Everything You Need to Know About Creating Content Hubs for SEO

by Pawel Grabowski - SEO Consultant for Startups

Find out how to create content hubs for SEO that will increase your startup’s rankings, and drive more organic traffic, and leads.

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.

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, understand the context and intent behind each query, and deliver 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.

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.

I like to 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 typical structure of a content hub for SEO.

(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 specificaspects of the topic.
  • All those assets are interconnected with internal hyperlinks, guiding users through the topic until they’ve exhausted all available resources and gained all the knowledge they need.

But Why Create Content Hubs in the First Place?

I’m sure the visual representation above makes it perfectly 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 who’s managing startup SEO strategies and builds content hubs for a living, whatever I say may sound biased. But still, let me share with you just some of the benefits ofusing 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, andthat’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 authoritywill go to other spoke pages through internal links.

It works like this:

Link authority distribution across a content hub.

(Link authority distribution in a content hub.)

The result is 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 come across your content hub eventually.

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.

Examples of Content Hubs Built for SEO

Content hubs offer insane opportunity to grow rankings, drive traffic, and connect you with the target audience.

This is all fine, but it’s probably hard for you to imagine what 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.

Example of a pillar page in a content hub.

And here is one of the subpages.

Example of a spoke page.

Another example – Tiny House guide from Insteading. The pillar page:

Another example of a pillar page in a content hub for SEO.

And a subpage...

An example of a spoke page in a content hub.

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:

  1. Selecting the topic for the pillar page,
  2. Conducting keyword research to identify all aspects of the topic you need to cover on the pillar page and additional subpages, and
  3. 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 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 soon.

A quick keyword research reveals very little interest in the topic.

Conducting keyword research to find good topics for content hubs.

“Morning exercise,” on the other hand, attracts far greater interest and offers a bigger traffic potential.

Example of a keyword with large enough search volume to work as a content hub topic.

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 orresearch 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:

  1. Morning exercise routine
  2. Weight loss morning exercise
  3. Morning exercises for lower back pain
  4. Benefits of morning exercise
  5. The ideal diet for a morning exercise routine
  6. Equipment needed
  7. Warm-up and stretching exercises
  8. Waking up for the morning exercise
  9. Sleep problems after exercising in the morning
  10. 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.

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.)

Reviewing subtopics within a cluster hub topic.

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.

Evaluating question-based queries to discover topics for spoke pages in a content hub.

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.

Keyword subclusters.

#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:

Interlinking pillar page and spokes in a content hub for SEO.

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.

An example of a pillar page listing all spokes as sidebar links.

Use custom in-text links instead, and link to all subpages naturally from the content.

An example of a pillar page including in-text links to spoke pages.

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.

And that’s it!

Copyright: Smashing Copy Limited  2024