Online search is constantly changing. Hummingbird is Google’s brand new search algorithm. It was officially launched on September 26, but Google actually quietly deployed it at the end of August. Hummingbird is a ground up rebuild of Google’s search engine with “conversational search” at its heart. This semantic search capability provides answers to questions, rather than results from keywords. This change is a direct reaction to the massive increase in “voice searches”coming from the mobile sector and is—unadmittedly—a bit of catching up on Google’s part to WolframAlpha’s semantic search engine that powers Apple’s Siri.
Content creation is back to the front page of everyone’s online search optimization discussions because it appears that Google is pushing the whole ‘keyword’ system out the door. For those with quality, original content, this should be a good thing, but for those who have depended on the technical aspects of SEO, like heavy use of keywords and back links—time to upgrade your content. The SEO landscape has changed; here are a few ways this affects content creation that have been noticed in these early days of change:
- Question/Answer as a format for page titles appears to satisfy Hummingbird. The words “How Does” in the in the above title will make this page more visible to a conversational search. Consider looking over existing content for places where titles can be reworded.
- Google Authorship is no longer an option, it is a must. With Authorship, you have another tool to affect searches and this is one—probably the only one—that will always be unique to the content creator. It also travels with the creator from page to page. After setting up Authorship, return to your existing content to add the bylines, and setup email addresses on your domains if that hasn’t been done already.
- Content quality has never been more important. One aspect of good content has been changing so gradually that few have noticed, Google’s own data is now answering many of these questions. This means Google’s answer could supersede your content. For example, your page has nutrition information about blueberries and is the highest-ranking page, so a search for “how many calories in a cup of blueberries” will send someone to your page right? Google’s own data is answering more and more of these questions so your content needs to be more than just the facts.
As you conduct your own search experiments, you will notice that Google is putting content from properties it owns first, like YouTube and Google+, so expanding your presence in these areas is a definitely a good idea. Given Google owns 70 percent or more of the search traffic, you want to ensure you know how to play by their rules.
The most important thing a small business can do right now is consult with a professional who can answer the tough questions and then provide guidance as you build a marketing plan that includes content creation. We can help you start with a simple marketing audit.