SEO Content Strategy: A Clear Explanation
SEO content strategy in 2023 is the art of creating the best page on the Internet addressing the intention behind each commercially valuable keyword in your industry. The process that facilitates this lofty task is known as the Hub & Spoke model, in which you organize your keywords into clusters around major keyword themes and methodically produce 10-30 pages at a time.
This article walks you through the Hub & Spoke SEO content strategy and explains how to create the best piece of content on the Internet for each of your keywords.
High Level SEO Content Strategy: The Hub & Spoke Model
Hub & Spoke content strategy first became popular around 2017 when Google began valuing Niche Expertise in its algorithm. The basic idea is that websites that are highly focused on narrow topics should be able to outrank even super-resources such as Wikipedia or The New York Times, owing to their greater usefulness to searchers. As a result of this change, as of 2023 the best way for businesses to rank highly for their keywords is to concentrate their SEO efforts around 3-4 broad hubs and the spokes that derive from them.
In the Hub and Spoke model, you create pages targeting major, broad concepts in your industry, known as your Hub pages. You then create more pages, known as Spokes, that target one of your Hub keywords in its entirety plus some additional words that make up a longer keyword. For example, if one of your container keywords is “b2b seo”, your spoke pages could target “b2b seo best practices”, “b2b seo strategy”, and “b2b seo agency”. The image below is a visualization of the Hub & Spoke concept.
Once each Hub page has sufficient spokes (generally between 10 and 30 depending on the size of the Hub and competition for that topic), Google will begin to classify your website as a niche expert and allow your website to rank higher for all keywords in that hub. Because these pages represent a significant investment of resources, selecting the correct hubs is one of the most important aspects of developing a successful content strategy.
Choosing Your Hub Keywords
The keywords you choose for your hubs will shape the rest of your SEO content strategy. For the first 2-3 years of a campaign, you should target no more than 3-4 keywords. This focuses your team’s efforts into the most valuable hubs for your business, causing Google to recognize your niche expertise sooner than if you spread your content out across 5 or more hubs.
When choosing hub keywords, each should fulfill two requirements:
- Ranking highly for any of the hub keywords themselves would confer significant authority on your website and business
- The spoke keywords that can be derived from the hub keyword must be transactional and have sufficient search volume to justify targeting, i.e. ranking for any spoke keyword would be likely to generate leads
Some companies may only be able to find only 1-2 hub keywords for which both of these conditions apply. In these cases, they can focus their publishing on a fewer number of hubs, thereby ranking more quickly for each. Most companies will find that there are more than 4 hub keywords that are potentially valuable, and should prioritize those hubs that are most relevant to their products and services, have the largest target market, and have the greatest number of highly-searched transactional spoke keywords.
Evaluating and Prioritizing Potential Spoke Keywords
The next phase of SEO content strategy is evaluating spoke keywords. We’ve alluded to this above, with the three requirements of a valuable spoke keyword being:
- The keyword must contain the hub keyword in its entirety. This is a requirement for a keyword to qualify as a spoke in the first place.
- The spoke keyword must have sufficient search volume to justify creating a new page targeting that keyword. A simple way to do this is to check if the keyword autofills from a list of 10 when you begin typing it into Google, but SEO tools such as ahrefs, Moz, or Google’s own Keyword planner can also provide a rough estimate
- The search intent of the spoke keyword must be transactional. In other words, someone who types in that keyword must be in the market for your product or service.
This third requirement, transactionality, introduces a new concept: search intent. Search intent refers to the implicit reason with which a searcher types a particular phrase into Google. It can be represented as a spectrum, ranging from research-oriented to transactional, as represented below:
Take for example, the two searches “what is b2b seo” and “b2b seo agency”. The former is an entirely research-oriented keyword. A searcher who types in the phrase “what is b2b seo” is looking for a definition and is extremely unlikely to be in the market for SEO services. A searcher who types in “b2b seo agency”, by contrast, is actively searching for an SEO company to partner with.
Understanding where each of your spoke keywords falls on the search intent spectrum is an important step in constructing your overall content strategy. Your team should prioritize the most transactional keywords in your hub, as these will become the primary lead drivers early in your campaign. The next priority is keywords with search intents that fall toward the center of the scale that receive high search volume (but keep in mind existing competition for those keywords, and if your website has a chance of ranking for them). Later in the campaign, your team can begin to publish pages that target keywords that are closer to the research end, but this content will need to be supported by an optimized conversion funnel and lead nurturing campaigns such as email drip or social media.
|To help your team prioritize spoke keywords, we studied and ranked which types of keywords are the most commercially valuable in this report.|
Once you’ve chosen your spoke keywords, the next step is to determine what kind of content is the best fit for each.
Creating the Best SEO Content for Each Keyword
Modern SEO requires more than simply including keywords in content and meta tags, as the single most important factor in Google’s modern algorithm’s is now the consistent publication of high quality content. What Google perceives as “high quality” is the page that gives a searcher exactly what they need to satisfy their search query, and nothing more. This consists of four things:
- Precision: How precisely does a piece of content satisfy search intent?
- Personalization: Does the piece of content use the language and jargon of the searcher’s industry, and allude to situations they find themselves in?
- Portion Size: How much time does it take to consume your content compared to how much time the searcher wants to spend consuming it?
- Page Type: What kind of page is most appropriate for delivering the information the reader wants to see?
What this means in the context of your SEO content strategy is that for each spoke keyword, your team must determine what questions searchers are attempting to answer and what problems they’re attempting to solve, as well as their demographic and industry makeup. This is more art than science, and is the makes SEO as much a psychological problem as it is a technical one, and we discuss it in depth in our article on how to create the best SEO content.
The last of the above factors, page type, has a much simpler answer. Our team has already created the below table that outlines the types of pages are best suited for each search intent:
|Search Intent||Page Type|
|Buy||Product page/landing page|
|Commit||Case study/landing page|
|Evaluate||Comparison landing page|
|Solve||Blog post/landing page|
Finally there are three more advanced tactics that will help your content attract organic interest and backlinks, thereby increasing the rankings of all content on your website. These are:
- Quantitative Reports that share proprietary research, compile industry statistics, and provide original analysis of existing data. This is not as difficult as it may first appear. Most companies will already have access to internal data that can be presented in interesting ways and attract links from researchers and journalists.
- Creatively-Organized Articles that present information in a new and visually-appealing way. The most common example of this are infographics, but these articles can also consist of tables, interesting charts, and other visualizations of data.
- Distilled Expertise Pieces that explain complex topics in easy to understand language. This is the most difficult type of content to produce, requiring a writer who is both a true expert and a skilled communicator.
Note that all of the above are fundamentally still focused on the principles of creating high quality content. There are no shortcuts when it comes to modern SEO, and marketing teams must be prepared to do all of the above to create original content, and publish twice a week or more to see results.
Outsourcing Your SEO Strategy and Content Production
Creating an SEO content strategy is a complex task, and executing on such a strategy is its own separate challenge. Many companies find that their marketing team lacks the resources and expertise to do so while juggling other campaigns and responsibilities, and thus can’t take advantage of this high-ROI channel.To solve this problem, many companies partner with a dedicated SEO agency that can create an effective SEO content strategy as well as ghostwrite new pages weekly. Feel free to contact us if you are interested in learning how our agency can help you.
Evan Bailyn is a bestselling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.