What Google’s Hummingbird Means for Content Marketers

Last week, Google unveiled Hummingbird, the largest update to its search algorithm since 2001. And as a part of the rollout, Google announced some even larger news for marketers: that they will be encrypting 100% of organic search terms. That’s right—with the exception of data from paid search results, you won’t be able to see what your customers are searching for on Google.

The new search algorithm, it’s worth noting, has already been in effect for a few months (so if you were bracing yourself for some drastic changes in search results, you can breathe easy). If you’re just getting caught up on changes, here’s what you need to know: Google’s new algorithm is intended to make search less reliant on a linear chain of keywords, and more based around Google’s Knowledge Graph. In short, the update attempts to make the search process a bit more human (and, yes, it may give their ad sales a little boost, too).

But what should content marketers be taking away from all this— and particularly the encryption of organic search terms? Let’s take a look.

Forget the “moneyball” approach.

No, this change doesn’t mean that SEO is dead — far from it. But it does cut down on ways that marketers can cheat the system. You no longer have the option to look at keywords and build content around the search terms with the highest traffic and lowest competition. Instead, think about the types of complex searches that Google is adjusting its strategy for.

The growing number of verbal searches has had a huge impact on the average query: where you may have once typed “Google + search rankings” into the search box, you’re much more likely to ask Siri, “How does Google rank search results?” Think about the kinds of phrases and questions that your customer might use to research your product, and make sure your content is answering these questions.

Know your customer.

Without their search terms at your fingertips, having a thorough understanding of your customer has never been so important. Return to your buyer personas (remember those?), and make sure you understand your customer’s situation: their goals, their pain points, and their needs. You may not know the specific search terms that your customers are using, but if you’re building content around meeting your buyer’s needs, you can’t go wrong. In fact, if Google’s new algorithm accomplishes what it’s intended to, it should bring your customers to your content even faster.

Try new formats.

Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan had some simple advice to marketers regarding the Hummingbird update:

“Have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.”

In addition to being helpful and answering the right questions, still think of ways to set your content apart from your competitors’. Trying new and different formats of content is a great way to do this: if ten different sites have articles that answer a specific question, but you have an infographic or video that answers the same question, it’s going to set you apart in the search results.

Be the best.

Jay Baer said it best in his latest edition of Baer Facts: “Google is forcing us to raise the quality of our content to be the best solution, not just a solution.” It’s simple: the challenge now lies in producing the highest quality content out there. Without keywords to focus on, producing content that’s truly valuable and helpful to your customer is the surest way to guarantee that your content is found and shared.

Looking for more information on Google’s Hummingbird? Check out a few of these helpful resources:

The Truth About Hummingbird, Google’s New Search Algorithm by Jen Ribble

What Does Google’s Hummingbird Update Mean For Your SEO Efforts? Nothing by Joshua Steimle

FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm by Danny Sullivan

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