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What is content strategy? Not what you think ... (HubHeroes, Ep. 17)


"Content strategy" is one of the most commonly used terms in the inbound world, and for good freakin' reason β€” much like America (and your pal, George!) runs on Dunkin', inbound runs on content. In fact, one might say there is no inbound without content at all. 

Content is how you attract, engage, and delight customers.

Content is how you establish your company as the leading authority in what you do or sell.

Content is how you enable your sales team to close deals faster.

Content is how you communicate your brand's story to the world.

Content is everything. 

And yet, the question "What is content strategy?" is one that strikes fear into the hearts of many a content marketer, business leader, and sales pro.

🚨 Register now: 2023 SEO Content Strategy Masterclass (limited seats)

Why? Because the answer you get to that question depends largely on who you ask, and there's a ton of disagreement in the inbound and HubSpot communities about what a content strategy looks like. 

For example, an experienced content marketer might think their robust editorial calendar is their content strategy ... until one day, after a few months of publishing what they thought was results-driving content, their boss leans into their office and says, "Hey, can you send over the content strategy for what we're publishing? Not the content calendar, we already have that."

πŸ”Ž Related HubSpot education:

Some might even admit they're unclear on what a content strategy really is or what form it should take but, "I know it when I see it!" isn't an acceptable answer either.

And don't get us started on the confusion around topic clusters and pillar pages ...

Wait, actually DO get us started. That's the whole point of why we chose this week's episode topic. As we all look ahead to 2023, understand what a content strategy is today β€” as well as what it really takes to pull one together β€” Liz and I are here to set the record straight on what a content strategy is and isn't, and the most common mistakes you're making that are costing you big-time when it comes to content ROI.

Also, consider yourself warned ... Liz and I brought a lot of hot takes to the HubHeroes recording studio this week. 

Here's what we cover in this episode ...

  • What isn't a content strategy? Because the amount of misinformation out there is astounding.
  • How the answer to "what is a content strategy?" has changed in the past decade.
  • What is the purpose of a content strategy? And what do most people get wrong about what content is supposed to do for their organizations?
  • How Google and other search engines have radically changed how you should be developing your content strategies.
  • Liz gets heated about "brand awareness" content.
  • A brief primer on topic clusters and pillar pages, as well as why they exist.

And so, so, so much more. Seriously, this episode is straight fire, start to finish.


If you're a growth-focused marketer or business leader who needs to get big results (and make big changes from a content strategy standpoint) in 2023, you need to sign up for the SEO Content Strategy Masterclass, which starts in January. Period.

Otherwise, get very clear on the purpose for your content strategy, as well as what goals you're looking to achieve with it. And if someone asks you for a content strategy document outside of what you provided, take a long hard look at your current documentation β€” and the process you used to get there β€” because you've got big gaps, my friend. 



George B. Thomas: Do you live in a world filled with corporate data? Are you plagued by silo departments? Are your lackluster growth strategies demolishing your chances for success? Are you held captive by the evil menace, Lord Lack, lack of time, lack of strategy, and lack of the most important and powerful tool in your superhero tool belt, knowledge. Never fear hub heroes.

Get ready to don your cape and mask, move into action, and become the hub hero your organization needs. Tune in each week to join the league of extraordinary inbound heroes as we help you educate, empower, and execute. Hub heroes, it's time to unite and activate your your powers. Before we begin, we need to disclose that both Devin and Max are currently employed by HubSpot at the time of this episode's recording. This podcast is in no way affiliated with or produced by HubSpot, and the thoughts and opinions expressed by Devin and Max during the show are that of their own and in no way represent those of their employer.

Liz Moorehead: Welcome back to the Hub Heroes podcast. I am Liz Murphy. I am a content strategist and also our official Hub Heroes nerd wrangler, Joined as always though just by George b Thomas.

George B. Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. Notice you had to say nerd wrangler, not like nerds with an s because I swear the entire country is battling sickness of some type of flu or cold or COVID or bloated toe or what what people are like toe? I don't know. That's not a real thing.

But, like, people are just sick. And so it's you and me. We're gonna create some content goodness about content, which gets better real quick. But first of all, Max, Devon, we miss you. Get well.

We're thinking of you, praying for you, but we gotta keep the fire burning.

Liz Moorehead: I know. I'm gonna miss Max just walking around in the background of our recordings, picking up Nerf guns, hammers, looking very menacing in the background of every single episode.

George B. Thomas: Wearing goggles.

Liz Moorehead: Like Or seeing what new throne Devin is sitting in while he just spit straight fire while sounding like a Barry White record. Like, I am going to miss that a lot.

George B. Thomas: How many chairs does a guy own, by the way? I'm like, dude, I gotta up my chair game, obviously.

Liz Moorehead: We will likely bring one of our other Hub Hero community members in here soon. His name is Franco Valentino. He is an SEO god. But do you know what he also has in his house? That man is so picky about his desk chairs that he literally has, like, a desk chair graveyard of chairs he is just, I do not like you.

I cast you aside. It's like in this one room in his house. It's amazing. I just

George B. Thomas: I mean, it's something vitally important to think about. Imagine the amount of hours. Now I stand. I have it like a little stool if I wanna sit down for a little bit because I need a break. But for most normal humans, if you're sitting at a desk, imagine the amount of time you spend at that desk, and the fact that you would even fathom or allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a small percentage of the time that you're doing that work is unimaginable to me.

Liz Moorehead: I hate it. I'm I have a great desk chair right now and that it's terrible and that I will burn it as soon as I can. But to your point about the sickness, I do have to point something out before we get into my favorite subject, creating content about content. So my poor husband, Patrick, I have to admit and I'm sorry, George. I don't know if you're one of these men or you're not one of these men.

Oh my god. You are the worst when you get sick. You are the worst. You will be like, oh, no. My whole life, my whole body, it's 1 degree off.

I can't cope. Liz, help me. I am sick. I have the consumption. So I'll admit for the 1st few days that he was sick, I'm like, oh, he's man sick.

This is not just blow your nose, take some Mucinex, and go to sleep. But that man, I felt so guilty because, like, 3 days into it, I finally went, oh, you're really sick? And he looked at me with dagger eyes. I'm like, I knew that, and I love you so much.

George B. Thomas: No. I'm definitely one of those guys that yeah. I'm a wimp. When I I'm when I get sick, it's over. Yeah.

It's just I don't do well with being sick.

Liz Moorehead: Rub some dirt on it. Get over it. Jesus. Walk it off, loser. Just kidding.

And on that note, are we ready to talk about one of my favorite questions in the whole world?

George B. Thomas: I am because it is one of my favorite questions, things to do, things to teach. So I'm ready to dig in.

Liz Moorehead: Yeah. In fact, if you are listening to this episode, I definitely want you to listen all the way through to the end because George and I have a very, very, very, very, very big announcement for anybody who is creating content, thinks that content is gonna be a major player or needs to be a major player in how you drive growth and revenue for your business in 2023. You definitely wanna listen to this full episode and you definitely wanna stick around for the big reveal later today. I am so excited. But first, let's talk about what we're talking about today.

We're talking about one of my favorite questions. What is content strategy? And there's a reason why I love this question because it's so deceptive. Right? It's like asking somebody, what makes you happy?

And on the surface, it's like this should be easy. What makes me happy? Cheese. Lots of it. What makes me happy?

Young Robert Redford. What makes me happy? Naps. Like, those are the types of things where it's like it feels like it should be obvious. And you're like, no, no, no.

What really makes you happy?

George B. Thomas: And then I have butter and pickle sandwiches. That's what makes me happy. I'm just Okay. I knew that was Yes. I agree.

Liz Moorehead: In your tracks, by the way. 3. No. But think about it. When you think about what actually makes you happy, no.

No. No. Move beyond the pickles and the peanut butter and the young Robert Redford movies and say, you know, what really makes you happy? You start having this like deep existential crisis like, I don't know. And you have to think about feelings.

And what is content strategy is the exact same thing. And can I get a can I go on a little bit of a rant here for a second, George?

George B. Thomas: Yeah. Go on a rant. I love rants.

Liz Moorehead: Here's what freaking kills me about the entire content marketing industrial complex. And as much as I love HubSpot, in some ways they perpetuate the problem. We have spent more than a decade telling people, you need content. You need to make a content strategy. Somewhere a giant wizard from the sky makes the content and the content strategy.

Here's how you amplify the content. Here's how you put it in an email. Here's how you nurture people. By the way, did you know you need content? How do I make it?

What does it look like? You just need it. Move along. Now to be clear, that is ham fisted and I've seen some movement in HubSpot Academy specifically where they're starting to talk about more about how the content strategy and content sausage gets made. But let's be honest here guys, we have spent more than 10 years praising and preaching the gospel of content and most people don't know what a content strategy is or what it looks like.

George B. Thomas: Even when they think they know, I don't think they really know. Here's what's funny because, Liz, I agree with everything you said and the whole, like, the wizard from the sky and, like, people are confused around this. But here's what's funny is and, again, I do think that HubSpot and Content Marketing Institute and anybody who who in history has talked about a content strategy or creating content or growing your business using content has forgotten a little piece of this. At least everything that I've read and everything that I've seen, and I think it's why it took me so long to actually put the pieces together and and figure it out was content strategy, you hear the words like keywords. And then it grows a little bit and you hear the words like topics.

And somewhere back in the beginning, you heard words like blog. And somewhere along the way, you hear, like, semantic markup and alt image text and all the kind of content nerdiness. Here's the funny thing. You really can't have a content strategy if the word revenue is not in the conversation. What content are we creating that actually is leading to a place where at some point we can drive revenue?

And here's the problem. From the get go, it was this Mother Teresa thing of we're going to create content and add value to the world for free. And then out of trust and reciprocity, they will want to give us their wallets. Okay. Yeah.

Sure. Sorta. Maybe. But when you're sitting down at your desk and you're like, we should write about this and create this, hopefully, you've realized that it should point to this, which is sales and deals and revenue and actually being able to stay open. That has to be part of the anyway, I know we'll probably dig into that.

But holy crap. I just went on a little diatribe there.

Liz Moorehead: I'm sorry. I'm getting a little warm in here. Is it because Georgia's on fire?

George B. Thomas: It's a little

Liz Moorehead: chilly tonight. I completely agree. And so before we dig into these topics more deeply, I wanna level set on who we're talking to. By the way, that's all of you jokers out there. If you're a business owner or a business leader sitting there going, I'm just probably gonna turn this off, but I'm gonna forward this on to my content marketer.

Wrong. I have some stuff to talk to you about. We got some problems, and we need talk about it. If you're the content marketer who has ever said my editorial calendar is my content strategy until one day, after months of creating content, your boss walks in and goes, knock, knock. Hi.

How are you? Can you give me the content strategy for all the content we're creating? Thanks. And then they just walk away, and you're like, but I thought it was the calendar. What am I doing wrong?

Is my job on the line? If you're the marketing leader who thinks maybe a content strategy is an editorial calendar plus a 10 page executive summary that no one will ever read, We're gonna have a conversation today. And if you are the business owner who literally has no idea, but you're the person who's like, I'll know it when I see it. Okay. No.

And sales. Okay. If you're in sales and you happen to be listening to this, let's just be honest, you don't care? You don't you don't care because most of the content that's probably being created right now doesn't help you anyway. And we're gonna talk about that too.

No. We're gonna talk about that too because they should care and you started talking about it.

George B. Thomas: Oh my god. They

Liz Moorehead: I know. I know. So we're gonna do all those beautiful things, and we're gonna get there. George, are you ready? Do we need to shake it out a minute?

We gotta shake

George B. Thomas: it out. No. I'm good. I'm good. I'm good.

I'm good. I'm good. I'm good. I'm good. I just here's the thing.

I just I'm so excited for the part when we get to be able to talk to the salespeople because

Liz Moorehead: How about this? How about this?

George B. Thomas: I'll I'll tell them when we get there. No. No. No. No.

Make them hang around for a minute.

Liz Moorehead: No. I want you to tell them why they should hang around. Give me in one sentence why they have to listen to this episode.

George B. Thomas: Content is the most important thing that you're forgetting to use.

Liz Moorehead: Boom. But, George, question. What if you're like me? Because I told this story in the content marketing ROI episode. And if you didn't listen to that, you need to go back and listen to it.

When I took over as the head content strategist and I became the editor in chief at Impact, I was Impact is an inbound marketing or HubSpot partner agency. But I was the head of our content for the agency. I wasn't doing it on behalf of our clients. And so when I sat down with our sales team, Nick Sal, former HubSpotter, then he worked with me at Impact. He's, I asked him.

I asked the whole sales team, hey. How much of this content is useful to you? And they were trying to be nice because we're friends and we talk. And then finally, they're like, oh, quite a bit, at least 1 to 2%. And I felt like fell out of my chair.

I'm like, great. 1 to 2% is helpful in sales. 1 to 2% is helpful in sales. And I just about fell to the floor with disappointment. And like, oh God, we have a lot of work to do.

So my follow-up question to you is, what if that sales rep is going well, none of the content is helpful that they're creating? Why do they still need to stick around?

George B. Thomas: They need to stick around because they need to figure out that actually they should be the one creating it. Like, here's the thing. You know your customer. You know your questions. You know the things that would help you better than anybody.

So the fact that we as grown ass adults are complaining that marketing isn't creating the content we need, yet we're not actually spending the time to create the content to actually speed up the sales process and streamline our day is shameful.

Liz Moorehead: Max and Devin leave us unattended, and we just sit here and spitfire all day.

George B. Thomas: We're we're in trouble. We're in trouble.

Liz Moorehead: And to you content marketers who are list who are sitting there going, oh my god. What? That's right. If you're not talking to sales, we're gonna get to that later. Let's start with my first favorite question.

George B. Thomas: See and you said it. Right? Part of it. It's it's definitely not a calendar. Sure.

A calendar is a tool. That's a tool for what you might lay out to visually display the strategy that you've actually created. Your content strategy isn't your blog, by the way. That's not that's not your strategy. The blog is the the tool.

Heck. The strategy isn't even actually the individual page. The article. The one thing that you think that if I write this, we're going viral. Because it's a massive amount of value.

Like, no. That's not the strategy. HubSpot is it's not your content strategy. Sure. It has social tools.

Sure. It has dashboards and reporting, but it's it's not your strategy. By the way, you yourself are probably not even though you've been hired to be the content strategist, the strategy. It's not call to actions that you have at the bottom of your blog, hopefully. It's not the forms that people convert on on major pages.

It's not the story that you tell. None of these one things are your content strategy. However, when you start to combine them, we're not talking about what a content strategy is. We're talking about what it's not. And so it's none of those things.

Now, Liz, I'm curious. When you have this conversation with a lot of people who create content and you hear certain things, do you go, poosh. That, my friend, is not a content strategy.

Liz Moorehead: So we're gonna get to this a little bit later. I believe that your calendar can be your strategy. It can be your strategic document. It can be your home base. And if somebody's asking you for a content strategy, you are not pulling it together properly, and you have a communication breakdown.

So what isn't a content strategy? A vanity project. Brand awareness campaign, something that isn't tied to revenue, something where you feel like if you're a marketer right now and you're saying, I have this beautiful content strategy that our sales team just doesn't get, you are the problem.

George B. Thomas: It's interesting. I I have to unpack this, and I don't know why. But when you said you're the content marketer and you use the word beautiful and strategy together, I think my brain fried a little bit because I feel like any strategy is actually gonna be a little messy, a little in the weeds, a little in the trenches, a little bit able to pivot over here and pivot over there. Listen to the customer, make some decisions, put something else new out and different. Not like this, like, shiny Christmas gift wrapped with a bow, and that's what we're gonna use for the next 12 months, but something that's, like, agile and, like, mean, lean, content fighting machine.

Like, I don't know. I don't I don't I don't like the word beautiful strategy together.

Liz Moorehead: That's the whole point. I think you because that's why what it isn't. And we're just we're now gonna start being able to unpack what it is. Because here's the thing. You're absolutely right.

And the reason why people create these beautiful pristine things is because they think, I have made my content strategy for the year. No. The most successful content strategies I've ever ever built and I built them on behalf of other companies and every conceivable industry you can imagine. I have built them for impact and we were publishing between 5 8 new pieces of content a week. I've done it for companies who were publishing once a month and the best cadence is around 90 days.

I do believe, however, you can build flex into it because what I will say is there is a fine line, George, between let's always shoot from the hip. I wanna be able to come to you and say I want these 3 blogs because it can completely derail the strategic things that you need to accomplish with your content. But you one of the things I used to do just to throw a super tactical tip out right at the top is in every one of my 90 day strategies, every single month I had 3 to 5 flex spots for leadership. Now to be fair, again, this was at the company where we were publishing between 5 8 new pieces of content a week. So you have to figure out what that number is for yourself.

But you should always have a little bit of flex space, a little bit of agility. And also, when the world catches on fire, like for example, I was running our publishing division at Impact when COVID hit and I had to take a 90 day strategy and throw everything out the window and come up with a completely new one from scratch. So you're always gonna have that kind of stuff but you're right. The beautiful thing when people like, I have made this beautiful treasure. Do not touch it.

Leave it. No. It should be messy. It's a document that should be showing you not only what you're doing, but your roadmap. It's what you're keeping updated.

It's what it's the home base for everything that people can find. Now let's start talking about what a content strategy is. And I know one of the places we're gonna go is that what qualifies as a great content strategy, perspective, has wildly changed structurally. But I believe we can have this conversation at a higher level before we start getting into the weeds of remember those beautiful just spreadsheets of keywords for days. And now we have, like, topic clusters and pillars and everything that people keep screwing up and just

George B. Thomas: More nerdy words. More nerdy words that people don't understand.

Liz Moorehead: We're gonna get there.

George B. Thomas: Yeah.

Liz Moorehead: But that's why I wanna talk high level. High level without getting into the weeds, George. Yeah. What is a content strategy?

George B. Thomas: Yeah. Here's here's the thing. So a content strategy is a road map for you to follow in a place that you are trying to get your company to go. And what I mean by that, and one of the questions that I love to ask people when I am helping them with this topic, is what do you want to be known for? What are the 3 to 4 things?

Arbitrary number listeners. It could be 5 to 7. I don't know your business that well. But the way I teach it is what are the 3 to 4 things that you want to be known for? I can tell you, equivalently, that, Liz, most people when I ask that question, there is at least 60 to 90 seconds of silence.

Because they don't know how to answer the question of what they wanna be known for. They have gone so fast into, let's this keyword or that keyword or it's this product or it's that service. No. What do you want to be known for when somebody sits at their desk and they start to type into Google's little box and you wanna be on the first page of results, what are those 3 or 4 large things you wanna be known for? Because when you know that, you can start to create a, what I'll call, a macro strategy that actually has probably some micro strategies inside of it.

Some swim lanes, if you will, to the actual place you're trying

George B. Thomas: to get. So I'll just start there very high level.

George B. Thomas: And, again, an action item that you as a listener can take away. If I asked you right now, you're sitting in a Zoom meeting with George b Thomas, and I go, what are the 3 to 4 things that you wanna be known for? If you can't answer that immediately, a, figure it out. Write it down, but then take what you write down and look at what you thought was your maybe content strategy, like, 6 seconds ago, and how you're gonna move forward is gonna dramatically change with the rest of this podcast.

Liz Moorehead: I agree with that. And. And this isn't an and that's really up to yes

George B. Thomas: and me

Liz Moorehead: by the way. I'm not yes anding you because

George B. Thomas: this is Oh, you're not No.

Liz Moorehead: This is you know what I I yes and has become so ubiquitous that I'm like, just say but. Just say but. Just say but. I like big Butsonic. Yep.

George B. Thomas: Anyway, yeah. Not why we're here.

Liz Moorehead: Not why we're here. No. This is a genuine and when you're thinking about the 3 to 4 things because this really leads into what I believe a content strategy is, which is parallel to what you're talking about. And we're talking about 2 sides of the same coin. When you think about I

George B. Thomas: like that saying.

Liz Moorehead: When we think about a content strategy, what you are doing is you're establishing your authority as the number one teacher about the thing it is that you do or sell, which means if you, the marketer, are not really keyed in with your leadership and your sales team or just quite frankly your product or service catalog, and you are saying, I wanna be known for this and it is absolutely freaking nothing to do with what you do or sell, you are playing in the wrong ballpark, my friends, because a content strategy, like I said, isn't a vanity project. It isn't brand awareness. I always hate when people are like, Liz, we can use content for brand awareness. Sure. But why are you making them aware?

Because you wanna go to brunch so they become friends with you? No. So they eventually buy from you or they recommend you to friends. You hold on, George. I see you doing your little I know.

So when I say that, what I mean is a content strategy is a mechanism by which you move your business forward, by which you hit your business objectives. So a content strategy, the reason why you never built out an annual strategy, the reason why you built it out on a quarterly basis, and we'll talk about the tactics I use to pull it together later, is that you should be evaluating what your business objectives are on a quarterly basis. Start by by knowing what are the 3 to 4 things you wanna be known for. And that's not just to bring structure and clarity and cohesion and focus to your Google from a search perspective because of the way they've updated their algorithm to include machine learning and to include AI tools like RankBrain is they are now looking at websites and not just saying, oh, great. You do that keyword.

You do that keyword. It now tries to crawl you and understand at a high level what are the 1 or 2 things that you're really about. In fact, I think it's only 1. So, like, if you're an inbound marketing agency, you may be there like, we wanna talk about video marketing. We wanna talk about this marketing.

And I'm like, no. You're inbound marketing. And then under that, it's business websites, video marketing. Depending on what your core competencies are, you may be very selective about the things that you wanna be into. But the reason why I bring it back to what you do or sell and I'm gonna use the agency example as a very specific for very specific reason.

Now marketing agencies, you can look at them and say, oh, they're all doing and selling the same thing. In fact, a lot of them don't. Some of them have core competencies in PPC and social advertising. Some of them have core competencies in organic social marketing. Things like that.

So if you one of the big things you wanna be known for is PPC and how you use paid advertising with inbound. Paid advertising is gonna be one of your content pillars that you really wanna push toward. So your content strategy is not a vanity project. Sure, drive awareness and educate. But remember, awareness should lead to something at the end of the day, but it's a business objective.

It is a business move.

George B. Thomas: That's the thing. Right? So first of all, I gotta unpack a couple of things. I said be known for you said core competencies. By the way, your core competencies, what do you wanna be known for?

What is it that you're good at? But here's the thing too, Liz, is and I and I was literally losing my mind, and I I was like, I know. I know. I know. And and in my head to hold on for a second, but people talk about, like, brand awareness, content for brand awareness.

Yeah. It's it's it's the same disease of content for just awareness in general. Meaning, if you think about the buyer's journey awareness consideration decision, most companies will start creating what is easy, which is the awareness and the brand awareness in this surface level facade stuff. And it drives me crazy because it's like, what are you doing? You're inviting me to an empty room.

There's nothing here. Like, I saw the party flyer, but there's no DJ. I saw the party flyer, but there's no crowd. I saw the party flyer, but there isn't even a freaking bar where I can get, like, a Jack and Coke. Like, why did you not build the actual baseline decision and the actual, like, I need to be able to think about considering if this is actually even a good party.

Oh. So I was losing my mind. Losing my mind.

Liz Moorehead: So here's what I wanna say. I'm gonna even take this a bit a step further. And I don't have Max's fancy sensor button. Alert. Warning.

Warning. Swear word incoming. I'm about to say a swear. I am convinced that if people say, but this is for brand awareness. No.

It's not. Your audience doesn't give a shit about what that is. That is a code word for an article that you want to write for you. In some cases now here's the thing. If we're talking about awareness like education, if you think of awareness and you're immediately saying, no, I'm trying to, like, fill the top of the funnel, we are not talking about the definition that I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about are the marketers out there who cling to awareness like a lifeboat and the Titanic is going down and you're still gonna freeze to death. Like, I'm talking about not awareness stage. I'm talking to people who are like, this is to build brand awareness to make people like us. Unless your content is answering a specific question or solving a real problem, not an imagined one, for your ideal buyers. What are you doing?

George B. Thomas: Oh, just drop the mic. Just drop the mic.

Liz Moorehead: The end of the episode. No. I'm just kidding.

George B. Thomas: Alright. I mean, it's not really because we have to talk about some technical stuff. But but amazingly, we have we've used up a decent amount of time so far, like, talking about this content for content. It's amazing. I'm I'm like, oh my gosh.

We better we better get after it.

Liz Moorehead: Oh, no. Are you ready to get after it? Because that is actually my next question. Because I do.

George B. Thomas: I love getting after it.

Liz Moorehead: The reason why we had to have that conversation with you guys is because we could teach you all the technical stuff we're about to talk about, but it will absolutely do nothing for you if you do not understand at a high level, a content strategy is meant to move your business forward. Your sales team shouldn't hate it. You can actually have an editorial calendar that makes it clear where in the funnel every piece of content lives. And if somebody's asking you for a content strategy, that means you didn't do your job pulling a content strategy together. The tactics and the technology won't work.

But, George, next question. 10 years ago and today, what we just talked about was actually the same. That's what content strategies are supposed to do. But how you do it has wildly changed. So I want you to talk to me about 10 years ago.

Paint me that picture. What did it look like? What did your content strategies look like 10 years ago?

George B. Thomas: Oh, yeah. So here's the thing. 10 years ago, it was easy. And a content strategy was the fact that you picked up a blog tool. Because as you said in a previous episode, that was a BFD.

The fact that you could have a blog tool, you could have a voice, you could put it out to the world. And so strategy was understanding Google keywords because back a decade ago, you could see the keywords and you knew, okay. These are the things that I'm talking about that people like. These are the things that I'm talking about that people aren't interested in. Let me talk more about these things that are actually of interest to the people who happen to be reading this thing that is called a blog that we had to then educate people on.

Hey. It's educational articles. It's I hate the name blog, by the way. But really, let me set up a website. Let me, on that, have a place where I can create educational articles.

Let me pay attention to the keywords that Google feels and humans feel are the things that I should, do. And rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Because and by the way, most of this was textual at that point because video hadn't really come on the scene. Podcasting was there, but it was, like, for nerds.

It hadn't become mainstream yet. So we're literally talking about technical, keywords, writing, blog, maybe maybe some kind of image or 2 inside of there. Like, that's a decade ago. Crazy. And that was Converse ready.

Liz Moorehead: You crazy.

George B. Thomas: Oh, yeah. We are we are we are cutting edge. I'm telling you.

Liz Moorehead: You know what's really funny, though? You said it was so much easier back then. I remember when I was at my first inbound marketing agency. It was, like, 2014. It was Quintane based in Annapolis.

Hi, Kathleen. How you doing? She was the owner. She's now at Pavilion, an incredible company. Hi, John.

I actually found that methodology really awful. I hated it. I thought it was really and and where content strategies are today where people think it's more complicated, I was like, oh, thank god. This is so much more simple. Because the way it used to be for our lonely little content marketers is we'd have to get a keyword tool and just start randomly typing shit out and being like, I think this is what should be we should be writing about.

Or you were on the other side of the fence where you thought, oh, this is a company update we should share. We just won an award. Boom. It's like, that's an that's a media section of your website. Sir, this is a Wendy's.

Like, that's not a content strategy. Like so I actually found it really hard. So 10 years ago for me as a content strategist, I was going into whatever keyword tool I could find. And like, I guess I'll find something about insurance. I guess I'll do it this way.

I found it horrifying. Lot of guessing.

George B. Thomas: Lot of guessing. You've said you've said guessing, like, multiple times. Right? So there was a lot of guessing. That's interesting.

Liz Moorehead: Is it interesting, or is it eliminated? Well well,

George B. Thomas: it is because I think it's interesting because I think I know where you're going on how it is today.

Liz Moorehead: Well, let my ears down us there, though. You take us where we are.

George B. Thomas: Yeah. So here's here's the funny thing where my brain is going with this, Liz, is the fact that while I say that was easier back then because it was a little bit more willy nilly, if you will, today actually is easier if you have a strategy, if you pay attention to what's changed. Because where I think you might have been heading is now you, instead of guessing, realize there's a structure to follow. There's a thing that is a pillar page. There is a thing that is topic clusters.

There is this understanding of you have to get niche. Right? What do they say? The riches are in the niches if you know what you wanna be known for, and you're focusing pillars and clusters around that. And if you're paying attention to the way that things link together for SEO and the humans that are coming to those pages, now there's, yeah, now there's like, it took me a while to get the words human on this episode.

But but now there's a structure, a repeatable process that actually makes it for people like you easier to get the results that people wanna see from the content that's been being created.

Liz Moorehead: But before we get into that, I think the other thing that we have to talk about is that the way our content was ranked was wildly different back then than it was today. So I was talking earlier about, like, there There

George B. Thomas: were 7 people blogging.

Liz Moorehead: Number 1, there were 7 people blogging. So that's the other thing. So there are a few things that have changed. Number 1, you were just a little star child in the universe back then if you were creating content. Now every single one of your competitors is creating content.

We'll talk about good to great content at another time, but there are a few big things that have changed. Number 1, back then, few people were creating content. It was a BFD. It was super easy to rank because you were probably the only one who was actually writing stuff about it. Now everyone's doing it.

The other thing that's happened is that what happens when marketers get a hold of anything? They try to ruin it and then the scammers try to ruin it. Right? So Google has changed in a lot of ways how they rank content to mitigate a couple of things. For example, keyword stuffing.

They did a Google update where if you were just throwing keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword in an effort to game the system, you're out. You're getting you're getting not ranked anymore. Now they're also not only taking into account how good is the content today. What's the page experience like? How long does it take to load?

What is not just what is your website about at a high level. Like, how does all your content connect together? Do your are your images too big? Will when someone bring up your site on your on their phone or tablet, will they hate you forever? Do you have CTAs no one can close over your beautiful content?

Sorry, franking. Bye bye. So I think the thing that we have to keep in mind is that we have the human side of it. Right? We have more humans creating content now than ever before.

It is not a niche or big deal to be the person who's doing content marketing. Everybody's freaking doing it. So your content has to be good. You can't just be like, how much does it cost? $20.

Now go schedule a demo. Like, that's not gonna work anymore. Then the technical side of it is how the robots are Google overlords have wildly changed how they rank content so they can serve up more relevant results faster from websites with not shitty user experiences to their visitors, to the people who are actually searching. So that's where we're at. That's where we're at today.

George B. Thomas: I love you that you brought up page experience, and I don't wanna go too nerdy into this. But if you're a content marketer, an owner, a marketer, somebody who's trying to figure out a content strategy, and you haven't paid attention to Google Analytics 4, and the way that Google Analytics 4 is actually measuring the page different than what Universal Analytics was doing. Because bounce rate, by the way, is not in 4. It's something totally different. They don't even match up.

I might be blowing your mind right now if you're listening to this, but I'm telling you, as somebody who gives 2 squats about what Google and other search engines are doing, Look at the analytics side of it to reverse engineer what that page from a technical standpoint has to do. Anyway, I don't wanna get too deep in that nerdy part of it, but an action item, if you're if you have not yet checked out Google Analytics 4, you need to because time is running out. Universal Analytics is going away. Anyway, totally different episode.

Liz Moorehead: Yeah. We gotta talk about that. I just made a note that we're gonna do a whole episode about that. So if you're like, oh god. Not today.

It's almost Christmas. I just want to go and take a nap. We're gonna get to it. I promise. So one of the big things that has changed is this idea that you, like, think about our content strategies in the way they used to look.

Right? Just random keywords that you went out and, like, used a tool and, like, I think this is what we're supposed to be writing about. And now you're starting to hear words like topic clusters and pillar pages. Now I would pretend like most of you listening to this haven't heard these terms before, but all likelihood, you've probably heard them tossed around even though you may not understand what they are. George, I'm gonna turn it over to you here in a second to really succinctly say this is what a top cluster is and this is what a pillar page is.

But I wanna take a step back further and just say at a high level, the problem that topic clusters and pillar pages solve for is that instead of just creating these arbitrary, like, waterfalls of blog posts that you're putting out there, what it does is it brings peace, serenity, organization to your website. Your content is literally clustered by topic. It makes you more purposeful in what you choose because those topic clusters should be based around the thing that you wanna be known for, which should be related to something that you do or you sell. And so all of a sudden, you are creating content with purpose. It is an architecture that promotes clarity and purposeful content, not just any blog article you feel like making.

George B. Thomas: So, Liz, it's funny. I know that you want me to dive into what is a pillar page and what are topic clusters. And I don't mean to be any type of douchebag way when I say this, but I have videos for that. And we're gonna and and and we're gonna put videos in the show notes of this episode. So you can if you don't know, you can go watch and you can know.

Because I feel like the time is better spent telling a story of something I uncovered at inbound 2022. And that that is the fact that when I pulled the audience, because the topic was about pillar pages. It was about topic clusters. It was about the content that you were creating. And what's funny is when I pulled the audience, 80% to 85% of people raise their hands to the fact that they were making pillar pages or had created pillar pages for their website.

However, only 20% to 25% of those people said that they were creating blog content on a weekly basis. I actually had to lean it out to a monthly basis to actually get a about a 45% hand raise. They weren't creating podcasts, and they might have been creating 1 to 2 videos a month. Now ladies and gentlemen, the problem here is when you go watch the videos on what is a pillar page and what are topic clusters, you cannot say, like, 80 to 85% of the room said, yes. We have pillar pages.

If you don't have content to actually freaking support the pillar pages. And by the way, don't even get me started on if I asked if they had conversion points connected to the pillar pages air quotes that they said they had. So here's the thing, Liz, you hit the nail on the head earlier. You've heard the words tossed around. You think you maybe know what they are.

You've even maybe tried to execute on some of those things, but it's not working because you don't understand exactly how they're supposed to work together. What the user experience is supposed to be. What Google and all the search engines truly are looking for, and what you need to bring to the party to make it all work.

Liz Moorehead: George, I just want you to describe how I'm looking right now.

George B. Thomas: Like, first of all, for about half of that story, Liz has been crying, sad faced, face in hands. I don't know if she'll be able to move forward after this podcast episode.

Liz Moorehead: Oh, I I can move forward because here's what I'm thinking. I have a suggestion for you. So I know everybody's about to disappear for the holidays, and I feel like us getting into the topic cluster and pillar page conversation, that is a thing all to itself. I would like to suggest that you and I dedicate a full episode. Again, just you and me.

Sorry, Max and Devin. You left us alone. Now you must suffer. That we drop day after Christmas as a little gift to really demystify what pillar pages and topic clusters really are. What do you

George B. Thomas: think of that?

Liz Moorehead: Yeah. Okay.

George B. Thomas: Oh, I'm I love it.

Liz Moorehead: I do wanna describe at at a high level though something. And it's going to be something where it's like, if you answered yes to this question, you need to listen to that episode. If you are creating pillar pages and the term topic cluster is something you have some familiarity with, but you're like, I guess I'm not doing that. Oh, boy. You have created a long piece of content for nothing, you beautiful flower.

But let's bring this back. Let's bring this back. We're talking a lot today about what is a content strategy. Right? And it sounds like what we're walking away from is there is what is a content strategy is a high level.

And as and an evergreen way, the evergreen answer piece of this is that it is meant to establish you as an authority in the thing that you do or sell. It is a business objective, not a vanity project. It is something that your sales team should be involved in. Tactically speaking, I'd even say there are certain things that are still evergreen because I think it's really important. We made promises to business owners and salespeople and marketers that we would bring them all together around the table.

Every 90 days, you should be talking to each other. Content marketer, you should be going to leadership or whomever it is that you report to and say, hey, what are the business objectives? What are the parts of the business that are really well fed so we don't need to feed them too much? What are the parts that are underfed? Hey, sales.

What are the 5 to 10 articles I could create for you right now that would help you make your discovery calls more effective and efficient because it answers the most common questions that have almost always the exact same answers every single time. So you can send those in advance of your sales calls. What are the videos that you need? What are the pages where we really need a video to help to sell this harder? Like, what are the sales enablement pieces of content that you need?

Do you wanna know why content marketer that that business owner came into you and asked you for your content strategy instead of looking at your calendar and seeing like, oh, it's this article that connects to this service and it has this CTA. Oh, it's this article that was requested by sales that this it's because you didn't involve them in the process. You weren't collaborative in showing that your content strategy was a cross functional initiative across your company. And you didn't involve anyone or make it clear in your editorial calendar. I had in my old content calendars, I actually had a column that says, what is the business case?

Service, event, sales request.

George B. Thomas: Yeah. So with about 4 minutes left of this episode, I have to give the, hopefully, growth focused content marketer or, hopefully, the business leader another little question because you started talking about, like, ask them this. Here's another question you can ask your sales team, by the way. Jimmy, Becky, Bobby, I need you to be completely honest with me for a second because I'm not gonna get frustrated. This is an open and safe atmosphere.

Could you please show me what you've been using in the sales process that marketing knows nothing about?

Liz Moorehead: Do you know that they usually have their own little content directories of things that they've patched work together? Because salespeople are often underfed, under loved, and left to fend for themselves, but they have to drive these massive revenue goals. Alright. So we only have a few minutes left. I'm gonna forego our usual secret question because I have 2 things I wanna get to.

Number 1, I want us to each share our one takeaway. But then, George, I need you to share the big announcement that we teased at the beginning of this episode.

George B. Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Without a doubt. I've been waiting the whole time.

Liz Moorehead: What's your one thing?

George B. Thomas: My big takeaway, I'm gonna go right back to where I got super passionate at the beginning, is that sales teams need to know. And whether this is a salesperson listening to this episode, You're a marketer and you're sending it to your sales team. You're a business owner and you're sending it to your marketing and your sales team. Everybody that how somehow this has to drizzle down to sales, and sales needs to realize the biggest takeaway is content is the most powerful thing to streamline your sales process, to allow you to send less emails, to create you as more of a thought leader, to build you as a personal brand so that people go, they're the x y z goat of whatever it is that you do, and it would make no sense to purchase from anybody but you. Content can do that, and it doesn't have to be this holy crap.

This is hard to do thing. It can be micro content, written content, video content, audio con I don't care whatever way you like to best communicate to the world salesperson and people. Content is the biggest thing that most likely you're leaving on the table that could change your life and put more dollars in your wallet, which just always makes more sense.

Liz Moorehead: Dollars in your wallet, so it makes sense. I see what you did there. Alright. I'm gonna keep mine short and sweet. Going back to something I've touched upon a couple of times today.

Your content strategy can be an editorial calendar. It can be a spreadsheet that has multiple tabs that talks about video sales enablement. All of the different areas in which you are creating content to drive traffic leads and sales for your business. If someone is asking you for a content strategy outside of the processes and the documentation you already have, you need to look at the tools you already have at your disposal. There is no mythical 11 page content strategy template you just haven't found yet.

Although, part of me now realizes I feel like I need to make a content strategy template. I just feel like I need to do it. But here's what I'm gonna tell you. You don't need to go out and find something bigger and better and better to bootstrap onto your editorial document. You need to have a piece of documentation that when somebody looks at it like a business leader at a glance, they can say, yep.

I understand the business case for why this exists. And it makes sense because I know you were either involved with sales or involved with me in determining what the priorities are of what we were talking about. Georgie, guess what? It's announcement time. Announcement.

George B. Thomas: That's it. Announcement. That's it. It's it's been a pain point for years. I've taught this thing around content for years, but it's always been just for clients of agencies that I've worked for.

It's been a thing that's gone around on my brain, and and I'm just passionate about content for, like, all verticals, all departments of a business. And so the big announcement is that we have officially launched the SEO content strategy master class. Now anybody that's been following my journey, I said we, not me. Meaning, I am a business of 1 solopreneur. But we, meaning you actually have access to myself and Liz Murphy.

We're both gonna be the instructors of this SEO content master class. And what's nice is it's 6 weeks. So you're gonna have us for 6 weeks. You're gonna have us for an hour each week. We're gonna be doing q and a, and we're gonna eradicate all the things of, like, I think I know what it is, or I think I know how it should go.

Or if you're asking your question, why can't I get ROI out of my content, then this would absolutely make sense for you. But the 6 weeks, 1 hour each week, depending on what kind of seat you want. There's a basic seat, lower price. There's a premium seat. If you get the premium seat, you actually get some additional time with Liz and myself where we get into the weeds, the granulars of what do you wanna be just with you.

Well and maybe somebody from your team. But the point is we get into the granulars of what do you wanna be known for and what do those micro swim lanes look like for that macro strategy that you need to build for 2023 and beyond? What I'll tell you is that and, of course, I'm gonna let Liz talk a little bit about this too because I get passionate. I might skip some points that she thinks is important, but you can go to hub forward slash s e o. That's gonna take you to the SEO content master class.

You can sign up. By the way, it is limited registration and actually limited. It's not one of those fake jerky whatever things. It is actually limited to a certain set of seats. You'll see it on the page, and registration actually ends January 12th.

So you have between now the time that you're hearing this and by the way, it's if it's after January 12th, I'm sorry. We'll probably do we love you. We'll probably do it again. But you have until January 12th to sign up, limited seating, take your content to the next level in 2023. Liz, what else?

Liz Moorehead: Oh, it's so great. I actually was just scratching my face, but I I can definitely talk because I have a couple things I wanna add here. If you are a business owner and you're wondering, I don't need to go to an SEO content strategy masterclass. Do you have a content marketer who you'd like to be an autonomous content strategy all star using modern best practices that are repeatable, scalable, and guaranteed to drive traffic leads and sales for your business? I bet you would.

Would you like them to also know how to seamlessly, flawlessly, and in a robust and exciting way? Show you the ROI of every single piece of content you're you're creating? Would you like to suddenly, whether you're a business owner or a content marketer, have clear understanding of everybody saying a bunch of different things. What are actually the content strategy best practices that work? What does Google's helpful content update mean?

What do the Google search gods and doesn't make my boss come running around the corner going, hey, do you got that content strategy? It's also limited because it's gonna be live. And George and I wanna make sure that we have time to have people interact, show their work. There's going to be interactive and immersive pieces of this. And that's really important to us.

So when we say it's limited, we actually really mean it. Because you're not just gonna be getting our brains. You're gonna be getting our hearts. We're gonna care about your business. We're gonna care about you.

We're gonna care about your strategy. We're gonna care about you and your specific growth.

George B. Thomas: Yeah. That's enough. Just just the fact that we care and you're getting our brains. And not just my brain, not just 2 brains, caring, empathy, focused on you.

Liz Moorehead: The human.

George B. Thomas: You, ladies and gentlemen, the human.

Liz Moorehead: The human. And on that note, George, I'll talk to you early next week for topic clusters and pillars. Absolutely. Bye, everybody.

George B. Thomas: Bye. Should we actually play a little thing after the thing they're about to listen to?

Liz Moorehead: George, I have some grievances I need to share with you. Come with me after the credits.

George B. Thomas: Okay. Okay, hub heroes. We've reached the end of another episode. Will lord lack continue to loom over the community, or will we be able to defeat him in the next episode of the hub heroes podcast? Make sure you tune in and find out in the next episode.

Make sure you head over to the hub heroes dot com to get the latest episodes and become part of the League of Heroes. FYI, if you're part of the League of Heroes, you'll get the show notes right in your inbox, and they come with some hidden power up potential as well. Make sure you share this podcast with a friend. Leave a review if you like what you're listening to, and use the hashtag, hashtag hub euros podcast on any of the socials, and let us know what strategy conversation you'd like to listen into next. Until next time, when we meet and combine our forces.

Remember to be a happy, helpful, humble human, and, of course, always be looking for a way to be someone's hero. Yeah. I'm ready. I was born ready. Let's do I got a nice warm fire going in the back.

It's time for some hub heroes goodness.

Liz Moorehead: I love hub heroes goodness, especially chocolate flavored.

George B. Thomas: Oh, yes. Anything chocolate fave flavored or peppermint flavored for me will

Liz Moorehead: I recently just got into peppermint. I was usually so first of all, Starbucks, you're on blast. They have gotten rid of my eggnog latte, and I am just crushed. I know it's never coming back. They got rid of it for a year, brought it back a couple years ago, then they got rid of it again, and now it's gone.

And now basically your options at Starbucks are things that taste like warm leftover cereal milk, cold leftover cereal milk, or my new boo thang, peppermint mochas.

George B. Thomas: Oh, yeah.

Liz Moorehead: Oh, yeah.

George B. Thomas: But I

Liz Moorehead: also like white peppermint mochas. The white chocolate peppermint mocha, that's delicious. So the it's basically filling the void in my heart. Yeah. But Starbucks, what are you doing?

George B. Thomas: Yeah. See? And you can already tell this is like a holiday version of the Hub Heroes podcast because we're talking about peppermint and Starbucks and and stuff. So

Liz Moorehead: I know. It's gonna increase your ROI and leads and traffic and leads.

George B. Thomas: Yeah. ROI. That I wish I had, like, some quick punny thing about, like, that being my waist size or, like, my belt manufacturer or something based on the amount of Starbucks that I've drink or don't drink. Actually, I've I turned into a dunk Duncan guy a long time

Liz Moorehead: ago. Surprise. I'm so shocked.

George B. Thomas: Nah. Nobody's shocked.

Liz Moorehead: Okay.