Let's Talk About Search

Monday, 14 October 2013 § 0

Traditionally, search engine results were based on matching key words in the user’s search query to key words on a website. Now, with Google’s new Hummingbird (the first dramatic algorithm re-write since 2001), searches are “conversational.” This means that Google applies semantic meaning to your search queries and finds websites that have matching meanings, rather than matching keywords. Hummingbird was developed to ensure that users find the information they need even faster. So now, you can search “How old is Jerry Seinfeld?” and you’ll get his age.

Another addition to the user experience is the information sidebar. In both semantic and basic search result pages, users are given basic information about Jerry Seinfeld. This is fantastic from a user point-of-view, but for businesses, this might mean decreased traffic.

Businesses will have to amp up their website content to keep up with conversational search and compete with the basic information sidebar. Content has and always will be king, but when users have very specific search queries (more than 3 key words, dubbed “Long Tail Searches”), Google will only display websites that will answer their questions. A search for “Where to get ice cream” resulted in Vancity Buzz’s “10 Best Ice Cream Spots” post and a listing of local ice cream shops. With Hummingbird, websites such as Vancity Buzz will thrive because they are both semantically and locally relevant. Users end up at your website because you are providing exactly what they want, in their area. So how do businesses improve or preserve their rankings in a Google search? 

  • If you can answer a user’s question, you will earn quality traffic and potential customers. This means that your targeted audience will be staying on your page longer, instead of going back and clicking on your competition.
  • For those using Google AdWords, the key is to use specific, long-tailed keywords. The more specific the search query, the more likely your website will have a higher ranking among fewer competitor websites.
  • Google wants users to stay on their page. For websites with content that can easily be “scraped” by Google to display in the information sidebar (eg. Jerry Seinfeld’s age), they will have to provide content that is more enticing or to users to drive traffic.
  • For those whose business may rely on reviews (eg. Ice cream shops), encouraging customers to “rate” your business in Google will significantly help you in local searches, even if you don’t show up in the Top 100 search results for “Ice Cream Vancouver.”
  • Websites will have to reconsider the way they create content in order for it to be more useful to users. Editing past content may also be necessary for it to answer user questions.

Much like an unfortunate segment of Instagram users who hashtag things like #fall #babe #love #girl #tattoos #girlswithtats under their Earlybird-filtered photo of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, you can’t just throw keywords (or hashtags) around and expect to gain a quality audience. You have to create #value.

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