John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher with McDougall Interactive.
Earlier this week, John Cass, SVP of Marketing, and John McDougall, CEO, of McDougall Interactive welcomed Aki Balogh, co‑founder of MarketMuse, a Content Intelligence Platform that identifies content gaps on your website.
John, John and Aki talked about the MarketMuse tool, the issue of Google Hummingbird and how to develop content for today’s web.
John Cass: Let’s start off. Please tell us more about how you came to found MarketMuse. What do you do differently from other search tool vendors?
Aki Balogh: MarketMuse is a Content Intelligence Platform that identifies content gaps on your website. Basically, we analyze your content, your site, and we tell you what topics you need to create more content about.
Then, as you fill in those content gaps, your site gains authority, which causes you to rank higher in organic search and generate more organic traffic.
Even better, your readership improves, because you’re offering more informative, comprehensive content so your readers become more engaged and they consume more of your content.
The original reason that I founded MarketMuse was, I had to write content about databases at a previous start‑up, and I wasn’t sure what to write about. I have a background in analytics, and I realized that we could apply artificial intelligence to help solve this problem for other marketers, as well.
What’s interesting is, at this time, no other search tool vendor has a solution that can tell you your content gaps and help with topic selection. In fact, we ourselves are relatively new to the market, although our core technology took over two years to develop. We can talk more about why later.
John Cass: That’s interesting, because Hummingbird is fairly recent, as well, so in some ways you’re right there in the changes in the marketplace, and prepared for it, would you say?
Aki: Yes. That’s exactly what — we saw the landscape of search changing. And just really briefly, the history is, when Google first starting growing and SEO and search marketing started growing in popularity, it was all about keywords, keyword research. Have this keyword in your content. Have it in your title tag and your H1 tags, and so on.
Google’s really moving away from that. Hummingbird was, I would argue, the first major step in the direction where they’re really moving towards, “How does language work? How do people think? How do people connect ideas?”
It’s good timing for us, and it’s also a hard problem to solve. That’s why we try to stay at the forefront of that and help people do that efficiently and effectively.
John Cass: Great. This is questions for you, Aki, and also, the team here, as well. What is Hummingbird, and how does it work? You touched on Hummingbird lightly there. What are the details?
Aki: I’ll give you a couple of highlights. Hummingbird is a search engine update for Google Search. It came out in 2013. What’s interesting is this is a really high‑impact update. It’s estimated to have impacted as high as 90 percent of searches.
But despite the fact that it’s impacting all of our work, we found that it’s not very well understood in the industry.
In fact, MarketMuse, on our blog, we’ve recently published a roundup of blog posts relating to this, and we found that really only a handful of great posts exist in the industry, and only a few people talk about how it works and what it does.
But we do know a little bit about how Hummingbird works and what it does by reading patents that Google has filed. I’m going to mention a couple of the main pieces, then we can dive in. I’m trying not to make it too technical.
Basically, the core objective of Hummingbird is to better understand user intent, which is a big objective at Google. Arguably, its objective is also to help with conversational queries.
Primarily as people use mobile devices, they’re asking, they’re searching for questions in a more conversational manner, and it’s designed to help facilitate that.
But if you look below the covers, Hummingbird is really a set of semantic analytic technologies. Reading the patent, it mentions a synonym engine. What are synonyms of each other? Google’s had that, and search engines have had that for quite some time, but that’s a component.
But it also mentioned some new pieces. Substitute terms. Context. Co‑occurrence. These are basically new additions to the algorithm. It looks at, “What’s related to each other?”
Dog food. What’s related to dog food? Doggy treats, puppy chow, pet food — they’re all related. They’re not synonyms, it’s slightly different. But these terms exist in the same context. That’s really what Hummingbird starts to do.
Also, Google’s bringing their Knowledge Graph, which is a big project around entities and trying to make better sense of what’s what and how it relates to each other.
Google’s Knowledge Graph
John McDougall: Can you explain that a little bit, the Knowledge Graph?
Aki: Absolutely. A couple years ago, Google started this big project to basically model language and figure out what’s related to what. You can think of it as, you have Wikipedia, and Wikipedia’s a great reference for things and people and events.
Google started modeling that. It’s a really fascinating project, because if you look at the history of the semantic web, when people have tried to do it in the past, it’s a really tough problem to solve. But Google really made a strong effort.
Now, they have this graph where they can say, “Oh, you know what? Dog and puppy and animal and cat or pet, these are all related,” for example. They can use that information to better tailor their search and return results more effectively.
John McDougall: How does a website gain authority in Hummingbird? Are there some tactics that can make you as an entity, a website, build up your authority profile, if you will?
Aki: Absolutely. Hummingbird shifts the conversation. It used to be about keywords. “Have this keyword in there.” But Moz, for example, has pointed out we need to stop thinking of keyword optimization and start thinking of topical optimization.
What are the topics that relate to our industry, that our audience would find interesting? Basically, you gain authority by writing high‑quality content. You write content that covers relevant topics in an interesting way, in a novel way.
Writing high‑quality content, of course we know Google talks a lot about it. HubSpot and other companies talk a lot about it. But it’s really starting to matter now for where you rank on a search.
What’s interesting is, in the past, in the last 10 years, links have been the key focus, inbound links. It’s still important for your web marketing, but now, the conversation’s really shifting to, in a technical way, what Moz calls on‑page content factors.
Basically, the topics that are covered in your content are becoming much more important to establishing and building your authority.
John McDougall: As an example, with Authority Marketing, part of what we’re doing is explaining to people that thought leadership is really important in marketing and building up your level as an expert.
How would MarketMuse help me, instead of just picking keywords like “how to be a better blogger” and just keep saying the words “authority marketing” or “thought leadership” over and over and over again, how can MarketMuse help me to pick the right keywords that would help me more holistically cover content in depth over a series of articles, say, rather than jamming those keywords into single pages?
Aki: Absolutely. It’s actually quite easy. You can go to marketmuse.com.
You could even get started without any intervention from our end. Basically, we crawl your site, and you’ll put in some topics that you want to rank for, some topics that you want to be known for — “authority marketing”, and so on.
You start with a topic. What’s interesting, in our engine we actually call them “related keywords”, but really, they are topics. You put in a topic, and our engine will download ranking content, high‑quality content, from sources like Wikipedia and elsewhere.
We analyze the topics in those items of content and compare that set to what you have on your site, and the gaps jump right off the page.
Certain topics you’re missing, certain topics you might have mentioned a couple of times, but they’re really relevant and you could mention them more, our dashboard will show you that.
John McDougall: Is it something you have to download? It’s all Cloud based?
Aki: Yeah. It’s completely SaaS. There’s no download. You don’t have to integrate it with anything. It works for any number of primary keywords. If you’ve got a list of 20 or 50 primary keywords that strategically you want to rank for, you can put any of them in.
We’ve made it very easy to use. Typically, a site under 20,000 pages, for a smaller site, anything other than a large publisher or a large company, you can just start using it, and you have your results within 30 minutes, typically.
John McDougall: John Cass, have you used the tool?
John Cass: Yes. We’ve been running some demos with some customers, one or two customers.
It’s really interesting, because as we’re trying to figure out what Hummingbird is, there’s an opportunity there to get some additional insights on what the additional topics are.
For me, part of this is looking at some of the examples and how Hummingbird is really changing the nature of search. I did a search recently, which was, “Who invented the Theory of Relativity?”
I expected the answer to come up would be Einstein, but instead the top result was an article about the myths related to five inventors of ideas and concepts on cracked.com.
As a result of that, there was an article there discussing how Einstein wasn’t the central inventor of the Theory of Relativity, but his work was built upon other people, and mentioned some of those people in the article.
I was surprised by the result, and also really intrigued to see it was the relevancy of that article, where it was not just mentioning the Theory of Relativity, but also, Einstein, and then also other authors as well, because it had those relationships and also authority.
One interesting thing about that is that it also is important to have an authority website because of those links. That had a ranking and probably beat out Wikipedia as a result.
Whereas, if you did a search on who invented the General Theory of Relativity and who invented the Special Theory of Relativity, then, the Wikipedia article did pop up and was much more relevant, because Einstein did invent those ideas.
That’s what we’re looking for, those references to other keywords and topics within an overall topic, because then, we can write content that is going to be much more relevant and is going to start giving the sort of content that the reader wants and Google wants, as well.
Aki: Absolutely. If I may comment on that. Basically, when you identify certain areas where you can be the authority, the expert, and really write content, as you point out, in an interesting way — interesting content, different ideas — and really build that on your site, that’s a fantastic content asset.
That asset will get you high in search. You’ll get a lot of great traffic from it. You’ll get a lot of exposure. That’s the great thing about Hummingbird and where search is moving, is it’s moving away from gaming the system and [where] the companies with the biggest budgets win.
It’s really moving toward, “What’s the absolute best source of information on this topic?” Everyone benefits. The Internet basically becomes a better place because of this.
John Maher: We hope you enjoyed this discussion with Aki Balogh of MarketMuse.
For more information about MarketMuse, you can visit their website at marketmuse.com. That’s market M‑U‑S‑E dot com. Also, check out mcdougallinteractive.com for more information about digital marketing.
For McDougall Interactive, I’m John Maher. Have a great day.