Oh no! Google has updated their search algorithm! Again. Just last month. What does it mean for content marketing and SEM? Well, that depends entirely on your approach to content marketing! Let’s take a look at the TWO BASIC APPROACHES to content marketing, and the way each one is affected by the Google Hummingbird Search Algorithm Update.

Two Basic Approaches to Content Marketing Defined:google hummingbird update - content marketing

  1. Gamers: Doing what we can to trick the search engines into thinking our site is more important than it really is. This is the way that SEM and SEO began earning a bad name and was often categorized as Black Hat. This approach is used for both GOOD sites, and for BAD sites. Instead of depending upon the quality and relevance of the site to attract a following, techniques are employed to FOOL the search engines.
  2. Creators: Putting the primary effort into building high quality, highly relevant content. This approach believes that the search engines will actually be working FOR them as they design sites and create content experiences that truly answer the needs of their target audience. These guys have been busy, especially since the Penguin/Panda releases, developing creative, engaging, helpful content, and building their network of interested followers. They believe that by creating epic stuff, the search engines work for THEM!

Now, how do the two different “schools” need to react to the Hummingbird Update?

  1. Gamers: “Shoot! It’s getting to be nearly IMPOSSIBLE to game Google. How will we convince our clients that our ever-deteriorating results is due to some high-tech mystery, rather than due to our ill-advised commitment to continue barking up the wrong tree?!”
  2. Creators: “Great! The increased intelligence in the search algorithms will allow our content writers even greater creative freedom, because the search engines understand even better the subtle nuances of great content!”

It’s very telling just to see how different people respond to the Hummingbird release. Check these out, and see if you can tell which people are thinking like GAMERS, and which people are thinking like CREATORS:

Some comments from Search Engine Land readers:

Hummingbird comments from Search Engine Land

On Wired.com, by Ken Wisnefski

“So, what does this mean for your business and the future of Internet marketing? Not a lot if you have been paying attention. The Panda and Penguin updates of the past taught the online community one thing about Internet marketing — the sites producing the best quality content for the needs of their audience will have the easiest time garnering organic traffic. The Hummingbird update is the logical next step towards separating the best material from the riffraff of the Internet.”

By Bill Sebald of Greenlane SEO:

“Content for the sake of ‘words on a page’ doesn’t have the base value it once had,” Sebald said. “Now, your content really has to answer something. This should move content strategy higher on the list of business marketing objectives; it’s now even more important for desktop and mobile SEO.” (as quoted by Sara Angeles, here).

From Joshua Steimle, writing for Forbes.com:

“…you say this is the biggest change in their algorithm in 12 years?! What about all my SEO work? Is it ruined? Do I have to change everything?” Rest easy, you don’t have to change anything about your SEO efforts, at least not if you’re already doing what you should have been doing all these years…

If you’re the best at what you do, these updates Google has been rolling out are opportunities to separate yourself from your competition. They [your competition] may have been engaging in spammy tactics to get good rankings, but if you’ve been focusing on creating content that provides real value to potential customers, their days are numbered.”

From Mark Fagan of iProspect, interviewed by TheDrum.com.

“Nothing has changed for brands; in order to be successful in SEO the key is still to create relevant and interesting content that delivers real value for their consumers.”

From Jimmy McCann, of Search Laboratory, again, from the interviews at TheDrum.com.

Genuinely helpful/relevant sites will gain more visibility, and poor quality/ thin content sites will suffer. I think it will give greater credit to sites adopting a more conversational approach to the content they host rather than sites that cleverly use the keyword in strategic places such as the heading tag and h1 tag.”

OK, enough quotes already. You’re getting the idea, right? I’ve been singing this song for a long time now (see my post about ‘Gaming Google’ here), and I see a nicely predictable pattern: the search engines will continue to improve their ability to “see” the difference between high-quality, highly relevant content and fluff-and-bluff games.

A couple tips for honest content marketers:

The best content marketing response to the Hummingbird update is to find increased motivation to produce excellent content, and to keep improving your grasp of a couple things related to the semantic domain intelligence of the algorithms:

  1. Don’t hammer a keyword; use a variety of related terms that give your content a fuller and clearer relationship to the general area of meaning that a query is probably aiming for.
  2. Try to anticipate the longer tail queries that would be SPOKEN into a smart phone, and develop content that is clearly tied to those longer queries.