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by James Perrin on 8th January 2014
Hi. Today we’re going to be talking about tips for creating Hummingbird-friendly content marketing. Now, Hummingbird was an algorithm update created at the back end of last year. Simply put, it enables Google to better understand concepts and complex search queries as opposed to just keywords. Now what does this mean to us content marketers? Well, it means two things. First of all, it means the content we create really needs to be focused and centered around the user. So it needs to be focused on user intent. We’ll be looking at a lot of things like search queries and that type of thing. Secondly it means that we need to provide a lot more rich context for Google to better understand and rank that content.
Now, there’s two ways that we’re going to do this and we’re going to look at this today. We’re going to look at a variety of different content types and then we’re going to go on to formulate a bit of a content strategy. In both instances, they’re both going to be looking at Hummingbird and looking at this thing about context and user intent and user intentions.
So let’s kick off with content types. Well, first and foremost, evergreen content. This really does what it says on the tin. It’s content that is not created for quick gains and it doesn’t have a shelf life. This is content that has ongoing relevancy to its users over time, and over time it generates its own authority. It’s the type of content that really can be seen in things like user guides and white papers. [This] doesn’t necessarily always have to be long form content. It can be like an advanced blog post if you like. But really, the crucial point with evergreen content is that it’s something that’s an ongoing issue in your industry and your sector. It doesn’t have to be company specific, it needs to be specific about your industry and your sector. And this way it gives Google that context about the content you’ve created.
This moves nicely on to educational content. Because educational content provides solutions to problems and it provides answers to queries and questions. So, it’s a natural extension really of that evergreen content. You want to be providing your users with answers to their queries and their questions. A good way to do this is if you have a search bar on your website, look at the types of things that people are searching for. If you go into Google Analytics you’ll be able to see this. And that gives you a rich insight into the types of content that you can create.
Now research is really things like questionnaires, surveys, anything where you test and analyse and you compile a report of research. It’s new information, it’s of value to your users. The good thing about research is, again, it provides Google with a rich sort of context about content.
Also, in addition to that, Google at the back end of last year launched a piece of code called ‘In Depth Article Mark-Up’. Now, with the In Depth Article Mark-Up, the idea is that you simply put this on your piece of content that you’ve done, and it could be like a white paper or a user guide. The idea is that it ranks for that content in the SERPS in its own section, called in-depth articles. Now at the moment it’s not exactly very clear as to how Google will do this. At the moment they favour big publishers and big brands. But it stands to reason that if you’ve gone to the extent of producing a thorough piece of research, and a thorough piece of in-depth content, you want to add this code to it because it just might be able to rank in those sections.
FAQs. Now, FAQs are notoriously hard to rank, the page themselves. And also in addition to that FAQs, generally speaking, revolve a lot around company issues and company questions. Now a good idea to make it more Hummingbird friendly, would be to look at your FAQs and start to look at ways in which you can address industry specific or sector specific queries and questions. This way, it will enable Google to look and provide a lot more context around the industry and the sector that you’re within and not necessarily just the company issues.
Another good tip with FAQs would be to, instead of hosting it all on one page, – because at the moment a lot of FAQs are all on one page, they either have a little drop down bar to reveal the answer-, another good way to do this would be to link each answer to a separate page and a separate piece of content. And it could be a separate blog post or a separate article. And this way what you’re doing is you’re allowing that piece of content to rank in its own right. That’s a really handy tip, like I say to make that content rank in its own right, and also to give your FAQs a bit more credence, and links as well, links to those pieces of content.
And finally, case studies. Very similar to FAQs really, case studies sometimes can be perceived as being quite company specific, but in this instance and in terms of creating Hummingbird friendly content, they are worth their weight in gold. Simply because, with every single case study, you’re providing an industry specific problem, an industry specific solution, and then you’re showcasing for company what results you’ve achieved. So not only is it addressing the issue of providing more context for Google, because you’re showcasing the industry specific problem and solution, but you’re actually adding a bit of user intent there and a bit of user value. Because you’re showcasing for you, your company, what results you’ve achieved. And that helps drive that user behaviour.
Now this moves nicely onto content strategy. Because as we’ve mentioned, Google really, with Hummingbird, it’s all about better understanding context. And it does this by linking pieces of content together, or searching for those links between content. Now, what this means to us as content marketers and online marketers, is that this gives us a good opportunity to start to plan pieces of content that link together. And we can start to strategise this and we can start to plan this in our content marketing plans. Now thankfully for us, the buying cycle naturally has its own buying process and it naturally has its own sections to which we can start to link.
If we look at these in a bit more detail you’ll be able to understand and see why. So we have four distinct phases. We have ‘enquiring’ at the top of the tunnel, we have ‘browsing’ in the middle of the funnel, ‘buying’ in the bottom of the funnel, and then we have that ‘aftercare’. Now if we taking buying a car for example, you can start to see how each section brings its own distinct pieces of content and own distinct ways in which we can create content. So, at the inquiring phase of buying a car. At this phase you can really be looking at creating content around what are the benefits of buying a car, what are the benefits of buying firsthand over secondhand, what are the different types of cars, models that are ideal for first-time buyers.
At the browsing phase, this is where your customers and your users, their needs are going to be a little bit more specific. At this phase they’re going to be looking at a variety of prices and they’ll be looking at things like fuel efficiency, economy, and so on and so forth.
Then as we get down to the buying phase, this is when their needs get very, very specific. And what you can do here is you can showcase user reviews. So they might have identified a particular car that they want and they need to know a bit more information about that, and user reviews are perfect there. They might want to know their buying options and how much the car is worth and so on and so forth. And then aftercare, it’s common to kind of think, well aftercare this is something that a company might offer. What is it about your company that is specific to the aftercare phase? Well exactly what we’ve mentioned before, instead of being company specific, we want to be industry specific. So at this phase, instead of talking about what your company can offer, create content that’s around about what people can do in general once they’ve bought a car.
General maintenance, what they can do for their car to pass its MOT. How to change a tyre, so on and so forth. And you can start to see that each phase has distinct differences in the type of content that you create. Now a key for us is to then start to link that together. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to start linking the content coherently. So that there are no loose ends or dead ends for either user or for Google. And once we do that, we can start to appreciate how Hummingbird works.
So, just to recap. In terms of content types, you want to be at the forefront of your mind you need to have the user. All of your content needs to be focused around user intent and you need to be creating content that focuses on providing a rich source of context for Google. Then in terms of a strategy, we need to start thinking about how each phase of the process, the buying process, links together. Because like we say, we don’t want any loose ends or dead ends for Google or the user. And that leaves me just to say thank you very much for watching.