Rather than rehash the ideas of others or take more stabs in the dark at what Hummingbird is, this post aims to overview several types of content that are more likely to be Hummingbird-friendly. Realistically, if you have followed Google’s direction and focused on generating quality content, you are already ahead of the game.
Types of Content That Are Hummingbird Friendly
Not all quality content is created equally. If you are building outstanding materials but they only focus on you, your products/services, or some other self-serving objective, you are choosing to limit your exposure.
On the other hand, even some tried and true content types may fail to rank as well as they did previously. That said, if Google is truly starting to rank content based on user search intent and context of the content itself, several specific types of content stand out. Let’s take a look at what might work well in today’s SEO environment.
“Evergreen” refers to content which does not have a shelf life or expiration date. Whereas 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 only grows stronger in authority, ranking, and traffic over time. You will know when you’ve crafted a great piece of evergreen content by the stats. If you have content that has grown legs of its own, keep it updated on the same URL or redirect to the updated version. This sort of material earns its own links, provides real value, and will get you the eyeballs you are seeking for your site.
Even more importantly, evergreen content provides a great way for Google to rank according to context. Something that has ranked well over time has been crawled repeatedly, and as algorithms are tweaked and improved, this same content has a golden opportunity to remain visible with the latest Hummingbird objectives.
Educational Content / How to’s
Since Hummingbird aims to rank more relevant content for natural questions and queries, the logical first place to turn is educational content, including “How to…” types of materials.
When building this content, be sure not to obfuscate the related query by using too much jargon or obscure titles. Consider the following two potential subject lines for a new blog post:
- “Slingshots and Trajectory: Experiments in Distance”
- “How to Build a Killer Slingshot Using Common Household Items”
These two subject lines could easily be titles for the exact same blog post… or two completely different posts. Now think about Hummingbird – which of the two is most likely to match to a question on the topic?
It doesn’t even take an advanced algorithm to figure out that “How do I build…” should match to “How to Build…” Sure, Google is getting good at figuring out the details, but that by no way means you shouldn’t spoon feed them an easy match, similarly to how you once spoon fed them keywords to rank.
Think about the educational content that makes the most sense for your business, website, or cause to provide, and build it. Then use the most obvious title for it, and your odds of Hummingbird friendly rankings will go up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although there has been debate about the overall value of FAQ pages, there is value to be had by managing them properly. After all, the query most likely to match to the content is already overtly spelled out right on the page.
However, FAQ pages as they have traditionally been built are not optimal for semantic search and Hummingbird. Why is that?
- 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
In other words, a typical FAQ page is more likely to rank for “company name FAQ” than for the content in any of the questions. But there is a way around that challenge.
When building your FAQ, generate a separate page or blog post that answers each of the questions. Then link directly to that page or post using the question itself as anchor text. Not only will this provide you with a dedicated page to rank for the query / question, but it will also allow you to deploy an internal link with rich anchor text.
If you are willing to refresh your idea of what an FAQ page is, there is unclaimed value to be had.
Problem / Solution
Another way to target semantic / intent based queries is to adopt a 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 (solution) you spell out in the rest of the document.
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, that can add additional levels of context for Google to take into account.
Case studies, while typically focused on a success story of some sort for a product or service, 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 or ROI.
Taking Hummingbird into account, you can go deeper into the overall scenario. For example, rather than showing a generic solution to Problem A, you can show how it helps specific vertical industries or 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 information.
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.
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. They have 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 context that 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 over a year before Google figures out how to handle social signals. Don’t wait until they do so to clean up your act. It could be too late by then.
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.
Instead of the example above, try something like “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 for SEO purposes.
Data has always been a good way to get eyeballs and natural links. That remains true today.
Research and data are poised to have continued success without missing a step. This type of content almost always answers a question, or at least draws an insightful conclusion. Regardless of which approach you prefer, the end result is the same – data and in depth analysis addresses unanswered questions.
You can conduct surveys, assimilate data from disparate sources, or provide information about tests you have fielded directly. All of these create new answers to existing problems. This is exactly the type of content that Hummingbird favors.
The bottom line on all of this is to keep creating quality content, and start thinking more about how you will provide context 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 recommendations 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 coming years.
IMAGE CREDIT: Mike Baird on Flickr. Used under creative commons attribution license.
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