Search Engine Humanization!

September 15, 2018 / / by Thomas B. McVey


Voice search, content marketing and the future of Inbound Marketing

One of the hottest topics at Inbound 2017 was the discussion over what had changed over the past 18 months and what 2018 was going to look like in terms of effective content marketing strategy. One thing everyone agreed on was that mobile search had caught up with traditional search and the amazing impact of Voice Search and how it is changing the way that consumers access information as well as the way that they engage with brands.

HubSpot delivered a fantastic talk during Inbound where they introduced a new and exciting Content Strategy tool as well as a summary of the current state of the union and predictions for the future. Prior to that our perception of Voice Search was strictly attached to how Search Engine Marketing & Optimization was being affected.

Very quietly and without much warning a disruption is occurring in search habits and a shift is needed to capitalize on the change, it really hit home for us as we’re in the business of delivering high quality content for all of our clients. Voice Search is so much more than speaking into our smartphones and asking siri for what we want or using Google Home or the Amazon Echo. The same way we marvel about a doorbell that can record using motion and allow us to remotely communicate with visitors wanted or unwanted and somehow we just know that things will never be the same, something has happened we’re just not fully aware of the consequences.

Everything is evolving towards a common sense user friendly outcome based approach for accessing the information we actually want and more and more of what we don’t want is getting filtered out.

With over 300 significant changes to Google’s search engine algorithm, each one with the goal of making it more responsive and intuitive to the users request, being able to aggregate the evidence and weigh the factors being considered, they are literally picking the fly shit out of the pepper for consumers.

This is a game changer and will weed out many of the poor choices, it will likely continue to weed out many of the good choices as well. There’s a new day coming and the rewards will be given out only to those brands that are consumer-centric and take the time to create useful content that not only gets consumed and shared but it will need to build equity by collecting credible evidence that is consumer validated and tracked.

The Search Engines are becoming more human and now more than ever their future relies on the quality of the information that they’re delivering. Authenticity is necessary and it will lead to stricter guidelines for search engine marketing through paid search as well.. Google is getting to a point where it can understand topics and “Google, what do I need to do to improve my credit score?”

So what can you do about this?

What will content marketing be like in 2018?

HubSpot launched a new and impressive tool called Content Strategy. It allows you to create ‘topic clusters’. These clusters are a series of topically related content intended to build authority and influence around a specific topic, improving your ranking on search engines and helping prospects to find your content. Within your topic cluster, you have one piece of pillar content and 5-10 cluster topics. If your topic was Plastic Surgery for example, your pillar page might be Plastic Surgery Procedures– and around that pillar page, you would have cluster topics relating to the procedures that Plastic Surgeons provide, such as Facelifts, Rhinoplasty, Breast Augmentation, Botox etc.

The most controversial element of this new strategy is that a pillar page is effectively an eBook but spread out as a webpage. You have a central topic that links to – and discusses – a number of specific sub topics – Pillar pages should educate your audience on a particular topic, to maximize the impact they should be a few thousand words, have multiple calls-to-action and include a combination of different types of media. These pages then cross-link to your subtopics.

The reason this was a controversial idea is that it effectively means “un-gating” your eBooks (or what could have been web assets lik articles or eBooks, but are now topic clusters). The very thing we advise our clients not to do on a regular basis. The unintended but anticipated negative consequence was finding a new way to capture lead data when all of our e-book content is showing up as webpages. We solved this by only applying this method to the awareness stage assets and placing CTAs to consideration stage or MOFU (middle-of-the-funnel) content items throughout the pillar pages. HubSpot described it as ‘widening the top of the funnel’. The other recommendation is to ensure that the content is still available to download as a PDF, so that people have the opportunity to save the content and read it later.

So, here are our suggested steps for getting started with topic clusters and using HubSpot’s Content Strategy tool:

Start with your buyer personas (See link below for the tool to create them)

Your buyer personas are the foundation of your Inbound campaign(s), so you should always be referencing them. Whether you’re creating content, building CTAs, or planning workflows, your personas should be at the center of your efforts. HubSpot has a great tool to help you develop your personas if you don’t have them already:

Identify your ideal clients top challenges

Once you identify the biggest thorns in your personas paw, you can create a valuable message through your content that speaks to it and provides relief. They should be the typical challenges your buyer personas face every day and want to find a solution to.

Group the pain points into topics

From the pain points you’ve identified via your buyer persona research, find the common topics that unite them. For example, your personas might have the following problems:

o My website isn’t qualifying and sifting good traffic from poor traffic

o We can’t tell which web assets are converting

o Is the paid search profitable and sustainable

These problems could be grouped into the topic of Lead Generation, Scoring or Nurturing.

Next, create a content roadmap

Take the topics you’ve identified and, using keyword research, identify subtopic content that relates to the topics you’ve identified. Your subtopics should be closely related but not exactly match the main topic. So, if your pillar content is around Lead Generation, you could create blog posts like ‘3 tools to use to generate more leads from your website’ or ‘The best converting landing pages on any website.

Create your topic clusters

You now have everything you need to begin planning and building out your topic clusters. Add these into your content plan, build them out in HubSpot and monitor the results.

You can find some excellent pillar page templates available here if you’re in need of some ideas:


Happy Hunting,

Thomas McVey (and the rest of the rethink marketing team!)


P.S. For tons more information on everything related to inbound marketing, be sure to subscribe to the rethink blog, and check our gigantic library of online resources.

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