At the Digital Marketing Show in London yesterday, one question came up again and again:
How does Google’s new search algorithm, Hummingbird, change our business’s strategy online?
We know what you’re wondering. What’s a search algorithm, and is this really something I need to care about?
The answer is that every so often, Google changes the way it calculates which pages are most relevant when people search for a particular term. If you want your website to show up high on Google, you need to understand as much as possible about how Google decides pages are important. That’s the algorithm.
In recent years, it has prioritised pages which contain appropriate ‘key words’ – so if you search, say, for ‘tall potted plants’, it will return pages which include that exact phrase. As a result, when people built their websites, they tried to figure out what their target market might search for – and included them in their content.
Hummingbird, which was announced in September, changes all that. Google’s new emphasis is on trying to figure out why you are asking the question, and then deliver the most appropriate links.
Now if you Googled ‘tall potted plants’, the search engine would look at where you are, what platform you are using, what you have previously searched for (amongst other things) and try to fit its answer to what it guesses is your context.
For example, if it saw that you were standing on the street and searching from your mobile, it might conclude you were looking for a place to buy tall potted plants, and show you the nearest stores. If you were at home working from your desktop, you might be more interested in botanical information.
So now back to the original question: How does this change the way we build our websites and use social media?
The most important lesson is that, instead of focusing on key words, you must focus on what broader themes and content would be useful to the people you are trying to attract.
The first step is to understand your target audience. (Here at Brainstorm, we do market research to develop a detailed picture of who they are, what they care about, and how they access information on the web.)
Once you are satisfied you know your buyers inside out, you need to deliver the exact content they are looking for. Develop your niche, become authoritative in your field, and become a resource for your customers.
Post regularly on your blog, and try and vary the format to include videos and other material – not just text.
Now, more than ever, content is king online!
PS. Don’t stop using key words: they are still a big factor.