What’s the Difference Between Horizontal and Vertical Content Strategy?

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B2B content marketing strategy

A couple of months ago, our reader survey results got us talking about the simple fact that content marketing is still our top priority. Engaging and relevant content is crucial to your brand’s success, but content strategy is just as important and often overlooked.

The focus of content marketing is on designing content that represents a business’s offerings and appeals to a targeted audience of potential customers. Content strategy, as defined by the Content Marketing Institute, is the “creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” It “goes beyond the scope of a content marketing strategy, as it helps businesses manage all of the content they have.”

Charting the course for your content strategy can be tricky. This week, I want to offer you a framework for thinking about your approach by defining it in “horizontal vs. vertical content strategy” terms.


Horizontal Content Strategy


Your horizontal content strategy covers a wide breadth of content. It’s important to not just project a seamless business ethos; you have to walk the walk by creating cohesion between your touchpoints for customer service (think: FAQ page, customer service scripts) and the internal workings of your business (think: job descriptions, policies, training materials).

For example, if you publicize your business’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, consider whether your content reflects this. Do you feature a diverse cross-section of individuals in the images used on advertisements and training materials? Have you provided customers who are differently abled with necessary tools should they seek help from customer service? If there is a mismatch between your convictions and your content, the cracks will start to show. Take time to plan your horizontal content strategy in a way that brings your priorities and practices into alignment. This will present employees, stakeholders, and customers with a unified vision.


Vertical Content Strategy


Horizontal content strategizing requires you to take a broad view of whether the diverse content you produce fits together. Vertical content strategy, however, is about examining whether content in one specific area is functioning as an integrated whole. Lise Bissonnette Janody, in her post “Global Content Insights: Horizontal and Vertical Content Strategy,” explains:


“Vertical content strategy is also a holistic approach to content, but on a more granular level. It takes one part of that whole – a section, a specific topic, a content type – and delves into it across not only channels (websites, social media channels, print, events, etc.) but possibly a wider spectrum of audiences as well (particularly audiences within firewalls like internal sales or channel partners).”


So, vertical content strategy pushes you to take a critical look at one slice of the content you offer. You then weigh whether the way you deploy it across various channels is consistent and cohesive. For example, consider content that shapes the customer’s perspective of your business–“About Us” information, perhaps. Is there any discrepancy in how this content is represented across your social media profiles? How can you revise your content to make sure it is seamless when faced with varying word count limitations and fields? What steps can you take to increase the visibility of this kind of content in your brick-and-mortar enterprise?


Vertical or Horizontal, Content Comes First


As you begin improving your content strategy, bear in mind that you are doing foundational work. It is well worth the effort, because you can’t have successful content marketing without carefully honed content. Your efforts will bring you a greater sense of control over your content and your vision. It will also give your employees a sense of clarity, and your potential customers a deeper understanding of whether your offerings will meet their consumer needs.

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