Adapting Your SEO Strategies for Google Hummingbird

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Adapting Your SEO Strategies for Google Hummingbird

SEO Strategies For Hummingbird
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Google’s Hummingbird update ushered in a new era of user-centric marketing, not just in SEO, but all forms of marketing. Now, more than ever, the user is in the driver’s seat of determining a site’s success. It’s always been this way, but think of it as a refocusing of efforts. Instead of fixating on individual phrases, it’s now more about the why behind the phrases. All in all, this is a great thing – but it has many site owners worried.

If you’ve been stressing over Hummingbird – don’t fret! We’re here to answer your burning questions.

What is Hummingbird?

Google Hummingbird was an algorithm revamp that was pretty significant. It’s designed to deliver more relevant results to every user, faster. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land summed it up best: “In general, Hummingbird – Google says – is a new engine built on both existing and new parts, organized in a way to especially serve the search demands of today, rather than one created for the needs of ten years ago, with the technologies back then.” Simply put, it’s a total upgrade of the Google experience.

This is very different from other algorithm updates, like Panda and Penguin, which were designed to “knock down”, “weed out”, or “correct” website bad behavior in the search engine results. Instead, this is an overhaul to the user experience by making the results pages better by improving things like:

  • Updates to the knowledge graph (comparisons and filters)
  • Conversational, cross-platform search
  • Bigger focus on user intent
  • Better mobile search experience.

When was this rolled out?

Over a month ago – and no one in the SEO community really noticed. It’s been running in the background of search engine results for several weeks before Google made its announcement recently.

Who does it effect?

90% of all search queries – the bulk of all searches.

Does Hummingbird affect content?

Indirectly. As noted, Hummingbird is about user intent, so content is likely going to be less about keywords and more about answering a user’s question or addressing a need. Also, it’s going to be more about useful content, rather than just original content. Google has already said that conversational queries/search is going to play a bigger role, so content should be created with that in mind.

Valuable Content Marketing Hummingbird

A website that can answer more questions, offers expertise on relevant topics, uses a wide variety of keywords, and has depth is going to be successful in the future of search. As an SEO takeaway, remember to ask yourself: what question or need can I answer with this content? Bearing this in mind as you develop your content strategy can make a huge difference in your SEO campaign in the world of Hummingbird.

Does Hummingbird affect link building?

Indirectly. Hummingbird is all about making the user and the user’s intent the most important thing, so link building really isn’t changed. However, what this does mean is that link building efforts will need to keep user intent more in mind than ever. To adapt your SEO to this, be more mindful of linking sources and behavior and find ways to help your links answer user questions or provide more relevant information. Be a resource, an expert, a thought leader. This can help you provide more value to users and put better content out there as a whole.

Does Hummingbird affect social media?

Social Media and HummingbirdMaybe. Google+ is billed as the “social spine that improves the user experience across Google.” There’s a very good chance that Google+ will be integrated even more into the search engine results and the network is poised for growth. This is something we know is on the horizon as Google values its products very highly and will do whatever it can to build mainstream adoption of the network.

Stay tuned, but we think that Google+ is about to get bigger, regardless of Hummingbird. You can get a jump now and build authority through authorship by getting active on Google+. Post your content and blog posts there, engage socially, host Hangouts to build your brand – do whatever you can to spark an engaging presence on this channel.

What does this mean for the way we do SEO as an industry?

Google has always had one goal: deliver the most relevant and valuable information to searchers. This algorithm change directly supports that goal by putting the focus on the user. Instead of just keywords, it’s now important to consider the reasons behind the keywords and craft content that addresses that. This doesn’t change everything about the way we do SEO, but, we need to now put less focus on specific keywords and instead, think about what the user is thinking/needing/feeling when they’re searching – and then give them the most relevant content and experience possible. As a site owner, this is your responsibility too.

What should I do as a site owner to adapt?

The key takeaways from Google Hummingbird should be that you need to focus more on user intent in  every aspect of your site and marketing.

When looking at trends for core question-based searches over the last 7 years, there’s a distinct rise beginning in 2009 and continuing today:

Search Trends

You may notice that I left two key questions out of the trends: “how” and “what”. When adding these into the mix, their popularity and growth is by far dominant, especially for “how”.

Search Trends Hummingbird

Understanding users’ search patterns is important when developing new content for your site.

As Google is one to set trends, we expect the effects of Hummingbird to ripple throughout other channels as the focus become more on what the user wants rather than the action the website owner wants the user to take. If you really want to get in-depth with this, take a look at this post from Moz on implicit versus explicit query modeling. We’ll dive into this more in a future post, but this is a good place for you to begin learning about how you can harness the power of user intent.

Content marketers will rejoice as this is a perfect opportunity for building out your content areas and making them much more robust. Hummingbird encourages and affords you the opportunity to expand topic areas and get down to the nitty gritty. If you have the opportunity to share expertise in anyway, answer a question, or solve a user problem, create content that does just that and you’ll be in the SEO lead, no matter what algorithms may come along.

In the same vein, you’ll also want to pay more attention to timeliness. Writing content based on current hot topics, which can be found by reading mainstream news sites or taking a look at Google Trends data, mean more opportunities for you to give your content a freshness factor that can sometimes correlate with better rankings as well as more online visibility overall.

There’s also an opportunity for you to look at some longer tail keyword phrases as a way to better optimize your site. A good shortcut is to think about what questions users tend to ask and then use those questions in your content which is designed to provide the answer.

Also, think about expanding your content strategies outside of the traditional written word, as user intent can be well matched to other media, such as infographics and videos.

If you haven’t claimed authorship on Google already, now is the time to do so. Tying your content and SEO efforts to Google+ will only give you more authority and a better potential to rank, especially since Google+ will likely become more of an influence on your overall visibility as time goes on.

Local SEO Citation Sources

And of course, of all things, continue to be creative and provide value. It’s one thing to try to be more helpful, but it’s another to lose your entire brand and voice in the process. Keep that consistent and you’ll likely see better success.

So, give yourself one goal to focus on when it comes to your SEO: put yourself in the user’s shoes.

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Salman Aslam
Salman Aslam
Salman Aslam is the Founder & CEO of Omnicore, a leading Healthcare Digital Advertising & Marketing Agency helping clients across the globe. You can follow him on Twitter for tweets and rants about latest news, tips and advice on digital marketing.