This is a question that has consumed many minds in the last week. Google’s Hummingbird update has caused some major changes in the landscape of internet marketing, and one of the most important of these changes is Google’s devaluing of traditional, short-tail keywords.
What this means for your search engine rankings is that they’ve probably decreased. It’s very probable that those keywords you had your copywriters craft into your web content are no longer useful, and won’t do too much to bring visitors to your website. However, there is hope, and it comes in the form of long-tail keywords and question-style queries.
It’s All About Keyword Context
Not only is it likely that 100% of all keywords will be (not provided) in the very near future, but Google has also made it clear that its algorithm post-Hummingbird doesn’t care much for single keyword terms. Instead, Google is placing more focus on the context in which users search for products, services, and information.
In terms of rankings, this means that your keywords won’t mean anything unless Google can determine that searchers are looking for your keywords in the same context as your website provides. Therefore, while you may have ranked well for the term “snails” in the past, your ranking for that term may drop, depending on the context in which searchers are looking for “snails.” The contextual differences between “gourmet dishes using snails,” “aquarium of snails,” and “flesh eating snails” are wide indeed. By reading into the context of the query, rather than the short-tail keywords involved, Google is seeking to provide more relevant search results to its users.
So forget about short-tail keywords. The best way to maintain your Google rankings post-Hummingbird is to think long-tail, and in the form of questions.
Why Do Questions Matter?
If you’re like me, then maybe you also noticed that your Google queries have been getting better responses when they’re in question form lately. What you were actually seeing was the effects of the Hummingbird update. Google, in an attempt to better understand what users are searching for, has been turning up better search results for users when they type queries in the form of a question.
In terms of future online marketing techniques, this means that you need to be thinking like your organic search visitors. What questions would they ask that would lead them to your website? Once you’ve established these questions, you should try to both include the questions themselves, as well as their answers, in your website’s content. Yes – this could mean many hours of rewriting copy for your webpages, but it will be worth it in the end.
Looking ahead, it’s very likely that we’ll begin to understand additional impacts of the Hummingbird update and how they’re influencing our website rankings.
For now, though, we know that solid rankings are more likely with long-tail keyword targeting, an understanding of site visitor query questions, and high-quality user-friendly content.
Image: Edmund Garman (cc)