The Biggest Google Algorithm Change
Last week I wrote about the latest Google algorithm change, “Hummingbird“. This update represents a major overhaul in the way the world’s largest search engine handles the 5.1 Billion searches it goes through each day.
Hummingbird is an entirely new Google algorithm update, unlike Panda or Penguin, which simply changed parts of the old algorithm.
This update marks the biggest Google algorithm change since 2010 when Google introduced the “Caffeine” update. Hummingbird is said to affect 90 percent of all searches. Clearly this update is significant in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and content marketing.
Every digital marketer should understand how searches and search engine rankings will be affected by the Hummingbird algorithm update and what content and SEO strategies they can use to maximize their internet marketing efforts.
Maximize Your Mobile Marketing and Local SEO Strategy
Lately, my marketing strategies have been built primarily with a “think mobile first” mindset. This goes for VPDM’s social media and content marketing and well as SEO strategies. I’ve spent a lot of time in client meeting discussing why we should focus on local SEO and mobile marketing in certain cases where those strategies would help my client maximize ROI.
I’ve also written a few articles recently advocating mobile marketing and thinking of the mobile smartphone and tablet experience first, over the traditional desktop browsing experience, You can read some of them here, here, and here.
Google Is Already Thinking “Mobile First”
And they have been for quite some time. As this article from Social Media Today states, last week when Google announced Hummingbird, they referenced mobile by starting sentences with phrases like “You can pull up your phone and …” The announcement also centered around the updates and improvements to their mobile app’s search functionality saying “It’s cleaner and simpler, optimized for touch” and “results (are) clustered on cards so you can focus on the answers you’re looking for.” Read this post from Google on their 15th birthday discussing Google search with a clear, obvious, and heavy mobile perspective.
All digital marketers and any business focused on increasing their ROI through internet marketing, should understand the importance of mobile search marketing and how it will shape the future of SEO and content marketing.
Everything that comes out of your inbound marketing should always be optimized for mobile.
The Future is Voice Search
Since 50 percent of all searches are performed on mobile devices, and with Apple buying Siri and Google further integrating voice into their mobile app, it could be safe to say that voice search will be included in the future of mobile search.
Maybe not next week or next year, but there will come a time where we all will be searching using our voice as opposed to a keyboard. Especially due to the proliferation of mobile use, and the challenge of typing on a smartphone, using voice search is only bound to increase a stem technology builds and gets better. For example, with Google glass, speech input is already the primary interface.
More Complex Search Queries
The Hummingbird update shows that Google wants to understand users search queries much better. Keywords are still important but Google wants to also understand the nuances in user search queries as well.
The way you type a query into Google versus the way you’d speak or say the query to your smartphone using voice search is very different. Also depending on where you are in the buying cycle (researching, decision making, etc) also determines the type of search query you’d use.
Optimizing for long tail keywords and understanding that voice search will lead to more complex search queries are key takeaways for digital marketers who want to maintain or increase their client’s website rankings.
For example, this article on Forbes.com says:
“this update to the algorithm focuses more on ranking sites for better relevance by tapping further into the company’s Knowledge Graph, its encyclopedia of 570 million concepts and relationships among them, according to Amit Singhal, Google’s senior VP of search. (For example, there’s a Knowledge Graph “card,” or information box, for the Eiffel Tower, and Knowledge Graph knows it’s a tower, that it has a height, that it’s in Paris, etc., so Google can anticipate you might want to know some of those facts.) Caffeine was more focused on better indexing and crawling of sites to speed results.
After the event, Scott Huffman, a key engineering director at Google currently working on natural language, told me that part of the impetus for the change was that as more people speak searches into phones, they’re doing so in a more natural way than they type in queries–which is to say more complicated. So Google’s search formulas needed to be able to respond to them.
Partly that is through even great use of the Knowledge Graph, so obvious discrete terms can be identified quickly. But it’s also interesting that although queries are getting more complex, that doesn’t always mean it’s harder to find the right answers. The more terms people use, Huffman says, the more context Google can divine. So those extra words, even if they’re in a more complex query, can give Google better information–but only if the algorithms are adjusted to be able to recognize the relationship among those terms.”
Optimize For Long Tail Keywords
Keywords took a major hit over the last few weeks. Sucks to be them – or any SEO who relies on keywords only as an optimization strategy. I’ve spoke with many website owners who’s budget can only call for basic SEO updates with keyword research, freshening up the meta data and the on-page SEO copy writing. All of these tactics are essential – and basic.
There’s much more to SEO these days and Google is clearly telling us to expand our SEO efforts beyond strategies involving just optimizing for keywords. Having said that, it’s also telling us that long tail, complex keyword optimization is necessary.
Hummingbird combined with Google’s new 100% (not provided) keyword update has delivered quite a blow to keywords. Google is basically saying that now, post Hummingbird, individual keywords will be less important, and the intent of the users search phrase and words will be more important. If this works as it should, this is super news for users. It also shows us SEOs that it’s now more important as ever to optimize your website for users and not search engines.
Google’s intent with the Hummingbird algorithm is to provide more answers to search queries as opposed to results by using inquisitive words like “who”, “what”, “where” “how,” “why,” and “when,” as well as other relevant search terms. We’ll now see much more conversational searches which clearly points to a major factor in why you should be using long tail keywords to optimize your website. It’s my belief that those who do will see increased search engine rankings, website traffic, and ROI.
Useful Content That Answer Questions
With Hummingbird, Google is telling us that in order to rank high in the SERPs, your content must be useful and allow users to find the answers they are looking for. Hummingbird’s goal is to understand what the user is searching for and serve up the most relevant and useful information it can find. Not just information that happens to contain the keywords used in the search query.
As website owners, we need to understand what questions our customers have and how we will produce, publish, and optimize content that will provide solutions for our customers. It’s vital for our content to respond to our customers needs. If not, they’ll flock to our competitors.
It’s also essential to create, publish, and optimize content that continues to establish you as an expert or authority in your niche. Google wants to serve up not only relevant content, but that content has to come from trusted sources. Authority can be established in many ways.
Backlinks to your content from high quality reputable sites will indicate to Google that your content is worthy. As will signing up with Google Authorship. This is an essential element that I recommend to all clients. Google Authorship links your Google+ profile with all the content you publish on your website.
If you’re not using your Google+ profile (everyone with a Gmail account has one by default), and if you’re not sharing your content on Google+, you’re missing out on the number one ranking factor according to this infographic.
Social Media Optimization of SEO
In 2006, Rohit Bhargava wrote a highly shared post, 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO).
“The concept behind SMO is simple: implement changes to optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly visible in social media searches on custom search engines (such as Technorati), and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs, podcasts and vlogs.”
This is sort of how the concept of the importance of social signals in regards to SEO got started. Social media marketing relies upon recommendations by users, content be shared over multiple platforms and within multiple networks, and authoritative, credible writers. Social sharing and engagement gives search engines a clear indication on how relevant and valuable your content is. Google will be more likely to rank content that is being shared over content that is not. After all, it’s likely the shared content is relevant to the users search query.
It seems that Google’s Hummingbird algorithm feels that social signals provide a better indication of what is valuable online. I’d be surprised if there isn’t more to the social loader of Hummingbird than we know so far. Rohit updated the original article since it became such a big deal and published it in 2010, The 5 NEW Rules Of Social Media Optimization (SMO).
What Does This Mean For Content Marketers & SEOs?
Your internet marketing strategy needs to include the digital marketing trifecta of Content, Search, and Social. A comprehensive content marketing strategy focused on producing and publishing compelling and relevant content that creates social engagement and social sharing by people and influencers with authority.
Be sure that your content is easily sharable on your website. It’s surprising to me how many websites I see these days that don’t have social sharing ability with they content. It’s also important to include ‘badges’ from social media networks on your website so that people can easily like, follow, circle, etc directly from your website.
Engage with your network regularly. Be sure to join the conversation about your brand and don’t be shy to start the conversation – with compelling and optimized content related to your niche that links back to your site.
Is Hummingbird a Good Thing?
Hummingbird is awesome news. It’s great for users as it will only refine Google’s search and users will be delivered credible, relevant, and popular sources of information and solutions to their search queries. As for content creators, writers, digital marketing companies, and website owners, we will need to be proactive in creating useful content that will be shared.
The major takeaways for me with this new algorithm update are clear. The future of Google search will prove that digital marketers should focus on the following tactics which will be major search engine ranking factors moving forward:
- A focus on responsive designed websites (i.e. mobile friendly on all devices)
- A content marketing strategy that is optimized for mobile
- The amount of social sharing of your content
- Local SEO best practices
- A SEO strategy including a long tail keyword approach
If your business is thinking mobile first, regularly creating and publishing relevant content that is optimized for mobile search, and having this content shared across many platforms and social channels creating valuable back links to your website, you should reap nothing but benefits in the form of increased rankings, website traffic, and conversions.
What do you think Hummingbird and the future being mobile and what are you doing to prepare?