I’ve resisted publishing about my struggles with becoming a regular flosser and will continue to resist talking about that type of hygiene for now.
As discussed in a recent email, in the hero-hub-hygiene (originally for video) content model, hygiene content is the how-to, tutorial, what-it-is, type content that satisfies an existing demand online for that content.
Whether you are newer or seasoned at the content game, you are probably doing content one way. Put another way, you are too focused on either hub or hygiene content. (By definition, you can’t be “just doing hero content,” because that makes it hub content.)
If you’re an expert with content, you’re probably a hub content person. So let’s talk about hygiene.
Hygiene content is important
The existing demand for certain information is the predictable, measurable, and reliable traffic determined by the market size for the hard-edged problems or questions users in your market face.
Without a grasp of the top of funnel pain points common to your market, you’re not just missing out on a key traffic source, you’re ignoring the people that you are day in and day out trying to serve.
In addition, without an “answer” for common questions, your expertise has holes. I’m thinking of myself here. Do I have a robust answer for these questions?
- “What should I write about?”
- “How long should my posts be?”
- “What channels should I focus on?”
- “How often should I publish?”
- “What should I do with old or underperforming posts?”
Simple questions, highly complex to answer well given a matrix of situational considerations and the crippling perfectionism that riddles my mind.
But to be that expert, I need an answer to each that is better than “it depends.”
Hygiene content is also problematic, but not in the way you think
The “problem” with it is that this type of content is more susceptible to content competition, content debt, and content shock.
The low barriers to entry for competitors is often low as by nature this content seeks to answer often basic informational search intent.
By rooting your content strategy in hygiene content too much, you open yourself up to harder working, longer form, overpaid, content creators to chipping away at your traffic and rankings over time. With too much hygiene content collecting too much traffic, you can get spread thin and eventually become unable to defend the visibility – which, I would argue, is a good problem to have.
For subject matter experts, it’s easy to disregard hygiene as not thought-leadershippy enough.
I do this too. If it’s in my head, my ego thinks it’s worth my attention more than what a tool tells me is important.
For some reason, solid data on your target market’s demand for information on a topic, and your desire to provide input and thinking around it takes a backseat to whatever pops into your head when you’re thinking about a problem, or is sparked by some list member reply to a previous conversational email, or thoughtful blog comment.
Your content is like a tree
I like to imagine your content, business, and market(s) as an ecosystem. Your matrix of content is a tree with branches stretched out far and wide, capturing sunlight and water.
Your reach, here sunlight exposure and water collection (I’ll resist using most of the science terms like “stemflow” I just googled) account for how and how much water and nutrients are absorbed, and that in turn dictates how well you can do your job as a tree.
Hygiene content is like the branches.
You have branches that stretch out only as far and wide as they can reach. That initial reach provides hints for where more sunlight and water is so you know what direction those branches should grow in.
Without branches growing in the direction of the sunlight and water collection, a tree will die, or at least have a hard time and need to get rescued by other nearby trees.
Understand the context of your expertise as it applies to your audience and start thinking about how you’re going to grow more branches
It may be time to add peeking behind the curtain of what your market searches to your to do list. With some decent keyword research you can take an inventory of topics, their demand, competition, and potential value for you, and consider where, if anywhere, that fits in your content strategy.
Should you have a much bigger focus on SEO? I don’t know.
But you need an answer for how you are dealing with and plan to revisit the opportunity and challenges around the largest and most relevant source of new traffic to websites. And you should at the very least understand what things your market turns to the internet for to answer their questions related to your area of expertise.