Gini Dietrich

Hummingbird Update: What it Means for PR Pros

By: Gini Dietrich | October 3, 2013 | 

Hummingbird Update- What it Means for PR ProsBy Gini Dietrich

I feel like the sky is falling with all of the changes at Google in the past two months.

They are no longer providing the keywords people use to find your site and the Hummingbird update means marketers have to be even smarter about the content we’re creating so we’re found in search results.

Add that to the in-depth articles you should already be writing and, well, your job just changed significantly.

Keywords and Searches

Let’s talk first about the keyword update.

The bad news is, if you use Google analytics to tell you how people are finding you, your job just got a little more difficult.

The good news is, Webmaster Tools still offers you a glance at what people are using.

If you click on your site in there and then on “search traffic,” and then “search queries” in the left-hand column, you’ll see all is not lost.

The thing I love about this tool vs. Google analytics is it gives you a percentage of how many people click when they find you for a certain term.

For instance, 100 percent of people click on Spin Sucks when they search “spin sucks.” But only six percent of people click on our site when they search “types of media.”

Now I know we should be smarter about how we use the term “types of media” in our content and provide better content around it, if that’s what we want people to use to find us.

So all is not lost (yet) if you use Webmaster Tools, but keep an eye on it. They may soon change this as part of their effort to keep information private.

Hummingbird Update

Now the big one. The Hummingbird update is the first major revision to the main Google algorithm in 10 years.

In its simplest form, what it does is return search results based on a Q&A format.

With Siri and Google Now, the engineers at Google think it is becoming increasingly important to return results that answer a question because people are no longer using phrases or keywords to search. They are saying to Siri, “What is the best Mexican restaurant in Chicago?” and are getting results based on that. (BTW, it’s Fernando’s for cheap and easy Mexican food.)

I love how The Drum explains it because it’s the same thing I’ve been saying to Vistage members every time I speak to their groups for the past two years.

Basic brochure sites will be a thing of the past as audience engagement and feedback is rewarded. The lesson is clear; be the best, provide the best answers by knowing and serving your customers and Google will reward you.

What this means is your content can’t just be interesting and educational, it has to also have audience engagement (comments) and feedback (social shares). And, with Hummingbird, you also have to think in questions and answers format.

What This Means to You

Marcus Sheridan has been tooting this horn for years.

In a two-part webinar series he did for us, he talks about how to answer the questions people ask you in sales meetings because these are the things they’re searching for to find you online. (Check out Grow Your Sales Using Inbound Marketing, Part One and Part Two. We were charging for this series, but I’ve made them free for the next week.)

Think about that for a second. What are the questions people ask your sales team? What do they ask customer service?

These are the questions you should be answering in blog posts, in your frequently asked questions section of your website, and in the other content you create.

If you already practice this, Hummingbird isn’t a big change for you and it’s unlikely you’ve seen a traffic decrease (and you will have already seen it).

If you don’t already practice this, get to it! Think about the following tips, as well.

Content Tweak Ideas

There are a few tweaks you can make to your content to test your search results.

  1. Answer the questions people ask in sales meetings. I won’t beat a dead horse. Do it.
  2. Create an interview series. A lot of bloggers already do this. PR professionals are great at this. I love what Christopher Penn has to say about this idea in a recent blog post. I also love what Jon-Mikel Bailey is doing with his Five Questions…and a Bonus feature.
  3. Use your webinars. If you already host webinars, you’re a step ahead. You can do two things: 1) Transcribe the content of the webinar for your website or blog; and 2) Answer the questions asked during the webinar in a blog post or piece of content.

This won’t affect most of you, if you already keep up on the Panda and Penguin (constant) updates and are already providing relevant content that creates engagement and people share.

But it does give you a few additional ideas for content creation, which we can all use.

Go forth and prosper!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Nice roundup on the topic, Gini.

    • BobReed Merci beaucoup.

      • ginidietrich And well-timed. I have to discuss with a client this morning why the more contextual elements of website copy I just wrote — and he edited out — need to stay in, based on the content program he says he wants to do in 2014. This helps.

        • BobReed Oh clients. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them

  • ginidietrich

    csteckb SpinSucks Thanks, Carol!

    • csteckb

      ginidietrich SpinSucks I should be thanking YOU! Great post.

      • ginidietrich

        csteckb 🙂

  • Excellent, Gini. Question-centric content has always performed well and the Hummingbird update only reaffirms that.

  • Gert,  this seriously did not suck

    • Todd Lyden LOL, Faybiz. You kill me! Also, make sure you check out Gin and Topics tomorrow!

      • ginidietrich Todd Lyden no more faybiz… all gone

        • Todd Lyden I know, but that’s how I’ll forever know you.

        • ginidietrich Todd Lyden and gert is forever you

  • rdopping

    Sigh. What is a little blogger to do? After doing the exercise in GA recommended by Chris Penn I discovered my visits (organic search) increased by 109% over last year but visit duration decreased by 84%. Hummingbird, eh? 
    That tells me I am doing the right things to get visitors but I am full of crap. Huh. I LOVE Google.

    • Great question. Bloggers who have less to say might have an interesting time competing for SERPS.

      • Of course, that was a general statement against thin content. 🙂

    • rdopping You, my friend, do quite well with content and blogging. You clearly have nothing to worry about, even though you are full of crap.

      • ginidietrich rdopping Ralph you used to blog now you post 1 ziggy cartoon a day of course time spent dropped. But just think when you actually wrote blog posts they spent almost 6x more time per visit. maybe you should give up the ziggy?

        • rdopping

          You have me confused with the other Ralph.

      • rdopping

        Thanks. Takes one to know one. 😉

  • The first thing that I tell my clients about blogging is… what are the top 10 questions you get asked? Now answer them in a post.

  • Excellent and timely information as always! Thank you. And love the series free for the next week. Will download ASAP 🙂

    • LSSocialEngage I clearly had a moment of weakness. 🙂

  • Predictably, some marketers and search engine optimization experts are treating the news as a sort of virtual earthquake that couldn’t have been more devastating or unexpected; others are treating it as the next logical step in search engine evolution, which is what it actually represents.

    • Randy Milanovic I keep looking for something that makes it the earthquake some are making it out to be, but I can’t find anything to justify it. I”m with you. This just makes sense.

  • Great overview, Gini! Thanks. I think this is good – it gets back to the basics of what we should be doing anyway. After all, answering the questions you receive as a business is BY FAR the easiest (and most effective) way to generate content. It’s a no brainer.

  • ifdyperez

    So the sky isn’t falling?! 🙂 The future’s in content engagement: great content, great engagement as a result. We wrote about post about it this week @AddThis. If we’re only losing a piece of the pie, our strategy shouldn’t fall under because, well, it shouldn’t be solely based on that one piece of the pie. There’s so much data out there! ALL THE DATA!!!

    • It takes a lot of effort, an understanding of web tools, and a lot of time to build audience. Great content is the east part.

    • ifdyperez The sky is NOT falling! Oh dang! I meant to read your blog post before I wrote this one and it fell off my radar. Oy.
      BTW, thanks for the Matt recommendation. I hired him.

      • ifdyperez

        ginidietrich YAY! I love Matt! He curates one of the best sites on the internet: videos of explosions from around the world. Fireworks factories, nuclear plants, meteors–you name it. He should tell you about it; it’s really fantastic. 🙂

  • I think at the end of the day, people producing solid content have nothing to worry about. However, I think Hummingbird is going to push an important, but often neglected, aspect of content – delivery (oh crap, there he goes again on delivery).
     As you noted from The Drum, “as audience engagement and feedback is rewarded.”  To earn feedback and audience engagement, you must get the content to the right audience. That’s going to take a little more doing that organic growth or SEO, but the results can be spectacular.

    • ClayMorgan Oh crap. Here he goes on delivery again. Sigh…

      • ginidietrich The best content on the planet is meaningless if your distribution can’t put it in the right hands. Boom!

  • I won’t beat a dead horse.  Spin Sucks has the number 2 spot for that phrase. You are crafty.
    I can spend all day in Webmaster Tools and Analytics. I just verified my site for WMT thank you for having me notice it wasn’t set up. Today was my first time checking it out besides when I set up authorship. 
    I one thing I take from it is seeing where I rank for the various searches and seeing in what ways people find you by accident I think helps.
    As for in depth content luckily I talk and type too much!

    • Howie Goldfarb Damn near made me spit take there, Howie. Real close.

      • RebeccaTodd I am much better. I used to blog here in the comments. Usually starting with “Oh ginidietrich once again an amazing post I agree with everything you wrote.” Then I caught on to her game. Now I just come for the free cupcakes and mountain dew.

        • Howie Goldfarb RebeccaTodd ginidietrich I’d like some of these free cupcakes…

    • Howie Goldfarb Now I have to look. Nope! Don’t show up in search results. Nanny, nanny, boo, boo

  • Dearest Gini, Mere words can not express how much I adore this post, and thus your fine self, this lovely morning. Yesterday I made a plea to the universe to deliver me some Hummingbird info, and it’s like you heard that, put it in a blender with my deepest career ambitions, and wrote this post to combine the two. Thank you. 9 bottles of wine on me in Chi.

    • RebeccaTodd What about the 10th bottle??

      • ginidietrich RebeccaTodd I’ll buy.

        • Word Ninja ginidietrich RebeccaTodd I’ll just drink.

        • jasonkonopinski Word Ninja ginidietrich RebeccaTodd That’s on KD if, indeed, he is a real person.

        • RebeccaTodd  We’ll let Word Ninja buy!

        • ginidietrich RebeccaTodd We’re talking Two Buck Chuck, right?

        • Word Ninja RebeccaTodd Um.

  • John_Trader1

    Why is it that all of these changes that Google is making seem radically logical and should have maybe been done some time ago? For those of us already practicing the “create quality content that is engaging and shared across the social spheres” strategy, we just chuckle and say, “yeah, already there.”

    • John_Trader1 I do think it’s funny that people are acting like the sky is falling. This is what I say when I do workshops: Create really good content that people want to share and it won’t matter what Google does now or later.

  • SpinSucks

    RebeccaAmyTodd G to the rescue!!

    • RebeccaAmyTodd

      SpinSucks Honestly- it is like she wrote it JUST for my particular circumstance. AMAZING! Hope to meet you in Chi in a couple weeks!

      • SpinSucks

        RebeccaAmyTodd For sure! You’re here for Content Jam right? Let’s make sure we do drinks!

        • RebeccaAmyTodd

          SpinSucks Yes indeed! I am there all week working too. YAY!

        • SpinSucks

          RebeccaAmyTodd Woo hoo!!!! Ok, then you name the date and I’m all yours!

        • RebeccaAmyTodd

          SpinSucks I am figuring my schedule for work…I’ll keep you posted!

        • SpinSucks

          RebeccaAmyTodd Sounds good!

  • SpinSucks

    Mark_Harai Thanks Mark!

  • SpinSucks

    lesleywaldsmith Thanks Lesley!

  • debdobson62

    Ahhh dear Gini, how timely you are.  I was just starting to write up a summary for my boss on some of the latest changes and here you wrote it for me.  Thank you!!

  • SpinSucks

    susancellura Hi Susan!! How are you?

    • susancellura

      SpinSucks Hey!!! I’m doing well, how about you?

      • SpinSucks

        susancellura Can’t complain 🙂

  • SpinSucks

    barbsawyers Morning Barb! Thanks for the share 🙂

    • barbsawyers

      SpinSucks Great post. I’m already putting your suggestions into action.

      • SpinSucks

        barbsawyers 😀

  • This is all well and good. But what is the best PIZZA place in Chicago?

    • Word Ninja Chicag Pizza and Oven Grinder. Hands down.

  • Curious is typos and localized spellings (ie. Canadian) will be overlooked/recognized?

    • Randy Milanovic Ohhh. I don’t know. I haven’t read anything to that effect.

      • ginidietrich Randy Milanovic I imagine since they can accurately search different languages, they should be able to get typos and grammar as well.

    • Randy Milanovic ginidietrich “…ie. Canadian” – that made me LOL! We happen to use the Queen’s english here Randy. Us, and many other countries. YOU GUYS are the ones with ‘localized spellings’!! 😉

      • megadox

        belllindsay Randy Milanovic ginidietrich As a fellow Canuck, I had a good chuckle over this one. So true.

  • My brain hurts. I still haven’t figured out how the long-form results actually work, and now they’ve got us thinking in Q&As. But at least I understand it better than I did before I read this post. 🙂

  • susancellura

    Thank you so very much for this!!!

  • lttlewys

    MaureenB2B Thanks, That SpinSucks really kinda rocks!! Of course, I’m just a huge #FanGurl of ginidietrich

    • ginidietrich

      lttlewys Smooches!

  • SpinSucks

    PRNewser Thanks!

  • ginidietrich

    MaureenB2B Weird. I was JUST thinking about you!

    • MaureenB2B

      ginidietrich That was a GREAT post! Hope all is well.

  • ginidietrich

    TopShelfCopy 🙂

  • I join the chorus here Gini. Thanks for such a great explanation. You’re always so “johnny on the spot.”

    • Or more accurately “Gini on the Spot.” BOOM! New saying.

  • TheRedDogInn

    ginidietrich I appreciate you so much for distilling this information into usable news. Thanks.

  • TheGirlPie

    ginidietrich Thanks for the generous free-this-week pair, too. Appreciate it!

  • “The bad news is, if you use to tell you how people are finding you, your job just got a little more difficult.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Digital_DRK

    ginidietrich thanks Gini, reading it now.

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