A content marketing strategy without a content model is like a house built on sand.
There’s no foundation.
Sure, you might be doing the perfect keyword research that’ll bring you tons of search traffic, or have the most talented copywriters that are masters of their craft.
But without defining your content's purpose, how each publication is a piece to the bigger puzzle or standardizing consistency for accurate brand representation, your content strategy will inevitably crumble like a sand castle when the tide rolls in.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what a content model is, four reasons why you absolutely need one, and five straightforward steps that show you how to build one and how to use it (with examples).
A content model breaks your content down into types and components. Each piece belongs to a certain type—like blog post, web page, call-to-action, etc.—and each type is broken down into several components.
The components detail what your content type consists of so that every time you (or anyone on your team) creates new content, it’s consistent with the rest of your brand. For example, the components of content that fall under the “blog post” type usually consist of:
Your content model also serves as a web that brings all your published content together. It shows how each piece is related to the other so that they can work in harmony and take readers on a seamless journey across your site.
Using the blog post example again, a blog post about “how to create a content model” goes hand-in-hand with a post about “how to create pillar pages”—long-form content that answers a broad question, then links out to other blog posts that cover individual topics in greater detail.
Since you know these blog posts fall under the same type and consist of the same components and they complement each other very well, a single view of your content model will show that they’re meaningful pieces to a bigger picture.
Take a look at this example of a content model from Zoocha.
This content model takes the form of a flow chart. It demonstrates how one piece of content (a blog post) is related to others.
Online, it’s difficult to keep your branding consistent. From the colors and fonts you use to the tone of voice behind each email marketing campaign, your brand presence needs to be standardized.
Think about how many hands touch your content before it’s ever published.
It goes through writers, editors, producers, social media managers, and a variety of other teams. After traveling through the pipeline, it’s easy for each piece to look and sound different from the rest.
While all content needs to be unique, it also needs to represent you accurately.
A content model standardizes the production and formation of content without taking away your teams’ creativity. Instead, it provides an outline that guides their individual talents in a way that remains true to your brand.
Not to mention, it automates inconvenient and time-consuming tasks like formatting that only take away from more important targets.
Since content models also show how each piece of content is related to each other, you can easily self-promote in each one, provide more value to readers, and seamlessly guide site visitors through the sales cycle.
For example, the homepage of Business Insurance USA links out to individual pages that provide more detailed information about the specific types of businesses they work with:
This works much better than…
The first option would make their homepage extremely cluttered, difficult to read, and overwhelms visitors with information that’s not relevant to them. This kind of experience will only lead to frustration and high bounce rates.
The second option would cost them countless leads. People who are interested in partnering with the company aren’t given immediate access to the information they need to buy, which practically hands them over to a competitor.
Lastly, having a visual of how each piece of content complements each other can also help you easily identify content gaps—essentially, “holes” in your current content that need to be filled to satisfy readers completely.
Your website is simply a house for a bunch of individual web pages.
Blog posts, contact forms, the “about” page, and pricing pages.
But if you want to maximize sales by graduating as many leads to the end of the sales cycle as possible, your website should take on the form of a tree with beautiful branches rather than a storage unit that users have to search through.
According to Komarketing, 37% of users say poor navigation is what causes them to leave websites the most.
And a survey from Small Business Trends reveals that 94% of respondents say easy navigation is the most important feature of a website.
Not to mention, having an easy-to-navigate site makes it easier to rank for your target keywords in the SERPs (search engine results pages), as user experience is a known Google ranking factor.
Content creation becomes faster and more efficient with templates—a direct result of having a content model.
When planning content for the upcoming month(s), be sure to include which type each piece falls under so that when it comes time to create, all your writers’ focus should be on crafting the piece rather than formatting and organizing.
Your content management system (CMS) should help you do this in a cinch by allowing you to craft and save templates in a centralized location.
A content audit is the process of gathering and collecting all your current published content.
Think of each piece of content as an asset. Whether you keep it in a CMS or a simple spreadsheet, you should have one centralized location where every asset can be accounted for and easily accessed. That’s the goal of running a content audit.
Before you create a content model, you need to know what you’re working with. This will make it significantly easier to identify content gaps, organize each piece into types, and create templates that contain all the necessary components.
Here’s an example of a content audit from SEMRush:
As you can see, each entry contains the URL to the content piece, the type, and a breakdown of the most important components (such as format, title, meta description, headings, and more).
You likely already had a basic idea of the types of content you’d like or need to publish. And with a fresh content audit, you now also have a full view of the types you’ve already created.
Based on this information, it’s now time to identify and bring your content types and components to life.
First, solidify your content types. The most common ones include:
Next, identify which components are essential to include in each one.
I’d encourage you to work with what you already have (using your content audit) so that your content stays consistent. Then, identify any additional components you think your content types would benefit from.
It’s important to note that components go deeper than “title,” “headings,” and “body.”
Each type will have (sometimes drastically) different components. Take a look at this diagram example from Hygraph, which details the components of three content types (SEO metadata, customer spotlights, and a landing page):
Next, build templates from your list of content types and components and store them somewhere your team has easy access to, such as your content management system.
Copy.ai helps with this step and automates as much of the process for you as possible.
A content generator fueled by the power of AI, Copy.ai generates premium-quality copy in seconds. You can choose from 90+ content-type templates, from blog content to digital ad copy.
You’ll have consistency across the board—by creating content with Copy.ai, your templates are easy to access and never change. Simply fill in the project details, provide a few sentences of context, and then polish the end result before publication.
Each piece of content you create is a piece of a bigger picture—what is that? What is the journey you’re attempting to take readers on?
As demonstrated in the example of Zoocha’s content model, your content model should also work as a flow chart that helps you pinpoint how your pieces can mutually benefit one another.
When they work in conjunction, readers of one piece can seamlessly continue their journey with the next, allowing you to further solve their problems. This earns their trust, which in turn, earns their business.
Pillar pages come in handy for this. I touched on this earlier, but a pillar page answers one broad topic and then links out to blog posts that explore more specific questions in-depth. For example, a blog post for a broad keyword like “ecommerce copywriting” can link out to other, more specific posts such as:
The most common way to connect these content pieces is by simply incorporating them into the existing content naturally through hyperlinks. Typically, there’s no CTA such as “read this post” or “click here.” Instead, the anchor text is simply relevant keywords that already fit in with the rest of the content.
This way, you’re continuing to provide value to your readers without disrupting them with unnatural, out-of-place advertising.
Last, use your content audit results and identified content types to pinpoint content gaps you can fill either through new content, new types, and components, or adding onto current ones.
Think of content gaps as areas of opportunity to expand on and further solve for user intent. That’s what they are.
Take another look back on your web of content and the relationships you’ve identified between each content type. What new content would improve the relationship between your current pieces? How can you expand your content map for the better?
Do you need more blog posts?
Does a certain web page contain too much information that can be broken down into its own page (such as the Business Insurance USA example we looked at)?
Do your email copy templates need to include more CTAs?
Congratulations! You now have a content model and a complete framework on how best to use it. From defining your content types and components to identifying and filling in content gaps with them, your content model is ready to take center stage and lead your content marketing efforts to success.
Write 10x faster, engage your audience, & never struggle with the blank page again.