When a company starts an inbound or content marketing program ambitions often abound — there are a lot of topics and areas to cover. Different parts of the organization are clamoring to have content created around their products and solutions, and of course, there are a whole lot of stories to tell about the company itself.
In fact, this situation is not unique to companies that are just diving into content or inbound marketing — those that have been at it for a while also have a tendency to want to cover a great many unrelated areas.
Nothing is wrong with a bit of ambition, but there are several very good reasons for going in another direction: identifying a limited number of themes and focusing your content creation around those. This doesn’t, in any way, exclude other topics. Once you have covered the first round of themes, you can shift your attention to them. But having a focused approach based on topic clusters is important for a number of reasons.
Three reasons to build your content around themes
Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why it’s better to create content thematically. Here are three that are really important:
1. Search results will improve.
Internet search and the search engines that help us find relevant information have evolved tremendously in the last decade. SEO (search engine optimization) in the early days focused a great deal on link building and using keywords as many times as possible per page. But both users and search engines have become more sophisticated. As users, how and what we search for depends on our intent. And search engines like Google have become much better both at recognizing these intents and at understanding what content to serve up as results.
It’s the last part that ties nicely into thinking about themes and topics when you plan and create content. In recent years both SEO specialists and content experts have begun advocating two ways of creating content that is inline with what search engines are looking for: Topic clusters and pillar pages.
Here’s how Hubspot describes them:
“Topic clusters are groups of related web pages that all link to one core pillar page. Organizing your site content into clusters helps search engines distinguish your area of expertise and better understand the relationship between these pages.”
You start out by creating a pillar page with as much in-depth information about the topic you want to cover as possible. It serves as the authority page for the core topic you want to rank for. The cluster content or subtopic pages are blog posts that deal with more long-tail questions relating to the core topic, typically in the form of blog posts. You link all of the cluster pages to the pillar page. That signals to search engines that the pillar page is the authoritative resource on your primary topic.
It’s your authority (and doing other parts of SEO properly) that will determine how you rank in search engines, which, in turn, will determine how much organic (unpaid) search traffic your site will get.
Planning and producing pillar pages and topic clusters requires that you work thematically, and dedicate time to doing this properly. Which leads us to the second reason:
2. Content planning and production will be more efficient.
When asked, CMOs and content producers often talk about the constant demands from the rest of the organization and the management team to create content on a variety of topics. However, as important as a certain topic may seem, very often the end result is an inefficient planning and production process that constantly shifts from one area to another. Single pieces of content are produced on a variety of topics, and the editorial calendar is constantly changed.
The end result when operating like this is that your company is paying more per piece of content produced, without achieving maximum return on investment. Or to put it more bluntly: You’re paying a lot of money for content that often will have little impact on your target audience,
If, instead, you work with a structured planning and production process, based around a limited number of themes, your content producers will have much more time to create different types of content. They will be able to use different formats, cover different parts of your customer’s buying journey, and address a certain theme in several layers. You will get more useful content from a process like that while actually spending less money, and quite often the phase of production will improve as well.
All these advantages helps improve the quality of your content, but there are additional dimensions to this, so let’s dive deeper into the third reason.
3. Content quality will increase.When consumers and B2B buyers are asked what they consider great content, there are a few common denominators: They are educated by it, they are inspired by it and they find it engaging.
This means that if your company wants to be successful at content or inbound marketing you need content that your target audience considers relevant and valuable - it needs to be engaging, inspiring and teach them something that is important in their world. If you manage that, then you’re producing quality content.
To achieve this you need well-crafted content in different formats (text, video, sound and graphics) as well as content that addresses different stakeholders and different parts of the buyer’s journey.
A thematic approach makes it easier for content producers (working In-house or at an agency) to accomplish exactly this. They can dive into a theme and create all of the content needed in a limited period of time, instead of jumping from topic to topic and returning to them over and over again. That is a key element to achieving quality.
Your next step
If you’re thinking about launching an inbound or content marketing program, this is an excellent opportunity to get it right from the beginning. Make sure you structure content planning and production around themes, and use the pillar pages and topic cluster approach to gain SEO advantage.
Now, if your company already has a program in place you should start by taking a look at how you’re planning and producing content today. There is a good chance that you’re trying to create content about a lot of different topics, resulting in a lot of scattered content on your site. This is neither efficient nor in line with good SEO practice. Should this be the case, you need to change the way you’re planning and producing content.
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