Summary: Google is emphasizing conversational search with its new Hummingbird search algorithm, placing a premium on relevant content in response to vast numbers of unique search queries, as well as the increasing shift to mobile search. Here are four ways content creators and PR pros can build relevance into their content creation strategies.
By now you’ve probably heard the news that Google quietly dropped a new algorithm into their search engine a couple months ago. Christened “Hummingbird,” for its speed and precision, the new algorithm rolled out smoothly and didn’t create real waves in the search community, which is surprising given the scope of the change (which could be compared to putting a whole new engine into a car.) However, the fact that the change was a quiet one doesn’t mean that it didn’t bring significant new changes.
Google is focusing on what they call “conversational search,” and Hummingbird is delivering better answers for longer, more detailed queries. Essentially, Google just raised the bar on relevance. As their search engine algorithms drill more deeply into the context of searches, less-relevant content drops out of search results.
“Rather than just examining each individual word in a search, Google is now examining the searcher’s query as a whole and processing the meaning behind it,” writes Jeremy Hall in a post on Wired titled Google Hummingbird: Where No Search has Gone Before. “Previously, Google (and most other search engines) used more of a “brute force” approach of looking at the individual words in a search and returning results that matched those words individually and as a whole. Now Google is focusing on context and trying to understand user’s intent in order to deliver more relevant results and better answers.”
There are a few reasons why Google is paying attention to longer, conversational search queries. Every day, about 15% of the searches (that’s about 500 million) people plug into Google’s engine are new, representing combinations of words never before seen by Google. Hummingbird takes aim at improving search results by answering the questions behind the queries, rather than simply returning lists of potentially relevant results. And as people increasingly move toward using mobiles and tablets to do searches, the nature of searches are changing. People are dictating search queries, creating a whole new dynamic. And mobile searches continue to increase, as people increasingly look for information that will help them out moment to moment.
Herein is the opportunity for content creators. Recalibrating content, and employing a laser-focus on publishing information that is useful to audiences is crucial to successful content and public relations campaigns and capture valuable long-tail and in-the-moment opportunities.
There’s more to developing relevant messaging than sprinkling keywords throughout the copy, however. Search engines are good at understanding context, and also place value on the relative popularity of digital information.
Here are four keys to creating content nectar for Google’s new Hummingbird:
- Highlight the questions a new product answers in a press release. Turn your headline into a value statement that answers the question, “What is the most important thing this product/event/announcement does for my audience?”
- Mine your organization’s web analytics to identify content gaps and opportunities. What keywords are people using to get to your web site? What content is most popular? Are there any obvious
- Questions are queries. Talk to your front-line teams, and find out what questions customers are asking. Use those questions to frame content, and imbue materials like press releases with relatable and relevant information.
- One product may have different value propositions that appeal to different audiences. Surface different messages by tweeting the specifics, highlighting them in an infographic and calling them out in a bulleted list in text copy.
Building audience interest and a customer focus into every message – especially owned media like press releases – will help generate visibility for the content over time, as people hunt for specific information online. Organizations that learn to do this well will fare well in the Hummingbird’s realm. On the flip side, content that doesn’t attract visitors, inspire social sharing, answer questions or serve audience needs will drop from view. In fact, metrics relating to online reads, social shares and ongoing popularity are among the KPIs content and PR programs should use to measure results, and keep content programs on track.