Just after Google announced that its new search algorithm, Hummingbird, had taken flight, SEO professionals began trying to figure out what it meant for them and their clients. Hummingbird marks the biggest overhaul of the algorithm since Caffeine in 2010, affecting 90 percent of searches.
The latest update is able to better interact with the user, as it can now more accurately understand the subtleties of human language to produce relevant results. As Google can now interpret users’ long-tail search queries better than before, SEO professionals should focus on creating content that satisfies those queries. Here are some ways to adapt to the changes:
1. Analyze users’ intent to create better content. Any piece of content can be written well, but it must first serve a purpose as Hummingbird will only retrieve pages that offer the most tailored information. First, consider the types of search queries users search for. Having content that satisfies specific questions with conversational keywords -- as well as their synonyms, as Hummingbird focuses on semantic search -- sprinkled throughout the page where applicable is a better bet. Consider these types of content:
- How-to’s: Users looking for step-by-step instructions would find this type of content educational and easy to follow. How-to guides can be adapted to numerous industries.
- “Top…” lists: Lists, such as “Top 10 SEO Tips” or “5 Best Ways to Write an Article,” are easily shareable on social media. They are often popular due to their brevity, clarity and usefulness.
- Frequently Asked Questions: If a website has a properly formatted FAQ -- which includes broad industry questions linking out to specific pages with the question itself as the anchor text -- it can lead to greater relevancy for users trying to find general industry information.
- In-depth articles: Google groups these types of articles, designated as in-depth articles, together to show that they are detailed analyses of certain subjects. Add schema.org markup to your data-rich, informative content to appear in these listings; implementing Google+ authorship will further boost its credibility.
2. Set the type for better conversion rates. Users searching for answers want to find it fast. If a website’s pages have content with a font that’s too hard to read, users won’t take the time to try and decipher it. Hummingbird has tried to simplify the search process; its focus on tailored search results speaks to internet users’ need for speed. If users don’t want to spend time looking through multiple result pages, they certainly don’t want to spend time trying to read illegible font.
Before resetting all your type, take a look at a few different components of typography:
- Typeface: A particular design of type that include letters, numbers and symbols. Typefaces are often part of a type family of corresponding designs, for example, Times Roman, Helvetica and Courier.
- Font: One style of typeface that has a specific weight, width and size.
- Kerning: The adjustment of space between individual characters. This makes text more proportional and pleasing to the eye.
- Tracking: Also called letter-spacing, this adjusts the space uniformly in a block of text.
- Line length: The width of a block or line of text, measured between its right and left margins.
- Leading: The space between lines of text. Closer leading fits more text on one page, but lowers readability.
Paying attention to these six facets of typography within your online content will help keep users on your website. Although there are many typefaces available, pick the one that’s easy to read over the one that has pretty, intricate designs.
3. Find alternatives to guest blogging. Google's spam expert Matt Cutts recently made waves by proclaiming that guest blogging was dead. Once a legitimate way to backlinks, spammers have made it harder for users -- and Google -- to find great content. The tactic can still be used, however, provided it is an authoritative blog (authorship helps!) with useful and original content. Instead of pumping out guest blog after guest blog, be selective about having one published or, alternatively, focus on other avenues for link building, such as:
- Reverse guest blogging: Hire an established writer that is well-versed in the industry to write a post for your own blog.
- Provide some expertise: Post an interview with an expert in your business, or give an interview as the expert.
- Be social: Ask YouTube (or Vine, for a mobile audience) “celebrities” to collaborate on a video, such as a “how-to” or other educational guide.
The end game. With Hummingbird, a lot has changed for users in the way Google supplies its results. For SEO professionals and content marketers, the end game is the same: create high-quality, original and focused content.