About four or five years ago, Google shared a content strategy.
This was exactly the guidance businesses and creators needed as many stumbled around trying to figure out what kind of content to make to gain an engaged following.
Google introduced the concept of Hero, Hub, and Hygiene content — three types of content that work together to create a follow-worthy channel.
This was originally described specifically as a YouTube content strategy. But many people have applied this concept to all types of content marketing, and the Hero, Hub, Hygiene model mostly holds up outside of YouTube, too.
The idea is that creators should make three different kinds of content. Each type serves a different purpose, and together they become a perfect storm of broad audience reach, maintaining connection with a loyal audience, and being discoverable by new audiences.
So here’s what Hero, Hub, and Hygiene mean:
What is Hero Content?
Hero content is that pow, amazing, awesome content.
This is high-production content that takes a lot of resources to create and it doesn’t come about without a lot of planning and development.
For the biggest brands, Hero content might come out monthly, but probably more like once or twice a year.
An example of of Hero content would be WestJet’s Christmas Miracle videos. Every year, they publish a great video where they grant incredible Christmas wishes to their customers.
This is the most recent one, from Christmas 2019.
These videos make a very strong brand impression and get shared to hundreds of thousands or millions of people.
Hero content is great at attracting new audiences and making a big impact. It reaches many new people and creates new fans, and also retouches existing less-engaged audiences and refreshes the connection with them.
What is Hub Content?
Hub content is your regular, recurring content. It’s something that your audience expects — they know that it’s coming and they’ll come back for it. Because they look forward to it.
This isn’t as high-production as Hero content. It’s just quality content that your biggest fans will enjoy. So, remember that: The audience is people who know you and are already loyal to you. Adapt your content accordingly.
Hub content could be published a couple times a week for bigger content creators, but is more likely to be a once to a few times per month.
For almost two years, I published a video called the Monday Marketing Minute every week. That series would be an example of Hub content. Our followers would expect it and watched it weekly.
Here’s the last one I did before we hit pause on this series for a while.
Hub content keeps in touch with your loyal audience, continuing to maintain and build your relationship with them. This is about building depth with a smaller audience, not about “going viral” and reaching a huge audience like in Hero content.
What is Hygiene Content?
Lastly, there’s Hygiene content. This is content that serves the people who are searching for something.
There are millions of people typing searches into Google/YouTube/wherever every minute. Hygiene content aims to provide the search result for that audience.
When you create content that aims to be discovered by specific searches, that is Hygiene content. This would include a lot of how-to videos and blogs and infographics. It’s often informative content. For this reason, Hygiene content is sometimes also referred to as Help content.
This kind of content would be produced more frequently than Hub content. It might even be daily content, if you’re able.
This very article is an example of Hygiene content. My intent in writing this is to be discovered by someone searching for content marketing strategy or for an explanation of Hero, Hub, Hygiene, specifically.
Hygiene content is great at being discovered by new audiences and providing them with an answer to a question they have, beginning a new potential relationship.
But Then There’s Pow, Push, Pull
Along similar lines to Hero, Hub, Hygiene, you can also think of these content types with the titles of Pow, Push, Pull.
Since this original Hero, Hub, Hygiene strategy came directly from Google and was intended for YouTube, there is a bit of a wrinkle when you apply this to a larger content creation strategy that includes blogs and social media and more.
Hero, Hub, Hygiene is a way of splitting up content types by how it serves different audiences. Remember: Hero is wow stuff that’s riveting and emotionally engaging and share-worthy; Hub is expected and scheduled and your audience comes to you to watch it; and Hygiene is most frequent and hopes to appear in search results to new audiences.
This model starts to break down a bit when you add social media to the mix, because it is going to be your most frequent content in almost all cases, but it isn’t usually created for search discovery (like Hygiene), and it’s not necessarily regularly recurring and scheduled and expected (like Hub).
So where does social media fit?
I like to think in the Pow, Push, Pull model. And those terms layer onto Hero, Hub, and Hygiene really well.
Hero = Pow, which means that big knockout piece of content that you put everything behind and hope to reach a huge audience and make a massive impact.
Hub = Push, because it’s content that is pushed out to your existing audience. They are there to receive it and have followed you to enjoy what you push out into the world.
Hygiene = Pull, because it’s content that can be discovered by people who are searching, pulling them in to your audience.
Pow, Push, Pull is better for a multi-platform strategy, because it allows for social media, which would fall into Push content.
It’s what you publish to existing followers — pushing out to an audience that wants to receive it — which sounds like Hub content, but social media doesn’t really fit parts of the Hub definition (like being expected and recurring and part of a series).
It does, however, maintain Hub’s intent of deepening relationships with existing followers. That’s the biggest strength of social media.
If we take the Pow, Push, Pull perspective, the hierarchy of the model would need to change, with Push and Pull being equally important and frequent, and Pow retaining that top section that’s least frequent but most impactful.
Neither Push nor Pull is more important than the other. Different brands will often focus on one more than the other, but that is a brand choice about how you want to build an audience. You can balance them equally or lean one way or the other, but they’re equally valuable content types that play very similar roles.
And with Push and Pull rather than Hub and Hygiene, there’s more ability to repurpose across channels.
For instance, this article is Pull content, but it originated as a Monday Marketing Minute video (Push content), and I will repurpose again it with links and top points and graphics shared to social media (Push content again).
In today’s content creation reality, very few people are only creating on one platform. So Pow, Push, Pull is great at being able to incorporate beyond YouTube.
For brands looking to enjoy the rewards of content marketing, being intentional with a Pow, Push, Pull strategy is a reliable way to get great results.