Redefining Search With Google Hummingbird

by , Dec 10, 2013, 8:06 AM
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In October, Google introduced the newest and biggest update to its search algorithm -- Hummingbird. While it’s widely known that Google regularly updates its algorithm to improve the search experience for its users, the latest changes were the most significant in more than a decade, prompting businesses to immediately reexamine their search engine optimization (SEO) and content management strategies to improve the search experience for their customers.

In short, Hummingbird’s new update includes three significant changes for users:  

  • Parsing of full questions – as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word, with ability to identify and rank answers to questions from the indexed content
  • Comparison filters within Google’s Knowledge Graph technology – users can receive answers to their most complex questions; and
  • Voice search – users can ask questions out loud through the Google microphone search bar and receive answers spoken back to them, whether on their PC or smartphone. 

Since Hummingbird’s recent updates, approximately 90 percent of searches worldwide have been impacted. Accordingly, companies in all industries need to explore and execute on new strategies that will allow them to take advantage of this new algorithm and deliver increasingly valuable content for their users across all channels.

Adjusting search marketing efforts in response to Hummingbird

For businesses to increase their ability to be successful in search with Google Hummingbird, they should consider the following three customer-centric strategies:    

Become a search behaviorist. The first place a business should look to improve its search strategy is within the organization’s culture. Businesses leaders and marketers need to become "search behaviorists" -- a role where individuals strive to obtain a better understanding of their audience’s search intents in order to provide them with the most relevant user experience. In other words, the focus should be on answering the visitors’ questions, rather than on how a particular keyword should be ranked.  

By cultivating this search behaviorist role within the organization, businesses can establish a deeper understanding of user intent to improve SEO, and refocus on eliminating content gaps across all devices, from a user’s tablet to their mobile phone.

Reinvigorate content management. There are several ways that businesses can bolster content management post-Hummingbird:

  • Integrate channels: As Google continues to be on the hunt to provide the searcher with the most relevant and valuable content, businesses should strive to provide shareable and consistent content across all of its channels.
  • Focus on social media: Businesses can deepen connections with customers by using social platforms and employing a smart social strategy that only pushes content which resonates well with the audience and is not overly aggressive in its tone or message. Content that is offensive to the customer or creates a negative association with the brand could impact the customer’s trust over time.
  • Share more content through blogging: Regularly publishing blog content can be vital for a business. Also allowing customers to ask questions through the blog or the company’s Web site not only helps the customer, but the search engine as well. As Hummingbird is now able to understand the context of a query, this will allow more avenues of entry into the company’s site.
  • Optimize mobile: To maximize the new voice search feature, businesses should optimize their mobile content strategy to support natural language queries and visitor intent more specifically.

Update SEO priorities. With the new Hummingbird in full swing, the following three SEO priorities offer significant business advantages. 

  • Don’t rely on "quick SEO wins." Instead of updating links on a page or adjusting a Title Tag for quick gains, businesses should focus on building greater value to areas of the site that are most important to the business.
  • Integrate search strategies with other aspects of a business. By integrating digital marketing activities with the SEO program, businesses can provide a richer experience for their visitors.
  • Shift from a business-centric to customer-centric focus.  Businesses should move away from talking at the customer to providing the information they seek, as a brand they can trust.   

Post-Hummingbird, it is vitally important for brands to focus on becoming the well-known authority in their particular industry. The key to doing this is creating a customer-centric approach to search that consistently delivers the desired content at the right place and time. 

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