Google’s Hummingbird update one of its most impressive algorithms to date, but that’s not to say it’s terrifying and difficult grasp.
Once you’ve got a deeper understanding of what it is and what it’s trying to do, writing content for SEO actually becomes easier, not harder, in a post-hummingbird world.
The Hummingbird Basics:
Google’s Hummingbird is an algorithm that was released in September 2013 which, essentially, helped Google search evolve in the way that it assesses relevance.
After Hummingbird, the Google bots became a lot less bot-like. Before, they focused on assessing things like keyword density, placement and prominence on a given page, but now they assess things like context, meaning, synonyms, relationships between words and natural language.
What’s more, Google can interpret the meaning and intention of a given query even if the keyword is not mentioned once.
We take it for granted now that it’s been around for a little while, but it’s pretty impressive when one stops to think about it.
Have a look at the example below – ‘Salvador Dali’ was not mentioned (nor anything related to The Persistence of Memory), and yet Google can understand what was being asked.
It is able to match seemingly unrelated words (melting + clocks) with a relevant concept. Pretty smart, isn’t it? And it’s useful too. Not only for searchers who aren’t entirely sure what they’re searching for – but for website owners too. Now more people can find your content without even having to type in your keywords. If Google thinks your website/blog post will be relevant and useful to them, it’ll deliver it in the results.
So how do you ensure Google matches your content to its relevant themes, and, better yet, deem it worthy of putting in that #1 spot?
We’re so glad you asked.
Tip 1: Stay focused on 1 core theme.
When writing a post you will need to keep focused on your main theme and try not to deviate too much. If you have sub-themes, which you probably do, you need to maintain a clear hierarchy of these sub-themes and make sure they support your core theme – but don’t dominate it – like a table and its legs.
Heading structure does still apply, even post-hummingbird, and you can use it as a tool to reinforce your hierarchy.
Your primary theme will be H1
The sub-themes will be H2s
The sub-sub themes will be H3s, and so on.
Tip 2: Target search queries, not just keywords
Google gets asked hundreds of millions of questions every day (fun fact: ‘What is love?’ topped the most searched list last year) and it has been getting better and better at answering them.
Remember the example Salvador Dali example from above? Google can now recognise that a question is being asked and respond with the pages it feels answer the question best, not just biggest ones with related subjects or keywords.
Google’s fondness for search queries is an opportunity for you: if you write content which answers questions, Google will deliver your content above others’, even if they have a higher domain rating.
Let’s look at an example:
If someone googles ‘Is it possible to change a tyre without a jack?’ and you have an article titled ‘How to change a tyre without a jack’ (instead of ‘Jacked off’ or whatever creative title you might otherwise have chosen) you can come in above much heavier hitters who haven’t answered that particular query.
The trick is to find out what people are asking and endeavour to answer their questions in a ‘question – answer’ format (more on this in a moment).
Basically, your process will look a bit like this:
Tip 3: Follow a Q&A structure.
Google looks for content that answers search queries, so it’s good practice to follow a question/answer, challenge/solution, concern/confidence type of approach in your writing.
For example, if someone asks Google ‘How many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb?’ and you have an article or subheading which addresses that, you need to answer the question definitively in the first sentence which follows.
Heading/ Subheading: How many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Paragraph 1: It takes four politicians to change a lightbulb. One to change it and three to deny it.
If you follow a question/answer format, it makes it easier for Google to see a direct link between search questions and the answers you provide.
Tip 4: Use synonyms.
Google Hummingbird revolutionised the way that Google understands language, and understanding related words and synonyms is a big part of this. Not only can Google tell how ‘natural’ your language sounds (keyword crammers beware), it can also identify a myriad synonyms and related words/phrases around your core topic.
This means that aiming for diversity of word usage and overall readability is much more valuable than repeating the same keyword a heap of times. Hurrah.
You can now use all the synonyms and related phrases you would normally use in a good piece of content, and Google will still be able to figure out what your piece is about.
Tip 5: Get your facts straight (from someone else):
To ensure that the information you’re providing is correct, Google checks your facts against other articles across the web. It does this by cross-referencing facts with other authoritative sources in its index.
As a result, including facts in the form of numbers and statistics that are present on authoritative sites (like Wikipedia, for example) is useful in asserting your value.
In addition, referencing (linking out) to authoritative sites is a good idea too, as it shows Google that you want to provide your readers with useful information and it helps Google determine the broader theme of your post.
Also, including expert opinions, whether on the site or off it – such as “according to Dr XYZ (linking to their profile)” – tells Google that your information is valuable and drawn from authoritative sources.
So, as it turns out, Google Hummingbird is not the scary thing we all thought it was. In fact, if you’re a legitimate business wanting to offer the best information and value to your clients, then Google Hummingbird has made SEO a whole lot simpler for you. The challenge is simply to let go of your old notions of SEO.
Let’s recap the top 5 tips for writing content post-Hummingbird: