On September 26, 2013 Google announced that it’s latest Hummingbird update would affect 90% of search queries.
Unlike previous updates, Hummingbird is not a penalty-based update (aimed at reducing the number of low-quality content web sites), but a change in the way Google reacts to different types of queries, which lets the search engine now get the actual meaning behind a query, rather than the separate terms in it.
So basically, Hummingbird is all about Google being able to catch users’ actual search intent and find the content that matches this intent the best.
Content Needs to Satisfy Intent
With Google’s Hummingbird update, Google is further underscoring the importance of user intent over pure keyword based interpretation. This new update now better acknowledges context, timeliness, conversational search location cues, Knowledge Graph data and understanding of complex queries.
Content Needs to Be Rich
Content needs to be deep, and rich, to be deemed the most relevant piece of content for any given query. Sites that are currently developing rich content that seek to answer more comprehensive questions, rather than keywords or phrases, will increase their chances of ranking well with the new update. However, while sites need to rely heavily on rich content, they also need to maintain well-designed sites, which make it easier for Google spiders to find that great content.
Because content seems to be the biggest emphasis for this update, it also likely means that authorship will become an even more important factor in optimization. It’s interesting that this update is coming right on the heels of several recent notable changes. The first being the complete integration of secure search, which eliminated keyword data from analytics, and the second being Google+ rolling out a change to authorship, which will make it easier on Google to attribute content back to the author. So, while you start thinking about your content program, and whether or not it supports the new algorithm update, don’t forget to take authority into account. Make sure profiles are created, updated, and attributed for all pieces of content.
How do you do achieve this?
1. Adapt your keyword strategy for conversational queries
The first challenge Google has to deal with today is the growing number ofconversational phrases people use to search the Web. Quite likely (and that is especially true for mobile voice search users), these queries will be of a longer, question-like type – “how to…?”, “where is the nearest…?”, “where can I get…?”, etc.
Interpreting these longer phrases, Google can no longer rely on the keywords only and provide different results for each of them. But rather bring numerous conversational requests to a shorter “general term”, based on the type of searchers’ intent:
1. The user wonders “How old is Bruce Springsteen?”, so…
2. The user wants general information about Bruce Springsteen, so…
3. The users will find that info in Bruce Springsteen biography
1. The user looks for “What is the official website of wwf”, so…
2. The user wants to get to WWF website, so…
3. The user needs results for World Wildlife Fund, both the worldwide body and the Australian global environmental conservation organisation
1. The user looks for “Where is the nearest Coffee Club”, so…
2. The user wants to locate and visit the nearest coffee club, so…
3. The users will find it using Coffee Club locator
What should you do? Try determining all conversational phrases people are likely to use when searching for your services, and classify them into informational, navigational and transactional.
Make sure your content covers each of the 3 types:
- To cover informational queries, create educational, wikipedia-type content.
- Navigational queries are your brand name, your product name, the name of your site, etc. What often helps you rank higher for your brand keywords are brand and website name mentions on thematically relevant resources.
- For transactional queries, use appropriate keywords in your content, for example “hire Jason C. – a web designer from Sydney”
When possible, target conversational phrases just as they are. For all the rest of conversational terms, use their shorter equivalents.
2. Leverage synonyms and co-occurring terms
Another step towards relevant search results is determining what a page is about using not only inpidual keywords, but their synonyms and co-occurring terms.
Practically this means that Google shows search results not only for the exact phrase the user typed in, but for other theme-related terms.
For a theme-relevant website, this results in extra exposure opportunities: it’s likely to get to Google’s top not only for your targeted keywords, but for lots of their synonyms.
On the contrary, the page cut for a separate keyword (without keeping in mind its co- occurring terms and synonyms) is likely to be replaced with a page form theme-relevant site.
What should you do?
Expand your keyword research, focusing on synonyms and co-occurring terms to persify your content:
- To see which search terms Google considers synonymous, pay attention torelated keywords, acronyms or spelling variants of your keywords highlighted in search results:
- Expand your synonyms list with the keywords that already bring traffic to your website (check your site’s Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics).
- Tap into Google Suggest for relevant keywords ideas:
3. Re-consider your anchor texts
Even though using “commercial” anchor texts in links is one of the biggest SEO no-no’s these days, Google still relies on backlink anchor texts to better understand the theme of a site.
The perfect proof for that is the famous example of Adobe.Com that (still!) ranks for “click here” solely due to the anchor texts in its links:
What should you do?
- Do an inventory of your site’s internal links and see if you can better optimize the anchor texts for semantically relevant keywords.
- Check your site’s external links’ anchors to make sure they are relevant enough or revise your anchor text startegy.
- Don’t forget to not only use keywords in the anchor texts themselves, but also surround the links with keywords and their synonyms.
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4. Pay more attention to Universal Search listings
One more thing to pay your attention to in the age of smarter Google is Universal search.
Quite likely that the new, relevancy-focused algorithm will make Google show more Universal search results to your target users.
Say, Google sees your intent – learning the best way to work out your chest. Quite obviously, the most informative result for you is a training video:
If you wonder where to buy pizza in North Lakes, no doubt you need local pizzerias listings:
This means that now, even more than before, Universal Search gives you the opportunity to:
(A) Outrank competitors when cracking the “organic” top 10 seems improbable
(B) Drive more traffic to your site by using additional traffic channels
What should you do?