The article page is probably the simplest page type on your website, but it’s also the most important. As I’ve said over and over again in this series, a good prospect is far more likely to begin their session on your website on a lower-level page than on a top-level page like your home page. Article pages are exactly what I have in mind when I say “lower-level.” It’s not that they’re of lower importance, they’re just lower in the information architecture of the site. They’re the “children” of your content marketing hub. And since a healthy content marketing hub adds several of these kinds of pages every month, it’s critical to anticipate a prospect’s experience when designing the template they use. In this article, I’ll explain my recommendations for a more effective content marketing article layout.
What Kinds of Content Use the Content Marketing Article Layout
Generally speaking, any piece of “content” you produce could use the same article page layout. In fact, I recommend that all the major forms of content that our clients tend to produce use this same layout with some minor exceptions. That means that every blog post, white paper, webinar, and podcast listed on your website can use the same content marketing article layout. What will differ on these pages, of course, is the content itself.
Let me explain two very common content differences that your content marketing layout should anticipate.
1. Gated Content
My next article will explain my recommendations for how gated content pages should be designed, so you can anticipate some more detail to come on that topic after this. As a preview, though, I’ll go ahead and say that gated content ultimately uses the exact same article layout, but has two versions of it. There’s a pre-gate state, which strips out everything but a content introduction and a short form to fill out to gain access to the rest. And then there’s a post-gate state, which is what a prospect will see once they’ve filled out the form. Spoiler alert: it looks exactly like any other article on your site.
2. Embedded Media
Content types like podcasts and webinars are natively non-text. But one of the major reasons to include them on your website is to get some SEO benefit from the expertise you share with this media. The best way to do that is to transcribe your podcasts and videos and make that text available to be crawled by search engines. So that’s step one in thinking about your content marketing article layout: anticipating a lot of text. A transcription of a 30-minute podcast, for example, could easily run beyond 4,500 words.
But for most of the humans who discover this content via search engines, the original format is what they really want. So that’s where embedded media comes in. You’ll want to embed audio and video players for this content as well as include introductions and transcriptions. Your content marketing article page should be able to handle typical blog posts, which generally have text and images, as well as podcasts and webinars, which will be exactly the same plus some embedded media.
Fewer Layouts is Easier for Everyone
My recommendations are always grounded in practicality, so while there’s no harm in having unique layouts for all your individual marketing content types (as long as they prioritize the right strategic elements), I aim for as few as possible.
This makes it easier for your design team to create your website’s visual language and overall design system. And, it makes it easier for your prospects. Keeping layouts consistent means a prospect doesn’t have to re-orient themselves to a page’s geography every time they look at something new.
With those minor exceptions in mind, let’s now look at the content marketing article layout that I recommend to our clients.
The Best Content Marketing Article Layout
As I already wrote, this is going to be pretty simple. The best content marketing article layouts have three essential elements:
- 500+ words of indexable content that are both reader and search-engine friendly
- a list of 3-5 related articles
- 2-3 researcher and evaluator-friendly calls to action
Most of these attributes are self-explanatory, but let me briefly elaborate on each one.
1. 500+ Words of Indexable Content
Search engines are hungry for text. Ravenous! In fact, I won’t be surprised if I log back in to this page sometime soon and increase my recommended word count. Every shred of SEO advice I’ve gotten recently can be filed under one heading: MORE. SEOs are recommending more text in order to be authoritative on a subject. They’re recommending more headline styles in order to make a page easier to read. And they’re recommending more metadata in order for a page to be indexed and properly evaluated by search engines. So your content marketing article layout needs a lot of words — which should be easy for you since you’re an expert on your subject — and it needs a lot of attention to typography to make it easier for prospects to read.
2. A List of 3-5 Related Articles
When a prospect first lands on an article, they’ll spend a very short amount of time assessing whether they’re in the right place. They’ll ask themselves, “Is this page really about what I’m looking for?” They may answer a tentative “yes,” and spend some time reading. But at some point, they’re going to ask, “Ok, but is this website really about what I’m looking for?” When you include a list of related articles on a content marketing article layout, you’re helping to answer their question. Yes, you’re also making a bounce much less likely. But the real value is in how a list like this affirms your positioning. A prospect should scan this list and think, “Wow, this site really covers this subject.”
3. 2-3 Researcher and Evaluator Friendly CTAs
In my earlier article on how to design your content hub I spent a lot of time discussing how prospects expect to find information on a page and what that means for where you put calls-to-action. I won’t rehash that here, but suffice it to say that I remain convinced that a right-column dedicated to related content and engagement opportunities is still the best structure for a page like this. Your prospects expect to find calls to action on the right, and so it makes sense to put them there. I also discussed two common modalities of use among prospects, one being “horizontal orientation.” You could also just call this browsing. Some prospects go from page to page very quickly to get a sense for what a website is about. Making sure engagement opportunities are above the fold helps an orienting prospect still respond.
I also wrote another article covering all the forms a marketing website should contain, so please read that to get more information on how these kinds of calls-to-action should work.
But for the purposes of this article, make sure that these calls to action offer something to researchers, like an easy form to subscribe to your newsletter. And make sure that they offer something to evaluators, like a downloadable white paper.
This article is the ninth in a series that will guide you through applying the principles of Prospect Experience Design for yourself.
Next in the series is a guide to designing more effective prospect engagement points.