If Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm doesn’t force you to be a better writer, nothing will.
The new evolution from the Panda/Penguin updates, combined with Google’s practice of no longer providing keyword data, are going to leave content marketers in the dark.
I couldn’t be happier.
Before Panda and Penguin, SEO professionals used all kinds of tricks, both sneaky and legitimate, to game the system. Panda eliminated “thin” content — too-short blog posts, posts that contained 20 words and then took you to another page — and Penguin eliminated a lot of backlinking strategies.
Hummingbird is going one step further. According to TechCrunch,
(it) allows Google to more quickly parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word), and to identify and rank answers to those questions from the content they’ve indexed.
In other words, Google is no longer looking for results that match the collection of words you put into the search bar, they can identify the question, identify the intent behind the question, and find the best possible results.
Hummingbird is geared toward, and has been shaped by, mobile and voice search. People open their Google Maps or Google Search on their smartphones and speak their search as a question. Or they get on Google on their tablet or laptop and type in their question:
- How do I delete my Twitter account?
- How do I ask a girl out?
- How do I get a passport?
“But, how do we know which keywords to write about?”
You can figure that out by looking at your page visits and seeing which pages have the most visits, and then writing about those topics some more.
You can figure that out by searching in your email archives for the phrase “how do I.” Repost the answers you sent.
You can figure that out by writing about leading stories and trending news in your industry. (Read David Meerman Scott’s Newsjacking to find out how to get ahead of the competition in these instances.)
You can figure it out by paying close attention to the things you sell and the problems they solve.
You don’t need keywords to figure out what people are looking for. You need to look at your readers’ behavior, figure out why they came to your site, and respond to the things they want.
(Of course, you could just call up a few of your customers and ask them too.)
But most importantly, you need to quit trying to game the system by dinking around with keywords and just start writing real content that people want to read.
Photo credit: AnnCam (Flickr, Creative Commons)