Post-Hummingbird: What Makes Google Happy
If you’re a small to medium sized business or a large corporate brand, I’m sure you understand the importance of publishing high quality, relevant, and sharable content on a regular basis. Quality content marketing is key to the infrastructure of businesses digital presence.
The challenge most businesses face with creating content, is either one or a combination of factors: time, know-how, what type of content to create, and what Google actually considers to be “quality” content. After all, if you want your published content to appear in the SERPs for a specific search query, you’re going to want to focus on what the main search engines consider to be the most relevant useful, and highest quality content to help solve a users needs.
To make things even more challenging to the business owner, the search world is a very, very volatile space. For example, in the second quarter of 2014, Google has updated their search algorithm 45 times. Each of these forty-five updates have improved the way Google serves up relevant search results relate dot the users search query.
Quality content, is content that has been created to answer specific questions,
that your target market needs answers for.
Since Google is getting smarter and smarter at understanding the semantics of your search query, this means that businesses and their content creators/digital marketing agency must create, publish, and share resources that informs your customers and prospects.
It’s vital that you create quality content that is useful to your target customers.
Quality Content Marketing & SEO
Ever since I launched VPDM Digital Marketing, I’ve always believed that content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing all work in conjunction with each other.
A solid digital strategy involves a unique and customized strategy using each of those 3 pillars of digital marketing. One simply can not function efficiently and effectively without the other two. You can bet on that.
I understand that a few years ago, your SEO content strategy and social strategy could have been built solely on focusing on keywords. SEOs would research and build a long list of targeted keywords and phrases, long and short tail, and optimize their client’s website pages with those words.
Specific pages of your website would each have a primary and secondary keyword which would be used in the page title, the url, a few headers, the meta description, image tags, and certainly in the content copy. Back in the day, this practice would give your website a decent quality score, not to mention relevancy. Search engines would reward those “high quality” websites with high rankings in the search results for those targeted keywords.
Guess what? That stuff just doesn’t work anymore.
Keywords, while still certainly very important, must always be used appropriately in a websites search engine optimization (SEO). I’ll go so far as to say that Google now expects that every website launch with all fundamental SEO best practices in place. It’s only then that your website will begin to even have a chance of ranking for your targeted set of keywords.
Having said that, today, SEO and search engine rankings go way beyond just on-page factors like keywords. No it’s not link building. It also goes way beyond link building.
Today, to have a shot at competing in the digital landscape we’re all a part of, your website must not only be optimized for search from a keyword and metadata perspective, but these days you need a solid content marketing strategy, with full SEO and social sharing, that focuses on quality and meeting the needs of your targeted customers.
You also need a well researched and thought out digital strategy in order to execute these tactics effectively.
You need to optimize this strategized content for the user, the customer their interests, their needs, and their behaviour. I’m not suggesting you forget about keywords at all. They are still vital. Now however, you must also focus on a content centric SEO staregy with social sharing and engagement.
How Content Marketing and Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm Work Together
The Hummingbird Algorithm, announced by Google in September 2013, but actually released live, without telling anyone, in August 2013, is the main reason why content-centric SEO is the future of search.
Hummingbird is not an algorithm update, instead it’s Google’s brand new search algorithm. In an article referencing how we can understand Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, HubSpot says:
“Hummingbird is based on semantic queries, making it important to understand not only the words of the search but phrases and concepts most notably related to the user’s location, interests, web activity, and query.
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm looks at the meaning behind a query, rather than delivering search results based purely on matching a few key terms. If the meaning of your content doesn’t match the spirit of what the user is looking for, Google is going to have a hard time finding it.”
The example given in the article is very useful. So rather than to try and improve upon it, i’ll paraphrase it here. Say if you were in Niagara Falls Canada, or, for the sake of this example, if you were in Agoura Hills, California, and you searched for “Taj”, chances are you’d get a SERP like the image below.
You’ll see that Google would assume that your were probably looking for directions to a restaurant with the name “Taj” in it or even possibly looking for general information on the Taj Mahal in India.
Now, to illustrate the point, let’s flip our geographical location. We know there are other places that have “Taj” in their name, whether it’s a restaurant, hotel, or attraction. If you did the same search, but you were on the North East coast of the USA say in New York or New Jersey, you’d see something different.
The image below shows the SERP result for a search for “Taj” while in New Jersey.
This is Google Hummingbird at work. The algorithm understands context as well as semantics.
It understands user intent.
The results above are more contextual and personalized to your location. We as digital marketers and website owners need to understand this shift in search and come up with a comprehensive digital strategy to take advantage of this new search world.
How To Create Content That Hummingbird Loves
I believe there are 4 key areas that digital content creators should focus on when building your content centric SEO strategy. It’s something we do for our client’s, internally at VPDM Digital, to help them reach their digital marketing goals.
1. Research and Create Your User Personas
User personas, or buyer personas are essential in any content marketing and social media strategy. What you may not realize, is that user personas are just as vital to your SEO strategy. I’ve had several conversations with client’s when building the buyer personas – before we begin the SEO. It’s important for a digital marketer to know who she is talking to just as it’s important to an SEO to understand who they are optimizing for, exactly.
Always write and optimize for the user and not the search engine. I know that may sound counter-productive, or even wrong to some of you, but trust me, this is the new school and it’s 2014. Getting to know your customers is extremely important for you as a business and for your marketing agency.
If that doesn’t convince you look at it this way: it’s the best way to create “Hummingbird-friendly content that is going to rank and get found in 2014 and beyond.” If you’re able to determine your customers pain points and create useful and engaging content that will help them move along their buying cycle, they will most likely choose to do business with you.
Understanding your users buying cycle an where they are in that funnel is fundamental. You need to understand each step of the customers buying process and create content to help them move through towards making a purchase with you.
With this knowledge you’ll understand where and when customers are ready to buy. Some of your website visitors may be in research mode. Some may have narrowed down their options to two or three and are almost ready to purchase. Each should get specific quality content to help move them through the funnel and return to your website for purchase.
Hummingbird will reward websites with higher website rankings if they publish quality and relevant content, that regularly gets shared or otherwise engaged with, on a regular basis. Companies that focus on the user experience (UX) of their website and offer a quick page load time, will also get high praise for Google and specifically the new Hummingbird algorithm.
2. Vary Your Digital Content Beyond Articles
When we train employees at VPDM we train all to always be focused on growth. They become growth hackers through working on the VPDM Digital team. When they are focused on growth, they understand that there are several forms of content we can create to stimulate sour client’s website visitors.
Using digital media that is most engaging should be our focus. Sometimes blog articles are all you need, sometimes short-form, micro-format video like Instagram Videos and Vine Videos are more compelling. The strategy really depends on the client , the target consumer, and the client goals.
Slideshare presentation decks, instructional and informative pdf downloads, a vlog (video blog) or a podcast are also very useful and engaging forms of digital media. Find out what works best in terms of engagement and search rankings and go for it!
The thing is, as mentioned before, that Hummingbird algorithm Google uses is super duper smart and intuitive. It knows that there are many types of engaging and interactive content that is being created and shared each day online. They now have regularly been serving up a variety of multi-media search results that include videos, images, reviews, photos, and even presentation decks.
3. Focus Your Content Creation on Quality
There’s no need to be cranking out a plethora of useless information that never gets shared. You want to focus your content creation, both unique and curated, on quality content and not the quantity of content you’re putting out.
Remember when frequency was effective content marketing? While a regular publishing schedule of useful and relevant content is still necessary, the focus should still be on the quality and engagement level of the content, over the amount of the content.
Many smart digital marketing consultants swear by publishing in-depth, informative, and useful content several times a month, or at least once a week. This makes much more sense that focusing on the amount of content to share. That only leads to lo quality content being published.
It will be much more beneficial to the growth of your company if you create content that is geared directly to your customers needs along with clear information about how your service can fulfill that need. Of course you should include a clear call to action urging the customer to take the action you’d like them to take.
4. SEO Fundamentals. Always and Forever.
SEO and keywords haven’t gone anywhere. It’s also not that their importance has shifted. Each are still essential to any solid digital marketing strategy. If you want to get the edge on your competitors, make sure you set up your website for success from day one.
The changes are more specific to how you do your SEO. Metadata alone is not enough. While basic SEO fundamentals are necessary, creating, publishing, and sharing regular quality content, that is optimized for the user is the key to success for any digital marketing project.
This process can be viewed as content-centric SEO. Creating and publishing content for your customers is recommended. When that is done, and before it gets published to your website, blog or landing page, you should incorporate the basic SEO fundamentals of keywords, optimized metadata including header, links, and images, as well as ensuring page speed and image size are optimized for fast load time.
This approach requires comprehensive keyword research to identify the best short and long tail keywords for you to use in your website optimization strategy. This data will also come in very handy if you’re wanting to refresh and improve upon your SEM/PPC Google AdWords strategy.
If you haven’t figured it out already, your digital marketing strategy must be 3 pronged, using the three essentials of digital marketing: Content Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Social Media Marketing. One thing I like to toss in under the SMM is SMO – social media optimization. Don’t ever forget to optimize your social posts, images, copy, and hashtags.
What you should have learned in this post, along with the paragraph above, is that content marketing, content creation, and content curation should all revolve around quality information to be placed in that content. Useful and informative items that solve the needs or issues that your target customers are searching for.
Even more importantly, understand that the all mighty Google search engine and its newest algorithm, Hummingbird, are very smart and are able to gauge quality content in many ways. One of which is the social media engagement and sharing that may or may not be taking place.
Your best bet is to build user/buyer personas and then begin a strategy to create varied, multi-media content that seeks to solve the issues or answer the questions or target customers are asking. Focus on creating quality content an don’t just write blog articles.
Create videos or podcasts that showcase you, your products or services. Your videos can be short form like 15-second Instagram videos or 6-second Vines. If that’s not your thing, how about a 30-60 second clip offering a quick walk-thru and what to expect at your business.
Finally, never leave out your SEO. Your quality content must be fully optimized with all the fundamental SEO basics and then some. This is manageable as you’ll be focusing on quality and not quantity.
If you’re looking for some help to build your content-centric SEO strategy, I’d love to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact me and let’s start a conversation to help you reach your business goals.
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