After Google's announcement of full search encryption, Google’s new search algorithm, Hummingbird, was released leaving a lot of questions around developing content strategies. A good first step in any sophisticated content development strategy is to leverage analytics in order to identify content themes and to gain an understanding of what your audience is most interested in. You can read a detailed article that I recently wrote on the subject here. The next step is structuring the content such that its visibility is maximized in both organic search results as well as on social media channels. With Google’s latest Hummingbird update in mind, I’ve listed two key concepts around structuring your content that will help you to achieve this.
1. Understand that search trends and behaviors are changing and so should your content’s focus
The Hummingbird update is primarily in response to how user behavior is shifting while searching on the web. Queries are becoming more conversational and long tail in nature; people are asking questions rather than searching for keywords to find exactly what they’re in need of. This is especially true with voice-based search (which is still in its infancy) via Apple’s Siri, Google Voice Search, and Google Glass.
When looking at trends for core question-based searches over the last 7 years, there’s a distinct rise beginning in 2009 and continuing today:
You may notice that I left two key questions out of the trends: “how” and “what”. When adding these into the mix, their popularity and growth is by far dominant, especially for “how”.
Understanding users’ search patterns is important when developing new content for your site. Because of the rise in question-based search trends and the goal of Google’s Hummingbird update to provide immediate answers, it’s important to structure your content in an educational manner to address audience needs – Focus on how to do something and show them in what ways it can best be achieved.
2. Titling the content is just as important as the actual content
Whether it’s for blog posts, videos, or infographics, the naming of any digital content plays an important role to its success and exposure. You also need to consider that no matter if it’s in the search results, an RSS feed, or a share on social media, you only have a matter of seconds to capture someone’s attention and entice them to click. Iris Shoor conducted an interesting study that looks at the science of naming articles. Here are some interesting correlations and takeaways that the study uncovered when looking at viral content for 100 popular blogs:
Include numbers. Numbered lists perform extremely well, especially when the number is large and closer to the beginning. Example: “35 ways to ___ “ would likely perform better than “Doing ____ in seven steps”. A larger number may signal to the reader a higher quality post with lots of options to learn from and entice them to click as well as share it. You should also use actual numbers and not the word (7 vs. seven).
Use extreme wording. Post titles that used powerful/shocking words like “kill”, “dead”, or “bleeding” performed extremely well. An example title she uses is “Oracle makes move to kill open source mySQL”. And we’ve all seen the cliché “SEO is dead…” posts over and over…and over. These types of words immediately catch someone’s attention and can create a level of curiosity or emotion that often can’t be ignored by the reader.
In a separate study from Dan Zarrella, after analyzing 200,000 link-containing Tweets, he found that the ones with higher click through rates contained more adverbs and verbs as opposed to nouns and adjectives.
Image via Buffer blog: A scientific guide to writing great headlines on Twitter, Facebook, and your blog.
In other words, Tweets that encourage action or qualify the action resulted in more clicks versus those that are simply descriptive of the content.
“Learn 12 ways to easily optimize page load time in less than 1 hour”
“Things to consider for an optimal blog”
The first explicitly tells me what question the blog’s content will answer and quantifies it with a number of steps and the amount of time it will take. It makes me want to click and find out what I may or may not be doing on my own site. The second one is generic and doesn’t tell me much about the content, it doesn’t include a call to action, and it doesn’t excite me enough to want to click. This is incredibly important to consider so your content not only has the ability to rank, but so that it’s actually consumed and shared by users.
Google’s updates will always mean that SEO professionals have to continuously respond and adapt strategies. Now armed with information on how to choose a content theme leveraging data insights, the understanding that search patterns are changing, as well as how to write to increase clicks and shares, you should be well on your way to crafting content in response to the latest algorithm changes.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any other tactics or approaches that have been successful in the wake of Hummingbird. How do you determine what content to create next and how do you decide which medium to publish in?
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Scott Kellam is a search engine optimization professional with over 8 years of experience in the industry. Scott has developed SEO strategies for marquee clients such as SAP, HSBC, Humana, Saint Laurent (YSL), SanDisk, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and many others. He has worked in search marketing since 2005 with a proven track record of developing profitable SEO and social media strategies. With a deep understanding of both technical SEO issues as well as search marketing’s role in identifying and connecting with target audiences, Scott has been able to effectively scale strategies that directly impact bottom lines for clients of all sizes across B2B and B2C industries as well as non-profits.
March 19, 2014