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Comparing content production models: Which is right for your business?
Columnist Rachel Lindteigen discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the hub-and-spoke model and the skyscraper technique to help you determine which is the best fit for your organization.
If you’ve been in content marketing for a while, you’re probably familiar with different content production and development models. Two common ones are hub-and-spoke and skyscraper content. It should be noted that there are other models as well, but these are two of the more popular approaches people take.
How do you determine which one is right for your business? As with all marketing, it’s important to start with your goal in mind. What outcome do you hope to achieve from this content marketing program?
Starting with the end in mind helps us zero in on which strategy will help us the most. You also need to think about the resources you have on hand, the budget available and how much content you can produce in a specific time.
The hub-and-spoke model
The first model is often referred to as the hub-and-spoke model. In this model, you focus on producing big, in-depth content pieces that are often gated and used as an opt-in for your business. These in-depth pieces are your “hub.”
Hub content should address a potential customer’s most pressing needs. It should be in-depth enough to provide value and help them with the issues they’re facing today (or very soon).
The strategy behind hub content is like that of content customer service. You’re focused on your customer and their needs. You create content that addresses their needs.
Examples of hub content can be webinars, e-books, white papers, videos and more. They’re not one-minute teaser videos or 500-word blog posts. Hub content takes time to produce. It may involve a research study.
Hub content should align with a content pillar. In most cases, you’ll want one great piece of hub content for each pillar. Then, you create lots of smaller pieces of content that support your hub content piece.
You might have quick videos, blog posts, infographics or website content that serves as spoke content. Spoke content is generally not gated and shared freely. It’s designed to drive traffic to a site, build links or push a reader to a piece of hub content that’s gated and serves as an opt-in, where the company can get your email address.
The email address is still a very valuable commodity to a marketer. Once an email address is shared via the opt-in content, you’re often added to the customer list and may be greeted by a nurturing campaign.
When you’re following the hub-and-spoke model, you’ll create significantly more spoke content than hub. You may only create a few pieces of hub content each year but multiple spokes monthly.
Advantages of the hub-and-spoke model
Hub-and-spoke works exceptionally well for business development goals. If you’re trying to generate qualified leads for your sales team, this type of content can help. If your spoke content is well-done and addresses your potential client’s needs, people will likely share their email address to receive the hub piece.
If someone is willing to part with their contact information in exchange for a piece of content, it’s likely they feel the content is valuable and will help them in their job or with their business. They’ve essentially selected themselves as a warm lead and are showing that they may be interested in your product.
You may also be able to attract links through your spoke content. If you’re creating content that addresses your customers’ questions and solves their problems, they’ll be more likely to share it with others.
Disadvantages of the hub-and-spoke model
This is a time-consuming content production technique that can require a sizable investment in content production. It’s often used by bigger brands with marketing agency partners or large marketing departments. These are the companies that can really think like a publisher and focus on creating great in-depth pieces that help their readers or potential customers.
It’s going to be harder to employ hub-and-spoke within a small department or one without creative resources to help with the hub content development.
With the skyscraper content technique, the focus is on building a bigger or better piece of content. This technique is used more for link attraction than lead generation.
That’s not to say that skyscraper content won’t generate leads — because it can and will. However, the focus here is often building links to a website, which we know raises the domain authority, making it easier to rank for core keywords, and thus, driving SEO traffic.
When your content production model focuses on skyscraper content, you will spend more time analyzing the content that appears on your competitors’ websites, looking for those pieces that attract lots of backlinks.
While the name implies creating more content, it’s not necessary to just add words and make a piece longer. The key here is to provide more value to the reader. If there’s a great piece on “50 tools to use to grow your business” that’s doing well, the skyscraper piece might include 75, 100, or even 150 tools.
Advantages to skyscraper content
With the skyscraper technique, you start the process knowing the content you’re producing is relevant and helpful. You’re choosing content pieces that are already popular and have a lot of links to improve upon. If you can truly enhance the content and create something better, there’s a good chance that the sites that published the original piece would be interested in your updated piece, too.
If you target them specifically, you may find yourself quickly building a lot of links because these sites have already shown interest in this topic by posting the original piece. Some of the initial research is ready for you in the form of the original post.
Disadvantages to skyscraper content
One big question here is: Are you really adding value with the new piece of content you’re producing? Is there a true need for an update or refresh, or are you just trying to outdo someone else?
Some pieces of skyscraper content feel like they’re just trying to be wordy for the sake of being longer. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to make a good piece better, and sometimes, that original piece is good as is. It doesn’t need to be improved upon.
How do you determine which content model is right for you?
As you determine your next steps in your content marketing program, you need to make sure the production model you choose is one that you can sustain. It’s also important to make sure it can help you achieve your goals.
If you can’t create enough content to generate strong spokes, your hub content won’t perform up to its full potential. Conversely, if you create a great spoke system but don’t have the resources for the hub pieces, you’re missing an opportunity.
And, if you go after skyscraper pieces but find it’s hard to provide more value or information, it’s not going to work as well as it could. Making a piece longer isn’t the only requirement. You must make it significantly better for it to work.
Either model could work well for your business if you have the right resources in place to fully execute on a plan.
Do you have to choose only one plan? No. You don’t. You could potentially combine the two. What if your hub content was a great skyscraper piece? Now, you might not be able to gate that piece if you’re going to use it for heavy link attraction, so think about the pros and cons of your decisions before committing.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide the best model for your business. And remember, these are not the only two models you can employ. There are other options out there.
Take time, do your research, and then determine what will best help you achieve your goals. The good news is that just having a plan and a documented content strategy puts you ahead of many of your competitors and is a known factor in content marketing success.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.