What marketing and PR pros need to know about Google Hummingbird

Hummingbirds
are one of the smallest of birds, with many measuring just a few inches. It is
perhaps fitting then, that Google’s implementation of its new Hummingbird
search engine algorithm flew under the radar and unnoticed by many even after
the search giant released its latest changes this fall.

Google ran
the new algorithm for 30 days without telling anyone, and then held a press
conference to discuss what was quickly recognized as its most
significant revision in more than a dozen years. And with a
full 30 days’ worth of data under its belt, Google was able to show that
despite the change, Internet life did go on uninterrupted.

I asked my
Bluetext colleague and digital marketing guru Jason Siegel to break down what
marketers and PR professionals need to know about Google Hummingbird.

Me: Search
has always been a game of cat-and-mouse. Is Hummingbird a continuation of that back-and-forth?

Jason: The
marketer’s goal is to use links, key words, and other tactics to ensure that their
website comes up high during relevant searches. Google’s interest is in having
the most relevant results that don’t favor a site just because it has tricked
the search engine. So, for example, when inbound links were weighed heavily,
tacticians could create “link farms” that gave the impression of links that
weren’t real. When Google altered the algorithm to degrade unimportant links, new tricks were developed
that included keyword stuffing, or the heavy use of searched terms
throughout the site. Google responded by setting parameters on how many words could be used in a
given paragraph.

Me: How is
Hummingbird a departure from the current situation with Google search? 

Jason: Hummingbird
is a massive change in the way Google returns search results, and it has major
implications on how companies and organizations need to approach SEO. It marks a steep departure from this
word-based game. It focuses on context and what are known as “long-tail”
queries to deliver results that are more specific to the needs of an
evolving Internet where mobile devices and voice commands are replacing simple word searches.
Hummingbird is supposed to reflect that context when, to use an obvious example, we search
for Chinese restaurants. What earlier search engines would deliver was a list
of restaurants. But what we really want to learn is a good place to eat that is
nearby. The intent of Hummingbird is to understand that context and deliver
recommendations of good restaurants in our area. Remember that what is a “good”
place to eat is a subjective notion and will become very important in how
marketers will need to structure their SEO strategy going forward.

Me: What
then is the takeaway for marketers in how Google has reoriented its search
algorithm?

Jason: There
are three takeaways really, and two have to do with what Google
determines is “good.” The
first is that Google now rewards good content. That means
that long, detailed and well-sourced articles are going
to get better results than mere word mentions on a
page. Second, Google is putting links to what it considers to be
good content directly on the results page, and is including related articles
and other information that it didn’t previously deliver. From a marketer’s
perspective, it could mean that viewers will see information from your site,
but not need to click onto your site to get it. The third takeaway is that
social media, and in particular Google+, will become a larger part of the
search engine equation. Google’s goal is to tap into your network of friends to
give you additional insight on your query. Go back to the question about a good
nearby Chinese restaurant. If Google sees that friends within your Google+
circles like a particular restaurant, that might be included in the search
results.

Me: Much of what has been written about Hummingbird to date
requires a PhD in algorithm technology to decipher. What actionable intelligence
would you offer to marketers and PR professionals?

Jason: At the highest level, I’ll offer the following 10
considerations for marketers:

1. Content is King.

Focus on
thorough credible articles and blog posts that provide insight and tell a
story, rather than simply pushing marketing pieces that won’t be valued by
Hummingbird.

2. Be Original.

Be true to
your own persona by being yourself and discussing topics that you are an authority
on. Comment on articles with smart analysis. Don’t
worry about specifically “optimizing the content,” because good social content will optimize your impact.

3. Build Authority.

Just publishing good content is not enough — it needs to be
pushed to influential thought leaders to gain credibility through their networks.

4. Be Diverse.

Offer
solutions to target audiences across relevant communities. Delivering good
content across social networks is central to Hummingbird’s approach.

5. Give a Reason to Click.

Give users a
reason to click on your site. If Google wants viewers to remain on its pages,
offer compelling in-depth content that will entice viewers to your pages.

6. Engage the Audience.

Engage the
audience through social interaction. Pose questions, initiate polls, start discussions.
This will bring attention and larger audiences to your content.

7. Optimize for Mobile.

Optimize
your content for mobile. Mobile integration is a key function of Hummingbird
and will enhance your visibility with the algorithm.

8. Be Natural.

Natural
Language Processing (NLP) is also a core function of Hummingbird. Focusing on
NLP for your content will be more and more important as Google moves towards
voice-activated searches.

9. Provide Context.

Semantic
analysis for keyword research will deliver better results, as it will provide
the context that Hummingbird is looking for.

10. Have Fun.

Everyone likes being part of the conversation. Think back to
that first day of high school; you had to start somewhere making friends and being part of a crew.
The same principles apply today when optimizing social media in order to influence
search.

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