Just when you thought your SEO was safe from the threat of Google’s beasts, Google unleash another algorithm that is certain to shake up content marketing and SEO. But this time it is great for content marketing.
Though this time, things aren’t as bad as they seem. Google launched the ‘quiet and fast’ Hummingbird algorithm to coincide with its 15th birthday. With its release came a shift in the paradigm that has governed Google searching hitherto.
Priorities when it comes to content marketing have shifted from a general marketing strategy towards a mobile one. But executing a content marketing strategy that responds to the constant evolving mobile internet market and responds to the intelligent manner of Hummingbird’s search requires a shift in both the mindset and techniques that SEO marketers have been used to so far.
The way in which Hummingbird operates is through a semantic search. Coined “the mind reading algorithm”, in a nutshell this means that Hummingbird searches more on the depth (semantics) of your search rather than on your keywords.
Therefore it is more of a conversational style of searching. Hummingbird listens precisely to what you are asking for and then darts around the web trying to give you results that answer your needs directly.
Good content strategy is still vital
The term ‘mobile content strategy’ is what shook many SEOs up; it takes a long time to build content and now Google are asking for a revision: actually no, not quite. What Hummingbird basically is doing is trying to unify all of your content across your mediums; mobile is no longer a single entity in your content marketing.
Many of the fundamentals you’ve learned about building a good content strategy still apply. Steps like developing an editorial calendar, crafting messages that resonate with your audience, understanding your overall audience profile, and rigorously measuring outcomes are all still important. What’s changed is that you need to adapt your mindset: mobile is no longer just one consideration in a content strategy. It needs to be a central focus, and you need to ask tough questions about whether your site’s mobile experience is up to par in terms of design, content creation and delivery.
Work with your data
If you don’t know the user data associated with your site, then now is the time to get clued up. Gradually, mobile usership is taking over usership. Therefore a lot of data needs to be known and accommodated; what percentage of users visit a site on their mobiles? what devices are they using? Tools such as Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are vital in making important decisions about mobile investments.
Think mobile first
Having a well-designed site sends powerful signals to search engines that a site is a part of a legitimate business with a well-planned and effective site; Google’s own manual reviewers definitely take this into consideration. With the launch of Hummingbird, sites without a mobile responsive design are naturally going to be at a disadvantage. Ensuring that a site renders well across all platforms should now be a designers first responsibility.
So, what makes a good mobile design? Again it’s a question of ‘unknowing’ what you know. Traditionally designers are used to working with a full site and scaling it down to mobile; now you need to think about designing for mobile and scaling up for your larger platforms. This means designing a killer site that caters for mobile platforms should be the first practice, then adapting the site for larger ones. This way anyone accessing a site will get optimum performance from any device.
Obviously with this comes many design considerations that need to be addressed- font size, white space, the clickability of links and so much more. Though these formatting changes should already be in the vanguard of a designers concerns when building an effective mobile site.
Create Mobile-First Content
This does mean a switch in the style in which you create your content. The traditional way has been to find ways to optimise your SEO focussed long pieces and to break them down into mobile friendly pieces.
Shortening paragraphs, more white space in design and sparing visuals. While making your older content easy to consume is still a good idea, it is also important to apply the principles of mobile first to initial content creation. A few things to consider when developing topics and creating content include;
While longer pieces are great for SEO, shorter pieces tend to fare better on mobile. Traditionally, SEO has required for maximum effect in-depth, high quality content. Longer articles tend to rank better in SERPs and emphasise your expertise on matter.
Though on the other hand when it comes to mobile mediums, longer articles tend to get overlooked on smaller screens. With Hummingbird, the key is to find the balance that includes high-quality and informative content, but condensed down to make mobile user digestion possible, this means that targeted blog posts and informative introductions linking to actual posts may come in useful hereon.
Visual and Audio Content:
Visual content such as images, infographics and video really boost a sites content. This is because visual content is much more easier to consume on a mobile platform than text based content.
If content is easier to share then it will get shared more; it is as simple as that. Though mobile content tends to have a higher degree of social shares due to the accessibility of it.
Using tools such as Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to determine what people are doing when they visit your site also helps to enhance mobile experience. For example, if they are shopping then a product guides and product information are great ways to help mobile users make the most of a site. Having a better understanding of how an audience engages with a site really helps you to develop user experience to suit them.
So, what does Hummingbird mean for the world of internet search?
You need to remember that Hummingbird is the first in presumably many steps forward into a new way of internet searching.
Like when Google released Caffeine in 2010, Google will be implementing many more tweaks and capabilities in the future. In the long term, the implications to search will be huge.
In terms of content marketing, there are a few final pieces of food for thought that you should bear in mind.
Is it the end of keywords?
No, it is more about the language that you use that will play a key part in Hummingbird’s semantic analysis of content. What this means is that searching based around a more accurate mode of “speech”, therefore it will be beneficial to have a more concise definition of what the page is about in its title.
Will long-tail search go away?
Again, not really. Some of the aspects that trigger long tail search results may actually be inferred by Google rather than contained in the query. Some long-tail user queries may also get distilled down to a simpler head term.
While it is almost certain that there will be shifts, exactly how is hard to predict. In the long term though, long-tail will be defined by long-tail human desires and needs rather than keyword strings. For example, where can I buy a canopy or how do I find Jobs in Gibraltar.
It still matters what language you use as it helps you communicate to Google and users what needs and desires your site answers.
You need to understand your audiences intent
Google’s goal is to understand and deliver to the human need. Over time users will be retrained to avoid cutting search queries down to simple keyword types and just say what they want as they would as a human.
As a content marketer, you should focus more on building pages that caters for each of the basic needs and intentions of your potential customers. So, in other words, know your audience. Of course doing this will take a lot of time and work, but it starts with knowing your potential customers and why they may want what you have to sell.
Semantic relevance is king
Remember the maxim “content is king? Well, it’s still kind of true; just in a more complex fashion.
You need to think about how your site’s content really addresses what the user wants or needs, Does your content truly communicate relevant answers to a specific want or need?
On top of this, you may remember that when Penguin was rolled out Google stressed about the need to be an authoritative author in your area. This still applies; do you answer your audiences needs better than your competitors?
Furthermore, you can’t overlook the need to implement things such as links, social shares and most importantly; interaction with your audience.
We used to speak about content being king, and that in some sense is still true, but it is becoming more complex than that now. You now need to think about content that truly addresses specific wants and needs. Does your content communicate relevance to a specific want or need?
In addition, you can’t overlook the need to communicate your overall authority in a specific topic area. Do you answer the need better than anyone else? Does your content stand out? Does your content address an issue in more depth and fidelity than your competitors? All these are vital when it comes to building authority in a market area.
With the introduction of Hummingbird, Google suggests that businesses should focus on their mobile presence. By engineering your content marketing to do so not only are you boosting your website to fare better by Google’s tooth comb standards, but you are also enhancing your future revenue streams, your search rankings and providing a site that boosts high usability; which in the long run certainly results in more visitors and higher popularity in the internet competition pool.
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