Tune Your Brand Content Strategy for Success with Google Hummingbird

Oct 25, 2013

Article ImageThe Hummingbird is known not only for its hum-like chirp but also for its love of sweet nectar. But thanks to Google, it may also now be known in the digital world for its love of high-quality content. Earlier this month, Google unfurled the biggest change to its search engine since the company launched 15 years ago.

The Hummingbird update brings about major changes to the way Google ranks search results. Hummingbird makes it more important than ever before for brands to hone their content marketing to draw users (and the Hummingbird) into deeper brand engagement.

Before we dive further into hows and whys of Hummingbird, here are three key strategies to keep your Hummingbird content feeder stocked:

  • Create content that's relevant to the questions consumers have. The 5 Ws and an H of journalism are a great place to start: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Answer those questions to create useful content.
  • Think like a publisher by creating original content that moves beyond product features to focusing on the ways your customers use your products in their everyday lifestyle; what helpful tips and advice can you offer?
  • Engage your customers and prospects in meaningful conversation. Social signals seem to keep Hummingbird buzzing -- ask authentic questions, not just what users love most about your brand.

How Google Migrated From Keywords To Answers

Google never spells out the exact algorithms used to bring us search results-to keep users from gaming the system-and Hummingbird is no exception. But from what's been reported, we can clearly understand the key implications of how Hummingbird responds to and ranks results from the 3 billion searches people perform every day.

Here's what Google SVP Amit Singhai had to say about it:  "We'll keep improving Google Search so it does a little bit more of the hard work for you. This means giving you the best possible answers, making it easy to have a conversation and helping out before you even have to ask. Hopefully, we'll save you a few minutes of hassle each day."

So Google's not just searching pages for you anymore. It's become your information concierge. Before Hummingbird, Google tried to match the individual words you entered to the most popular pages that best seemed to represent those words. But now with Hummingbird, Google tries to understand the underlying question that your search represents.

For example, let's say you search for "Boston Logan STL." Hummingbird knows that you don't intend to look for words Logan University or the STL that is stereolithography -- even though those sites had the right words in their content. Instead, you have some questions about flights from Boston to Saint Louis and also about Logan Airport. And Hummingbird knew all of that without you having to spell it out. You never even had to say the words "Saint Louis" or "Airport" or even "flight." Thanks, Amit!

Tips To Keep Your Content Humming

Now let's say you you're CMO of ACME Backpacks. You used to have a lot of content focused on your superior product features: posts on better zippers, microfiber, pocket storage, etc. That's still good content but imagine when your current or prospective customer searches on "what to pack on a hike"?

As luck would have it, you offer the backpack today's digitally-savvy twenty-something hiker loves! Hummingbird ought to bring this user right to you. But alas, your brand focused exclusively on product content and not enough on topical editorial content relevant to the common questions your current and future customers face. Hummingbird knew that my intent was not primarily shopping but rather tips and advice for packing.

But when I try this search for real, there is a brand that ranks highly: REI, with its very helpful "Day Hiking Checklist: The Ten Essentials" by T.D. Wood. Hmmm, now that' I'm here, come to think of it, I could use a few items from REI. And on the same page, I see similar articles and ways to share content on my social networks. That's the kind of stuff that drives effective content marketing, and Hummingbird makes it more important than ever to offer it. So where do you start?

A Content Marketing Checklist for Hummingbird

  1. Understand the many real-situations in which your customers and prospects use and benefit from your products and services in their everyday lives;
  2. Identify five to six key editorial topics and themes, create an editorial calendar, and put the right content and community team in place;
  3. Invest in a content hub that makes it easy for you to publish content, and make sure the design is responsive to support mobile devices.
  4. Look for partnership opportunities so content flows in, and out, to other media and social channels. This ecosystem speeds the word and increases the way your content gets ranked.

Good luck, and happy humming.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)