Inbound Marketing Success Blog

Insider Insights from Inbound 2017

Posted by Andy McClure on Oct 5, 2017 9:16:03 AM

Last week I attended Inbound 2017, THE conference for people seeking online marketing results, hosted by HubSpot in Boston. While it may be possible to:

  • read up on what’s been working for companies that achieve online marketing success
  • pay attention to each new trend that has the potential to change the game once again
  • and distill all that into an online marketing plan

...there is just no substitute for being on the ground at this kind of event, surrounded by new technologies and industry luminaries who can spell out what it all means for marketers and business leaders.

For one, HubSpot announced some very cool stuff -- advancements to their platform to make it much easier to deliver on the promise of online marketing.

What was even cooler than new features, though, was the peek into the future that company executives and other industry leaders shared... about what is happening in the online marketing world, and what we all need to be doing to keep up.

This post is to share one of the most important insights -- the evolving strategies for developing online content as a means of marketing your business.

First Lesson: think about, and plan, your content in “clusters” not simply individual topics. In developing content for a company website, such as blog posts, videos, free reports, and the like, the logic used to be “the more you create, the bigger your net, the more leads you’ll get.” As long as the topic was something your prospective buyer cared about and was in the same category as other content on your site, then it was worth publishing. You can think of this strategy as building a site that is a mile wide and a foot deep -- lots of individual posts that, while they may be linked together as appropriate, they more or less stand alone.

That strategy will no longer generate superior results.

As Google has refined how it steers searchers to the most relevant and useful information, their algorithms have begun to prioritize sites with a cluster of relevant content, anchored by a comprehensive overview page or post (“pillar” or “cornerstone” content), above other sites.

Experts attribute this change to two factors: 1) users are searching differently, including asking Siri, Google, Alexa or other assistants to answer less structured questions like “where should we go to dinner tonight?” and 2) the search engines recognize that if users don’t seem to have their questions answered on the first page they reach, their experience is much better if they are at least directed to a site that includes a “cluster” (get used to that word) of content that likely does include an answer to their question.

2) Ungate at least some of that premium content. A tenet of online, content marketing, had been “offer helpful content to the public, but reserve the really good stuff for folks who give you their contact information.”

That strategy too, is old news.

Certainly, there can and should still be premium content on your company’s site that you provide only in exchange for contact information or even more details about the visitor. The trouble is, however, that rich, gated content isn’t helping your site get found in the first place.

Each general topic you decide to cover on your site should be anchored by a lengthy, comprehensive, public page that Google can see. This “pillar” page should then be surrounded by more detailed posts that tackle specific or related questions (and, thankfully, don’t need to be as long).

Voila, you now have a cluster of content that Google is more likely to steer visitors to see than if you merely had a post that closely matched their search phrase.


As I have said many times, there is no free lunch when it comes to getting new visitors to your company’s website. Over the years, short-sighted SEO tricks have been punished and caused more harm than good. If you have been diligently developing blog posts and other content that is truly useful, you’ll be a step ahead of others as you rework it to follow this cluster/pillar model.

If you have any questions about how to make it happen, we are here to help.


Topics: content marketing, Inbound marketing, blogging