Your blog is boring. Upgrade to a hub
Chris Lakin Sep 2 2015
Let me start with a disclaimer. If you haven’t started blogging, get a plan together and start. Don’t write just for the sake of writing, but create a strategy around what you’ll write about and then actually do it. Publishing content on a regular basis benefits search engine visibility and audience building.
If you are already consistently publishing content but haven’t made any changes to your blog’s structure in the last few years, I’ve got a painful truth to share:
Your blog is boring.
It’s not the content I’m talking about – it’s the layout. It’s the way that I can’t find what I want before you push the latest five posts on me. It’s that it isn’t fun anymore.
The formula for setting up a blog is simple. How many times have you seen this layout?
The problem here is that the format doesn’t encourage interaction. The setup is almost exclusively one way – you telling the customer – and it doesn’t help users find the answers to their questions.
Now this isn’t to say that anything is fundamentally wrong with blogging this way. Heck, as of this moment this is the baseline format that we use at Portent. Creating fresh and relevant content helps customers find you.
But lots of times, those same visitors come to your site looking for answers to questions. And that’s where your business has the opportunity to shine.
Once you’ve published a certain volume of content and established a diverse set of audiences, it’s an ideal time to change the organization of your blog to focus on the answers your visitors seek. If you’ve established a blog structure that looks like the one above, let’s take it to the next level.
Why is a hub better than a blog?
Content hubs focus on the customers’ needs and interests. That’s what it’s all about: making the content and answers your customers need easy to find, visually appealing, and entertaining.
Here’s a potential content hub. I say potential because hubs should be very customer centric and change depending on your audience.
Simply put, this is more fun. It’s interactive and gives you the flexibility to present lots of different types of content to your users. It’s modular, letting you plug various components into the layout for a cleaner aesthetic and better usability, giving the users more relevant choices instead of asking them to scroll.
With the intense amount of content being produced every day, anything that isn’t relevant is just noise to be quickly ignored or forgotten. We all see this. The millions of blog posts and videos uploaded daily are overwhelming.
Don’t contribute to information overload. Instead, help your users navigate your content. Whatever you put in front of your visitors needs to have immediate, obvious value or else it gets ignored.
There’s a reason Google doesn’t simply include the very latest news articles or blog posts on their home page. Users coming to their site have a question. Google doesn’t presume to know that answer before you ask it. (At least not until you type the first word, and it starts contextually guessing questions for you).
Some content hub examples
To give you a better model, these companies are doing it right. In fact, this article took me longer to write because I kept getting distracted diving deeper into these hubs.
Any DIY fan can use this resource. Whatever your project is, you can quick search for topics and tips from the pros to make your renovation shine. What I love about this content hub is the giant search box guaranteeing you will get an answer. It doesn’t assume the visitor’s interests.
And from a research standpoint, think about all the data you can capture in this search box. You will get useful insights into what people look for when they come to your site that you can turn into an endless stream of content topics and ideas.
The Porch layout is really, really ridiculously good looking. Like Derek Zoolander good looking.
It also has just about everything that someone would want in a content hub, and then some. My favorite part about this content hub is how modular it is. There are blocks of content that each serve a different purpose and can be swapped in and out based on context, user queries, CRM data, etc. Testing content blocks to the extreme is possible with this layout.
With images that actually make you stop and appreciate the scrolling header, the REI content hub does not disappoint. It includes a few suggested blog topics on the left-hand side, but what I enjoy most is the clean design. It keeps the user focused on the emotional, visual story in the pictures, but also on the search bar at the top where you can get your questions answered.
I never thought I could be so interested in a B2B content page, but I find myself clicking-through page after page on the General Electric hub. One item that I find unique, but fun, is their use of GIFs as featured images. The page feels alive with the moving pictures and makes me stop to read more.
How to start building a content hub
Reworking your blog into a content hub takes some initial research and planning.
- Step 1: Take an inventory of your current blog posts.
- Step 2: Find our what your audience is searching for through search logs.
- Step 3: Determine what content pieces your audience is reading from analytics.
- Step 4: Talk to your customers to gain more insight into their questions.
- Step 5: Identify strengths and gaps within your current knowledge base.
- Step 6: Create a content strategy.
When done right, a content strategy surfaces content that is the most relevant, most useful, and most engaging to your customers. That’s what I love about it: getting the right content in front of the right audience in an engaging and fun way.
A content hub isn’t replacing your blog with a glorified search bar. It is about creating the best possible user-experience, specific to your audience. Remember, always begin with a content strategy, and the humility to ask your users what content is most valuable at that moment. Eventually, you’ll place the most relevant content at the front, and build a repository that will grow and support your users.
If you’d like to learn how Portent is playing with the concept of creating better user experiences, check out this post about our new contextual site search.