Have you been reading the Google tea leaves in an attempt to determine how Hummingbird affects your online marketing efforts?
A good place to start is with semantic search, the most important concept in the Google algorithm update.
Understanding the importance behind it allows you to re-evaluate your current content strategy, modify your existing best practices and gain advantage over your competitors.
Let’s start with the basics. First remember Google is in the business of returning the best, most precise, results for a user query. Satisfying customers insures the company retains its dominant market position.
Second, for years Google and the other search engines provided rank-ordered results to user queries from the unstructured data (words) on websites.
Keywords, anchor text and links provided signals for bots (and hence algorithms) to ascertain the meaning and relationships among the words on a page.
As far as intent of a user, that was the job of an SEO to determine, and then create content to meet the needs of that user. Hummingbird now makes the implementation of structured data imperative for webmasters.
With this in mind let’s now really dig deep. As defined by the dictionary semantics is “the branch of linguistics that deals with the study of meaning, changes in meaning, and the principles that govern the relationship between sentences or meanings.”
In the past, Google and other search engines relied primarily upon pattern matching (syntactic) to return what their algorithms deduced as the best possible result for a user query.
Semantic search, precisely interpreting the meaning amongst words in a search query, was a future hope. Now that hope has arrived.
With Hummingbird Google has deployed a much more sophisticated algorithm more heavily reliant upon both syntax and Natural Language Processing.
The result is a search engine better able to discern the relationships among words much more effectively than before.
The words surrounding your keywords are now more precisely interpreted to uncover both context and user intent, delivering a much more relevant search result.
Here’s an example to illustrate semantic search. If a user typed in the query “how do I install a gas furnace in my home,” in the past the bots honed in upon the keywords “gas furnace” and “home.”
SERP might have included gas furnace distributors, parts and trouble shooting.
With semantic search the words surrounding the keywords carry much more importance. “My,” “install” and “how do I” add clues and context.
Google’s improved algorithm, Hummingbird, can now return results that better match this and other long-tail queries.
The SERP now include links to websites that explain how to install (this might include furnace dealers if they created such useful content) and local installation firms.
Google now much better understands the relationships amongst topics, themes, and video and how they connect to each other.
What does this mean to a marketer? You do not need to ram a keyword down a bot or human throat. The search engine gets it: related words and synonyms can be linked to the focus keyword or theme.
Hummingbird and its implementation of semantic search offer opportunities for search marketers.