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.


"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." NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!


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. :-)

Randy Milanovic
Randy Milanovic

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

Word Ninja
Word Ninja

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


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!!


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."


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. 


Or more accurately "Gini on the Spot." BOOM! New saying.


@Randy Milanovic @ginidietrich " 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'!! ;) 


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

ginidietrich moderator

@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.


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