Creating a Content Hierarchy

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Last updated: May 2020
A fundamental part of a successful content marketing strategy is maximising your output with minimal effort. You might have heard the term ‘sweating your content’ before and despite the unfortunate images this may conjure up, it’s not a bad analogy. Essentially, the idea is to make your content work as hard as possible, getting the most out of one core message to amplify it far and wide, ‘sweating’ it until you’ve achieved your goals.

There are several benefits to creating interlinked hierarchies of content, with one ‘hero’ piece acting as a focal point that breaks off into smaller, more focused pieces. This approach helps your website visitors navigate to closely-related material, while also improving your search visibility (the more quality focused content you have, the greater chance you have of ranking for specific search queries), and extending your reach on social media, not to mention giving you material for outreach publishing opportunities on third-party websites.

So, with that in mind, here’s our guide to creating a content hierarchy that is guaranteed to put you top of the pecking order.

Strategic Content Hierarchies

The aim of the game is to create a web of content that complements every other strand, like a family tree that branches off into different directions but can easily be traced back to where it all began, giving both users and search engine bots a clear roadmap of your website.

Content may be king, but context is certainly queen, so firstly you need to consider what type of content you want to produce and what purpose it is to carry. For example, as a content marketing agency, we plan to publish a white paper on content marketing strategies; hopefully our audience will find this useful, with the purpose being it showcases our expertise in such a way that others might reference our report (earning backlinks, boosting SEO), while also potentially encouraging prospective clients to get in touch.

Thus, the white paper (WP) will be the ‘hero’ content, from which we can create a series of blog posts, focused on different points raised within the WP, drilling into specific arguments or exploring individual stats. These will naturally all link back to the WP, as well as most likely referencing each other.

We can then write an article for publication on LinkedIn, summarising the key findings of the WP and presenting them in an abridged format, more suited for consumption on the social network. Furthermore, we’ll conduct some prospecting and influencer outreach with a view to contributing guest articles on related websites with large audiences, articles which will reference both the WP and the secondary blog posts published on our own site.

In very basic terms we’ll land up with a web of content that looks a bit like this:

A web of content

By interlinking intelligently within these articles, we’ll very quickly build up a large collection of content all focused on a specific theme / keyphrase, i.e. “content marketing strategy”. This will send the right signals to Google, ensuring we naturally begin to rank highly for our target phrase, helping potential customers find our website and, hopefully, enlist our services.

Every time you link to a web page (even those on your own site), you boost its authority, especially if using keyword-rich (but not spammy) anchor text. In layman’s terms, search engine bots regard hyperlinks as signals of relevance, so every time you link to a page you’re effectively ‘voting’ for it, giving it a boost in the rankings for relevant search terms.

Thus, in this example, our white paper is receiving several first-hand links, but also several secondary links (an outreach article links to a blog post which, in turn, links to the white paper) vastly increasing its authority as the ‘link juice’ flows through the web.

Additionally, when we link to an outreach article from our blog, and vice-versa, we’re giving each page a ‘vote’, helping to boost their presence in search results, aiding our cause even further. This may be only a marginal gain on an individual basis, but when done routinely this game plan can pay dividends.

This type of linking also gives Google further signals; it looks at the content of the pages that have been linked to, and if there’s semantic relevance between them, it will further boost your authority. As such, you shouldn’t link to a page that is irrelevant to your content, because Google will get confused and remove some of your perceived relevance.

Similarly, Google will look at the other pages on the site you’re linking to or getting links from, even if you’re not linking to them directly. That is to say, obtaining a link from a site that’s wholly dedicated to content marketing will carry much more SEO weight for me, rather than a link from a site has one page on content marketing, one on health and another on film reviews etc.

Below is a breakdown of how we might map out a content hierarchy for our target phrase.

Target KP: Content Marketing Strategy

  • White Paper: What makes a great content marketing strategy?
  • Blog: Why your businesses needs a content marketing strategy
  • Outreach: Content marketing strategy for startups
  • Outreach: B2B content marketing strategy. What is important in 2017?
  • Outreach: How to plan a small business content marketing strategy
  • Blog: Why strategy is so important in your content marketing efforts
  • Outreach: 5 key elements of a content marketing campaign
  • Outreach: Setting goals for your content marketing and outreach activity
  • Outreach: Getting ROI from your content marketing
  • Blog: How to plan a content marketing strategy
  • Outreach: Planning a content marketing strategy that delivers
  • Outreach: Putting your content marketing plan into action
  • Outreach: How to build flexibility into your content marketing strategy
  • LinkedIn: Building an effective content marketing strategy that delivers ROI

The key advantage of this approach is that you only have to do the hard research once, i.e. when you’re producing the white paper. The additional content will be a development and repurposing of existing data and ideas. Yes, you have to give it a unique twist every time (Google will severely penalise you if you litter the Web with duplicate content), but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Needless to say, you don’t have to follow the above idea, and this is not the only form of content hierarchy. We are doing something similar with Guides and related chapters on our blog. This works on a more traditional hierarchy format, but again we can spin off a series of blogs from every guide ,or indeed chapter, helping to easily create more content from one central idea.

Having this framework in place ensures that, not only is our content calendar clearly defined with a smooth pathway between each piece, but we’re also acutely aware of the keywords and phrases we’re targeting as part of our overall strategy, laying the foundations for effective digital copywriting.

Ultimately, relevance is the key to success, and that’s the word you have to bear in mind when forming your content plan. Be sure that every proposed piece of content is relevant to your audience, and then look for natural ways of linking it to your complementary material.

Highly-focused content marketing

Your output should not be limited to written content, as multiple mediums can form part of the perfect content marketing mix. Perhaps you could conduct a survey and write your findings up in the white paper, but also visualise some of the data in an infographic.

You could also host a Facebook Live broadcast discussing the contents of your white paper, inviting people to download it and answering questions as they come pouring in from your fanbase.

Or you could use the white paper as the basis of a webinar, taking people through your report page-by-page. A recording of the webinar can then be uploaded to YouTube, while your slides can be made available to download from SlideShare.

This gives you a wealth of content to ‘sweat’ on social, and obviously does wonders for your keyword relevancy. I can’t stress this enough, and I find many content marketers fail at this hurdle, but a huge part of your strategy should be determining the keyword focus of your content at the outset, so you can make sure each piece answers a specific question related to a core group of key phrases.

Always consider: Why are you creating this content? Is this content going to be useful to my target audience? How does one piece relate to another? How can I ‘sweat’ this till I cross the finish line?

If you’d like some guidance on creating a content hierarchy that is guaranteed to get you noticed, drop us a line at

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Magnus Linklater SEO Consultant

Author: Magnus Linklater

Magnus is an SEO specialist and online marketing professional with over 20 years of digital and traditional marketing experience.

As the founder of Bespoke Digital, Magnus has worked on technical site audits and content marketing campaigns for hundreds of clients and regularly writes about SEO strategy, tips & tricks.

Find Magnus on LinkedIn

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