Google

Aim Digital Content at People, Not Search Engines

When you create marketing content, should you write for your audience or search engine algorithms? One expert says write for your audience, providing informative, useful and relevant content.

When you create marketing content, should you write for your audience or search engine algorithms? One expert says write for your audience, providing informative, useful and relevant content.

When you write a blog or some other form of digital content, is your target audience real people or a search engine? It is more than a theoretical question because without search engine optimization, your content may never reach the eyes of your intended audience.

Writing for Search Engine Journal, Sam Hollingsworth claims writing for a search engine is a mistake. He says digital content producers should focus on “the human beings who are actually reading the content” and let ever-improving search engines do the rest.

“Google’s role in the everyday lives of humans across the world becomes greater each passing minute, deeply rooted in its dedication to ensuring its search engine is giving users the best-possible answers to specific search queries, anytime and anywhere,” Hollingsworth says. “For these reasons, Google (or any other search engine) doesn’t need us to write content that is specifically designed for it. Google serves its users, and it wants content to serve them as well.”

That sounds good, but does it really work that way? It does, Hollingsworth insists, if you follow some basic rules of the road for search engines. Here are for writing “quality content:”

  • Quality content should have a purpose – a topic matched with an audience. The topic should be of interest, relevant and useful to the intended audience. It wouldn’t hurt if it also was entertaining and had some presentational value. Stick to a single topic in each piece of content so you can fully engage readers, not confuse them.

  • Quality content has a unique voice. If your content sounds like anyone could have written it, then you provide little incentive for readers to search for you. People may have favorite genres, but most people appreciate a variety of writing styles. The surest way to write in a unique style is let your writing reflect how you think and speak about topics.

  • Quality content is well researched. It should cover a topic thoroughly and not be limited to a specific word count if the topic demands longer treatment. Solid research should be showcased by effective packaging – headlines, charts and illustrations.

  • Quality content is well written. Copyediting is a must to catch typos and grammatical flubs. Editing for writing style and clarity is also important to put forward your best wordsmithing. Maybe most important, attack your story in an arresting way so it will seem fresh and inviting. It never hurts to make your first sentence the best sentence.

  • Quality content should have an author. Readers will want to know who they are listening to, so tell them. Bylines become reputational business cards attached to quality content. If people trust what you write and find it interesting and informative, they will follow you, which after all is the point of content marketing.

  • Quality content cites sources. Saying where statistics come from is essential to establish credibility. Citations also reflect the reliable sources you are monitoring to prepare your content. Relying on sources has the salutary effect of curbing any temptation to hype a fact.

To the extent content generators need to worry about search engines, they should concentrate on the relevancy of their content. This goes beyond the purpose of the content to the purpose of content marketing. What are your consumers or clients searching for and how can you deliver the content they search?  Your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness need to bend to the simple proposition that you must provide the answers for your intended audience’s questions. There is no other reason for marketing through content.

There are different strategies to consider. You may want to appeal to a wide universe and build a large following. You may increase your clicks and stimulate word-of-mouth engagement. Or you may zero in on a smaller group of people, who have specific questions that, depending on your answers, could convert them from readers to buyers.

Relevance written small or large doesn’t change Hollingworth’s main advice – quality content should aim at people, not algorithms. Understand how search engines work because they are critical to connecting with your audience. But really understand what your audience wants to know – and give it to them.

 

Google Veteran Job-Matching Ad Reinforces Value of a Useful Message

Google’s Super Bowl ad reinforced the potency of a TV ad with a straightforward message teamed with a clear call to action. The spot didn’t have glitz, celebrities, jousting knights or party-wrecking NFL legends, but it still packed a punch and made viewers pay attention.

Google’s Super Bowl ad reinforced the potency of a TV ad with a straightforward message teamed with a clear call to action. The spot didn’t have glitz, celebrities, jousting knights or party-wrecking NFL legends, but it still packed a punch and made viewers pay attention.

There are many things to learn from this year’s roster of Super Bowl ads (for example, never invite a bunch of former NFL players to a party), but perhaps the most important lesson is the continuing value of a useful message with a clear call to action.

Google earns my top award in this category for its minute-long spot aimed at assisting veterans match their military expertise to good-paying jobs back home. 

This is not a new undertaking for Google. It has sought to help returning vets for years. The 2019 Super Bowl ad managed to sum up its commitment with a sequence of images showing codes. For most of us, the codes are meaningless. For veterans, the codes represent the skill and specialization they achieved while serving in the military, which can easily be overlooked or undervalued by employers.

The ad’s message is that Google has used its vast online resources to align those military codes with jobs and professions in the domestic economy. It’s like translating French text into English as you read.

Google has teamed with RecruitMilitary, which bills itself as the nation’s leading veteran hiring company and talent recruiter. “We provide the spark that ignites organizations to excel by helping them hire and retain America’s best talent – its veterans,” proclaims the company’s website.

Google’s role is a feature called Cloud Talent Solution that allows veterans to search for job opportunities using their military occupational specialty codes. “The new search function is key to those service members who are actively seeking new career opportunities but are unsure of where to begin. It also delivers a strong starting point for newly transitioning veterans as they begin their post-military career search.” 

The Google Super Bowl ad wasn’t remotely glitzy and didn’t feature scads of celebrities. Instead, it relied on an intriguing message that resonated with transitioning military veterans – as well their families, employers and support communities. One of the greatest sources of untapped talent in the nation are military veterans who have skills. Those skills go for naught unless they have a job-matching map of where to look to apply them.

The ad served the purpose for Google of reminding viewers online searches combined with artificial intelligence algorithms can be a powerful tool that can reap very tangible benefits for individuals and businesses.

The simplicity and straightforwardness of the ad reflects a creative decision to let the message carry the day instead of relying on dazzling graphics or big stars. It reinforces the notion that a good message with a useful purpose is something people will want to hear. 

The military recruitment project by Google is commendable in its own right. The Super Bowl ad elevates the priority of the program while underscoring the value of technology in a complicated modern world. Many of us worry about our privacy and the mis-use of our online data. Google provides us an example of how the internet and machines that learn can deliver a great value to men and women who have earned it.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

 

Effective Teams and Collective Intelligence

Effective teams require more than brainpower. They need emotional intelligence and collective intelligence that allows each team member feel safe to express thoughts and ideas, even if they are disruptive – and perhaps because they are disruptive.

Effective teams require more than brainpower. They need emotional intelligence and collective intelligence that allows each team member feel safe to express thoughts and ideas, even if they are disruptive – and perhaps because they are disruptive.

Working in teams is a new norm in business, but all teams aren’t created equal. Google has conducted research to find out what makes the best teams click. One of the attributes is a bit surprising.

Google has identified five forms of collective intelligence that enhance team success. The most important, Google says, is providing a safe-zone for team members to say what’s on their mind and share ideas.

Google has identified five forms of collective intelligence that enhance team success. The most important, Google says, is providing a safe-zone for team members to say what’s on their mind and share ideas.

Project Aristotle was started by Google to study the effectiveness of teams. The research found two key characteristics – everyone contributes to the conversation and team members have an above-average ability to read other people’s emotions.

If emotional intelligence is a key factor in determining team success, how do you go about forming effective teams? The first instinct is to bring in the brightest lights in the categories relevant to the team’s work. You can ask everyone to bone up on emotional intelligence – and get some mentoring if they are deficient.

But Google kept digging and discovered other factors are important to team success. Julia Rozovsky, Google’s people analytics manager, realized that smarts and emotional intelligence weren’t enough to ensure success. How the team functioned and group norms were critical factors – “traditions, behavioral standards
and unwritten rules.” You might call it the collective intelligence of the team.

As Rozovsky told Inc., the five top factors include:

  1. Dependability – team members fulfilling assignments on time and meeting expectations.
  2. Structure and clarity – teams have clear goals and team members well-defined roles.
  3. Meaning – work holds personal significance to team members.
  4. Impact – team members buy into the team’s purpose and foresee positive impacts.
  5. Psychological safety – security to say what you think and take risks.

The last factor is the most interesting, and evidently the most significant factor, because taking risks can mean disrupting a team. But Google’s research found creating a judgment-free zone at team meetings unleashed ideas and opinions that otherwise might not have been expressed, enhancing chances of overall team success.

The finding reinforces the old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” but takes it a step further by underlining the importance of respecting all the brains in a room.

The Face of News Media Keeps Changing

Newspapers continue to decline while more readers get their news via mobile devices, which has pulled advertisers into new platforms and still-emerging forms of advertising content.

Newspapers continue to decline while more readers get their news via mobile devices, which has pulled advertisers into new platforms and still-emerging forms of advertising content.

We may be trading dominance by communications conglomerates for dominance by a handful of gargantuan technology companies that are emerging as prime arbiters of our news feeds.

Given the recent flap over Facebook’s censorship of certain trending news, that could be a growing concern, rivaling worries over the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s influence over what is considered news.

It is no secret that newspaper circulation has continued to dive as many print publications have struggled to cash in on their digital siblings. But it has gone relatively unnoticed that eyeballs tracking the news have shifted so dramatically to Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Twitter – with $40 billion in digital advertising trailing along.

Microsoft’s $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn puts it alongside Google, Facebook and Apple as digital platforms intent on creating bubbles that users never have to leave to do their work, share information, network with friends or potential employers, be entertained and view the news.

According to the Pew Research Center's 2016 State of the News Media report, 2015 was the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession. Circulation dropped 7 percent, advertising fell 8 percent and newsroom staffing shrunk 10 percent.

Michael Barthel, a Pew research associate focusing on journalism research, speculated, “Coming amid a wave of consolidation, this accelerating decline suggests the industry may be past its point of no return."

Meanwhile, TV and cable news operations held their own, thanks in part to a long and lively presidential primary season with lots of candidates and SuperPacs. News podcasting and live streaming are experiencing audience growth, but not revenue growth. If there is good news, they also are not cannibalizing traditional radio listenership and revenues, Barthel says.

Mobile devices are gobbling up audience attention and attracting more ad bucks -- and Google and Facebook are raking in the lion's share. The transition is more rapid than some may realize, with mobile advertising now outpacing advertising geared for desktop devices.

The question begged by the mounds of data in the Pew media report is “So, what does it all mean?” For one, it’s clear people appear more, not less interested in the news. They are shifting where they get their news, which is pulling advertising to new places and creating a demand for different types of advertising. But there is no promise current trends will persist. They may just be dog legs to the left on a course that is inexorably going into a water hazard on the right.

It seems obvious there is increased channel segmentation and a sharp divide in the news viewing habits of younger and older adults. But where does that lead? In an age of videos and visuals, why are audio-only communications picking up steam?  Will cable TV news retains its appeal after the November election? Would TV networks and stations have benefited as much by a more traditional contest such as Hillary Clinton versus a candidate like John Kasich?

Local TV stations have been buoyed by the buzz and business bump of morning TV shows, which feed into national news TV shows. Even evening TV news shows, which have been stretched over a range of “getting home” times, are prospering or at least holding their own. But how is this sustainable when younger adults no longer tune into traditional TV?

Media trends have a remarkable ability to mirror general societal trends. They show, as Pew reports, that people still thirst for news, but are willing to gravitate to different platforms and non-traditional sources to find it. Apple and Yahoo aren’t permanent emplacements. They can be as temporary as yesteryear must-sees, such as “Laugh In” and “Dallas.”

One thing is clear. In times past, all people could do is complain about the faults of their local newspaper or the bias of TV networks. But there is a lot more to fret about today when it comes to the news.