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Since the aftermath of Google’s Penguin and Panda updates, the search engine giant unveiled Hummingbird at the start of October 2013, coinciding with their 15th anniversary.
Updates of this nature are both interesting and daunting to website owners and online marketers alike. However, we all know that nothing remains consistent for too long in the digital landscape.
As Google’s algorithm evolves, marketing strategies follow suit in an effort to deliver the best search results and rankings possible. At the same time their search engine aims to become more advanced, and with Hummingbird acting as an indication of what’s to come in the future, it’s important to go with the change instead of fighting against it.
Just as Panda targeted websites using poor quality or thin content, with Hummingbird, content is still very much a part of the equation too.
Upon its inception, not many people were aware of the Hummingbird update until Google made the details clear and news stories and blog posts emerged left, right and centre.
Although plenty of information can be found on the implications of the update, it’s hard to actually gauge the finer details of what Hummingbird involves.
Greg Kumparack explains this well in an article on TechCrunch where he mentions that the primary focus of the new algorithm is for Google to parse full questions entered in the search engine, rather than doing so word-by-word. This essentially means that Google is becoming more advanced at providing direct answers to questions with more of an emphasis on conversational search delivered from mobile and voice search queries too.
With Google now taking note of full or complete phrases, compared to individual keywords in a search query, it’s attempting to eradicate unnecessary results and give the user exactly what they want.
It’s probably no coincidence that just before Hummingbird was revealed, Google made the decision to stop giving Webmasters access to data about the keywords that are delivering traffic from their search engine to websites.
Shift our attention back a few years and the emphasis on top performing keywords had more of a dominant presence in our approach to SEO and rankings. However, it’s now clear that Google are looking into other areas and search has once again evolved.
It’s important to stress that by no means have keywords suddenly become irrelevant. They still hold value to users and therefore they have significance within a targeted search query and to the search engines. However, conversational search goes far beyond keywords.
So with an understanding of what Hummingbird entails and the direction that Google is heading, how does this alter your own content marketing strategy? Here’s a look at five tips to bear in mind when creating content so that you can adjust to the Google bird.
Remember that your audience are your primary concern. Although you can’t predict how each and every one of your visitors will find your website via the search engines, ultimately this will be completely irrelevant if they end up landing on a page which doesn’t give them the information they require.
Therefore, write for your audience – think about what they would be searching for, and make sure you address these questions within your content. Keywords should still find their way into your copy and text where they fit naturally on a specific subject.
Think about why your customers need your products or services and then address this in your content. Whilst the search engines should be in the back of your mind, your audience should be at the forefront.
As Hummingbird focuses on the context of search queries, it’s now more important to make sure that your content covers all bases.
For example, if you are writing content for a blog, make sure that this platform isn’t just focussed on news pieces. Create advice driven, informative and opinion pieces as well, so that you can encourage a larger following and target more visitors off the back of a range of initial search queries too.
Relevant content needs to address every angle on a range of subjects to attract more people to your pages.
Instead of focussing solely on a particular keyword, put that keyword into context and try and determine how queries would be spoken in voice enabled search.
By incorporating these ideas within your content, you will be tailoring it towards the intelligence of the algorithm and the search habits of users too.
Where keywords are appropriate, don’t use them too much – this has been the case for a long time. Instead, use a mix of terms that adhere to the area of focus you are writing about and that are related to the initial search query.
If your strategy incorporates a blend of titles and content that’s focused around long-tail queries as well as short-tail then you will have a mix of content to address both areas.
With the help of tools such as Google Analytics, you can begin to understand what your site visitors are trying to search for and find.
For example, you can evaluate your top ten landing pages and work out if you have provided all of the necessary information within each page. If you discover that a few pages could be improved with more content added then include this as part of your strategy.
Similarly, by viewing the most popular blog posts on your site, you can determine what products, services and areas of focus are attracting your audience. With this insight you can aim to create more content concerning these areas with the intention of providing a wider hub of information.
If you are gaining improved organic traffic on a monthly basis because of this, then you are demonstrating to the search engines that your site is a helpful resource.
If you have a blog that isn’t regularly updated or you don’t have one at all then this will be holding you back.
A frequently updated blog is a great way to bring in new leads to your business and will offer your brand a range of benefits too – some of which are explored further in this video:
If users are going to be searching for a wide range of queries and Google is now more advanced at providing results to long tail/conversational search strings, a blog is a fantastic way to target all of these areas.
So, regardless of hummingbird, offer your visitors insightful, informative, educational, and news based blog posts that will allow you to build a following.
As both your blog and audience develop you can target more search terms within your copy – a win, win situation.
We know that Google will release further updates in the future as the search engine becomes more advanced. However, at present, Hummingbird is the main focus.
Use content to your advantage by aiming to attract an audience and to show that you are working with the above noted changes.
Although Hummingbird was a fairly quiet update compared to others in the past, regardless of this, it’s still relevant for content creators, copywriters and marketers alike.
So, now it’s over to you to ensure that your strategy fits in comfortably with the new changes and makes the most of the opportunities that have emerged.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.