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Thoughts on B2B Marketing and Beyond

Google Hummingbird - Is your B2B website ready to hum?

November 10 2013 11:52 PM

So what is Google Hummingbird?

Is it a it a plane?! No, it's Google's new algorithm anticipating what content users are looking for. It is a complete change in algorithm which is the formula Google uses to work out what users are searching for. The new engine apparently knows the ‘keywords’ and  understands the true intent behind the search terms.

Google Hummingbird for B2B

Where the Panda and Penguin updates were changes to parts of Google’s old algorithm, the Hummingbird update is different in the sense that it is an entire replacement of the algorithm. 

Google claims that the new engine has a better understanding of the intent of the user, taking context into account, grouping words and looking for relevant synonyms to get at the meaning and intent behind the search.

How does it impact B2B sites?

Google is hoping Hummingbird will provide more accurate answers to queries, because it helps Google to understand the true intent behind each query. As marketers, we therefore need to be more conscious of the type of questions our customers have and how we could develop content to address their needs. By ensuring this, our websites will have a better chance of ranking well on the search engines. Creating better content that ‘helps’ the user in his search for an answer, is a good way to go. The type of content we produce should eventually gravitate around how it will provide users with more useful information related to their queries. It looks like semantic analysis and content strategy have now become essential building blocks of SEO.

Impact on long-tail and short-tail keywords 

It has become increasingly common to see users asking whole questions on search engines and writing whole sentences in natural language, rather than typing a few keywords. Using long-tail keywords in the SEO strategy has helped some websites to rank well for this type of searches. But since the Hummingbird engine improves Google’s ability to provide more intelligent results, conversational-type searches and short-tail searches might soon be in competition.  With the hummingbird update, Google seems to be treating the long-tail keywords differently. Long-tail search terms generally give more signals about the ‘intention’ of the user as compared to short-tail search terms which can be a bit too diverse sometimes.  Time will tell whether the new engine will be good enough at serving short-tail search terms as efficiently as long-tail search terms, but B2B marketers have to be ready and adjust their SEO and content strategy accordingly. For example: B2B buyers often look for editorial content about how to accomplish specific objectives before looking for suppliers of equipment or services they will need to achieve that particular objective. Whislt taking consideration of long tail keywords in the copy was once a good way to help Google understand the intention of the page itself, it is now more important to create content that will serve the intention of the 'user'. Example: The B2B buyer at different stages of the buying process.  

Keyword Density seems to have been given less importance as well and crafting tailored content for the different stages of the B2B buying process is the best way to go.  On the other side, because Google is now more efficient at guessing ‘intent’, there will be less competition between editorial web-pages and products/services pages. The new algorithm is actually creating a more equitable search landscape for B2B websites to compete in. Furthermore social signals (Facebook likes, Re-Tweets, etc.) seem to have been given more importance, since they are strong indication about quality content. 

Content-driven SEO 

Going forward, content marketers will have to work even closer to SEO experts. Writing about sector-specific content on blogs, news feeds or social media platforms can make a big difference to the SEO performance.  Whilst the overall competition is looking more equitable, B2B Marketers still have to be careful by doubling up efforts on optimising or re-optimising their websites for Hummingbird. This is mainly because the Hummingbird update might be opening a new type of SEO competition which is strongly 'content-quality' driven.  Not being on the ball might cost B2B websites to lose rankings and ultimately considerable traffic. However, the truth remains: finding the time, effort and money to produce quality, fresh and engaging content on a regular basis is easier said than done, but this is ultimately the most effective way to ensure your B2B website get found by your customers.


Ada Nisbet's avatar Ada Nisbet

November 12 2013 11:07 AM

This is really interesting Joe thank you for sharing.
Could this mean marketers will give SEO the weight that it deserves? I hope so.
Given how much emphasis we place on creating relevant and engaging content, it is also critical that every effort is made to ensure all that great content actually reaches its intended audience. Sounds like a good initiative from Google…I guess time will tell how effective it will be.

Caz Taylor's avatar Caz Taylor

November 12 2013 12:11 PM

Gathering insights and opinions from ALL areas of your business also helps to shape your content strategy. For example, your sales teams are talking to your customers on a daily basis so have invaluable insight into your customers are feeling and what they are wanting to know about your products - what they like, how they compare, why are are not wanting to commit at that moment in time. By mapping out the common themes helps you as a business, address these in the content your create. A recent piece of DM that we as a business received from a telecoms company, addressed the Myths and Truths about their service head on which in turn, has given us a good comparison on what they offer against their competitors. Everything we needed to know in one place, brilliant!

Chris Ongarello

November 12 2013 1:58 PM

Great post Joe!
What stuck out to me is how peoples search behavior has changed in typing natural language queries instead of keyword specific terms. Certainly a challenge for content marketers to get their language right.

Joseph Volcy's avatar Joseph Volcy

November 13 2013 2:15 AM

Thanks Ada, yes it looks like SEOs and Content-Strategists will be working even closer. It’s a matter of creating ‘better’ content rather than ‘more’ content…

Joseph Volcy's avatar Joseph Volcy

November 13 2013 2:27 AM

Thx Caz, yes I totally agree that creating engaging and fresh content is essential for any SEO strategy. Creating good content can however be a tough task, and one of the ways to go is to get the maximum of information possible from the different company departments.  Some companies might be possessing extremely valuable content without even realising, all they need to do is a bit of mining to find the ‘gold’.

Joseph Volcy's avatar Joseph Volcy

November 13 2013 2:33 AM

Hi Chris, yes I believe the way people search on the internet changes all the time and one of the reasons behind this behavior could be related to the accuracy of the search engine results. 

Google Hummingbird is a new engine and time will tell if it will have an impact on the way users search on the internet. But for some reasons, Google is now making it harder for SEOs to analyse this behavior with the whole ‘not provided’ keyword issue…

Olivier Francois

November 18 2013 10:15 AM

Great analysis Joe… the algorithm is going through further improvements and it will be interesting to see how this will impact B2B as well as B2C sites.

Joseph Volcy's avatar Joseph Volcy

November 27 2013 5:01 PM

Indeed, it is still early days, we’ll be keeping an eye on how things evolve… Keep watching this space smile

September 15 2014 10:34 AM