Is Your Content Google Hummingbird Friendly?
When you set up a new website page or write a new blog post is it all about you and your self-serving objectives? If this is the case then you are likely to limit your search exposure with your content marketing.
Google is now starting to rank content based on user search intent and the context of the content itself. You need to understand this and make an effort to mesh with this. To mesh with the search engines drives quality traffic and this can lead to higher conversion rates.
Here are some ideas to help your content stand out. These types of content work well for humans and as content ideas in today’s SEO environment.
“Evergreen” refers to content which does not have a short shelf life or early expiration date. For example “breaking news” is only of interest for a short period of time. Evergreen content provides information that is relevant to online searchers well into the future.
The beauty of evergreen content is that it tends to grows stronger in authority, ranking, and traffic over time. You will know when you’ve crafted a great piece of evergreen content by your stats for this content piece. Your traffic for your worthy evergreen content pieces will provide search traffic well after it has been published. This sort of material also earns its own links as it provides real value to a searcher and people want to link to it.
Educational Content (How to’s)
The Google Hummingbird algorithm aims to rank relevant content for natural questions and queries. This means that it is logical for Google to rank a “How To” article in a high position if it is educational content related to specific questions and queries that people use in search. Google is very keen to present educational content.
When building this content, be sure not to confuse the query by using jargon or obscure titles. Consider the following two potential subject lines for a new blog post I am writing:
How to use Google Trends to Define Your Keywords
Google Trends and Semantic Search String Entity Optimization
OK, I realize that I made the 2nd phrase obscure on purpose to make a point but I have seen some vague titles or title that are much too complex in my day. Keep your titles as simple as you can while still being on topic with the nature of the question.
In this example, these two subject lines could easily be titles for the exact same blog post… or two completely different posts. Now think about Google Hummingbird – which of the two is most likely to match to a question, posed by a human, on the topic?
It doesn’t even take an advanced algorithm to figure out that the first title is a better fit to what people may actually be searching for. Sure, Google is getting good at figuring out the details and may be very good at understanding obscurity but you can still make it an easy match rather than a hard one.
Think about the educational content that makes the most sense for your potential customers, business or cause. Create it and then use a meaningful and easy-to-understand title for it, and your Hummingbird-related ranking score will go up.
Frequently Asked Questions
There has been significant debate about the overall value of FAQ pages for enhancing position in search but in my opinion there is value to be had by managing FAQs properly. After all, the query most likely to match to the content is typically written out in plain and simple text right on the page.
However, FAQ pages, as they have traditionally been set up, are not optimal for semantic search and Hummingbird. Here’s why.
- They tend to focus on company-specific questions.
- They are typically all represented on a single page as a list of questions with answers.
- FAQ pages are notoriously weak at earning natural links.
Here is some advice to get FAQ-related materials to rank high.
Generate a separate page or blog post that answers each of the key questions about your product, business or cause. Set up a FAQ page but then link directly to that page or post using the question itself as anchor text. This will provide you (and the search engines) with a dedicated page to rank for the question. This approach will also allow you to deploy an internal link with rich anchor text.
Problem / Solution
Another way to target semantic “intent” based queries is to adopt the problem / solution format. In this case, the key is to spell out the problem in very clear language. This will build the context that Google needs to match open queries against the answer (the solution) that you spell out in the rest of the article or blog post.
In addition to the problem, the solution itself can prove helpful to semantic matching. If the solution talks about the benefits it provides and to whom then that can add additional levels of context for Google to take into account. Solutions and benefits are valuable for the search engines to present so they seek out this content and value it. If they value it then it will rise up in search position.
Case studies, while typically focused on a success story of some sort for a product or service they can serve a dual role. When crafting your case studies, be sure to use the standard format including the situation (i.e. problem), the solution, and the results, conclusion or ROI.
Taking Hummingbird into account, you can go deeper into the overall problem scenario. For example, rather than showing a generic solution to Problem A, you can show how it helps specific end users. At the same time, you are answering the question of why the problem needs to be addressed in the first place, by way of the ROI or results.
We already know that case studies play an important role in helping to close customers during the consideration phase. If crafted properly, we can reach up a bit earlier in the funnel, showing why they should put forth the time and effort to deal with the problem at all.
Of course if your case studies end up being presented nicely in search then this is even better.
Social / Viral Materials
Although still a work in progress, it is very clear that Hummingbird is a step along the path to figuring out social SEO signals. This should come as no surprise if you’ve been following Google’s actions the past 2-3 years. Google has clearly stated that they have to figure out a way to analyze social signals.
What does this mean? The social media-based response you get to any piece of content is poised to play a role in the ranking position Google assigns to that content. This can be measured by way of shares, comments on the posting of the content, likes / +1’s, and a list of other actions.
If you have fallen into lazy habits such as broadcasting marketing spam on social networks, start re-evaluating your behavior now. It could be months or even years before Google figures out how to handle social signals but don’t wait until they do so to clean up your act. It could be too late by then.
Content Based on Top Tips
Top tips describes something we see with blog content all the time. A quick look at Twitter will reveal a litany of “Top 3 Ways to…” and “4 Marketing Tactics to Avoid” types of posts.
This format naturally lends itself to Q&A matching. Rather than just saying what to avoid, focus the title on the real reason(s) to adopt or avoid the suggested actions.
Try a title such as “4 Marketing Tactics That Can Lose You Customers”. The reader can easily surmise that it is best to avoid those tactics, and you are again calling out the context clearly and overtly.
With the introduction of in-depth articles as a focus for Google earlier this year, they have made it clear that in-depth analysis is highly valued. I see the same thing with my own blog posts and other content – research and detailed analyses do very well from a SEO perspective.
In-depth analysis has always been a good way to get eyeballs and natural links. That remains true today.
Articles based on research and data are poised to have continued success. The reason is that data and the in-depth analysis can address unanswered questions.
You can conduct surveys, assimilate data from disparate sources, or provide information about tests you have performed. All of these create new answers to existing problems. This is exactly the type of content that Google Hummingbird favors.
Summary – Hummingbird Friendly Content
The key idea for success to mesh with Hummingbird is to keep creating quality content and to build this into a plan to answer questions. Think more about how you will provide context for your content to help Google better rank it for open questions. Of course, as the social signals part evolves, we will see a whole new range of approaches that you can adopt.
For now, be sure all of your original content comes with Author Markup, and start taking social more seriously if are not already doing so. These two items, while not yet key pieces of the Google ranking algorithm, are poised to play a major role in the not-too-distant future.