Google Hummingbird Requires Brands To Step Up Content Development

Search engine marketers need to put aside attempts to raise their brand's Web site to the top of first-page query rankings through old-fashioned optimization techniques and focus on content -- as well as Hummingbird, Google's latest search algorithm for conversational search.

Search is on the cusp of a major transformation, and marketers need to build better content, rather than try to optimize it for search engines, per Vikram Bhaskaran, director of marketing at Freshdesk. Building algorithms that allow search engines to think like consumers becomes the holy grail, he said. Marketers must create content for a specific type of customer. That will optimize brand Web sites to land for specific consumers in the No. 1 position. 

Search experts warn that a combination of content, personalized search and the Hummingbird algorithm will make ranking relevant solely to the person searching for answers to questions at any specific moment in time. Google will index and rank sites across the Web based on content, rather than keywords. It's a well known fact that has been floating around the search industry for months.

SEO by the Sea founder Bill Slawski dug up some Google patents that may provide insight on the future of Hummingbird. One patent suggests substitution of query terms or finding terms or phrases to use to expand queries. Specific words such as "Apple" can change meaning or mean more than one thing. "Or two words that might potentially be substitutes for each other are 'felines' and 'cats,'" he explains.

Some people believe that brands will get less traffic to their Web sites, but consumers landing on the pages will have a specific purpose and more likely to make a purchase or download information. Chris Marentis, CEO of digital marketing provider Surefire Social, said consumers are interacting differently with search engines, "asking longer questions through voice search."

"Build pages in the way that answers questions using subject, predicate, and object," Marentis said, adding that gaming the system will become a thing of the past. "Use objects, images, and videos, and with the correct semantic structure the content will get grabbed into features like Google Carousel."

Hummingbird sorts through billions of Web pages and content to return what it believes the best answers to conversational search queries, rather than those based on keywords. It works with Knowledge Graph, which connects people, places or things. The algorithm makes keywords less important, focusing more on strings of words linked together to form a conversation such as "how do I provide better customer service."

Google began using structured data earlier this year to support a markup language, which allows marketers to tell the engine what each piece of the content on the page means. The schema developed by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo engineers provide insight into the future of search.

8 comments about "Google Hummingbird Requires Brands To Step Up Content Development".
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  1. Corey Buller from Harmelin, October 15, 2013 at 9:23 a.m.

    Well-written and relevant content is not new. Google is finally doing EVERYTHING in it's power to crack down on black hat tactics and make sure that marketers are stepping in line with Google's mission of organzing the world's information and making it accesible and useful for users. No more sleazy link building, no more keyword cramming, no more tricking the spyders. If you want to be at the top, you better be the best Google can find.

  2. Leslie Singer from SingerSalt, October 15, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.

    I have been a passionate supporter, creator and believer in custom publishing and unique content creation for years. I'm thrilled that it will become an easier sell moving forward. In the past clients have had a difficult time measuring their ROI on engagement - perhaps now it will be easier to sell in the investment. Great article. I'll be using it in my next pitch. :)

  3. Brad Curtis from eZdia, October 15, 2013 at 10:59 a.m.

    eZdia has been preparing for this for years... It just makes sense that Google's goals would align with each individual customer goal in search... "Get me quickly to my place of intent and don't drag me through a bunch of nonsense, ads or promotions..." When brands come to us, we've been saying "build it (quality content) and Google will come" and its working to drive their traffic and sales up.

  4. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, October 15, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.

    The simple question is - Why does Google get to decide to make decisions for the whole internet about search? I am not for government intervention but this?

  5. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, October 15, 2013 at 1:01 p.m.

    Craig, This will not be a popular answer, but marketers allowed it by following the eyeballs rather than their audience. Marketers allowed Google to take the lion share of the search marketing dollars, rather than spreading the wealth by looking for prospective and existing customers on other engines.

  6. Andrew Boer from MovableMedia, October 15, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.


    Well you said it would be you won't be surprised that I disagree. You are conflating Google's financial model with its search business. Google succeeds financially because it successfully delivers the customers most likely to purchase. But that is a different reason than why Google gets to make decisions about search. Google gets to make those decision because it is the best search experience, and this move continues to cement its superiority. As soon as a firm is better than Google, they will have all of us as customers.

  7. Robert Pettee from DigitalMouth Advertising, October 16, 2013 at 8:02 a.m.

    Laurie, a slightly perspective; the engines followed dollar signs, more so than marketers followed eyeballs. The eyeballs (consumers/users) had to move in order to be followed in the first place, and as a marketer it's my job to follow the eyeballs for the sake of my clients/company.

    I've managed over $50M in SEM spend and have been truly disappointed in the cloaking, masking and arbitrage that other engines (Google too, every so often) have used to make a buck.

  8. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, October 16, 2013 at 8:28 a.m.

    I really appreciate the different points of view from a variety of experts. Thank you for sharing.

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