Hummingbird and Content Marketing: What’s to Know?

By Jakk Ogden on October 25, 2013 in Content Tips
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First there was Panda…

…then there was Penguin…

… and now there’s Hummingbird.

If all three of these updates say one thing, the message is clear:

High quality content is more important than ever.

Although Hummingbird is not a penalty driven algorithmic change, unlike Panda and Penguin, it has already had a profound effect on the way searches are delivered, with it said to have impacted 90% of search queries.

Search is on the brink of a major transformation. Marketers and business owners need to create better content that focuses on the end user rather than build content that aims to please the search engines; Google’s algorithm is becoming more and more consumer-focused and it wants to rank web pages that answer questions and pages that offer information that’s beneficial.

Hummingbird and content marketing go hand in hand, and together, they have visually changed the search results.

To give you an example of this, look at Google’s Knowledge Graph. This was released more than 12 months ago however the Hummingbird update has expanded it greatly. Now, when you search for a famous business such as Apple, Samsung or Pret a Manger, you are greeted with this:

Pret a Manger example

What Google is trying to do is transform the way in which their engine delivers results. Google wants to focus on the long-tail, not generic queries. They want to focus on answers, not results.

So how does this affect marketers and business owners?

For years Google has tried to get the point across to marketers that engaging, relevant and valuable content is the key to success. Even so called SEO gurus coined the phrase ‘content is king’. So, you will already know that content is perhaps the most critical stage of any successful online marketing strategy.

Taking in to account information on the Hummingbird update, and researching how Google’s results have changed since it was rolled out, it is safe to say that content marketers, to be successful, must look past organic search and the Keyword Planner. Generic terms simply do not take centre-stage in Google’s transformation.

High quality content and different formats

High quality content does not end at your articles. Quality content can include visual information such as images, video and infographics, interactive content such as games, polls, quizzes and competitions, and educational content such as white papers, press releases and trend reports.

Hummingbird may address the answering of questions first and foremost, but the backbone of any successful content marketing strategy remains the same – mix up your format and see what works for you.

Understand your audience, know your customer

Marketers and businesses need to understand the questions that customers are asking of their service and their industry to develop content that is going to rank well in the new Google. Understanding your customer has always been critical to success, but it is now more critical than ever.

Understanding who is reading your content, developing thought leadership and hitting topics head on is the best advice we can offer marketers for the future. Hummingbird is only the start of Google’s major transformation – adapting your content now will safe-guard you against the steep learning curve many marketers will have to face in the months and years to come.

Get really specific

Once you understand your customer, you can begin to craft content for them that is extremely well targeted. A lot is said about specifity and the importance of it in business, and it is extremely important when it comes to your content whether it is marketing material or not…

…ultimately, if your content is not specific to your customer, it will fail.

Answer the questions your customers are asking in detail – for your content to rank, it must relate to their query.

Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best – John C. Maxwell

Google is taking a step in the right direction with Hummingbird, and is forcing marketers to up their game. For your content to be found and shared now being the best is essential.

Marketers must therefore learn to say no to good content and yes to the best. Thought leadership is easy to establish – write and develop content about what you know. In Google’s ideal world, this is enough for your content to reach the targeted reader. Although this is not 100 percent the case just yet, you can bet with good odds that thought leaders will outrank one-off pieces of content in the future, which is another reason why we think that Google will implement Authorship into their algorithm soon.

Authorship, however, is for another day.

Your turn

What do you think about the new Hummingbird update? Have you noticed a significant change in the way content is ranked? I would be delighted to hear your thoughts. Tweet us @content_hero or leave your comment below.

Thank you for reading.

About the Author

Jakk OgdenView all posts by Jakk Ogden
Jakk Ogden is the founder and managing director of Content Hero. Jakk's background lies in marketing, advertising and publishing. He is partial to the clever infographic, Mark Twain, golden age comic books and Johnny Cash. He has written over 3,000 articles that have been published online. Connect with him on Linkedin, , or buy him a coffee in Leeds to talk about how high quality content can grow your business.

20 Comments

  1. Henry Lahm @ Pure Marketing October 15, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jakk – great piece. Without any shadow of a doubt content marketers need to focus on being the best > you used one of my favourite quotes and that sums it up nicely.

    Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird have together changed Google’s search results dramatically. Although there are still low quality pages being given priority for some keyword terms and questions, it is much improved over this time last year. We actually began to work on question and answer keywords a long time ago and we have noticed an 8% increase in traffic over the past 3 months, so Google is definitely doing something right.

    H

    • Author
      Jakk Ogden October 15, 2013 Reply

      Thanks Henry!

      Well done for having the vision to focus on answering questions, a lot of agencies in your industry continue to develop content that’s just not valuable.

    • Redmond October 25, 2013 Reply

      Google do appear to be doing the right thing with this, although I am still seeing a lot of spam in the search results. I know this isn’t Hummingbird but I am really struggling to rank against my competition:

      My competitors build more than 100 links a month manually, contrary to Google Webmaster Guidelines. I add 100 blog posts to my website per month, pro to Google Webmaster guidelines.

      Guess who ranks better?

      You guessed it, my competitor!

      So, whilst I see what Google is trying to do, they are failing, at least in my opinion.

      Red

      • Author
        Jakk Ogden October 30, 2013 Reply

        Redmond,

        You can drop me a line with your URL if you like? There’s bound to be an underlying problem with your website if that’s the case…

        …is your house in order?

        Jakk

  2. Anoriginaltecher October 15, 2013 Reply

    I have seen a definite change in results, and Google have yet again moved the goal posts narrower for Bing and Yahoo. They just can’t keep up.

    • Author
      Jakk Ogden October 22, 2013 Reply

      I cannot remember the last time I used Yahoo… Remember Lycos?

  3. Henry Lahm @ Pure Marketing October 17, 2013 Reply

    Hi guys just to add – several of our clients have now seen their traffic increase by over 20% since Hummingbird was rolled out, so it’s definitely affecting search engine rankings in some form. I understand it’s not a penalty driven update but it’s definitely cleaning up the results, as our clients have increased in the rankings.

    H

  4. Tricia Latta October 17, 2013 Reply

    I could not agree more regarding formats. Too many companies get bogged down with articles when video, audio and visual content such as infographics can have just as much or even more impact.

  5. Author
    Jakk Ogden October 18, 2013 Reply

    Hi couldn’t agree more tricia – plus, articles are always best with nice images, video and audio.

  6. Anoriginaltecher October 23, 2013 Reply

    Speaking of infographics has anybody tried free services such as Visual.ly?

  7. Charlotte West October 23, 2013 Reply

    “Marketers and businesses need to understand the questions that customers are asking of their service and their industry to develop content that is going to rank well in the new Google.”

    – you hit the nail on the head right there. For too long I have stumbled across blog posts, articles and infographics that simply plain guess what their audience cares about, or they try so many different tactics in one post that it just comes across as plain bad.

    Do some research, ask your customers questions, and develop content that ENGAGES them. Without your content benefiting the reader there is simply no point in creating it because it will not generate a reaction, which is the ULTIMATE aim.

    Hummingbird and content marketing are the future of doing well online. The sooner company’s understand this the better.

    Thanks,

    Charlotte

    • Author
      Jakk Ogden October 24, 2013 Reply

      Thank you Charlotte! Your advice is spot on.

    • Nikita Thomson October 30, 2013 Reply

      Research is the key to this!

  8. Visis October 24, 2013 Reply

    I’m not going to lie: Hummingbird is my favourite update, ever! We were slightly ahead of our competitors with our thinking and built lots of pages around answering questions and we are now rankings WAAAAY above them.

  9. Neil Johnson October 28, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jakk,

    I don’t think that Hummingbird is a great update to be honest. I’m yet to see a major impact in the search results.

    I think Google is also on the brink of a major transformation, but not as much through questions as others think – I think the amount of shares content gets determines where content ranks now. This of course presents a real challenge for small-time bloggers and new blogs because getting shares with no visibility of nigh on impossible.

    It’ll be interesting to see where this goes!

    Neil

    • Author
      Jakk Ogden October 30, 2013 Reply

      Hmm :/…

      …the best example of the impact I can give you is to recommend you ask Google a question such as ‘Who is X’ or ‘What is the weight of…’.

      Hummingbird has not addressed all queries yet, but as the content is created, I am sure Google will pick it up and improve their results.

      Jakk

  10. Nikita Thomson October 30, 2013 Reply

    I think that Hummingbird is designed to address the increase in voice search through tools like Google Now and Apple’s Siri. Queries are now more long-tail than ever.

    BTW – great post. Trying out different formats of content is the key to success here.

    Nikita

    • Author
      Jakk Ogden October 30, 2013 Reply

      Thanks Nikita!

      I agree completely. Voice search has pushed Google’s algorithm to the ragged edge over the past year and Hummingbird is one solution to this. It definitely focuses on the long tail and addresses the rise of question based queries.

      Jakk

  11. Jasper November 3, 2013 Reply

    Hummingbird and content marketing is a match made in heaven!

    • Author
      Jakk Ogden November 7, 2013 Reply

      Indeed they are! :)

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