The purpose of this guide is to help you create content hubs for SEO that will increase your SaaS’ rankings, and drive more organic traffic, and leads.
But before I tell you everything about this amazing content marketing strategy, we have to briefly touch on a bigger issue – Topical authority as an absolute requirement for ranking.
You see, in the “old” days, we needed just two things to rank – A well-optimized page and a ton of links.
Sure, getting to page one of SERPs still wasn’t easy. But at least the process was relatively simple.
Today, search engines are ridiculously smart. They know what searchers want. They understand the context and intent behind each query, and they’re brilliant at delivering the most relevant results.
This means that search engines go beyond just keywords and links to pick whom to include in the search results.
For one, today, Google will not rank pages unless it considers them a topical authority. Because of that, to rank any piece of content in SERPs, you must first convince Google of your topical relevance.
That’s one thing that content hubs help you achieve.
So, below I’ll you’ll learn everything about creating content hubs for SEO. You’ll learn:
- Why do you need a content hub at all
- How to pick topics for the pillar page and the spoke content.
- You’ll also see examples of content hubs built for SEO specifically.
Intrigued? Let’s get right to it, then.
What is a Content Hub in an SEO Strategy?
The simplest way to describe a content hub is as a centralized resource on a specific topic.
Think of a content hub as a content library with a collection of pages that, together, cover almost everything a person should know about a particular topic and are organized to find the content easily.
If we were to present a content hub in a visual form, it would look more or less like this:
(A hub and spoke type of a content hub)
Content hubs consist of three key elements:
- At the center of the hub is a pillar page. I like to refer to it as the “master” resource and introduction to the topic. It’s a high-level guide about the topic, and typically, the page offers a great starting point for learning more about the topic.
- The pillar page is surrounded by spoke content (sometimes referred to as subpages or cluster content). These are individual guides – blog posts or long-form content – that focus on specific aspects of the topic.
- All those assets are interconnected with internal hyperlinks to guide users through the topic until they’ve exhausted all available resources and gained all the knowledge they needed.
But Why Create Content Hubs in the First Place?
The visual representation above makes it clear – creating content hubs is no small feat.
Leaving aside all the planning and research, even creating all those pages will take time and resources.
A lot of it, at that.
So, is it worth it?
Well, as someone running a content marketing agency and building content hubs for a living, whatever I say may sound biased. But still, let me share with you just some of the benefits of using content hubs in SEO.
#1. Content hubs increase your topical authority
We briefly touched on this subject in the introduction. You know that today, search engines value topical relevancy and favor websites they perceive as authoritative.
In short, if Google and other search engines recognize you as an authoritative resource, they’ll be more likely to rank your content well in SERPs for relevant keywords.
(And that’s often even if you don’t have high enough domain authority or that many links pointing to a page.)
Here’s how content hubs help build topical relevancy:
- By its very nature, a content hub includes exhaustive information on a topic. Because of that, it immediately confirms to Google that the domain is an authority on the subject.
- Interlinking content in the hub also creates semantic relationships between those pages, and that’s another factor SEOs believe to be helping with building topical authority.
#2. A hub will also strengthen the link authority of all its pages
This is because interlinking the pillar and spoke content would help distribute link juice across all those pages. Even if just one page in the hub starts acquiring new links, other hub assets will immediately benefit from it as well. How? Because the newly acquired link authority will go to other spoke pages through internal links.
It works like this:
(Link authority distribution in a content hub.)
The result, far stronger link authority of hub page pages, better rankings, and more organic traffic.
#3. Better engagement metrics
Because content hubs are exhaustive resources on a topic, with information divided across many pages, they tend to:
- Keep your target audience longer on a page
- Reduce bounce and drop-offs
- Increase time on site and the number of pages a person reads during their visit
- Boost repeat visits
All these outcomes send strong engagement signals to search engines, only reassuring them of your content’s quality and usefulness to a reader.
#4. Strong brand recognition
This isn’t an SEO benefit per se. However, it’s an incredible one as well.
You see, content hubs boost your brand like crazy.
Just think about it – No matter what aspect of a topic your potential customer might be looking to learn more about, they’d be bound to eventually come across your content hub.
They might discover the pillar page or any subpages and begin their journey through the hub there.
Assuming that you’ve exceeded their expectations, they’re going to develop a positive perception of your brand.
TIP: I described the process of how content helps you connect with and engage potential clients in great detail in this guide to SaaS content marketing.
Examples of Content Hubs
Goes without saying, doesn’t it? Content hubs offer insane opportunity to grow rankings, drive traffic, and connect you with the target audience.
Which is all fine but it’s, probably, hard for you to imagine how a content hub looks like, actually, right?
Well, I’m sure you’ve seen this content type many times, you just didnt’ realize that it was a content hub you were reading.
So, here are some examples of content hubs.
Podia published this complete library to everything relating to creating an online course. It’s a content hub.
This is the pillar page, with links to subpages in the sidebar.
And here is one of the subpages.
Another example – Tiny House guide from Insteading. The pillar page:
And a subpage.
How to Create a Content Hub?
Fact: Content hubs are an amazing strategy combining SEO and content marketing to deliver the exact results you want – More traffic and leads from Google.
And would you like to hear some good news about it? Creating content hubs isn’t difficult at all, actually. The whole process involves just three steps:
- Selecting the topic for the pillar page,
- Conducting keyword research to identify all aspects of the topic you need to cover on the pillar page and additional subpages, and
- Creating the content and building out the hub structure with interlinking.
Granted, the last step might take the most time and effort, but there really isn’t anything you could do about that. Writing great SEO content takes time.
Step 1. Selecting the topic for the pillar page
From experience, I know that this step often causes the most problems to founders and marketers. Because, how do you pick a topic that’s going to work well as a pillar page AND have plenty of potential for creating spoke content?
Well, first, there are three characteristics of a good topic for a content hub:
An informational intent
Content hubs work best if they focus on an informational intent. This means that people searching for the topic want to learn more about it rather than purchase a solution (a commercial intent) or find a specific place (a local intent.)
These people look for information, and that’s one reason why a massive pillar page might attract their attention.
But for that to happen, the topic must pass another criterion:
Relatively big search volume
People must be searching for the topic to make sense to target it with the content hub.
For example, the topic “early morning jogging” might seem like a perfect fit for a content hub. Many people would most likely like to start jogging in the morning and would need advice on waking up earlier, stretching their bodies so early and getting ready for the run, and so on.
But quick keyword research reveals very little interest in the topic.
“Morning exercise,” on the other hand, attracts far greater interest and offers a bigger traffic potential.
This brings us to the final characteristic:
The topic is broad enough
For the content hub to work, you must target a relatively broad and generic topic. If you choose a too narrow a topic, you’ll find it hard to identify subtopics for spoke pages.
I recommend choosing topics with at least 15 potential subtopics. But, of course, if you can list or research even more subtopics, it’s even better.
Of course, you don’t have to create all fifteen subpages. But having so many subtopics to choose from will ensure that the topic is broad enough to work in a content hub.
Using our “morning exercise” examples, we can use keyword research to identify just some of the potential subtopics:
- Morning exercise routine
- Weight loss morning exercise
- Morning exercises for lower back pain
- Benefits of morning exercise
- The ideal diet for a morning exercise routine
- Equipment needed
- Warm-up and stretching exercises
- Waking up for the morning exercise
- Sleep problems after exercising in the morning
- Exercise for better sleep
The list goes on and on, far beyond 15 topics, making the topic a prime candidate for a content hub.
Here’s how you can follow this method for identifying your hub topics:
List general issues or challenges your target audience might be struggling with. In most cases, these will relate in one way or another to the primary problem you address with the product.
For example, if you run an email marketing platform, these problems will have something to do with email automation, marketing, customer onboarding, and so on.
A live chat software company could assume that their customers will struggle with lead generation, online sales, website engagement, etc.
Evaluate those challenges using the three criteria above:
- Check whether the topic has informational intent,
- A strong search volume, and
- Brainstorm potential subtopics for spoke pages.
The next step in the process is to validate your assumptions about subtopics through keyword research.
#2. Choosing subtopics for cluster content
In the previous step, you identified a viable topic for a content hub. In the process, you brainstormed potential subtopics to evaluate whether the topic is broad enough.
We need to dive deeper into this research and identify the best subtopics to include in the hub.
There are several ways that you can use when choosing subtopics:
#1. Review top-ranking pages on the topic
You can cover two types of information in a content hub:
- You can build it around the information you’ve discovered to be of interest to anyone looking to learn more on the topic, or
- Include pages that you think would suit the topic best.
I’m sure you know where this is going. Your assumptions, sound as they might be, are just that – assumptions.
The data, however, ensures you that whatever the content hub includes will be useful to readers.
And a great way to get that data is by reviewing top-ranking pages. Here’s why:
- Google selected them to be at the top of SERPs for a reason, after all. Those pages include all the necessary information to deliver on the user’s search intent.
- Although potentially not exhaustive on the topic, you can be sure that those pages include all the scope of information to build the scope around.
Let’s use “lead generation” as our main topic. A quick look at the top-ranking pages highlights some of the information I should be covering.
Here’s an excerpt of Hubspot’s guide to lead generation:
Here’s what Marketo covers on their page:
How to use this strategy to identify subtopics?
- Google your topic
- Open the top 5-7 pages in separate tabs
- List sections on each of those pages
- Look for common sections that all those pages cover, then
- Look for individual information they might be including (or that some of those pages include but others don’t)
#2. Keyword research
Naturally, when creating content hubs, we want to go beyond just the basic information covered by top-ranking pages. And so, the easiest way to identify additional subtopics is through keyword research.
Quick note – Most keyword research tools work similarly. However, their interfaces will differ greatly. Whatever tool you use will, most likely, offer the ability to conduct the research using the process I describe below. That said, you might need to adjust the steps to accommodate the workings of your particular software.
So, here’s how to find subtopics among top keywords:
Paste your topic into whatever keyword research tool you use and hit search.
You’ll, most likely, see a ridiculously long list of potential keywords.
(Researching “lead generation,” for example, delivers over 20 thousand potential phrases.)
Luckily, there are ways to filter the list to uncover potential topics fast.
Method #1. Review question-based keywords only
Most keyword research platforms today allow you to see question-based keywords only and skip all the other phrases. This greatly narrows the list of keywords you need to review and shows you what questions your target audience asks about the topic.
Method #2. Review keyword categories
Many keyword research tools will also list various categories or subtopics for the primary keyword. Use the list as a great starting point for identifying subtopics as well.
#3. Interlinking the pillar page with spoke content
Content hubs follow a simple structure – The pillar page links to all pages in the hub, and those individual pages link back to the pillar page, like this:
So, once you’ve created all pages or combined existing content on the topic, you need to interlink them to create the content hub.
There are two ways to do it:
Include a custom table of contents on the pillar page with links to individual subpages. One of the great ways to do it visually is to include the TOC as a sidebar.
Use custom in-text links instead, and link to all subpages naturally from the content.
NOTE – Neither of those ways is better. Granted, using the table of contents will make all content in the hub more visible to a reader. But from the SEO point of view, it’s absolutely fine to link to subpages from within the content.
About the Author
Pawel Grabowski is the founder, SEO strategist, and principal content creator at Smashing Copy.
Pawel specializes in building roadmaps that help our clients deliver more targeted organic traffic and website conversions. He also creates and optimizes our clients’ content and has been known for being able to breathe new life and rankings into any old content asset.