As a small business marketer trying to get more business online, you can rest assured of one thing: nothing ever remains constant.
Things are always changing, whether it be a new technique, a new tool, or in this case, a new algorithm update to Google.
This fluidity makes for an exciting day-to-day because you’re always learning something new, trying to adapt, and stay one step ahead of the competition. You have to be agile, because if you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself behind the pack.
Small businesses marketers need to understand exactly what’s going on in the search space so you can continue to sell and compete online.
You may have heard about the latest Google algorithm update, code-named “Hummingbird.”
What exactly is Hummingbird and what does it mean for small businesses?
Every SEO maven already has their own take on Google’s largest update since 2001, but I found the best explanation comes from TechCrunch:
“The main focus, and something that went repeated many a time, was that the new algorithm allows Google to more quickly parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word), and to identify and rank answers to those questions from the content they’ve indexed.”
This makes it apparent that Hummingbird is focusing on the entire phrase (oftentimes a question), as opposed to each individual keyword in the query. It’s more conversational. Google is now filtering out all of the irrelevant info, keeping their results “fluff-free.” Businesses used to obsess over the rankings of their top performing keywords; Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm implies your focus needs to be elsewhere.
It levels the playing field (good news for small businesses) as companies with the generic results will be pushed out for more localized and specific search results.
Here are three ways you can make sure your small business is adjusting to Hummingbird effectively:
1. Start a Blog and Publish Content Consistently
Small business marketers now have a distinct need to become writers and publishers online. You cannot simply publish a 5 page website and expect to see any sort of results. You need another channel to convey your company’s unique perspective and value proposition.
You’re not going to be a pro blogger right away, and that’s okay, you just have to start somewhere. I suggest using WordPress.org, as it’s easy to use and provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to look and feel, along with a plethora of awesome plugins that will help you customize your blog.
Starting a blog might feel like a big undertaking, but I can assure you that this is one of, if not the most cost-effective marketing method for small businesses. On average, a company blog delivers 67% of the leads per month for a small business. Try to publish one article a week, on the same day of the week.
Search Engine Watch talks about the concept of “entrance pages”, saying:
“A healthy website is constantly expanding in breadth. In other words, SEO post-Hummingbird requires that a site gain new keyword rankings every month to demonstrate that it is a helpful resource.”
That means creating helpful content, consistently, will keep you website performing well. That leads us to our next technique.
2. Answer Questions in Your Content
It’s obvious that the old adage “content is king” is still applicable with the Hummingbird update.
Hummingbird now understands the context of queries better than before, so that means that it’s more important than ever to listen to your customers to figure out what their most frequently asked questions are, and to create content that answers and offers solutions to those questions.
Answering questions using blog posts gives your website more avenues for visitor entry (entrance pages) and makes your site a stronger resource, allowing you to become an expert on more topics, rank higher for more long-tail keywords, and cover more of your specific space.
You should get creative with your content, too. Blog posts can get boring, so mix it up!
When answering a customer’s question, detail who the customer is and thank them for the question. Then answer the question as thoroughly as you can. Upload the video to YouTube and then embed it in a blog post, making sure to include a written transcript so it can get picked up by that little bird’s nose!
Now that you’ve answered these questions, you need to let your network know! How?
3. Get Active on Social Media
All you small business marketers claiming you don’t have time or reason to be on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you’ll want to pay attention to what Ryan Pinkham of Constant Contact has to say:
“With the Hummingbird update the relationship between social and search is more important than ever. Google’s mission is to provide searchers with the most valuable content it can. Social signals give a better indication of what is valuable on the web. This also means that sharing/posting content that doesn’t foster engagement can have a negative impact.”
That’s right. You must publish content that engages your visitors through comments and backlinks. Make your content worth sharing. If you publish content that doesn’t engage your visitors, it can actually do more harm to your site than good (so skip the super selly, sell, sell and instead provide value, for free).
Be sure to get your valuable content in front of key industry influencers. These are professionals who are well-respected and whose opinions matter the most. A retweet, like, or share from them can make a huge difference in the amount of engagement you see. Use trending hashtags and direct messages to get their attention. Ask nicely and explain why and how they, and their audience, would benefit by reading your content. The worst they could say is “no,” and the best things that could happen are limitless!
In conclusion, the Google Hummingbird update can really benefit small business marketers. You’ll have to publish content consistently, answer questions that your customers ask, and share your content through social media outlets, but then you’ll start seeing more little birdies attracted to your website’s sweet content “feeder.”
Do you have any other suggestions on what small businesses can do to adapt to Hummingbird? Let’s hear them in the comments!