Take advantage of content hubs to become an authority in your industry, strengthen your audience and drive business results
If we look at successful media and entertainment companies today, from streaming platforms to major newspapers, we’ll see that all of them have something in common: great curation and fantastic content experience.
A decade ago we used to say that “content is king”, but having great content is just the tip of the iceberg in a context when thousands of pieces of content are uploaded everyday. We are in the age of content curation and personalization, so you have to make your brand stand out not only by offering amazing content but guiding the audience through it.
Contemporary customers live in constant “FOMO” (Fear of missing out) when it comes to content and don’t always know the type of content they are looking for. A recent study from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business showed that 75% of young adults are afraid of missing out on events, news and important status updates if they are away from social networks – and that applies to other audiences as well.
In that context, media companies can help curating and organizing different pieces and formats of information in a seamless content experience.
A great way to do that is through Content Walls, also called Content Hubs. In this post, we will explore the concept of content walls, its main features, and how to incorporate them into your content strategy.
What are Content Walls?
A content wall is a digital hub where your audience can find curated content in different formats and about different topics. The main asset of content walls is the structured user experience. Content walls can be used for editorial purposes, by publishers, or companies that wish to structure proprietary channels, like educational or corporate channels for clients and employees.
Content walls host blog posts, social media posts, user-generated content and any other format related to a given topic. They are usually managed through content management systems (CMS).
You still might be asking: how is a content wall different from a regular website or a blog? Well, technically, a content wall can be juxtaposed to them both. It can be a microsite or a collection of pages on a website with various content types.
The thing is a content wall is not just a repository of contents. It takes into account not just the content itself, but the way audiences will interact and navigate through it.
In a nutshell: content walls are about packaging good content and delivering in it a coherent way to first visitors and loyal customers and readers.
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Why your company should invest in content walls
We will later dive into each benefit of content walls for publishers and media companies, but essentially, this is what companies can expect from them:
- Positioning companies as authorities in their subjects of interest
- Monetizing audiences directly
- Aligning marketing and editorial sides of your business
- Decreasing reliance on traffic from social platforms
- More ownership over your audience.
The benefits of content walls for publishers and media companies
More than any other sector, publishers and media companies naturally generate tons of content for the final audience and business partners – from articles and videos to social posts and live streams. Their content is spread all over the internet, so it should be intuitive for them to work on multiple content walls.
However, publishers historically focus on producing high-quality content, not necessarily creating a holistic content experience.
Media companies now indirectly compete with social platforms and video on demand services (VOD) for the audiences’ attention, because, just like them, they depend on users spending time on their pages in order to sustain the business. In that sense, content walls play a crucial role in their engagement strategy.
Now, let’s explore how content walls can help publishers attract readers and subscribers, while also building trust among the audience.
Positioning your company as an authority in your industry
Customers want trustworthy content and usually have a few favorite websites where they actively go or subscribe to. If you want your company to be this go-to destination, content walls are the way to go. They can position your brand as a source of knowledge and excellent curation, and authority is the main attribute to drive audience loyalty.
Boosting visibility and discoverability
Having a collection of deep, useful content for your target audience can help publishers boost organic traffic through search and website visits. That’s because content walls are meant to give users context about one or more topics, and search engines are increasingly considering intent, context, and the link between different pages in the ranking of contents.
More control over your content
One of the biggest complaints of leaders in the publishing industry is that the content their teams work so hard to produce tends to end pulverized (and often unmonetized) across the internet.
Content walls, however, allow publishers to have more control over how content is displayed to readers and also act as a welcoming door for new customers who are just getting to know your brand. Besides, direct traffic on your content walls is far more interesting because you can tailor the users’ experience – instead of letting it be done by some social media algorithm.
Generating qualified leads
Let’s say your content generates millions of monthly page views, but you want to turn visitors into subscribers. Content walls allow you to generate leads by tailoring the content experience that best suits their interests. They also help you attract intentional – not just passive – users. The idea is that you’ll be able to guide the audience through the conversion funnel by presenting them with useful information. When it’s time for them to choose a new channel to subscribe, your company will be on top of their minds.
Obtaining marketing and editorial insights
Your content walls can provide your company with valuable analytics reports about audience engagement, navigation patterns, and most successful content pieces. Then, your editorial team can use insights to redirect content strategy according to interests shown by the audience, while marketing and sales teams can use them to profile customer clusters and have more accurate information for advertisers.
Improving digital metrics
By improving your content’s environment and how your audience navigates through it, you can leverage performance not only in isolated pieces of content but in your overall content properties. While showing curation and editorial expertise, you are likely to increase time spent in your content walls, number of monthly unique visitors, and click-through rates (CTRs) in your call to actions, for instance.
Improving digital metrics also means having better numbers to advertisers who support your business model.
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What types of content can you host in a content wall?
Content hubs can host a variety of different formats: articles, e-books, how-to guides, videos, embedded social feeds, links to webinars, podcasts, etc. The type of content you choose to host in a content wall will depend on your strategy. The content displayed can be produced in house, curated through credible sources, picked from social media, or user-generated.
If your company is a news publisher, it will probably prioritize content produced internally, like reported articles and opinions from collaborators. If your company focuses on the sports business, it could prioritize videos, social posts from commentators, and infographics from other credible companies in the industry, and so it goes.
Sometimes, even ads can be part of your content wall strategy – used with moderation, of course. Let’s say your company (or one of its business partners) has an upcoming live event in the next few weeks. A content wall can support the promotion of it, whether by displaying campaigns itself or contents related to the event content.
No matter the formats, the key for successful content walls is to provide and interactive categorized experience.
Content walls are customer-centric by nature, so It’s important to note that content walls are NOT spaces for overtly sales-oriented content.
Sure, content hubs can lead to higher conversion rates in any business, but their main purpose is to serve users with useful information, regardless if they are buying something from you. Eventually, if your customer decides you are an authority in something, buying one of your products might cross his or her mind.
Neither a content hub is a landing page that simply links to your existing content. Remember: a content wall offers a curated experience with clear navigation across relevant topics and formats.
Marketing automation company Hubspot suggests dividing your content hubs into pillar pages containing clustered content and connecting all of the content through hyperlinks.
Examples of Content Walls
Still difficult to visualize what a content wall is? Here are a few practical examples:
Sports website Sportsnet created a very intuitive content wall that shows users where to find content about different sports leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB, etc) and in different formats, indicating where to access TV listings, live streamings, polls, and others. It also integrated the wall with several tweets from sports personalities and leagues.
Another sports website, Brazilian platform Torcedores built a content wall that mixes, in an organized way, news highlights, articles from columnists, and even a bar with videos stories about different topics.
Content wall features
Now, let’s take a look into the main content wall features. In order to structure a compelling content wall, you will need to have access to a good content management platform. Most of them offer you a set of common tools, such as:
- Customizing the URL of your wall according to strategic keywords
- Customizing visual themes and aesthetic aspects of your content walls after your branding guide.
- Adding new content walls throughout time: You could structure your content wall in a few copy desks (maybe 3 or 4 topics), and increase the number of covered areas over time.
- Sending users and subscribers a daily summary of new content added to the walls.
- Curating recommendations that will be shown as a list of suggestions next to the piece of content your user is accessing.
- Displaying social buttons on content shown in Content Walls, like sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Email, WhatsApp, or SMS.
- Generating RSS Feeds from specific Content Walls
11 steps to implementing successful content walls
Even though content walls sound conceptually simple, building them requires you to sit down and align the content strategy not only with editors and content producers but also with design, IT and social media teams. In the next paragraphs, we’ll explore the basic steps of creating a functioning content wall.
- Pay attention to design and usability
As we mentioned before, user experience is a major factor in making your content wall appealing to the audience. Content walls usually house numerous content pieces, so you want your customer to have simple, user-friendly navigation through your wall.
Structurally, content walls have to be easy to skim. It is important that the interface is clean and intuitive, making sure it’s easy to navigate between related pages in the content hub. Generally, the fewer clicks it takes to get to the content from the homepage, the better. You want people to find it quickly just so they don’t leave your site. Content walls must have clear links to other pages in the hub, to the main hub page and other relevant content.
In terms of design, content hubs can be inspired by digital magazines and social media interfaces, but make sure it also transmits your brand’s unique look and feel.
- Be thoughtful about content categorization
The acceptance of your content wall will also depend on how content is categorized. All your chosen content categories should be able to host frequent publications and respond to the audience’s needs.
When it comes to deciding the number of sections and which ones, be straightforward. Ask yourself: What are the single most important topics that will interest your audience and relate to your business goals? How many categories is your team able to handle from the start?
There is no use coming up with categories that you “assume” that relate to the customers. Do the research and rely on data to decide that. Besides, it can be tempting to come up with more categories than necessary. For example: if your team decides content can be divided into six sections, make sure all of them are constantly monitored and can be updated in the same frequency, just so there are no gaps in the publication pace.
- Monitor competition
In order to make your content wall stand out, it’s nice to have a good idea of what your competitors are doing. How can you make your content better or different? What kind of formats are they working on? Should you use them too and add your company’s flavor to them? Tools like BuzzSumo allow you to monitor your competitor’s activity. Think of how your company could join interesting conversations in an original way.
- Repurpose your existing content
So, assuming your company has produced content before having a content wall, it’s recommended that you review existing blog posts, presentations, infographics, webinars, and other formats to see what can be revisited or reworked.
Can you reuse the contents you have and present them in a different format for a particular channel? For example, if you’ve created a series of analytic articles about a given topic, can you turn them into blog posts that can be promoted at a content wall section? You can add new details to “old” content, linking recent news related to the subject, new statistics, and so on. Repurposing content avoids unnecessary rework and gives you the chance of prolonging the life of your existing content.
- Create a publishing plan
A good editorial plan for a content wall should have a mix of timely and “evergreen” content. The first type relies on cues from news or recent industry moves, while the second focuses on content that won’t “get old” and has the potential of bringing traffic in the long-term. Combining these two types of content is interesting to bring immediate and long-term engagement.
- Choose a flexible content management tool
Optimizing the maintenance of your content walls also requires a flexible content management system (CMS), once your wall will probably be managed by different editors and content creators at the same time. A CMS should make it easy to plan, create, publish, and update content.
The process of adding new content and reaching for images, videos and widgets should be quick and easy for every team member.
- Tag your content
Tag and organize your content according to particular topics and personas to build experiences that mirror customers’ journeys. Also, optimize meta descriptions, URLs and page titles to optimize SEO results.
Linking the walls to other sections of your website also helps search engines semantically understand the relationship between subjects.
- Monitor trends
The premise of content walls is that every brand is a publisher with the mission of providing useful, updated content to the audience. It’s important that your team constantly monitors conversations about the topics related to your coverage and industry.
You can use free tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends to get an idea of popular trends. Other good ideas are to monitor questions posed on online forums and social media groups, do hashtag searches, and set up Google Alerts based on your important keywords.
From there, your team can prioritize content that will go on the content wall and even have ideas for new content sections.
- Keep track of important KPIs
After building your content walls, there are some important performance indicators you should keep track of. You should frequently check on organic traffic levels and referral traffic levels to get a better sense of how the audience is receiving your content.
Other good metrics to follow up include the number and quality of third-party websites mentioning your content, social shares, and returning visitors. Through analytics platforms, It’s also nice to monitor where your audience is coming from and where they go to after leaving your content walls.
- Work on personalization
Besides having an interesting content wall that looks appealing to a heterogeneous audience, publishers should find tools that recognize each person and provide personalized experiences based on their unique interests and navigation patterns.
After categorizing content contextually, it’s time to design targeted experiences around it. They could involve personalized messages, push up notifications, or a personalized newsletter for clusters of customers, for instance. By addressing each customer’s specific interests, you can boost engagement and customer loyalty.
- Optimize distribution
Now that you’ve created your content walls, it is important to market them in different distribution channels. Your team should consider different profiles of customers and the stage of their relationship with your brand. Are they already subscribers? Have they just accessed your website for the first time? Different stages require different approaches, but some strategies can work across different profiles.
- Internal links: Just as important as having content walls filled with relevant content, it is crucial that content sections have links to each other and for relevant places on the content wall. That shows the audience and search engines that your content is important.
- Referral Traffic: A great strategy can be outreaching to relevant websites and communities related to your areas of coverage. Your team can build relationships with sites and brands that share a common audience with your company, with the purpose of driving referral traffic to your website through their channels as well.
- Partnerships and endorsements: Endorsements and partnerships might be tricky for publishers because they need to have editorial independence. However, sponsorships are not always harmful. Imagine a newspaper that has an entrepreneurship section on a content wall. Why not having a rising startup endorse and promote the section in their channels during an arranged period? The partner will certainly be happy to be featured in the paper, while it can get new sources of traffic.
- Paid media: If you want to reach audiences outside your existing customer base, it might be interesting to invest in social ads targeted at specific communities you want to attract.
Finally, there are no more walls between your company and content walls. Structuring content hubs is a complex journey, but it pays off in the long run.
If you think it’s time to incorporate content walls into your strategy, you might want to check out Arena’s Content Wall solution. Our consultants are ready to solve any doubts about how to manage content, pricing, and other details.