If you read marketing publications on a regular basis, you may have seen the extensive coverage on Google Hummingbird. Unless you’re an SEO pro though, you probably glanced at these articles, wondering what they really mean for you.
Here’s a quick guide on what you need to know.
A new Google search algorithm
Hummingbird is a new search algorithm. So unlike Penguin or Panda (which were updates to an existing algorithm), this one’s more significant. What does it exactly do? Danny Sullivan provides the following helpful explanation:
Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.
In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.
Hummingbird is an expansion of Google’s efforts to move towards semantic search, focusing more on user intent rather than individual search keywords.
5 marketing tips in light of Google Hummingbird
With this new search algorithm now in place, what can marketers do to ensure their pages appear on Google? Here are some basics you should keep in mind:
- Identify a clear target audience.
Do you know who you’d like to reach? Are they CMOs and marketers? Are they younger Millennials who are likely to use Tumblr and Snapchat? Or are they the older crowd?
Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, have a clear audience in mind. Nail down your buyer personas. This will help you create a more focused content strategy that search engines will love.
- Pinpoint your target audience’s intentions, needs and problems.
Once you know who you’re targeting, the next step is to expand your buyer personas and identify the challenges that they face and where your company’s expertise will fit in. Go beyond demographic info: listen to what they’re saying on social media, talk to them directly, and use consumer insights to identify their attitudes, needs, and intentions.
Remember that your target audience will also have different needs as they go through the buying cycle. That’s why it’s helpful to produce a variety of content. By knowing your audience intimately, you can better identify opportunities where you can provide value, allowing you to produce content that is more likely to appear on a Google search.
- Use your content to answer people’s questions.
Now it’s time to go to work. You already know what makes your prospects tick and what keeps them up at night. Start producing content that answer their most urgent questions.
When producing content for your customers, aim to do the following:
- Release something new consistently. A haphazard content strategy not only reduces your credibility, it’s also something that Google generally frowns upon. Create an editorial calendar to keep you on track.
- Use the mediums that your target audience prefers. Do a little bit of market research to pinpoint which content marketing tactics your audience is most likely to be receptive to. Whitepapers and Slideshare presentations might make sense for CEOs and other members of the C-suite, but animated GIFs and memes might make more sense in a B2C context. Knowing your audience’s media consumption habits ensures that your tactics satisfies your strategy.
- Have a distribution plan. Social media can help you reach more people, but go beyond the basics. Does it make sense to do a blogger outreach? Should your PR team pitch the content to media?
- Write with your target audience (not search engines) in mind.
When writing blog posts, whitepapers, press releases or scripts for videos, aim to reduce the jargon and the buzz words. Write simply and clearly. Old-school SEO dictated that keywords were important—but with semantic search, this is no longer the case. Before publishing your content, read it aloud to flesh out awkward sentences.
- Don’t forget the basics of SEO.
One key element of creating a successful site is not to worry about Google’s ranking algorithms or signals, but to concentrate on delivering the best possible experience for your user by creating content that other sites will link to naturally—just because it’s great.
In short, worry less about gaming the system and more on creating content that your target audience will love.
While Hummingbird seems like yet another thing that marketers need to worry about, it’s actually a helpful change. It forces marketers to focus less on over-optimizing and keyword-stuffing their pages and to focus more on what really matters: providing great content for their customers.
Photo credit: Alana Sise