“Real search is about providing valuable information when it’s really needed to those who are actually looking for it.” – David Amerland
David Amerland, a chemical engineer turned semantic search and SEO expert, is a famed author, speaker and business journalist. He has been instrumental in helping startups as well as multinational brands like Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, BOSCH, etc. create their SMM and SEO strategies. Davis writes for high-profile magazines and media organisations such as Forbes, Social Media Today, Imassera and journalism.co.uk. He is also part of the faculty in Rutgers University, and is a strategic advisor for Darebee.com.
As an author, David Amerland has written 9 books around SEO and SMM. He is the author of a bestselling book titled “Google Semantic Search” which highlights the importance of semantic search and how technology with machine intelligence can do far better than humans in making search more user friendly.
David is the founder of DavidAmerland.com, a repository of articles on SEO and semantic search, SMM and business. He is also the founder of consulting firm named HMS Media that specialises in content development and semantic search.
Below is an exclusive video interview that Kamkash did with David Amerland, in which he explains semantic search in layman’s terms, and how it is impacting the future of search and SEO.
SEO and Semantic Search Q&A With David Amerland
Nishant: How did David Amerland, a chemical engineer, end up being a semantic search expert?
David: I was always interested in the search environment which was in development for a long time. Sometimes in a smaller sense like searching through a database, and then eventually searching through larger data sense. The moment you have any kind of competing environment you essentially have some kind of accumulation of data. Data makes zero sense if you can’t find what you want very quickly and then understand what you are looking for.
Nishant: You have written a book on the topic “Google Semantic search”. What motivated you to write this book?
David: The reason for any kind of book, really, is that it should answer some kind of question or provide a solution to some kind of problem or become a guide into something new. And if it doesn’t do any of these things, then a book is pretty much useless, really.
So, I was looking, and I have been looking at search for a long long time, and I could see trends developing and leading us to a new search environment which was fundamentally different from the things which we have been doing in the past. So that became the birth of Google Semantic Search, essentially, and it’s a guide into a new world.
What is Semantic Search ?
Nishant: Can you explain to our readers what is semantic search? Technically, how does semantic search work?
David: Okay, what is semantic search? Because, essentially, on the surface of it, you know, the way we execute search hasn’t changed. You know, we are still going to some kind of device, we have some kind of query input interface and then we get a reply. But what goes on behind the scenes has changed fundamentally. And the reason it has changed fundamentally is because of the problem of, I would say, accumulation of data. If you only have a limited data set to work with, well, it is very easy to find something.
You know, it’s like being at home. If only you have two sets of T-shirts to choose from, you know, it’s gonna be either black or white, right? But if you have all these different colors and all these different types, and you have a jacket, and you have a scarf and you have different types of trousers and shoes, then you say okay – what is the right combination for that particular occasion which will have the desired effect, which will give you the outcome you want. And search is the same thing. The moment you have massive amount of data, a query then has to become very specific in terms of what kind of data is going to satisfy it. And then, because it’s machines, we have the question of how the machines understand a query, how do they understand the context of the person who has asked it? How do they then define or divine the intent of that person, so they can give the best possible answer. And that’s even before we get into the complications of how do we totally understand the massive amounts of data that we have.
So all this now is changing, because essentially when you have that kind of query, what you’re really interested in is finding the best possible answer for you. Which is probably going to be a little bit different to the best possible answer for the person, you know, five seats away. Because the context is going to be slightly different, the intent is going to be slightly different. So on. So we are in an environment now where semantic search essentially is trying to understand at a very nuanced level, and then it is trying to give us the best possible answer to our query at that nuanced level of our demands or our intent.
Semantic Search Vs Keyword Search
Nishant: What is the difference between semantic search and a normal search engine query (Boolean search)?
David: Well, boolean search essentially looks at something probabilistically. And what it does is, it says, okay, you know, what is it you want to find out? Then say you want to find the best possible coffee for you. It would look at all the documents across the web, it would look at the contents of the word coffee, saying, you know, this about coffee, this is about coffee, this is about coffee as well, and this one is, you know, has a lot more words with coffee, so probably it’s a better coffee document. So it would give you, you know, ten possible answers. But then you, the person, would have to go through each page and actually decide – is this relevant or is it not? Is it spammy or is it not. Is this, you know, ..if none of those actually fitted your…what you are looking for, then you would try and refine your search. Say perhaps, coffee brands or coffee brand in, you know, London or you know, what are you…you are trying to basically help the machine understand what you are trying to get at.
Now we are in an environment where we’re gonna have to do all that, and you know this is boolean probabilistic approach. Moving into semantic approach, where essentially what the machine is trying to do, is trying to work out intent and give you an answer to your question. So if say, for instance, you know, coffee in your phone, and you actually use voice search, there are lot of elements coming together. The device interface, the device that you are using, the location, your past search history, what else you have done, your habits and all those things are beginning to now create a very multi-layered sort of…kind of presence at the interface which then gives you a much nuanced kind of answer. So you are not likely to get, you know, a coffee shop in Delhi, for instance, if you are in London, because it’s not going to happen. So this is the kind of refinement which we are actually experiencing.
Nishant: David, in an interview you have used the analogy of ordering a pizza at 9 a.m. for explaining how user intent and context have a profound influence on semantic search. Can you please elaborate this for our audience.
David: I mean it again shows, I mean, the great value of search these days, is it allows us to make sense of a world that is very overwhelming in terms of information and actually personalise it for us. It allows us to navigate the world in a better way. And you know, it’s far from perfect, obviously. Because, you know, it’s constantly being refined and developed. But we are getting to that stage. So yeah, the pizza example is perfect because at 9 a.m., you are unlikely to want to have pizza for breakfast, unless, unless – this is something which you always do, right? In which case, yeah, you would, you would get that. But yeah, and you know 12 o’clock, if you ask for pizza, you are more likely to get pizza restaurants near you than, you know, here is a pizza recipe or here is a history of pizza.
Nishant: David, you mentioned that Google keeps data points of people interacting with the search engine. What influence does it have on the search results?
David: That’s right. I mean, everything is an accumulation of data and you know it’s always difficult to think of this in terms of machines accumulating data. But if you think how we operate in the real world, I mean, you think of your best friend. He says to you, you know, a couple of words, and those words you read. His mood, the kind of day he has had, perhaps what he wants to do next, and you know how to react. And somebody who doesn’t know him, listens to those two words, and doesn’t know anything about him. He thinks, so, you know, what the hell does he want, you know. He doesn’t know how he feels, doesn’t know he is telling good day or bad day. Because those layers of information are not there. So essentially, you know, you know, at the risk of trying to sound a little bit trite, Google is trying to be that magical best friend that basically knows all about us, intuitively, and tries to give us back all the…all the things which we need.
RankBrain and Future of Search
Nishant: The next question is about RankBrain – Does RankBrain have any contribution to Hummingbird algorithm, and how is it responsible for managing semantic search?
David: Ok, this is a very relevant question. There is a lot of misinformation or miscomprehension as far as RankBrain is concerned, not least because of their unfortunate naming. Now, first of all, it has nothing to do with ranking. So there is no way that, you know, I have seen articles in a website – how to optimise for RankBrain. And you know this is a Facepal moment. You think, what…you can’t, right? So let’s not go down that path. But let’s understand what it is. Traditionally, Google in whatever stage of development their search engine was, always had about 25 percent of queries which are brand new, and it didn’t understand them, and it didn’t know what to do with them. And that was quite a significant number, because if you think about it… it’s a massive amount of information, of queries where the search user experience was less than sterling simply because the nuanced approach was not there.
The way we phrase queries as people is always going to be novel. A machine lacks imagination, it finds it very hard to extrapolate from what it knows to what it might be. And this where essentially RankBrain comes in, because the RankBrain is machine learning machine learning to…to sort of simplify it a little bit. It’s essentially a computer program that writes its own rules based on what it finds so it can make a kinda sense of it. Which is scary – little bit when you think about it, right? So essentially what RankBrain does for Google, it looks up the search queries that come in and uses a clever mathematical way of representing them, which is called, you know, you know, you know vectorspace, essentially have a three dimensional way of representing words, which allows us to make better guesses of their importance and meaning.
So essentially, RankBrain is an intelligent program that understands queries better, builds tables which then can be referred and used in search, and is an enabler, if you like, of information which can be surfaced when…you know normally wouldn’t. And that’s what it is. How does that even affect us. Now, I mean, there is there is two ways that…two two different areas. As an ordinary user of search, obviously what happens is with the passage of time you are going to get more and more relevant information from unexpected sources, which is going to be exactly what you wanted. Now, so essentially everything which you do in terms of business, branding, brand values – all those things now need to make sense.
So, you know, if you think that before 2012, you know, if you want to go online and you said what do I need – I need a website, okay. You sort of check the box, here is your website. What do I need? Five pages – about me page, you know, what I do, what I sell, buy it here. And that used to be enough, and now it isn’t. Now you actually have to make sure that if you have an offline location, it has to somehow be linked to your online presence. If you have a kind of values that resonate across the social media world with your audience, they have to be very much present on your website content, and they also have to be present across your social media sort of sites. They have to be present where you, sort of, interact with your customers and have to be reflected in that. So it’s a very human way of doing business, really, if you think about it, which is fascinating because as technology gets more and more rarified it becomes denser and perhaps invisible. We become more human across, you know, digital divides.
RankBrain which is now the third most important signal, when it come to search will eventually take more and more space of that space. So we are going towards a future where what we understand as search is constantly being refined constantly changing and no human is actually touching it. This is the future where we are actually going towards.
Nishant: David, Is it possible to optimize a website for keyword-based search queries as well as for semantic search?
David: That’s really a good question because essentially when semantic search started being a thing, a lot of people said, well, keywords are dead. And in essence they are. But they are not, right? Because essentially, we are still using language and language is important and semantic search makes help a better use of language than never before. So what has really changed? Well, it’s important here to actually clarify what has changed in search. With boolean search, everything was probabilistic based upon the presence of specific keywords in a sort of word rich content.
So if you think about for instance, back to our coffee brands, you know, you wanted to find something about coffee, you could easily game the system by having perhaps the word coffee in your title, it would have been in your URL, you mentioned it, you know, you know, in your five hundred word article…you mentioned it thirty times, you made sure that they…yeah, occurrence of those times is fairly close to each other, creating some kind of relevance, and it didn’t really matter what was in between. That would come out. Now that’s how you optimised in the past, and also in the past you need to have a lot of content that bridges things, everything and so on. Now we get into a world where it doesn’t matter how much content you have, probably does a little bit, but doesn’t matter as much. It doesn’t matter what kind of keywords you use, as long as what you are actually using is relevant. Does not mean that you shouldn’t care about keywords.
Nishant: Is is that semantic search is still evolving or is it on full throttle?
David: Yes. First of all, it is constantly evolving, and I must say that the biggest thing about semantic search is that Google can actually change things on the fly, without stopping things. And you can see what is actually producing…perhaps successive …waiting when it comes to how things are accessed and change and then adjust for it. So if you are gaming something and it’s working and it’s being gamed, well Google can’t actually reset that without making a massive change. And this is…the ever-flowing ever-changing world of search we are in now. Whereas in the past, you know, we would have to accumulate enough evidence and wait Google to run it’s, you know, you know, quarterly or half-annual change, and then it would it would change and it would start again. But now it doesn’t. So it’s constantly changing.
Nishant: Since we were talking about keywords, suppose I am writing an article around the topic Digital Marketing Strategies. It’s obvious that the term marketing will pop up a couple of times. What should I do at this scenario?
David: Again this is a good point to bring up. Is this what do you do in that situation, do you begin to sort of think – do I need to dumb it down? And the answer is no, because essentially – and again this is the power of semantic search – because there is so much data, and across that data, the search engine algorithm looks for specific signatures. It knows there are particular type of articles for a particular type of field, which also makes it more authentic, and something else won’t, which makes it less authentic. And you know, if you go back to my coffee article for instance, as an example. If I had, you know, coffeeareus.com, coffee, coffee, coffee on the title, and then begin, you know, you begin the day with coffee and everybody loves coffee because we drink coffee, and that’s my opening statement. We know this is rubbish and we used to see articles like that. Right in the past you used to actually come up against them.
Big Data, Small Business, and Semantic Search
Nishant: How is Big Data and Knowledge Graph related to semantic search?
David: Essentially knowledge…the knowledge graph…rather let’s begin…take a step back and think that essentially semantic search is a big data problem and it’s the answer to how do we manage it. Now we generate every day, each of us, from our devices, from our activities on-line, more data than any other time before. And everybody else around is doing the same, this data is accumulating. So then we come to the question, how do we manage it? How do we organise it? How do we begin to trust it? How do we verify it? And big data is driven by four things basically, you know – it’s driven by volume, it’s driven by variety, it’s driven by all the different things and you know the critical thing, of course, is veracity, right? And this is how do we get to trust that?
The only way Google could actually address this is by creating a knowledge graph. A knowledge graph is essentially a graph detailing the relationship between points of data, and then, you know, ascribing some kind of ever changing value between those things. So by doing that, it begins to accumulate a picture of trustworthy sources, which then lead to more trustworthy data, and also questionable sources which lead to questionable data, and also signature profiles which perhaps, you know, lead to questionable things.
To give an example here, suppose, you know, I set up a website tomorrow and I am selling cars. And I know nothing about selling cars, right. So brand new website, but I do know how to optimise it. So I do all the tricks, you know, optimise it perfectly. I am pretty sure it will come up all right and it will come up on search on Google. It won’t, right because Google see, first of all it’s a new site, secondly it is optimised to the gills, which is a signal in itself. Thirdly, nobody in the car industry is up to interacting with it. So the knowledge graph points of connection are pretty weak, which makes that website an unknown entity at the moment. You know, Google won’t make a judgement – Ha, it’s suspect. David is trying to con people, you know, take their money from cars and never have any cars to sell. But it’s thinking, well nobody else is interacting, so how valid is it really? So, you know, these things which essentially mirror very much the way we operate as people in real life. You know, somebody comes up, you don’t know them, never met them before and tells you something, well, you have taken on board, but you think, you know, I don’t know that person, what they said sounds a little bit weird, I better double check it, verify it with other people. And if nobody else knows that person or what they said, you think “Hmmm – what a strange thing happened to me today.”
If I tell you something, somebody else says “Oh yes” and you know, that person is, you know, you know, visiting professor from you know some university from Patagonia for instance and have done done something amazing, you know, then you begin to sort of create in your mind all the different connections which allow you to assess the impact and importance of that person. That’s your personal knowledge graph. So essentially that’s what a knowledge graph is. So if you think of a knowledge graph as a layer of meaning which we place to the massive sea of data that we are actually swimming in, and that allows us to to make sense of it in terms of our own personal connections to that level.
Nishant: David, you mentioned that Google sees us as a personal entity and it will connect us to different data points. How will it affect SMEs or startups who don’t have any visibility?
David: Okay…again this is an excellent question because, you know, everybody thinks, well, I am brand new, I am starting at a disadvantage. Well the answer to…the first answer to that is yes, you are. But, you know, that is the same with any kind of business. Whether it’s a website or an offline business, the moment you are new, what do you do? You have to make the world aware of your presence. So you need to find a way of publicising your self. Then you have to make sure that the people know what you do. So there needs to be clarity in your approach.
So you say hey, you know, this is what I am selling. I am selling feather dusters because you live in a dusty environment and you need them. So this is great. And then you gotta say, Hey, I also sell very good feather dusters at a very good price. And you need to establish that point of trust. We do all those things offline almost, you know, instinctively, because we have no choice because we exist in a particular space and we are governed by specific rules. We know how to operate and how things work. We used to get into digital environment and it used to be that hey, anything goes. You could say anything, you could do anything. This is not the case anymore.
Essentially if you have a brand new business, you have a startup, you need to find a way to publicise yourself, you need to get on social media, you need to find your audience, you need to make sure the audience is aware of you, you need to make sure that they understand what your importance is in relation to their problems. And then you need to make sure they trust you. So they need to know you, then create a relationship and say hey, you know, what is it, you need to…send you ten bucks on the post and I am gonna get in five days. Great. There has to be that kind of thing.
Nishant: David, we talked about how semantic search is going to affect startups. At the same time, how is semantic search going to affect business and corporate competition?
David: Lot of businesses do a lot of similar things, and it used to be that, you know, when you had any kind of digital presence, you looked at what your competitors did, you sort of tried to copy them and try to outdo them in some way. And that used to be the way to…sort of…compete with them online. And it’s not that anymore. Essentially businesses can do the same thing pretty much, but it is highly unlikely that they do it in exactly the same way. So although there is overlap in what they do, there is a uniqueness factor. And this is where the uniqueness factor now must come to the surface. This is where things become more holistic. Essentially when you interact with a business, what you are looking for? You are looking for brand values which reflect your values, you are looking for way of approaching business which makes you comfortable and makes you trust them. You are looking perhaps at a quality of product with a price which is…which meets your own particular demands. And, you know, if you take another example, let’s think of Adidas and Nike, they both do sportswear, for instance. So why would you go and buy Adidas as opposed to Nike? I mean…at the…at the price point and quality level they are pretty much the same. And even more so, if you go to a generic…sort of…because everything has been commodified these days. If you go to a generic T-shirt salesperson, we are unlikely to get a much lower quality unless we pay them what’s next to nothing. So if you pay, you know, almost half the price the quality will still be above what you want.
So in terms of value now, when you go to a brand, it has to reflect little bit of a identity, a little bit of what is important to us in terms of how they operate, a little bit of what is important to us of their brand values, not just in terms of product but also in terms of the wider world and this is where, you know, things become very real. This is where the relationship between a business and its customers has to have real value for both. That’s where the differentiation comes in, and this is where semantic search makes it possible. Makes it imperative, I would say, for a business to actually project that. So if you have a business online, if you are not really connecting with your audience, you are not really find…finding your customers. You are just finding customers in a generic sense which means that you are fighting the same battle day in day out which is wearing. But if you find your audience, you find your customers, well, they are your customers, you certainly know why they have…they’ve come to you, you know how to talk to them, you know how to address them, you know what’s important to them, you suddenly embark on a journey which is a shared journey because you have shared interest and shared space. And that makes it lot more rewarding for both.
Without customers the business dies obviously. But the way we approach it these days has to be, well, is, by necessity, a lot more real than in the past where we used to think, you know, I am gonna throw up a website, I am gonna get a 100,000 visitors, I am looking for 0.02 percent conversion, which will give me, you know, 2,000 sales a month and that’s enough. It doesn’t work that way anymore.
Semantic Search + Google+ = Better Person
Nishant: David, in an interview with Martin Shervington you mentioned that the Google+ algorithm is forcing us into being better people. Can you elaborate on this?
David: Yeah, I mean, this is a…you know, you know, we look at sort of unexpected consequences of…of technological developments, and this is one of them. And…and essentially, you know, if we think of technology, it becomes now more responsive, more connective, more inclusive in many ways, it becomes an invisible layer that’s always there. So if you go into Google+, you think of this as another social network, yes it is. I am going to go there and market. Ohh.. yes and no, because essentially, you know, you can’t go there thinking, I am gonna put all these posts up, people going to interact with me because, surely, you know, that posts are great. You need to actually find what people want, which means you need to actually talk to them. You can talk to them at great lengths in threads, by putting in posts, putting…putting in links, putting in comments, tagging specific people, so you are calling people from all over the world into the conversation. You can have a pretty real, pretty in-depth conversation, from which you actually develop true relationships in terms of knowledge and awareness of each other with other people.
And the moment you do that, then, yeah, definitely, you know, you have something of value to market you can definitely do that. But that’s a very real way of doing it based on relationships, you know. I always give the analogy of people down at the pub, you know, you go there, you go for a drinkin a group of friends. Well you don’t pull out your business card and say – Hey I also sell insurance, who wants insurance right now. Because nobody is gonna buy insurance from you, and you probably won’t get invited back, right, for another drink. But if within the context of the conversation, somebody does mentions insurance and you say – Hey, yeah,you know, the way you assess this is… and you explain in depth, and everybody suddenly is impressed by your expertise because you have added value to the conversation. You haven’t sold anything, but they say – Huh, how did you know that, you say, well, it’s my job, and then they will say have you got a business card. And that’s how it works, right?
So Google+ actually allows you to be pervasively enough very real in a very digital environment where we are synchronously connected with lot of people from all over the world and yet the connection feels very…very real in terms of that.
Nishant: David most people are giving importance to organic search than PPC or SMM. Where do you think it’s heading?
David: Okay, that’s…that’s interesting. I mean we need to ask why do we give more weight to organic search. It’s because of our perceived trust in it, because we think it’s more impartial and it has greater depths in terms of the connections behind it, and the value it will bring to us. We are all aware that, you know, if you pay for something to appear on search, which is, you know, basically a Google ad, well, you paid for it, right? So this, you know, the only thing we have to trust is that you think that it’s worth paying for it in order for us to see it.
Does that mean that we can discredit paid search, and only go for organic search? No, I think there is a future there for all of these things. The web has many layers of contact and depending on the situation the person looking for something, they will make a different decision depending on their contacts. So a business will need to be aware of all these things. What we cannot do, either as individuals or as business anymore, is walk on sort of a blind road, where you set off you know, what do I need for organic search? I need 10 pieces of content, okay. I am gonna produce it. No, you can’t do that. You gotta say, what do I really need to write there in order for people to understand who I am and connect with me. What do you need to do for paid search, well, I need to, you know, put in so much money, so many keywords, so many ads per month. Well, no, again. Think of the value those things will bring and think of how you can actually – if you’re doing both, how you actually merge those two. So essentially, the brand awareness that comes up with paid search is backed up and reflected by the organic search and visa versa.
VR and Future of Content
Nishant: David, Now technology has improved a lot and we have virtual reality, and users are much comfortable with video content. Where do you think it’s going. And where will content be after 5 years?
David: Well, we are in a world where the realities we are in are becoming both fragmented and then begin to overlap. By that, I mean, you know, used to be online and offline. You know, we had two things. You are either in the “real world” or you are in the online world. And now we get virtual reality coming in, we are getting sort of augmented reality, we are getting hybrid reality. With those three things…two things are beginning to come together and begin to interact with real things in a digital environment and all of these things are leading down to essentially how we use data. Since the divide between the online world and the offline world is an artificial one which was dictated more by convention and the limitation of the quality than anything else..
We live in a world…that world is governed by data, it’s governed by connectivity, it’s governed by connections and relationships. So every medium that we put in place, whether it is a written word or the spoken word or video because it feels more real and more direct and more sort of has a greater impact. They all do the same thing, they allow somebody to project who they are, make a connection with the audience, foster a relationship, and from that connection and that relationship do something else. Whether it’s…you know, start a movement, exchange information and reach each other’s minds and knowledge set or make a sale, you know, all these things are the result of that. All of this is predicated on trust, and trust is based…at its most basic level, on an understanding of another person and an abilityit to predict what…why they do what they do.
Now, if I don’t know, for instance, why you doing what you do, I can’t trust your next move and you know it makes it very unlikely that I will want to have a relationship with you in any kind of format, moving forward, because you are unpredictable. But if I understand your intent, then I can sort of fit you into my world view, I can say Hi, you know, this is what he does and this is what he does and I understand that he does it to make money and he has that and I want it. So he is unlikely to stiff me because he wants to keep on making sales, and so on. So really, trust which, you know, we haven’t really ever looked at formally in the past, now has beginning…is beginning to become central to our way of connecting, and it begins to basically become formalised in the way that we actually act and drive relationship forward. Where does all this go in future? It…it goes toward greater connectivity, it goes towards greater, sort of, a fluidity in terms of how relationships are formed, things move on, business is set up and change more for their customers and so on. And all of this continues to be formed on the basis of trust and awareness and transparency and knowledge.
Top 4 SEO Mistakes
Nishant: What are the top SEO mistakes made by businesses?
David: Oh, top SEO mistakes.
- Well, the classic one is we still focus on keywords too much, and that’s our starting point. When we do that, eventually what happens, we run out of content, over produce content that’s basically, you know, low quality, or we begin to become too pushy in the way we actually project what we do to the point of we turn off the people we most want to connect with. So that’s the first one.
- Second mistake is that essentially we still think of SEO as something that happens in one box and has nothing to do with the rest of the business. So this is not true now. I…I mean search engine optimisation has a direct link to branding, has a direct link to the mission statement of the company, has a direct link to the transparency of…of the people behind the company. And, you know, if you don’t sort of do all those things, then you begin to…to work in a sort of disadvantaged way when it comes to search.
- Third mistake people make is, they think, okay what’s the next shiny I need to game in order to get fast in search. Its…its a variation of the…cannot be on Google’s first page in 24 hours please which used to happen in past. So gaming search, it’s still possible but it’s going to work against you. Okay, think that essentially search is changing all the time, it doesn’t need to apply specific filters anymore. It will change…actually close any loopholes or even if you have a fair advantage, it will change over time, it will not be an advantage any more. So the best way I understand is be real, be who you are, you know, work really hard to connect at a human level with those you really need to connect with, and that will work in your favour.
- Fourth thing is that essentially businesses within their own context…they work in a legacy mode, right? So they don’t inter-communicate very much and it shows. So if your marketing for instance is not communicating with sales and sales is not communicating with customer service and customer service is not communicating with everybody else, then you get your SEO team and say Hey guys, optimise your website and they think Whoa… what is most important, you know, what are we gonna do? Say think and… this is the most important one is that essentially a lot of companies aren’t very comfortable still with the constant…the mindset of constant change that is required, and that is something which they need to basically get a little bit more with in terms of how you should do it. And…and…and that…that’s the biggest change in companies when it comes to it, because it requires internal education, requires internal trust, requires internal communications to change and so on. And depending on the size of the company, that’s pretty hard.
What Does Good Content Look Like?
Nishant: What is high-quality content? What are the key differentiators of high quality content?
David: Okay. I mean this is a question of, you know, how long is a piece of string, right? And it’s being asked more and more. So I think the fact that you are asking it is really spot on. We tend to think of high quality content as content that has some kind of superficial slickness. You know, it’s perhaps multimedia, it has a very nicely laid out article, it has in-depth, you know, sort of approach, it has reference and everything. But I think that’s a superficial approach and not everybody should be governed by that.
I think ultimately high quality content is content that answers as completely as possible a search query a searcher may have. And if they do that and they are satisfied, I think that content is high quality. And I think again…you know, if we go back, you know, we have a blindness when it comes to online, offline. We do things offline that are instinctive and are correct. We go online and we lose all our values and all sight of the things which we know. If you go offline and talk to anybody that does any kind of job, and it doesn’t matter what the job is, you can bet that within ten minutes they can tell you something you didn’t know about that job. It will open up your eyes to it. You think WOW, I didn’t know that. And it could be anything. It could be, you know, from making shoes to sweeping floors and they can tell you, you know, if you do it this way, if you do that, this is why the best way to do it and this why, you think there is more to it than I actually thought. That’s the high quality content, that’s the thing that gives you value. That’s the thing that allows you to understand that the person doing that job is not just a person doing a job. It’s a person does the job that they really understand and love and they really know about it and they are excited about it, and if you can get that through the content which you get through and doesn’t really matter so much, the slickness of the format, the lack of the slickness of the format, if it really excites you, again if it really answers a query, there is your high quality content. So I suppose, summarising this, it is content with a passion, put your soul in it, really connect, understand you are talking to people, not machines.
Nishant: David, what will be the top content marketing strategy for this year?
David: Yeah, well, if you look at what’s happening with search, it’s becoming more and more personalised. So really, when it comes to content, the best – the top strategy is how do we create the personalisation of a content that we actually deliver. And…and this may change everything. It may change, for example, long articles they used to try and cover everything in 4,000 words to actually being chunked and being…becoming more specific. So you actually get five pieces of content about 250 words each. But they are very very focused. You may change the format. Instead of going for, you know, perhaps text driven which is wordy to read, into a 3 minute video presentation which shows you something very quickly, shows it to you a lot better what to do and convinces a lot more because of the human contact and the interface which is very visual. It may require podcasts, which somebody can absorb while driving.
These are the questions which you need to ask now in terms of the personalisation of your content. You gotta say…back down to the original question, who is my audience? You know, what do they want? What do they do? And then, as a business you gotta do what every business has always done – you need to work very hard to connect with them at their level so they are satisfied. If you do that, you know, your content strength is going to be spot on.
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