Google officially announced the latest, and biggest, algorithm update to hit your very favorite search engine since 2010’s Caffeine update. You could call it another search results overhaul but, truthfully, it’s just a small part of an overall evolution to bring better information to consumers for the moments that matter.
Google is making an effort to practice what they preach in a big way. Have you seen their commercials? It’s clear that Google has its sights set on emerging as the ultimate source of information. Want an old school SAT analogy to help you out? Google is to information as Apple is to devices. This new update is a clear indicator that Google is making bold moves to become an increasingly integral part of your life, not only supplying information you want, but intelligence you didn’t even know you needed.
So what does this all mean for marketers? Content producers, listen up; this one’s for you.
Content Needs to Satisfy Intent
About two years ago, we saw a shift in search from “dumb” keyword optimization to a more intent-based channel where search engines endeavored to “best guess” a search user’s intent, matching it to relevant content that (hopefully) best answered a user’s query.
More recently, “context” has entered search strategy lexicon, which accounts for more personalized search tactics based on location, platform, device and/or hyper local factors.
With Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update, launched last month, and officially announced today, Google is further underscoring the importance of user intent over pure keyword based interpretation. This new update now better acknowledges context, timeliness, conversational search location cues, Knowledge Graph data and understanding of complex queries.
Content Needs to Be Rich
So, how do marketers focus their own content to satisfy more complex user intent? Content needs to be deep, and rich, to be deemed the most relevant piece of content for any given query. Sites that are currently developing rich content that seek to answer more comprehensive questions, rather than keywords or phrases, will increase their chances of ranking well with the new update. However, while sites need to rely heavily on rich content, they also need to maintain well-designed sites, which make it easier for Google spiders to find that great content.
Because content seems to be the biggest emphasis for this update, it also likely means that authorship will become an even more important factor in optimization. It’s interesting that this update is coming right on the heels of several recent notable changes. The first being the complete integration of secure search, which eliminated keyword data from analytics, and the second being Google+ rolling out a change to authorship, which will make it easier on Google to attribute content back to the author. So, while you start thinking about your content program, and whether or not it supports the new algorithm update, don’t forget to take authority into account. Make sure profiles are created, updated, and attributed for all pieces of content.
What does the future hold?
It’s hard to predict exactly what the future will entail, because Google is predictably unpredictable, but it’s safe to say that this update is a clear move towards a more Semantic Web, which aims at getting a better understanding of “aboutness” – not just from markup of entities, but in the ability to extract sentiment from the structure of a sentence – so there’s probably more coming. Perhaps the answer is in a more “implicit” search.
Even if Hummingbird does fundamentally change search in the long term, its introduction went by relatively un-noticed as little more than a slight improvement in search results. And, though Google notes that the update covers about 90% of search queries worldwide, it will feel incremental from a user perspective. Marketers, however, should be cautious because the update brings a greater implication from both an operational and technical standpoint. Google continues to push towards a world where “Content is King,” and understanding user search intent is the end goal. And, maybe one day they just may be able to answer our questions before we even ask them.
Image Credit NYTimes