Are Vertical and Horizontal Content Strategies Still Relevant?

Because SEO is always changing, your content strategy is also has to remain fluid if you want to stay successful. A few years ago there were two terms for two different content strategies: Vertical and Horizontal. Both strategies have the ability to be flexible, but by and large they kept a solid foundation and were good bench markers for companies looking for a place to start.

Fast forward to 2014, and these two content strategies (or at least these two terms) have faded into the background. It seems that 2015 is going to be the year where content strategies are under the microscope for all small businesses, which leads to a good question: Are these two differing strategies still relevant? Are they worth bringing back into the conversation?

Understanding Vertical and Horizontal Content Strategies

A content strategy has to be customized for your audience and the resources you have available, which you can learn more about here, but most companies have a lot of similarities in their strategies (most likely thanks to Google and their advice on content and SEO). One major thing to keep in mind is that a content strategy should deal with all different mediums where content is found—it’s not just about the writing and how it is advertised, but where it’s going to be published.

Below are the two types of content strategies and how they work with this in mind:

Horizontal Content Strategy

This strategy focuses on a holistic approach. It covers “meet the team” pages to descriptions on product pages to contacts, community comments, blog posts, and everything in between. With this type of strategy, you’re always thinking about how one page (or one area of content) is working to help your overarching content goals or general business goal. This means analyzing how content works together as well as individually. This is probably the most common approach used by ecommerce companies.

Vertical Content Strategy

While this strategy also thinks big-picture (what strategy doesn’t?), it does put a heavier focus on one specific content aspect—a section, a topic, a type of content, a piece of content, etc.—at a time. This means taking one of these aspects of content and figuring out how it works best across different platforms or with different audiences. This is what many marketing and PR pros think about when they think about content strategy.

Analyzing These Strategies and Other Options

Dot-Connection founder Lise Janody explained in this article that the two are only becoming more overlapped as the web evolves. Janody said that social media is really the biggest factor bringing these two strategies together. Specifically:

“Social media, by expanding the boundaries of horizontal content strategy [CS] and deepening the playing field of vertical CS, is bringing them closer together still. But if social media is the key driver behind the rise in vertical CS, horizontal CS has gained traction for an entirely different reason: the growing recognition that content on websites should get as much attention and consideration as CMS systems, user interfaces and design.”

So the big question is what about these two strategies can we take with us as content methods continue to evolve. The truth is that although the terminology, vertical and horizontal, might be outdated, the meaning of these practices really isn’t. What we need to do is find a mix between focusing on one entity of content while still keeping in mind the overall goal and how each area of content can work together and contribute.

What do you think about these two content strategies? Let us know in the comments below.

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