Upgrade Your Blog to a Content Hub for Better UX

Updated on November 14, 2019, to include new examples and insights.

If you haven’t started blogging, get together with your team, and determine whether you should start. As Travis McKnight points out in his article, Studies Suggest Your Business Needs a Blog, businesses with quality blogs have better digital marketing results than their counterparts who don’t.

However, just because you have a blog, doesn’t mean you’ll see the kind of results that Travis is talking about.

Does any of the following sound like you?

  • You consistently publish content but haven’t made any changes to your blog’s structure in the last few years
  • The only known reason that you have a blog is that “we should have one, I mean our competitors do…”
  • You’ve checked the analytics on your blog, and your bounce rate is high and your time on site and pages per session are low
  • You don’t have an editorial calendar for your blog; you get to it when you can
  • There isn’t a sole person who is responsible for your blog content, and you haven’t taught the people involved how to do keyword research before ideating

If you answered “yes” to any of these, I’ve got a painful truth to share:

Your blog might be ineffective. And it might be time to consider whether a content hub is a better fit instead.

What is a Content Hub?

A content hub is a set of interlinked, related content that all link back to a central hub page. For example, if you’re a bicycle shop that sells bicycle helmets, you could create a bicycle helmet content hub, as seen below:

Illustration of a web page about bicycle helmets serving as the hub, with various other pages about helmets linking back to it

In this example, the bicycle helmets page serves as the center of the hub, and the other pages all link back to it.

Why are Content Hubs Effective?

If you want to improve topical visibility and are experiencing difficulty with rankings and optimization, creating a content hub can help. Caleb Cosper explains why, in his article, Content Hub Strategy for SEO, “Content hubs work by driving link authority and topical relevance from the spoke pages into the hub page. By concentrating internal linking onto one page, you improve that page’s ability to rank.”

In our example above, we could turn an already existing landing page for bicycle helmets into a hub by linking to it from all the videos, infographics, product landing pages, blog posts (if you end up deciding that a blog is right for you!).

Additionally, content hubs are an excellent way to surface content that might otherwise be buried in your site. If bicycle helmets are one of the main items that you sell, you may even consider placing a link to the hub in the navigation of your website. Doing so will send signals to Google that you’re an authority on the topic because you’ll have a link to “bicycle helmets” on every single page of your site.

Search engines look at link text, the number of links, and the position of links on the page. Then, they’ll crawl your site and say, “This helmets page is really important.” If your site has this navigation, and your competitors still have plain old “products” and “services” up top, guess who wins? You!

When it comes to determining if something is descriptive enough, we like to use the blank sheet of paper test: if you wrote the item down on a piece of paper and showed it to someone on the street, would they immediately understand what it means?

Types of Content Hubs

There are two main types of content hubs:

A navigational hub uses the universal site navigation to link to the hub page from every single page on the site. You’ll want to use these hubs when:

  • You’ve got a super-competitive term; and/or
  • Clearer navigation might be a competitive differentiator; and/or
  • Your product or service is easily confused with a different product or service. For example, “bikes” can mean bicycles or motorcycles. Changing the top nav will clarify things; and/or
  • You have a relatively small number of products or services. You never want more than six options in the primary top nav

A true hub consists of relevant pages of content that link back to the main hub page. Under the umbrella of true hubs, there are two other types: in-context and mini-hubs.

You can create in-context hubs by linking inline. Add a few links here and there and poof, you have an in-context hub. No heavy content lift necessary. Content hubs don’t have to be complicated or time-intensive!

You can create mini-hubs by linking a set of pages using a menu, but not by changing the navigation. Our site speed guide is a sort of mini-hub:

Screenshot of Portent blog post: Ultimate Guide to Page Speed that uses an linked table of contents as a mini-hub for the article

I say “sort of” because, in this document, every page links to every other page. That means there’s no one hub page. Instead, every page is a hub page.

Illustration showing how the previous blog post table of contents is made up of pages linked to every other page, similar to a giant spider web

That’s OK. Not all hubs can be perfect. What we really did is create a bunch of little hubs. If we’d built these pages all linking back to a single central page speed page, that would’ve created a true mini-hub.

If you want to learn more about the different types of content hubs, you should really check out Caleb’s post that I linked to above!

So, When Should You Consider Creating Content Hubs?

To decide whether you should begin building content hubs, you should start by determining why you think your blog isn’t performing.

For example, let’s say you decide that a blog is the best place to house your content, but you don’t have the resources to keep up with publishing. Depending on the type of content hub you create, you may cease efforts on your blog, only to find yourself unable to create and maintain your content hubs.

If a lack of time and resources are your main roadblock to creating content, we recommend starting with as simple a hub as possible.

If you have the time and resources to create content, but people aren’t engaging with your blog posts or navigating to your blog at all, you should consider creating more in-depth content hubs. Note: Just because you’re finding a new way to house a large amount of content, that doesn’t mean it should be a complicated experience for your users.

Content hubs should focus on the customers’ needs and interests by answering their questions in a way that is easy to find (via interlinking), visually appealing, and informative. Additionally, hubs are modular, allowing you to plug various components into the layout for a cleaner aesthetic and better usability, giving the users a clear pathway through your content.

One example of a company which has opted for a content hub over a traditional blog is Home Depot. With their DIY Projects and Ideas hub, any DIY fan can use this resource to find topics and tips from the pros to make their renovation shine.

Instead of scrolling through pages of blog posts, a person can easily click on the category of project they’re trying to complete, and quickly get access to videos, step-by-step instructions, related guides, links to products needed to complete the project, and links to their social media sites.

Screenshot of Home Depot's DIY Projects and Ideas landing page
https://www.homedepot.com/c/diy_projects_and_ideas

For example, a quick click on “Bathroom Ideas and Projects” takes a user to a page with links to subcategories, project and inspiration guides, and more.

Screenshot of Home Depot's "Bathroom Ideas and Projects" hub that features a variety of links to videos, blog articles, and guides for related projects.
https://www.homedepot.com/c/alp/bathroom-ideas-and-projects/tpwzzh6sioj

Their hub is easy to navigate, allowing people to stay on the site and get the information that they need. Their efforts are also paying off from an SEO perspective: this page ranks for a handful of keywords including, “DIY projects for home” and “DIY projects and ideas.”

Imagine if Home Depot had decided to go with a traditional blog and users had to scroll through pages of content to find what they wanted—it definitely wouldn’t work as well, and their content wouldn’t be as hyper-targeted for the DIY crowd.

In Other Words

A content hub is about creating the best possible user-experience, specific to your audience. Always begin with keyword and competitive research to determine what content, in which format is going to be the most valuable to your users. And remember, if your metrics indicate that your blog isn’t providing your users with the information and experience that they’re looking for, then it might be time to consider a content hub.

Katie McKenna

Director of Agency Development
Director of Agency Development

Katie McKenna is the director of agency development at Portent, overseeing agency-wide processes and culture initiatives. She graduated with a Bachelor in Journalism from Indiana University and has over half a decade's worth of experience in digital marketing. In a past life, she was the director of content, college radio DJ, and music journalist. Today, she spends her time hiking, traveling, practicing yoga/meditation, and organizing all things content-related. Terry Gross is her spirit animal.

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Comments

  1. Hi Chris
    Nice article, the strategy is one part i find most people missing, i produce a magazine for a customer who has 40k monthly subscribers, and our biggest challenge is finding great content, most people just regurgitate everything, there are very few original articles online, i know about 10 real article content sources and the rest follow them. Would love to hear more on the content as a discussion from you,
    Thanks David

    1. I’ve been planning something similar and had all but given up on WordPress due to the complexity of integrating it. I’ve been considering Grav.
      For WordPress I think the answer is to use custom category templates that present various post types (video, link, blog, quote) differently on the category pages and then use an index (blog page) that pulls one or more from each of these categories and presents it in a similar way to above.
      I don’t think it’s as simple as a plugin – it needs custom templates from my point of view – but I think it’s worth doing to actually stand out from an increasingly crowded market place.

    2. Thanks David! I actually don’t know of any plugins that accomplish this. In most cases, I suggest staying away from WordPress plugins. They can slow down your site and are not always easy to adapt. Instead, work with a designer, developer, and a content strategist to create a unique layout and structure for the best user experience.

    3. It would be done more so by the theme you choose. Look for a theme that looks more like what they are talking about … or you can tweak the theme you have now to incorporate these elements. He is right though, it is always better to work with a designer to develop your own look but of course that is not always possible due to budget constraints.

  2. I just came out of a meeting discussing hubs and the need to give users clear direction as to what you want them to do. Our “Next Steps” from the meeting included presenting a plan that included a component-based wireframe just like the one in your article. So I shall be using that and this article to pull my deck together. You will of course be credited 🙂

  3. I wish it was easy to just switch to a hub from a current theme. Hopefully WP themes will start using this as a standard so we can just get a new theme like this.
    I totally agree with it being better.

  4. Hey, great article!
    I admit, my site looks almost exactly like the basic blog hub you mentioned at the top. I like it because it puts everything out there and gives people a selection, but after seeing your suggested hub/template, my eyes widened and I realized that that’s very much like what I’m looking for for a new site that I’m putting together.
    I continue to look online for free WordPress templates. Would you (or anybody else reading this) happen to know where I could get one that looks like that? Your help is highly appreciated!

  5. What a great idea Chris! I can see some mileage with this approach for a couple of future projects.
    Just to comment on David’s question whether there is a WP plugin for this – I haven’t seen one but isn’t that one of the reasons why this idea is so great? It’s something fresh on the eyes and that alone could be enough to buy you an extra few seconds of user attention.

  6. Perfect timing! Just came from meeting a friend and was talking about this very need! Like others, I too have the dreaded layout and have been looking for a WP plugin that Chris described. I will eagerly await someone’s gracious direction 😉

  7. If I may make a suggestion, instead of manipulating a wordpress theme or hiring a team of developers, use a platform like Uberflip. You can import your content and create a Hub in an hour or two. Uberflip also connects to marketing automation tools like HubSpot and MailChimp to easily generate leads. That way, you don’t need to make a square peg fit into a round hole.
    Have a look at: uberflip.com

  8. I can certainly see the benefit in creating a hub for your organisation. Unfortunately it requires so much content and management most small to medium businesses would struggle to keep things fresh. I wonder how setting up a communal hub for allied businesses might work?

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