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How Google's Hummingbird Affects Your Digital Marketing Efforts

How Google's Hummingbird Affects Your Digital Marketing Efforts

hummingbirdAsk a question in the Google search bar these days, and you may be surprised by just how personalized and relevant your search results are. That’s because Google’s latest algorithm, Hummingbird, is powering the semantic search revolution. Unlike Google’s previous Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, Hummingbird is an entirely new approach to search that does more than just penalize sites for keyword stuffing and black hat link building strategies. Effective SEO strategies must start with a robust understanding of Google Hummingbird – or your website may fail to even make a dent in the top search results.

Hummingbird represents Google’s biggest change in 12 years. It reflects the move towards mobile search because of our increased dependence on smartphones and tablets. (As an aside, half of all searches are done on mobile devices, and local mobile searches are expected to exceed desktop searches by 2015, according to Vocus.) Semantic search relies heavily on the contextualization of information to generate highly personalized search results and predictive queries.

While SEO can be helpful if done properly, you need to know what “properly” looks like. If your business is still obsessing over keyword density or link building strategies, then you’re missing the point. Is your business’s digital strategy ready for Hummingbird? Here are three things that every effective SEO strategy needs:

#1: Answer questions.

While you don’t want to turn all your content into Q&A blog posts, Hummingbird is built to be a powerful question and answer platform. That’s because searchers are increasingly typing full questions into Google rather than just a few keyword terms. Consider the following scenario: a search enters a question. Google’s mission is simple: provide a fast, accurate answer preferably without causing the searcher to leave Google.com.

While it’s painful to learn that your great content and strong backlinks may simply not be enough, remember these wise words from Search Engine Land’s Eric Ward, “Google does not owe you traffic.” This doesn’t mean that all the hard work you’ve put into creating original, creative content is for naught. Sure, you may lose out on some search traffic if the answer is posted right at the top of the Google search results, but folks that are looking for a more in-depth answer are still likely to click through to your website’s blog or article. Original, deep, subject-relevant content still matters, argues Ward, and we certainly agree. Content is still king, just be sure the content you’re creating is relevant, original and – for an added search bump – addresses the most frequently asked questions for your industry.

#2: Build Social Authority

Until last week, Google Authorship was one of the biggest content marketing trends for 2014.

And now it’s gone, which has caused more than a little stir in the marketing community.

But, just because Google’s rankings are no longer improved with verified content, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on building social authority. Credibility is still important, and so it’s important to distinguish yourself as a subject matter expert (instead of, say, someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about). Although Google Authorship doesn’t carry the same clout as it did previously, having +1’s on your relevant, well-researched content still sets you apart from “armchair experts.” Using social channels — even those outside Google — can still build your credibility.

Credibility is important, and while you may no longer see a direct increase in your marketing efforts, building social authority can still enhance your brand and show that you’re a relevant source.

#3: Use the Google ecosystem.

Spanning from YouTube to Google hangouts and beyond, Google’s ecosystem extends far beyond its main search page. If Google’s main goal is to send searchers to answers as quickly with its secondary goal to keep searchers within the Google ecosystem, leverage these different properties to your advantage. Consider what happened to Eric Ward when he posted a 2-hour Live Hangout about linking building to YouTube – it’s now the top mobile search result on YouTube for “Link Strategies Q/A”. Consider hosting your own hangout to announce and demo a new product or service and then post this video to YouTube.

From Google Authorship to semantic search, on the surface, Hummingbird has ushered in some serious changes for how businesses approach effective SEO. At the same time, creating quality, relevant content is still critically important. So, what’s a business to do? Take into account search behavior (long questions phrases rather than keywords), use Google Authorship, and continue creating content that engages users.

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