2 min read

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 — 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."

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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 — as well as what it really takes to pull one together — 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 — and the process you used to get there — because you've got big gaps, my friend. 


HubHeroes Community

(We've made it easy!)

#ContentStrategy is everything in the #inbound world ... and yet defining what content strategy is, as well as what it looks like, are questions that continue to stump marketers, leaders, and sales pros alike ...

... that's why Liz and I got together for this hot takes-filled episode of HubHeroes to address what content strategy really is, once and for all: https://hubheroes.co/3W7UAnC

What is a #contentstrategy really? What's changed in the past 10 years about what they look like and how you create one? Is #brandawareness content valuable?

Liz and I answer these tough questions and more in this fiery episode of the #HubHeroes podcast: https://hubheroes.co/3W7UAnC

You think you know what a #contentstrategy is ... but you have no idea. Is it your editorial calendar? Is it an editorial calendar plus an executive summary? Why do people struggle to define it? And what do most #inbound folks get wrong about it? 

Find out: https://hubheroes.co/3W7UAnC

If you're a marketer who's been asked for a #contentstrategy and don't know what it's supposed to look like, this episode is for you.

If you're a business owner who is being given content calendars as a strategy, but there's nothing strategic about them, this episode is for you.

And if you're in sales and think your marketing's content strategy sucks, this episode is definitely for you! 

Listen in: https://hubheroes.co/3W7UAnC

A Totally Unforgettable, Unhinged HubHeroes #INBOUND23 Recap (HubHeroes, Ep. 52)

A Totally Unforgettable, Unhinged HubHeroes #INBOUND23 Recap (HubHeroes, Ep. 52)

Hey, everybody! It's Liz here, your friendly, neighborhood content strategist and co-host of the HubHeroes podcast. Now, you may be wondering why I'm...

The Ultimate HubHeroes Sales Enablement Strategy Round-up (Best of the Podcast)

The Ultimate HubHeroes Sales Enablement Strategy Round-up (Best of the Podcast)

Look, there's been some speculation that this particular charismatic HubHero (with volume control issues) was unable to attend HubSpot's...

hubspot forms contacts strategy conversions cro

HubHeroes Lampoon's Wild, Wacky, Winning HubSpot Forms Adventure (HubHeroes, Ep. 51)

In our world, where HubSpot, inbound, and content reign supreme, it's easy to overlook probably THE MOST ESSENTIAL HubSpot tool that exists. No,...

Meet your HubHeroes

Liz Murphy


Agency vet, content therapist, messaging strategist, HubHero wrangler.

Devyn Bellamy


HubSpotter, partner enabler, strategy wizard, BLACK@INBOUND.

Max Cohen


HubSpotter, senior solutions engineer, CRM evangelist, a millennial on TikTok.

George B. Thomas


HubHeroes leader, growth catalyst, guardian of humans, HubSpot expert.


[00:00:00] Liz Murphy:

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.

[00:00:10] 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 bloated like just loaded.

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 meta real quick. But first of all, max Devin, we miss you. Get well. We're thinking of you praying for you, but we gotta keep the fire burning.

[00:00:48] Liz Murphy:

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 wearing goggles like, or seeing what new throne Devin is sitting in while he just spits straight fire while sa sounding like a berry white record, like I am going to miss that a lot.

[00:01:11] George B. Thomas:

how many chairs does a guy own, by the way? I'm like, dude, I gotta up my chair game.

[00:01:17] Liz Murphy:

Obviously, we will likely bring one of our other hub hero community members in here soon. His name is Franco Valentino. He is an s e o 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's 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,

[00:01:41] George B. Thomas: I.

it's something vitally important to think about. imagine the amount of hours now I stand, I have a, like a little stool if I wanna sit down for a little bit. Cause 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. Small percentage of the time that you're doing that work is unimaginable to me.

[00:02:06] Liz Murphy:

I hate it. I'm I have a great desk chair right now in 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 one degree off. I can't cope. Liz, help me. I am sick. I have the consumption. So I'll admit for the first few days that he was sick, I'm like, oh, he's mans sick. This is not just blow your nose. Take some Mucinex and go to sleep.

But that man, I felt so guilty cuz like three 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

[00:02:59] George B. Thomas:

much. 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.

[00:03:09] Liz Murphy:

Rub some dirt on it, get over it. Jesus, walk it. Loser. Just kidding. And on that note, are we ready to talk about one of my favorite questions in the

[00:03:18] George B. Thomas:

whole world? I am, because it is one of my favorite questions, things to do, things to teach. So I'm ready to dig in.

[00:03:26] Liz Murphy:

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. Thinks that content is gonna be a major player or needs to be a baner 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 someone. 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? Yeah,

[00:04:23] George B. Thomas:

and then I have a butter and pickle sandwiches. That's what makes me happy. I'm just, okay. I knew that time.

[00:04:29] Liz Murphy:

Agree in your tracks by way. I agree. 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, no, 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? Yeah. Go on a rant. I love rants. Hmm hmm. 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, and I've seen some movement in HubSpot Academy specifically where they're starting to talk about more about how the content. 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.

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.

[00:06:00] George B. Thomas:

But here's what's funny is, and again, I do think that HubSpot and Content Marketing Institute and anybody who I 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. 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 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. 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.

To give us their wallets. Ah, 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 strategy.

Anyway, I know we'll probably dig into that, but holy crap, I just went on a little diatribe. . I'm

[00:07:33] Liz Murphy:

sorry, I'm getting a little warm in here. . Is it because George is on fire? It's a little No, but I, 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 are a business owner or a business leader, Sitting there going, I'm just probably gonna turn this off, but I'm gonna forward this onto my content marketer. Eh, wrong. I have some stuff to talk to you about. We got some problems and we need to talk about it.

If you are the content marketer who has ever said, my editorial calendars, 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 are 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.

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. Oh my God, they, I know, I know. So we're gonna do all those beautiful things and we're gonna get there. Are you ready? Do we need to shake it out a minute? Ah, we gotta

[00:09:01] George B. Thomas:

shake it out. No, 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 how about this?

How about this? Let's tell, I'll, I'll tell 'em when we get there. No, no, no, no. Make 'em hang around for a minute. No, I want you to tell them. I'll tell them

[00:09:16] Liz Murphy:


why they should hang around. Give me in one sentence why they have to listen to this episode.

[00:09:21] George B. Thomas:

Content is the most important thing that you're forgetting to.

[00:09:25] Liz Murphy:

Boom, but George. . What if you are like me? Cuz 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 then 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 hubs. Then he worked with me at Impact. he said, 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 one to 2%. And I felt like fell outta my chair. I'm like, great. One to 2% is helpful in sales. One to 2% is helpful in sales and I just felt, 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? .

they need to stick around cuz 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.

[00:10:36] George B. Thomas:

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, streamline our day is shame. Max

[00:10:52] Liz Murphy:

and Devon leave us unattended and we just sit here and spit fire all day.


[00:10:57] George B. Thomas:

we're in

[00:10:57] Liz Murphy:

trouble. We're in trouble. 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.

[00:11:08] 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 cuz it's a massive amount of. No, that's not the strategy. HubSpot, this, 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 strateg strategist, the strategy.

it's not called 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.

[00:12:12] George B. Thomas:

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, psh, eh, that my friend is not a content strategy?

[00:12:27] Liz Murphy:

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 are 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.

[00:13:02] 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 used the word be, 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.

[00:13:44] Liz Murphy:

that's the whole point. I think you, because that's why what it isn't, and we're gonna, 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. I have made my content strategy for the year, no, the most successful content strategies I've ever built, and I built them on behalf of other companies in every conceivable industry you can imagine.

I have built them for impact and we were publishing between five and eight new pieces of content a week. I've done it for companies who were ly publishing once a month, and the best 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 three 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.

Three to fives, flex spots for leadership. Now, to be fair again, this was at the company where we were publishing between five and eight 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 are always gonna have that kind of stuff, but you're right. The beautiful thing. When people are 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, especially from the SEO content strategy per. 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, more nerdy words,

[00:15:51] George B. Thomas:

more nerdy, more nerdy words that people don't understand.

[00:15:53] Liz Murphy:

We're gonna get there. Yeah. But that's why I wanna talk high level. high level without getting into the weed storage.

Yeah. What is a content strategy? .

[00:16:00] George B. Thomas:

Yeah. Here's, here's the thing, so a content strategy is a roadmap 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?

What are the three to four things? Arbitrary number listeners, it could be five to seven. I don't know your business that well, but the way I teach it is what are the three to four 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, it's this keyword or that keyword word, 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 three or four 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 to get. So I'll just start there. Very high level, 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 three to four things that you want to be known for? If you can't answer that immediately? 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 six seconds ago, and how you're gonna move forward.

It's gonna dramatically change with the rest of this podcast.

[00:17:49] Liz Murphy:

I agree with that. And, and this is an an and that's really a yes. And me, by the way. No, I'm not. Yes, anding you. Cause this is Oh, oh, you're not, no, this is, I, you know what I ha, I Yes. And has become so ubiquitous that I'm like, just say, Just say, but yeah.

Yeah, just say it just, but I like

[00:18:05] George B. Thomas:

big, big butts in it. Yeah. Anyway.

[00:18:07] Liz Murphy:

Yeah. Not why we're here. Not why we're here. No. This is a genuine, and when you're thinking about the three to four things, cuz 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 two sides of the same coin.

When you think about, I like that. Same, 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 concept 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 knowing what are the three to four things you wanna be known for, and that's not just to bring structure and clarity and cohesion and focus to your strategy. Google from a search perspective, because of the way they've updated their algorithm to include machine learning and to include AI tools like Rank Brain 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.

And understand at a high level, what are the one or two things that you are really about. . In fact, I think it's only one. So like if you're an inbound marketing agency, you may be sitting there like, we wanna talk about video marketing and we wanna talk about this marketing that. 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.

inbound 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, a 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.

[00:20:59] George B. Thomas:

That's the thing, right? So first of all, I gotta unpack couple 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, and, I had 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 cuz 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.

[00:22:14] Liz Murphy:

Losing my mind. 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, and coming. 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 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 clinging 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. 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?

[00:23:22] George B. Thomas:

Oh, and just drop the mic. Just

[00:23:24] Liz Murphy:

drop the mic. That's the end of the episode. No, I'm just kidding. All right. I mean, it's not really, no, 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

Oh no. Are you ready to get after it? Because that is actually my next question because I think I have, I love getting after it. 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 underst.

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. That's what content strategies are supposed to 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?

[00:24:30] 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. Cuz as you said in a previous episode, that was a B F D, 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, cuz 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. 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, uh, and rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

Because, and by the way, most of this was texture at that point, because video hadn't really come on the scene. Podcasting was there, but it was like for nerds. It, it hadn't become mainstream yet. So we're literally talking. technical keywords, writing blog maybe. Maybe some kind of image or two inside of there like that's a decade ago.

You crazy image. And that was . You crazy. Hey, we are, we are. We are cutting edge. I'm telling you.

[00:26:01] Liz Murphy:

You know what's really funny though? You said it was so much easier back. I remember when I was at my first inbound marketing agency, it was like 2014 and it was Quintain 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. Oh, this is a company update.

We should share. We just won an award. Boom. It's like, that's a, 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.

[00:27:07] George B. Thomas:

Lot of guessing. You've said. You've said guessing like multiple times. Right? And so there was a lot of guessing. That's interesting.

[00:27:14] Liz Murphy:

Is is it interesting or is it illuminating?

[00:27:16] George B. Thomas:

Well, well, well it is because I think it's interesting cuz I think I know where you're going on how it is today.

Well let,

[00:27:22] Liz Murphy:

why don't you start us there though.

[00:27:23] George B. Thomas:

You take us to where, . 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.

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 s.

And the humans that are coming to those pages now there's a, yeah, now there's like a, 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.

[00:28:29] Liz Murphy: But before we get into that, I think the other thing that we have to talk about is that the way our. Was ranked was wildly different back then than it was today. Oh God. So I was was talking earlier about like there,

there were seven

[00:28:40] Liz Murphy:

people blogging. number one, there were seven people blogging.

So that's the other thing. So there are a few things that have changed. Number one, 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 one, back then. Few people were creating content. It was A, B, F, D. 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 ahold 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 on keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, keyword, in an effort to game the. , you're out. You're getting, you're getting not ranked anymore now.

They're also not only taking you 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 website on your, on their phone or tablet, will they hate you forever?

Do you have CTAs? No one can close over your beautiful. Mm, sorry, ranking. Bye-bye. So I think the thing that we have to keep in mind is that we have the human side of it. 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. 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.

[00:30:38] George B. Thomas:

I, I love you that you brought up page experience, and I don't want to go too nerdy into this, but if you're a content marketer and owner, a marketer, somebody who's trying to figure out a content strategy and you haven't paid attention to Google Analytics, And the way that Google Analytics four is actually measuring the page different than what Universal Analytics was doing.

Cuz bounce rate, by the way, is not in four. It's something totally different. They don't even match up. I might be blowing your mind right now if you're listening this, but I'm telling you as somebody who gives two 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 for, you need to, cuz time is running out. Universal Analytics is going away. Anyway. Totally different episode .

[00:31:34] Liz Murphy:

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 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 topic 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 rel 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.

[00:32:59] George B. Thomas:

So Liz, it's funny, I know that you want me to dive into what is a pillar page and what atopic clusters, and I don't mean to be any type of douche bag 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 raised 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 one to two 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. George,

[00:35:03] Liz Murphy:

I just want you to describe how I'm looking, right. , ,

[00:35:06] 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. Oh, I can,

[00:35:16] Liz Murphy:

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 is a little gift to really de demystify what pillar pages and topic clusters really are. What do you think of that? Yeah. Okay.

Oh, I, I love it. I do wanna describe at a high level though, something, and it's going to be something where it's like, if you answer yes to this question, you need to listen to that. If you are creating pillar pages and the term topic cluster is something you have some familiarity with, but you're like, Hmm, 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. There is what is a content strategy as a high level and a, and an evergreen way.

The evergreen answer piece of this is that it is a 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. Halelujah, 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 'em too much? What are the parts that are under fed? Hey, sales. What are the five 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 it's like, 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.

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 hit in my old content calendars. I actually had a column that says, what is the business case?

Service event sales request.

[00:37:59] George B. Thomas:

Yeah. So with about four minutes left of this episode, I have to give the hopefully growth focused content marketer or hopefully the business leader. Another little question, cuz 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 cuz 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.

[00:38:32] Liz Murphy:

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, underloved and left fend for themselves, but they have to drive these massive revenue goals. All right, so we only have a few minutes left. I'm gonna forego our usual secret question because I have two things I wanna get to.

Number one, 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. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Without

[00:38:59] George B. Thomas:

a doubt. Okay, so been waiting the whole time. What's your one thing? 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 are 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 content. I don't care. Whatever way you like to best communicate to the world salesperson and.

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

[00:40:18] Liz Murphy:

sense dollars in your wallet, so it makes sense. I see what you did there. All right. I'm gonna keep mine. Short and sweet suite. Going back to if something I've touched upon a couple of times today, your content strategy can.

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.

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. Yeah, you need to have a piece of documentation that when somebody looks at it like a business leader, attic 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? Yeah, it's announcement time announcements. That's it.

[00:41:25] George B. Thomas:

Announce that. 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, 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 Masterclass Now. Anybody that's been following my journey, I said we, not me, meaning I am a business of one solopreneur, but we, meaning you actually have access to myself and Liz Murphy. We're both gonna be the instructors of this seo, content masterclass.

And what's nice is it's six weeks. So you're gonna have us for six weeks, you're gonna have us for an hour each week. We're gonna be d 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 that six weeks, one 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. 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, cuz I get passionate. I might skip some points that she thinks is important. But you can go to hub heroes.com/seo. That's gonna take you to the SEO Content Masterclass. You can sign up, by the way, it is limited registration and.

[00:43:17] George B. Thomas:

Li 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, 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 2020. Liz, what else? Oh,

[00:43:43] Liz Murphy:

it's so great. I actually was just scratching my face, but I, I can definitely talk cuz 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 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. Show you the ROI of every single piece of content you're creating. Would you like to suddenly, whether you're a business owner or a content marketer, have clear understanding of. , everybody's 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 God's actually look for? Now? How do I actually have a lather, rinse, repeat process every 90 days that makes me not wanna pull my hair out 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. 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

[00:45:09] George B. Thomas:

growth. Yeah, that's enough. Just just the fact that we. And you're getting our brains. And not just my brain, not just listen. Two brains, caring, empathy, focused on you, the humans.

You ladies and gentlemen. The human.

[00:45:23] Liz Murphy:


The human. And on that note, George, I'll talk to you early next week for top of clusters and pillars. Boo


[00:45:28] George B. Thomas: boo. Absolutely. Bye everybody. Bye. Should we actually play a little thing after the thing? They're about to listen.

[00:45:36] Liz Murphy:

George, I have some grievances I need to share with you.

Come with me after the credits.

[00:45:39] George B. Thomas:

Okay. 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.

[00:45:47] Liz Murphy:

I love hub heroes. Goodness. Especially chocolate flavored.

[00:45:50] George B. Thomas:

Oh yes. Chocolate. Anything Chocolate. Fav flavored or peppermint flavored for me will work. I

[00:45:56] Liz Murphy:

recently just got into peppermint.

I was usually, so first of all, Starbucks. You're on blast. Mm Uh, 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 thing, peppermint mochas.

[00:46:24] George B. Thomas:

Oh. Yeah. Oh yeah.

[00:46:26] Liz Murphy:

But I 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,

[00:46:36] George B. Thomas:

what are you doing? Yeah. See and you can already tell this is like a holiday version of the Hub Heroes podcast, cuz we're talking about peppermint and Starbucks and and stuff.

[00:46:45] Liz Murphy:

know it's gonna increase your ROI and leads and traffic and leads.

[00:46:51] George B. Thomas:

R O ROI that I wish I had a, 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 dunking guy a long time ago,surprise,

[00:47:06] Liz Murphy: surprise.

I'm so shocked.

[00:47:10] George B. Thomas: Nah, nobody's shocked. .