Google's Hummingbird can be a marketer's best friend

User-friendliness can be very good for the bottom line. Photo: Google logo/via Wikipedia

MANILA, January 7, 2014 - On Google’s 15-year anniversary in 2013, the company announced its controversial and much-discussed overhaul of the company’s search algorithm. The rollout was actually accomplished a month earlier despite the timing of the announcement. The new algorithm now affects 90% of worldwide searches performed by users via the search engine giant.

Google’s new algorithm, dubbed “Hummingbird,” still keeps in place traditional measurement factors like PageRank, although it is just one of the many factors that Google uses to rank a website. The thing that makes Hummingbird different is its emphasis on natural search queries.

Google’s previous methodology depended on searching queries-based keywords to guide information retrieval from their database. Keywords were the main focus, while little consideration was given to what are known as “stop words” such as English language indirect and direct articles (“a” and “the”) or limiting adjectives like “this.”  

If users were to type the query, “Where can you buy the latest Derrick Rose sneakers?”, the previous search engine would focus on the words “buy” and “sneakers.” The results would likely yield e-commerce sites that target the keywords “buy” and “sneakers” while ignoring the other terms in the query.

Now, Hummingbird considers the intent behind the query and, it is hoped, will direct the searcher to either the Adidas website or to e-commerce sites that features the latest Adidas and Derrick Rose sneakers.

Mobile search is also be improved in Hummingbird because mobile searches will display results based on the proximity of the searcher to stores that carry the latest Derrick Rose footware.

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How does this relate to marketing?

Search marketing has been around for years as website developers have long known the direct correlation between ranking high in search engines and resulting web traffic. Unfortunately, this eventually led to abuses by online marketers that chose to game the system and employ tactics to exploit or subvert Google’s guidelines. Resulting search rankings led users to sites that give little to no value or information in response to specific queries. Google chose to fight back, developing its latest algorithm updates in an continuing effort to clean up their search results to cut back on IT and marketing tricks that lessened the value of the average search.

Google’s updated seach technologies proved to be harsh medicine for sites that did not follow Google’s new guidelines. Those sites hardest hit saw a significant drop in traffic, which directly and immediately had a negative impact on their businesses. In some unfortunate cases, affected businesses have yet to recover.

At this point, in early 2014, it is likely that a majority of legitimate online businesses have learned how to comply with Google’s current guidelines. The most noticeable effect of this change is that for the average search, the quality of content returned by that search has improved.

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Legitimate site owners are now making an effort to develop and distribute content that not only is informative but can also be shared through social media platforms. Blogs have been doing this for some time. But it is only now that businesses have begun to realize that content marketing is a key element that can be gracefully integrated into their over-all marketing strategy to help drive sales.

Content marketing in and of itself will not guarantee a good ROI for businesses. Content marketing strategies should be tightly aligned with the goals established for each site. Sites should put out content targeted to their primary audience. Such content, including layout and design, should clearly and cleanly direct visitors to the appropriate actions needed that simultaneously fulfill customer information and product needs while helping to achieve site goals.

Hummingbird hovering

Since the new Google algorithm focuses more on conversational search, wherein the context of the search queries is given greater weight, online marketers should have an easier time in determining the preferences of their target market.

In Theodore Levitt’s book, “The Marketing Imagination,” the author talked about “differentiation.” The concept describes the manner in which individuals and corporations can stand out from their competitors, the better to distinguish for a target audience what sets the company apart from its competition.

Levitt recognizes that products and services can be clearly differentiated. It is the job of the business to provide its customers with the details that make itsproducts and services unique. It is precisely this kind of information that customers generally seek when they decide to make a purchase. That is the essence of successful marketing.

Apple offers an excellent example of how such a strategy worked for them and continues to work. Spearheaded by Steve Jobs upon his return to the firm he had co-founded, a rejuvenated Apple not only produced innovative products characterized by superior software and hardware function and design. They also clearly demonstrated how different their products were from the competition and how important this would be to consumers.

Hummingbird-driven search results can also provide in-depth insights to the markets behavior through careful construction of search queries. The search engine can now process complex queries whose internal parameters it previously overlooked or ignored. A plus for the user, such queries are more conversational, contextual and natural.

By showing other results in the related searches and search suggestions as part of the information returned from a conversational-style query, Hummingbird enables to users and marketers alike that it can evalute what people are actually typing, which in turn can determine whether the search query is informational, navigational and/or transactional.

By determining what kind of query is being typed, marketers can create content that specifically responds most closely to the information that is wanted. Ad agencies can also look at the kind of content that are being shown in the results based on the type of query to create a content strategy with a tighter focus. The result for the consumer is valuable content, which in turn can help drive more traffic to a site over time.

The data gathered will serve as the baseline for businesses to differentiate their products and services from their competitors, which ultimately gives the consumers more choices.

In an age where a consumer expects and even demands information about a company’s products and services, the choice that companies can provide on their web sites can sway more consumer to make use of their sites.

A marketing strategy that informs customers about the value of a corporate or individual brand is a great fit to the new algorithm Google Search has now employed. With Hummingbird’s help, corporations and individuals can showcase how unique their products and services are. In turn, these synergies can result in business blogs and web sites that provide better and more useful content that, hopefully, will provide both greater customer satisfaction and greater corporate profitability.


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Johann Carpio

Johann has a degree in Philosophy and Human Resource. He is a business development specialist at Xight Interactive


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