The rules for content marketing are changing once again. Soon after Google announced that it was removing the Google Keyword Tool and making organic keyword data unavailable in the interests of improving security, the search engine giant revealed a massive update to their algorithms.
At the time of the announcement, the Hummingbird algorithm had already been in place and functioning for about a month. Apparently, no one noticed until Google officially unveiled Hummingbird--but that doesn't mean the new update isn't any different from the old algorithms. In fact, Hummingbird represents a huge shift in the way Google processes search queries.
The changing role of keywords
Hummingbird underscores an ongoing transition from keyword-based searches to what's called semantic search--relying on contextual meaning and user intent, rather than keywords alone, to improve search accuracy. This doesn't mean keywords are dead, since they're obviously required for search queries. It does mean their importance in SEO will be reduced in favor of relevant content.
Google's new algorithm now returns search results in order of relevancy, based on a number of different factors that include, but are not limited to, keywords. This is consistent with Google's ongoing commitment to providing searchers with meaningful, quality content, rather than pages that happen to contain more keywords.
Searches become "conversations"
The number of mobile device users is skyrocketing, and Google currently reigns supreme when it comes to mobile search. Voice searches, such as with the Siri app from iOS, are commonplace. One of the main goals of the Hummingbird algorithm is to improve results from search queries that reflect the way people talk.
For example, when you run a Google search for "How long is the Brooklyn bridge?", the first search result is the answer to the question: 5,998' (1,825 m). This is displayed as large text at the top of the page, with no links or outside associations.
Hummingbird has moved search algorithms away from strings of query terms, and toward something that more resembles a dialog between searcher and machine. Rather than queries that bring back results, it's questions that bring back answers.
Hummingbird and content marketing
So, what does this new algorithm mean for content marketers--especially those who have spent years building keyword-based SEO strategies and carefully following the "old" rules, including the restrictions and penalties brought about with the Panda and Penguin updates?
Once again, despite the many changes over the years, Google has been consistent in striving to return relevant, high quality content. Each update has reinforced that commitment, with algorithms that discount keyword stuffing, link farming, duplicated content, and other attempts at cheating search engine rankings.
Hummingbird could actually be great news for content marketers. Now, instead of trying to hammer content into place around keywords in order to keep everything organic, marketers are free to concentrate on creating relevant and engaging content that answers the questions of their target audience--without worrying about keyword density or placement.
In a world of semantic search, marketers who consistently deliver great content will be rewarded with improved search engine rankings and increased traffic.
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