When I first started working in communications there was a distinct gulf between those that ‘did marketing’ and those that ‘did PR’. For some old school PR colleagues, the idea of paid-for content was considered ‘cheating’ and the notion of your key media contacts being salesmen and not journalists would have been absurd.
Today however, that gulf is no longer there and media partnerships are a growing part of the work we do for clients. That’s not to say straight editorial work and traditional marketing are declining – far from it – but there is an emerging and often innovative space where these two elements meet in the middle.
Amongst the benefits of partnership working is the ability to make delivering your message more of a two way street, with the guaranteed coverage being largely editorial in appearance but allowing you more control over content. It also helps ensure a wider audience is engaged through combining communication channels.
But how do you approach this type of activity when it comes to negotiating the deal? Here are our top three learnings from 2013.
1. Ensure the partnership IS a partnership
When approaching media partnerships, always seek to ensure there are benefits for both parties.
This may include cross pollenating social media channels to offer both client and media partner a new audience, or be simply funding related.
Particularly for public sector or behaviour changing campaigns, if there is a call to action which readers or listeners are being urged to sign up for, make sure the media partner is leading by example and getting on board as part of the agreement.
Not only will this add credibility to the campaign but will also provide a genuine news angle for the editorial team to cover without needing to focus on your client alone – often a barrier in paid for content.
2. Get quality AND quantity
Partnership working offers the opportunity to be more creative with your campaign goals. If activity is sustained over a set period and across multiple channels, you can strike a balance of quality engagement targeting a more niche audience, with general awareness-raising messaging for the wider audience.
Ensuring the partnership includes content hosted on the media partner’s site with input into the user journey is key to this. For instance, the use of a competition element to your campaign offers a platform for the wider audience to be exposed to key messages, while a smaller audience of entrants is engaged with additional messaging via the application process.
3. Throw out the rulebook when it comes to negotiating
This type of campaign is still new territory for many media outlets – so don’t be afraid to be creative. There is huge potential for flexibility, particularly when it comes to online content, therefore don’t accept formulaic proposals which simply combine traditional elements.
Working with the editorial team as part of the negotiation process is one important factor to establish the boundaries of what will be created by them, what can be supplied by the client to be published unedited and what needs to be more clearly advertising led.
A recent example was an 8-page paid-for supplement created with a regional newspaper. Rather than pages of heavily branded, client written content, we worked with a journalist who wrote the content, guided by the client on subject matter for each page.
The client also contributed a by-lined foreword resulting in an unbiased supplement, which was not overtly branded yet clearly conveyed all the required messaging.
The result was a supplement made up of quality news content in keeping with the editorial tone of the publication. This in turn became more attractive for other advertisers and allowed the media partner to seek additional funding for the project.
Happy client + happy media + great coverage = Happy PR agency
1. Do get your timing right –
Planning a social media campaign? Then maybe bear in mind how the news agenda may be impacting on your customer base when you decide to kick off your engagement. You may find the mood of your audience is not quite what you were expecting – just like British Gas did when they decided to helpfully host a Twitter Q&A right after they’d announced their most recent price hikes this winter. #fail
2. Do talk to your audience in their own language –
Entering into a dialogue with your audience is something consumers are coming to expect, if not demand, from brands who are active on social media. When this goes right it can not only result in happy customers but in kudos for brands being human and engaging on a more personable level. Netflix won plaudits this year for turning a standard customer service conversation in to something light hearted and amusing whilst retaining the primary goal of helping the consumer. On the other hand Bank of America found out that nothing infuriates a customer more than an automated (or in this case lack of judgement) response which does nothing to help. #win and #fail
3. Do brief your staff about expected social media conduct (oh and think through your reactive statement before you issue it) –
The question of where to draw the line between the point personal views meet professional tweeting is an often asked one, but when an employee (whose job was in Corporate Comms!) of US firm IAC tweeted this in late December
The inevitable Twitter storm erupted.
What made matters worse was the statement from IAC telling the world that the employee in question was on a long flight and the matter couldn’t be dealt with immediately. It has since transpired that the employee has parted company with IAC but not before the hashtag #hasjustinelandedyet had been trending worldwide. #epicfail
4. Do think before you type
Tweets can be deleted so mistakes can be hidden right? Wrong. There’s always someone who will see it, screen grab it and if contentious enough, have it viral around the world within a matter of minutes. So always take a moment to ensure your social media post is not inappropriate and/or likely to cause offence to like, millions of people. The Home Depot discovered this when they decided it would be a great idea to post a racist photograph on their Twitter feed . . . #fail
5. Do always check you have the right twitter handle when @ing an individual –
Making the effort to engage and include people on Twitter is what it’s all about. It can make your message go further and make you seem collaborative. But not when your message goes to the wrong person, particularly if you are David Cameron and the person you mistakenly include is not a political colleague but a spoof account who goes to town with their response. #fail
1. Don’t ever close – the internet is open 24 hours –
Having a community management team to run your social media is to be commended, and many brands do this incredibly well. However, if you have chosen to go down this route and your business is one which consumers use (and therefore may have issues with 24/7) – then why would your internet presence only be accessible during office hours. British Airways learned this lesson the hard way when one disgruntled customer paid for a promoted tweet to be seen by over 70,000 users and they didn’t respond for several hours. #fail
2. Don’t take life too seriously
Consumers increasingly want brands to be human, and engaging in conversation with automated tweets and robots can be infuriating. What’s more, while social media can be a fantastic tool for getting news and serious messages out there, it was spawned from the need for people to just hang out and chat. So it’s not difficult to see why this conversation between Tesco, Jaffa Cakes and Yorkshire Tea amongst others, was so well received by an amused audience. #win
3. Don’t have easily hackable passwords on social media accounts
You’ve spent months, if not years, cultivating your social media following, finalising your messaging and your protocol for how and when to respond. But you’ve overlooked making your password secure and it all comes crashing down in minutes when a mischievous hacker gains access to your feed and has a field day – as Burger King recently found out when someone hacked into their feed and changed their logo to that of rival McDonalds.
4. Don’t swear too much . . .
Being human and not too corporate is one thing, but boundaries are still important and bad language can invoke a big reaction. Especially when said language is the C-word and is aimed at a 9 year old as US entertainment newspaper, as The Onion, found out when they were a bit too eager to ‘overshare’ ahead of the Oscars ceremony.
And finally . . . .
5. Don’t underestimate the power of the internet –
Not an example of a brand doing social media well, but a reminder not to forget the power of the internet. Everyone loves a good news story and this heart warming tale of how social media reunited a young girl with her favourite toy after it was lost on a train demonstrates just how powerful and effective social media can be when people are engaged. #epicwin
For too long anyone approaching older age has been defined by age or illness stage in an institutionalised care sector putting the needs of its operating models first. But, as anyone with relatives in their 80s knows, this group are fiercely independent and want to continue to live life to the fullest.
And PR & Comms has a role to play in changing the way the country approaches getting older.
For a start we need to remove the fear and stigma of ‘going into care’ but only if we have a genuinely different way of approaching getting older to talk about – one which is fit for the changing demographics of the UK.
Second, we need to change the conversation about growing older, creating a shift in the way we approach later life and the lifestyle options available.
Therefore, we’re delighted that Evermore, a new lifestyle option for older people who are on their own but finding it increasingly difficult to cope without help, have asked Claremont to help with their launch.
Primarily, the PR activity will play a vital role in raising the profile of Evermore and its innovative approach to helping people feel good for longer. But we hope that our work with Sara McKee and colleagues will attract support from influencers, investors and the general public, lay the groundwork for driving sales and eventually change the way the country approaches getting older.
While the boss of Bell Pottinger represents dictators claimed his firm are decent people in the Guardian, Save the Children are alleged to be supressing news stories to curry favour with corporate donors in the Independent. So how do you define right and wrong in PR?
Wrong on the right?
The Guardian led with a banner trailing a rare interview with the man who taught Thatcher how to pretend to relax and founder of PR firm Bell Pottinger, Lord Tim Bell. This man is portrayed by the left as evil incarnate and has a well recorded track record of defending the indefensible.
To firms like Lord Bell’s, a dodgy dossier can be the basis of a lucrative brief and they are not alone. As the Guardian points out, PR firms across the country are busy defending clients ranging from sweat shops to dictators.
Yet there is something admirable about the principle behind what they do – everyone has the right to representation in a democracy. Just because I (or, I hope many of my Claremont colleagues) would turn down almost every brief Bell Pottinger Private and the like would accept, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a belief system at work. Bell himself does hint at one principle that drives his firm:
We’ve never been approached by a leftwing government, that I’m aware of. You don’t want an adviser that doesn’t agree with you.
Towing a left-hand line?
One PR who has learned the hard way that you need to agree with your organisation featured on the Independent and i front pages.
The former Save the Children head of press has turned whistle blower on his charity’s dealings with big business and claims that, in order to safeguard corporate donations, he was ordered to spike a news story criticising energy firms.
Save the Children may well deny this. But just as any organisation can use busy news days to sneak out announcements they don’t want attention for (oh come on, everyone knows it still happens), so all charities will make sacrifices to keep their donors happy. Charities do not have a monopoly on ethics and principles – and just as there will always be politics in charity campaigns, there will always be money.
In essence, yesterday’s front pages told us that sometimes those we believe are amoral have princples and those charities we see as saintly are as easy to buy as any other organisation. But throughout both articles what is clear is that who you decide to work for will always remain a personal decision.
So just how do you define right and wrong in PR?
It simply comes down to your own personal beliefs.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about what it means to write for many devices, many audiences, and an audience that is time pressed.
When we’re planning our campaigns, we tend to gravitate towards a picture of our audience in our minds eye that is sat on the sofa, with iPad or daily newspaper, slowly digesting our messaging and its implications.
We wish. In reality, we probably have around thirty seconds of someone’s attention while they’re standing at a bus stop, with a latte in the other hand. And that’s a difficult shift for us to adjust to.
Social media will change how you write – and that’s ok
Writing for social media does mean changing the way we write – nothing less than designing short attention spans into our content. We now spend as much time planning outputs (interactive charts, punchy intros, subheadings, social media links) as we do messaging.
But it also means putting the processes in place that allow great content to happen. O2 is a superb example of this – they have created a ‘triage’ so that senior management understand how customer queries are going to be responded to, but don’t have control over what precisely is said. That is (rightly) the job of the community manager.
Do you invest appropriate time providing an accompanying image to a post? It’s tempting to think that once you’ve written a post the job is done, but a well-chosen image could increase engagement by over 300%. That could be the difference between a campaign succeeding or not – is it worth your time? With sites like Stocksy around, there really is no excuse.
Beware the Hummingbird
Within five years, Google Hummingbird will kill off ‘brochureware’ sites with only static pages, however well keyword optimised they are. That’s how big it is.
The rise of mobile search and mobile and voice search platforms such as Google Now and Siri are ushering in a future where very specific search terms are the norm.
It won’t matter where you rank for ‘PR agency London’ as no-one will be searching for it. They’ll be searching for help with brandjacking, social media crisis simulation, media relations for charities, or one of the many other myriad terms. If you don’t have a page for it, you won’t be in the race.
As such, you’ll need to invest now in thorough market research (emphatically not simply keyword research) to find out what it is your audience wants from you, and how you can help meet it. The strategy that is now being pioneered by the likes of gov.uk will become commonplace within the next two years.
Tap into human emotion if you want people to share
People make content go viral. Specifically, it’s people’s emotional reactions to content that make it go viral. You can roll your eyes at BuzzFeed all you want, but they understand this.
It’s very difficult to get anyone to share anything without first asking “what is it about this post that would make people want to share it?”
In the real world, people share information to survive, to express themselves, to form social bonds, to help people and to manage how they are perceived. And that’s more or less it.
If you want to create content that is shared, you need to tap into one of those emotional states. We share feelings, not facts, and we share content that triggers emotions.
A strategy for social sharing
So then, what should your social media content strategy revolve around? It should have a healthy dollop of ‘Library’ content first up – that’s specific content that answers real questions for real people.
It should also have ‘Cafe’ content – short, visual, shareable content for social media that is delivered in packages for different audiences and platforms. Always, of course, created with an awareness of the culture of that particular platform.
But it’s also about what we don’t share. Facebook is incredibly unforgiving of poor content – its EdgeRank algorithm decides whether to display your content on someone’s News Feed based on their engagement with your previous content.
If that previous content happened to have been a duff Facebook update that a stakeholder had pressured you to put on the Facebook wall because ‘it would be popular with the kids,’ then there is a very real cost to that update.
Indeed, with Facebook now increasing emphasis on Promoted Posts, it may be that you have to pay to get that user back. Food for thought next time you’re asked to post a bad update!
This year Claremont is trying to use our festive celebrations to practice what we preach!
We started off with our ‘made by apprentices‘ Christmas Party for clients where Matt, Monica and Sean were given a brief and (tight) budget and turned our offices into festive wonderland, complete with star shaped mince pies, Christmas-tree shaped crumpets and a jazz trio.
And while the staff away day was as fun as everyone hoped, we finished off the party season by taking part in yesterday’s Victoria Park 10k Santa Run raising money for the Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust.
Thanks to everyone who has helped us to celebrate – and for those who want to know, here are our 10k times:
Simon Francis: 45 minutes
Kristian Carter: 48 minutes
Lucy Witt: 52 minutes
Simon Booth Lucking: 55 minutes
Matt Seel: 60 minutes
Ana Granger: 62 minutes
Ben Caspersz: 70 minutes
Monica Wilson: Did not finish
Sean Moody: Withdrew injured
The Skills Show at the NEC in Birmingham was amazing this year. Thousands of young people showed up to be inspired, whilst ministers (including the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg) came to witness first hand the tangible skills apprentices contribute to the UK’s economy, through live demonstrations of their work.
Whilst there were various goings on within The Skills Show, including exhibits from employers who took part in #madebyapprentices and the National Apprenticeship Service Awards 2013, I was lucky enough to be behind the scenes helping organise a small part of the event.
One of the most exciting features saw the Deputy Prime Minister hold a private meeting with six apprentices who took part in the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2013 and then a Q&A with 150 apprentices from all over the country to discuss their understanding of Apprenticeships and allow them to ask questions about the future of Apprenticeships.
The Skills Show Ministerial Q+A
The audience were genuinely interested in the future of Apprenticeships and the discussion sparked a flurry of questions around Apprenticeships, careers advice and reaching out to a wider audience to promote them.
We were all in agreement that apprentices should be put all the same pedestal as university students and that it is Apprenticeships that form the “economic backbone” of the country.
The Deputy Prime Minister also gave his backing of the role of marketing and PR in improving Apprenticeship take up, saying that “reaching out to parents through media is just as important as reaching out to schools”, and he went on to explain how happy he’d be for his children to pick an Apprenticeship over a degree.
The final area of debate was also one of interest to the PR community. The DPM mentioned that it is just as important to get SMEs – like many of the PR companies in the country – involved in Apprenticeships as it is to get large employers offering Apprenticeships.
PR apprentices, like myself, are a great bunch of vibrant personalities, and enthusiastic learners who work extremely hard to get the results for the businesses we work in. In the film of the event, below, the Deputy Prime Minister announced he wants to double the number of companies offering Apprenticeships in the UK and that means all companies will have to play their part.
If there’s magic in music, it’s in its ability to transport us to another place.
I was listening to a favourite band of mine, Tame Impala, their song Mind Mischief was playing into my headphones from my laptop. As the song was reaching its peak, I thought “Wow, these guys have managed to completely transport me somewhere else … how did they do it?”
That euphoric moment in the song got me thinking about how we use music to escape.
Music festivals – the epitome of escapism
Since I started at Claremont, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the impact marketing has on things I enjoy outside work.
Music festivals are a great example of this – hundreds of thousands of people in a surreal environment with crazy décor and tons of music – with lots of space for brands.
Thanks to online streaming, more and more artists have had to go on the road in order to pay their bills, and music festivals have boomed. Just look at the way the Stones played Glastonbury recently, after shunning it for years.
Festivals are great for artists and fans alike. Artists win because they get great exposure, there are loads of slots to fill, and the promoter usually gets a nice pay cheque in the post.
The fans win because they are spoilt for choice in terms of music, and the whole experience is immersive and joyous.
It’s great for the brands and sponsors too, who are overwhelmed with business from customers who have left their common sense at home. This means lots of money very well spent on banners and merchandise.
Festival customers also tend to be hyper perceptive to everything around them – which means big rewards, especially if you happen to be the official sponsor.
The link with brands
Brands can become indelibly linked with the music festivals sponsor – especially if there is an exclusive supplier agreement in place as the product becomes synonymous with the brand.
This can work against the brand (Visa at the Olympics, anyone?), but more often is a massive boom.
After my first Reading festival, Tuborg (the official supplier at the time) became my beer of choice. At the festival I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, but after the festival I did, but they still claimed that spot when I went to the bar.
Who’s doing it well now?
Water Aid was one of the primary sponsors for UK music festivals this year. Their “Pump up the Volume” campaign encouraged people to sign a petition aimed at world leaders to ensure that everyone everywhere had access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.
This year at Bestival, I was offered a much-needed glass of water and a stick on anchor tattoo that lasted all weekend. I had been quite literally branded!
It’s impossible to ignore the darker side of the lifestyle people lead at festivals. The Samaritans run a 24-hour tent at medium-sized to major festivals that offers face-to-face support for people who are facing challenges in their lives such as depression and drug abuse.
At festivals, people are often more willing to open up about themselves, and so it is an ideal environment to seek out people who are in need.
In recent years, Kopparberg has been homing in on the underground music scene and has done it well. However, with Glastonbury, Lovebox, Reading / Leeds and Bestival under their belt, Gaymers run the show when it comes to festivals.
Due to the vast contrast between the festivalgoers, by sponsoring these four festivals in particular, Gaymers have strategically targeted a wide range of demographics and established themselves as the common thread.
The North. Whippets and flat caps, ale and pies, chips and gravy. How could I leave such a place?
The South. Horses and top hats, shandy and nibbles, fruit and veg. Why would I want to move there?
Oh the South, I never thought I’d move down here. Honestly. I love the North too much. It’s where I feel comfortable -people understand the word brew! The thought of moving down here scared me: lots of people and huge buildings, not really what I’m used to.
But on Thursday 17th October I left my job at Burnley Council to move all the way down to the big smoke and start working at Claremont.
My move into PR, and to Claremont, came after taking part in the Brathay Apprentice Challenge. The Challenge – which this year I am helping to organise – pits teams of nine apprentices from all over the country against each other to be crowned ‘apprentice team of the year’.
We didn’t win. But what the Challenge gave me was a chance to hone my presenting and writing skills – presenting in front of over 150 businesses and even writing a blog for Alastair Campbell’s website.
Obviously having heard of Claremont through my research as part of the Challenge, when I found out about the apprenticeship vacancy I leapt at the chance to apply.
What really grabbed my attention – apart from the work that Claremont does promoting apprenticeships throughout the country – was the work that they had done with the Arts Alliance promoting the value of the arts in the rehabilitation of offenders.
Nothing’s ever straightforward
Unfortunately, 5 days before I was due to leave there was an article in The Economist stating that old industrial towns like my hometown of Burnley should be abandoned by the government – instead money should be spent on helping people leave. As you might imagine becoming one of the people that the article mentioned (leaving my hometown for a job in the big city) left a somewhat bitter taste.
The fact is I love Burnley no matter what people might say about it. I would never say that my move to London was in any way an escape. It’s an adventure, but in no way an escape.
In reality it’s a two-and-a-half hour train journey from London to Manchester and a bus journey back to Burnley – nothing really. But to me it’s a lifetime away.
Before this move I’d never lived anywhere else – the same town, the same street, the same house for 21 years. There’s flying the nest but I’ve flown exactly 298 miles to where I’m now living in Brighton. A giant leap and then some…
What do I think of it then?
I’m still taking it all in but what I’ve seen is great. It’s not better than home, it’s different. Whereas at home I’ve got 360-degree countryside, here I’m confronted with a sea of people and huge buildings. It’s daunting – but Christ it’s exciting!
Having only been here a short amount of time maybe my outlook will change, but I doubt it. Everything is new and exciting and there’s so much of it I don’t think I’d get the chance to stop being excited.
If I’m honest you’ve got it pretty good beneath the border. Obviously I could never say that it’s better down here (that would be going too far). But what I can say is I like it down here, and I think that’ll do for now…
Kickstarter came onto the digital scene in 2009 and has been doing so well that management in New York City has been able to buy, outright, a building in Brooklyn for their new offices that cost them a reported $7.5 million last year. For those that aren’t aware of Kickstarter; put briefly, it’s a crowdfunding site that allows the general public to pay for people’s creations up front so they have the funding to realise their creative idea dream.
I, personally, loathed the idea of a site that would allow complete morons to dupe people into giving them money for an idea that should never have been thought up. After a short while, something magical started happening. People were getting up in arms over rubbish projects and publicly voicing their negative opinions about them. Celebrities joined the Kickstarter bandwagon and were being mocked for doing so – the public wondering why it was that the already rich were flocking to the crowdfunding platform. And, this woke me back up to the site.
After doing some easy online research into successfully-funded Kicksarters, I found that;
- Those with a solid primary network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances hit their target goal of money.
Having a solid network around you meant that you were likely to do well. Pertinent to see here that this doesn’t just apply to Kickstarter.
- Approximately 43% of projects hit their funding target.
The guff isn’t getting through. People can see the twaddle amongst the really great ideas.
- If you reach 30% funded, you’re incredibly likely to reach 100% funded.
Much of the hard work in sales, marketing and word-of-mouth has been done by this point and you will stay in Kickstarter’s ‘Most Popular’ lists to be seen by other Kickstarter-ers so they can help you reach your goal. Social proof (and the psychology behind it kicks in) and people want to be part of something special so they pledge.
- Projects that were professional in appearance, had engaging video content and clear timelines for delivery were successful.
Despite the site being aimed at the average person, it’s clear that people aren’t willing to give their money to those that seem unprofessional and disorganised.
Working on my own passion project – funded by yours truly – and being worked on in my own time, I decided to give it a go. After much hard work, preparation and asking people to work for free until the money came in (everyone trusting that my own Kickstarter would be victorious), we eventually managed to put a Kickstarter page together.
As you’re able to see below, we didn’t do too shabbily for an independent project with a following no bigger than 1000. Before going live, friends mentioned to me that setting such a high figure as my target was ludicrous. Despite that, I still went ahead, and had concluded that I should follow the “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” mantra.
Hitting a penny below your target meant you would receive nothing so losing wasn’t an option. Many a night and day went by where I was wearing different hats simultaneously. Covering the sales pitch, the writer pitch, the company director pitch – I was made to switch between any of these depending on who I was looking to raise money from.
Sleep was a luxury. Stress levels were high.
Towards the end of our Kickstarter, the revolution began. People started flocking to me in droves telling me how proud they were that we were so close to our goal and that if we needed the extra cash to push the total over the edge (at this point, we were sitting comfortably at £18,000 with seven days to go), they would be there to help.
Our hearts warmed and relief trickled through our veins.
There was a calming feeling in the final days of the Kickstarter and, although, we had made it, it obviously meant that the work had only just begun. Five months in, we’re making steady progress and development of the comic is well underway.
What have I learnt?
Well, a surprising number of your friends, colleagues and acquaintances will shock you and let you down. Asking people for money is not an easy task so lower your expectations accordingly. On the upside, a surprising number of people will go out of their way to keep you happy and pledge whatever they can give – even those you’ve not heard from in a while. It’s these people that you should remember and be thankful for.
I now have to spend more of my own money to keep this project going as we’re undoubtedly running into unforeseen risks that I’m having to overcome. Has this made me sad? No. The amount of publicity, press and fans of the project have made the sleepless nights all worth it. Slow and steady wins the race, but those who join the revolution that Kickstarter has created get to experience something special.
Feel free to keep an eye on the project, or even pre-order yourself a copy.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the recent “Hummingbird” changes to Google’s algorithm. What does Hummingbird mean for public sector organisations, businesses such as Claremont, and our clients?
On the face of it, it seems like a huge update. It’s the first time that Google’s algorithm (the thing that powers results) has been completely overhauled since 2001. 2001 was the year that Google overtook Altavista for number of internet searches. In digital years, it’s a huge amount of time. The change is said to have impacted 90% of search queries.
Why has Google changed its algorithm?
It’s hard to look beyond mobile as a factor for this. People are making more searches on mobile devices, and Google clearly anticipates that as technologies like Siri, Google Glass and Google Now become more popular, we’re going to be searching using our voices a lot more.
The search landscape has also changed a lot since 2001. In 2001, using a search engine was about finding relevant content. In 2013, there’s no shortage of stuff out there, it’s about finding the right content above the noise. To understand this shift, Google has to get to the heart of what we really mean (who, what, why, how and when), rather than simply matching words against a database.
How is search behaviour changing?
Words like “short tail” and “long tail” sound like jargon, but people who use Google understand that they’re unlikely to find what they’re looking for using generic keywords. So they’ve stopped doing it.
A quick look at the Claremont Google Analytics dashboard was a real eye-opener for me – the Claremont homepage accounted for just 40% of visits from Google in the last month. The other 60% were for well-targeted blog posts, landing pages and library content.
What does Google Hummingbird mean for businesses and public sector organisations?
Google will be providing better answers to searches written in the form of a question. Over time, that’s going to change people’s behaviour, and people will start doing these kinds of search more.
This means that keyword searches which are not phrased as a question – ‘PR agency London’ for instance – are on the way out. Optimising a site for search therefore, isn’t about how many keywords you can cram on the same page – but providing the right, meaningful content to answer questions.
What is Google Hummingbird not going to be changing?
Branded searches aren’t going to be changing. People will still search for Apprenticeships, National Careers Service, Claremont and more. If the name of your brand is also your product though (i.e. “How do I apply for an Apprenticeship?”) you’ll want to optimise for that.
What should you take away from Google’s changes?
- Content - it’s more important than ever before to deliver excellent, regularly updated content, optimise for a breadth of related keywords and make it available across devices.
- Measurement - The success of an SEO campaign can no longer be defined by ranking on short tail keywords – number of unique entry pages to the site is now a more relevant measure.
- SEO no longer optional - People will use Google even more than they already do. SEO is no longer optional for our clients but essential (even for clients sitting on gov.uk domains!)
- Authoritative content - Any campaign should consider how we can influence the answers Google gives by providing authoritative and useful content. Consider writing the title of your post in the form of a question.