Let’s not kid ourselves; Hummingbird is amazing. It’s an algorithm that took Google’s basic keyword-based structure and turned it into something intuitive and more capable of linguistic understanding than most people you’ll ever meet. Now, Google can, for lack of a better phrase, guess what you’re thinking and give you the content that matches your intentions—even if none of your keywords are an exact match for the most relevant results.
Similarly, RankBrain and other additions have allowed Google to come up with “related questions” and an advanced network of related topics to discern user intent from ambiguous queries, and provide links to helpful related information that similar searchers have required in the past.
(Image Source: Moz)
So how can you take advantage of Hummingbird and related topics in your own content marketing campaign?
- Get specific. General topics aren’t going to cut it anymore. The more specific you get with your material, the more likely you’ll be to show up. If a user is searching for general information on a general subject, with a query like “maple trees,” they’re either going to get an immediate Knowledge Graph entry that gives them a breakdown of the subject, or they’ll get referred to a Wikipedia article. On the other hand, extremely specific queries with specific intents will have almost no competition, giving you the advantage when it comes to ranking. Search for specific topics, and write for specific audiences while you’re at it.
- Publish interrelated content features. Don’t post single instances of the topics you’re exploring; instead, develop them into a series of related features. For example, instead of just writing about “How to clean an air conditioner,” write that article and follow it up with, “how to repair an air conditioner that won’t run,” or “how to improve the lifespan of an air conditioner.” All of these questions are related topics, so you’ll stand to gain in two key ways. First, you’ll be seen as a greater authority in this space, and second, you’ll have a higher likelihood of showing up in “related questions” for users interested in these subjects.
- Go deeper with your content. This is an easy strategy, but it’s one you should have been doing a long time ago. When taking advantage of Hummingbird, thin content isn’t going to cut it. Hummingbird does a thorough evaluation of the phrases and details within the entire body of your content—the more details you include, and the more subtopics and related ideas you cover, the better the algorithm will be able to “understand” your work. It’s also a best practice for content in general—it makes you stand out from the crowd, gives people more information to peruse, and shows that you’ve done your research thoroughly.
- Check out Related Questions. Where better to learn how Google categorizes different topics than on Google itself? Run a sample search for a query related to some of your recent content, and see what pops up in the “related questions” section. Who’s covering those topics now? How are they covering them? Look for any opportunity to cover one of these related topics with your own work in the future, and try to capitalize on any weaknesses you see in the work that currently shows up for these queries.
- Forget about keywords (mostly). Keywords aren’t dead—at least not entirely. Even though Google isn’t using keywords on a strict, one-to-one basis, they can be good contextual clues for the subjects of your work. Keep keyword research as an element of your SEO campaign—take a look to see what keywords have the highest volume and the lowest competition rating, and include the most promising candidates throughout your work. However, stay away from picking content topics based solely on your keyword research, and as always, never stuff keywords into your content.
- Diversify your vocabulary. With more users relying on casual queries and vocal search, the range of vocabulary in user queries has expanded and become much more conversational. If you want your content to be indexed thoroughly, and for subjects peripherally related to your main targets, you’ll do well to diversify the type of vocabulary you use. Part of that means having a bigger list of potential keywords to target, and part of that means avoiding using the same phrases or terminologies over and over again. Shake things up!
- See what your competitors are up to. This is another strategy that’s good to adopt in general, but especially useful in the context of Hummingbird and semantic search. Take a look to see what types of content your competitors are publishing, and which pieces seem to be getting the best results. Are there any related topics that they aren’t taking advantage of, such as follow-up opportunities, alternative positions, or expansions? These could be a good way to get a competitive edge, especially since you already know the root subject has been popular with your shared demographics.
Google’s search algorithm is now too sophisticated for any kind of measurable, predictable, one-to-one gain. That is to say, you’ll never be able to calculate, on paper, the potential visibility for one of your content ideas. However, by employing these tactics (in addition to standard content and SEO best practices), you’ll stand to benefit more from Google’s semantic understanding and desire to provide users with comprehensive information.
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