Every time Google introduces a new algorithm, people go a little crazy. And while the changes are usually fairly small and sometimes go largely unnoticed by the end user as well as marketers looking to take advantage of those changes. But this time, all the fuss isn't for nothing. According to Google themselves, the Hummingbird update, which went into full effect in September 2013, is the biggest change they've made since 2001. In the constantly updating world of technology, that may as well be a lifetime.
When Google announces a big change like this, the first thing everyone wants to know is how it will affect them.
The thing about Google updates, though, is no one knows exactly what they mean. The Google algorithm is a complex and closely guarded secret, meaning SEO experts and online marketers are left to guess how exactly these changes will affect their business or their clients. While we can't give you an exact rundown of the new algorithm, we can tell you what Google said in their September press conference on Hummingbird.
Most importantly, the new algorithm will focus on providing better answers to what Google calls "conversational searches." This term refers to both typed and spoken searches that are phrased in the form of a question. Hummingbird is designed to better interpret the meaning behind each word and provide an answer to a question rather than just spit back pages that contain certain keywords.
What this means is a very real reason to follow the advice that Google has been spouting for years: meaningful content is more important than keywords. It's more important, overall, to provide answers to questions than to stuff your content with certain phrases that you hope will get picked up by search engines.
Now that we have some idea of what Hummingbird means for Google overall, let's get to the title of this article: what does Hummingbird mean for business marketers? And how can you use this change to your advantage?
Focus on Answering Question
Because conversational searches was what Google focused on when unveiling the Hummingbird update, it stands to reason that business travel marketers should take a look at this factor first. Luckily, it is quite likely that a large contingent of the business traveler demographic actually use these types of searches - especially if they are searching on their phone using the voice activated Google. Imagine a business traveler that has just arrived in a new city, who is driving her rental car out of the airport lot and suddenly realizes she wants to find the best restaurant nearby. Don't you think she might ask Google?
This means if you have good content that actually answers these types of conversations searches, Hummingbird can give you a bump in traffic and give your business a bump in revenue.
Make Sure Your Content is Descriptive and Useful
But how do you make sure that you have the right answers for these weary travelers? Content. Google has never told you to run out and hire the most expensive SEO firm you can find or to stuff your site so full of keywords that it's impossible to tell what you're selling. Google has always told you: good content = good traffic. Nothing has changed here, but you may finally see that your old keyword-heavy tactics aren't working anymore. Instead, you need to make sure your content is high quality and actually useful. If you're a rental car lot with amazing corporate discounts, make sure you have plenty of information about your rates and rewards and that they are visible on your site so travelers who search will actually find your site useful. Good content is the key to success with Hummingbird. Getting your content up to the level it needs to be may mean investing in a professional writer, but the good news is that no matter how many times Google tweaks their algorithm, great content is always going to be on your side.
Consider a Blog
No matter what your core business is, if you are marketing to business travelers, you have plenty of fodder for a blog. If you don't already have one, Hummingbird is a perfect excuse to start. There are only so many informational content pages a site can have and remain useful, but a blog can be updated on a regular basis to provide compelling content and add to your searchability.
Geo-Targeting is Your Friend
Although Google didn't put quite the emphasis on geo-targeting that they did on conversational searching, the fact is that those two things go hand in hand. A lot of conversational searches end with "near me" or "near [a location]". If you have the right content, those searches could be directed to your doorstep (or your website). This is especially important if you have business locations in different geographies. Be sure that each location has its own page, with maps, directions, and other indicators as to where it is located. It is also a good idea to make sure, if you're a brick & mortar, that you have a page set up in Google Places. But that's probably for a different post.
Marketing to business travelers has always been a bit complex. After all, there is a broad spectrum of businesses and each one has different travel needs. Online marketing has made it that much more challenging, but has also opened up many more possibilities. Staying on top of what search engines (especially Google) are doing is essential if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
Are you a business marketer? How has Hummingbird affected your online traffic? Let ManoByte know in the comments!