Have you been in a meeting recently when someone has mentioned Google’s Hummingbird update and wondered when they became twitchers? I have and, although Hummingbird has been referenced a lot by marketing types, nobody has given me a definitive answer about what it actually is or what it means for me.
So in the name of TWOP, I took my size 6s to the source: Google’s London offices, to understand more about what Hummingbird means for anyone wanting to have visibility online. Before I begin, do something for me: grab your smartphone, activate voice search, and ask, “where is the Eiffel Tower?” Your phone, with the help of Google, will do a speedy search and then respond perfectly to your question. Next, ask your phone, “how tall is it?” (not “how tall is the Eiffel Tower?”). Lo’ and behold! Google will tell you how tall the Eiffel Tower is.
In essence, Google wizardry links your queries, meaning you don’t need to start from scratch for each search. It’s like having a conversation with an actual person. And that’s exactly what Google wants to do - be more human, derive meaning from questions rather than just link words, allow people to talk to Google rather than adopt clunky Google-speak. Huzzah!
So, THAT’S Hummingbird: a new search functionality that moves from keywords into semantic search. I know what you’re thinking… that’s very cool, RS, but what does this actually mean for me?!
Hummingbird is a game-changer which will force us to re-think the way we write our content. We’ll be writing for the user, not for the search bots which previously gave higher ranking to sites which contained a splattering of keywords (imagine?!). The internet will be a much better place for it.
When developing your content, you need to ask why people are looking for something, rather than what they are looking for. Additionally, you can’t assume that a user is looking for one thing - they will always have a “next-step question” (a conversational line of questioning). Therefore, you need to mitigate against dead-end content and always give them something to join the dots, no matter which stage they’re at in the content discussion or the purchase funnel.
This, in theory, can be achieved in your content planning by creating a chain of connected content pieces. Let’s use cars as an example. A dealership’s website might feature a range of cars, with images and specifications, but there are several other things a buyer might want to know at different stages of the sales cycle. How does this car perform better than that car? Is this car fuel efficient? Which car is best value for money? What do all of these buttons on my dashboard mean?
Following the Hummingbird mentality, you need to connect content dots for the user in a logical process. If they want to know one thing, there may be follow-on questions they also want answers to. Any one of the ideas above could be broken down into a series of helpful articles or link to video guides or instructographics.
The key is to avoid dead-ends, but also to avoid making the user have to hunt around to find the answers. Think about how different pieces of information can be linked together so that users can find these related articles in a way that is easy to navigate.
If you’re able to work in synergy with the Hummingbird algorithm then, firstly, you should be better placed to benefit from search results because you have content that answers specific, niche questions. And, secondly, such content is the kind of stuff that users long for, find valuable and might even share socially (hurrah!), none of which can be bad for your brand.
(This article first appeared on www.toworkorplay.com)