this is not the best option.

 

What is a Branded Content Hub?

A branded content hub is especially created for one purpose: publish content. It is not part of a larger website, runs on a separate platform, with a different name and URL.

You can brand that content hub in different ways: soft branded, hard branded or non branded. The advantages of a branded content hub is that it attracts specific audiences because of its dedication to a certain subject or theme, and it is perceived as more trusted by your audience.

The disadvantage is that building the authority of a branded content hub will take longer, as you might need to start from scratch.

 

When to choose native, and when to choose branded?

  • Link content and product : w hen you want to create a direct link between products and content, a native content hub is the best option.
  • Trusted source: w hen your customers are seeking trusted sources to  answer their questions, or not thinking of you initially, you are better off with a branded content hub.

 

Do you need one or multiple content hubs ?

How do you know if you need more than one content hub? Most companies struggle just to maintain one, and stock it with quality content. So the decision to create and maintain two has to be thoroughly considered. This is part of your content hub strategy making process…

Choose multiple content hubs when:

  • Your target audiences are very different, but your products or services are similar: your products or services might fit multiple audiences, with specific interests. In that case, they might loose interest when they find content that means nothing to them.
  • Your content mix doesn’t relate to one audience: if your content mix, in which half of the content doesn’t relate to one audience or the other, then it’s better to evaluate multiple content hubs. Because you want your hub to be a resource, so it should be focused on your audience’s issues, needs, wants, aspirations, questions, problems…

Multiple hubs doesn’t mean multiple websites.  The hubs can both live on the same site and be differentiated by their names, by the navigation, and by their design.

 

Choosing Between eCommerce And Web Content Management Solutions

When you want to build a content hub around an e-commerce initiative, some extra explanation is needed.

Many corporate websites today suffer from “two site” syndrome — separated brand marketing  (.com) and commerce sites  that are poorly stitched together. This separation creates friction in the customer life cycle, forcing customers to jump between sections of the website during the exploration and buy phases.

When you look at technology vendors that deliver eCommerce platforms, the last couple of years they have been adding more and more content hub functionality to their platforms, as depicted below.

In my personal opinion, today these eCommerce platforms still have some work to do to become real CMS systems, fitting the needs of a content hub.

content-hubs-and-ecommerce

 

An important question, directly related to your business strategy is : to what extend do you link content & product ? Linking it too much, and the effect might be that buyers may not trust you. Linking it too weak, and buyers might not find your products. Are you a pure-play e-commerce, or do you want a content hub to build authority, trust or something else?

These are strategic questions that need to be answered. To help you with the decision on whether you want product focus or content focus, Forrester Research created an interesting framework to guide your decision making on how you will implement your content hub.

deciding_content-hub_framework_forrester_-ecommerce

 

How to run a content hub?

how-to-run-a-content-hubRunning a content hub requires all elements of content marketing best practices:

  • You have a deep understanding of your customer content needs.
  • You understand digital marketing best practices (SEO, tagging, segmentation, UX, UI, CTA’s, etc).
  • Your content marketing strategy is the driving force behind your editorial calendar.
  • The right content promotion and distribution tactics drive the right traffic to your content hub.
  • It will require a team that is set-up to build the strategy, and execute upon that strategy on a long term basis. No campaign team can pull this off.
  • Matter experts from the business side will need to help the team to consistently produce high quality content.
  • From a budget perspective, you will also need to allocate a budget that spans a longer timeframe. Think of 12 tot 24 months. Depending on the frequency, the type  content you want to create, and the promotion & distribution of content, you should be able to forecast that budget.

 

What is your content hub objective?

Another key element is understanding the objective of your content hub: What is the purpose of your content hub?

  • Is it to build authority?
  • Is it to formulate an opinion?
  • Is it to build awareness about a certain product category?
  • Or maybe it is to generate data that provides insight about your target audience. This data can then be used to target your audience with the right message or products.

Depending on those objectives, you will also measure success in a different way. But the key is that by consistently publishing relevant content, you build an audience that can be monetized.

How you monetize that audience is entirely up to you. Monetizing your audience can be done through classic newsletters, subscriptions, events, affiliate marketing, lead nurturing techniques, and traffic to e-commerce websites or product websites.

That’s it for this one. I hope it will help you in building your content hub strategy.

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere