In defense of hub and help content

Have you noticed that content marketing specialists have a habit of spouting the same old things? If you’ve attended any content marketing training or read any articles online, you’ll know they focus on hero content. They talk about the flashy stuff that makes headlines. But that content is also really expensive and takes six months and six figures to produce. It’s the kind of thing that only full-time content marketers (usually agency-side) can afford to work on.

For anyone who does content marketing as part of their role, alongside other responsibilities, it can be pretty demoralising. We listen to these very clever, very talented people who are trying to inspire us. But instead we feel overwhelmed, demotivated and directionless. We don’t all have that kind of time or money at our disposal, so does that mean our content marketing efforts any less valuable?

No, it doesn’t, and I’m going to prove it to you.

More than one type of content

If you’ve done any research into the field of content marketing you’ve no doubt come across the concept of hero, hub and help content. Help content is sometimes referred to as hygiene content, but I find that a little bit gross and the sentiment is essentially the same.

  • Hub content is the vital but unsexy content (policies, contact info, store locators etc)
  • Help content enables you to do something (how-to guides, FAQs, purchasing pages etc)
  • Hero content is the amazing stuff that inspires people and cements them as an ambassador of your brand for life! (Well, that’s the theory anyway.)

Hero content gets all the glory. It’s the stuff that will get the credit after a successful campaign, and in its wake, hub and help content is always left languishing, under-appreciated and forgotten about. We’ve all done it. It’s easy to be distracted by shiny infographics and clever interactive games. You can’t help but think “I wish I came up with that” and dream of the bonuses those content marketers must be rolling in. No-one wants to be known for strong hub and help content when they could be the masters behind amazing hero content!

But let me tell you, hero content is not the be-all and end-all of content marketing and we need to make sure that we remember that in our content strategies.

Hub and help content to the rescue!

While we’re getting distracted by whizzy (and expensive) functionality or astounding (and expensive) insights from survey results, we overlook the role that other content types play. You could be forgiven for having hub and help content because you feel you should. We’ve all thought things like ‘we’re legally required to have a returns policy’ or ‘Google likes a Contact page’. But these everyday pieces of content are so much more than the sum of their parts.

Think about it. If an ecommerce site didn’t have strong product pages, how would prospective customers research and buy anything? What’s the point in showing off your brand in a piece of hero content if your tone of voice disappears without a trace on your hub and help pages? We all know that we need hub and help content (the clue is in the name, after all) but we don’t always give them the attention and the credit they’re due.

How long would it take to create a successful piece of hero content? A few months? You could spend a few weeks on optimising your hub and help pages, and the return would be so much more valuable. And this leads us to one of the stickiest parts of content marketing. Content success is hard to measure. It’s another reason hero content gets so much glory.

Content ROI

You can easily track how many backlinks a piece of hero content earns, monitor the traffic that outreach has created, and analyse how your SERPs improve. It’s not so easy to see if a blog post resulted in a newsletter sign-up, or if a product description directly made a sale. That kind of thinking isn’t going to help anyone and we need to break the cycle. Content plays a massive part in digital marketing, but people become disinterested in work that doesn’t correlate to a direct financial result. It’s not impossible to calculate ROI for content if you’re clever about it, but to do it, we’ve got to understand that all types of content have a role to play.

It all comes down to looking at your data and really reading into it. You know how important it is to analyse your reports conscientiously. Take a leaf out of CRO’s book and follow your users’ journeys. See what your visitors are reading and what they are clicking. I’m willing to wager that hub and help content will be what guides customers to make purchases, no matter how much you spent on hero content.

When Heroes go rogue

We’ve all seen successful content marketing campaigns that have gone viral. But for every clever and insightful hipster index, there’s a hundred well-intentioned but utterly forgettable content campaigns that miss the mark. That’s the real problem with hero content.

The success stories would have you believe that coming up with hero content is a sure thing. You just need three magic ingredients:

  1. ‘ideation’ (excuse me while I vomit)
  2. a ton of data
  3. a clever visualisation

Put them all together and you just can’t fail! Right? Right?!? That’s how they make it seem. But that’s not the case. They aren’t telling you about the other essential element, the thing which is more important than anything else.

Luck.

Yup. Sucks, but it’s true. Viral content is lucky content. It’s got to strike a chord with society, and land at the right moment for the journalist, and align beautifully with the client’s product, and, and, and. If your stars don’t align perfectly, you’re just shouting into the abyss.

And ok, that’s not going to ruin your brand’s reputation or damage your SEO, but it’s wasted a lot of time, effort and budget for little-to-no return. Which means that your colleagues and your business will lose faith in content marketing because it’s expensive and it doesn’t always work.

But hub and help content marketing does always work. It provides opportunities for optimisation, allows you to engage with your audience, and gives you a platform to build your brand identity. So it’s time for us all to stop being so dismissive of this content. There are interesting and exciting things we could all be doing with it.

Sing for the Unsung Heroes

Hub and help pages are the unsung heroes of content marketing. They are your workhorses, despite the fact that you often forget to feed them. Rethink spending that butt load of time and money on a flashy campaign that might disappear without doing anything of real value. Instead turn your attentions to the evergreen and blog content that you shoved up a year ago and haven’t touched since.

Is it still on brand and on mission? Is there a better way to say what’s being said? Can you add extra features to your product pages? Do you have access to data that could enlighten audiences or improve a customer journey?

Give it some real thought, and you’re sure to find that those pages, the ones that work hard for you everyday, could really benefit from a bit of attention. Go on, show them some love.

If you’re sick of hearing the same old things about content marketing, get yourself a ticket to UnGagged and find out what the other specialists aren’t telling you.