by Gregory M. Lewis
Heard of Hummingbird? It’s Google’s shiny new search algorithm, the secret formula it uses to decide which websites show up first in its results. Unlike other updates in recent years (e.g., Penguin and Panda–sensing a zoological theme here?), Hummingbird isn’t just a tweak here and there–it’s a complete overhaul, the biggest since 2001, affecting 90% of all search results.
People have always tried to game Google’s system, stuffing their site with keywords and buying low-quality links in an attempt to attract more traffic to their page. Hummingbird renders Google almost completely game-proof, which is bad news for spammers and good news for honest businesses with something to offer.
Searching for the Future
The search colossus is gearing up for a future where people Google with their voice, not their fingers. Hummingbird was made with more spoken searches in mind, and understands so-called “conversational searches” better. More and more, people are talking to Google and actually asking it questions.
Quick example: say you’re in New York, and want to know how far you are from Chicago. In the old days, you’d probably have to search, “distance from New York to Chicago.” Now you can simply ask, “how far is Chicago,” and Google will detect your location and provide the miles and hours.
Basically, Hummingbird means Google is getting smarter and, yes, a little more human (think android vs. robot). It’s now much better at understanding the meaning and intent behind a search–not just the keywords. Instead of just matching words or phrases, Google finds what you’re really looking for.
Rising to the Top
With Hummingbird in place, the most relevant and useful content, like the proverbial cream, is rising to the top, while spammy and salesy pages sink to oblivion.
In the world of online marketing, it’s more important than ever to put resources towards content marketing. What’s that? Content marketing is the practice of creating useful, high-quality content that helps your consumers, rather than simply selling to them. You establish trust and authority by being a partner, not a peddler.
Flying High with Hummingbird
Your business can capitalize on Hummingbird, but how? In short: create more content! But don’t just spit out whatever comes to mind–or worse, turn to a cheap content mill.
You’ve got to think in terms of what your consumers are searching. What questions are they asking? What problems are they stuck with? Then you craft content that answers their questions, solves their problems, and encourages them to share it.
Don’t worry about dropping tons of keywords into your text–in fact, pull out that ol’ thesaurus and start sprinkling in more synonyms. Remember, Hummingbird is flying away from keywords and towards the underlying meaning.
Paint a complete picture with organic synonyms and explore related concepts. That way, Google will detect the point of your page and display it to users looking for exactly what you’re sharing (whether or not they use your exact words).
Now that Hummingbird has taken flight, a robust content marketing strategy is more essential than ever.
Gregory M. Lewis is a Brooklyn-based copywriter for MarketSmiths, a copywriting collective that crafts captivating, luscious, vivid content for websites, blogs, businesses & more.