What Google’s algorithm change means for PR pros

The way people search for your brand is changing. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s first major revision to its algorithm in 10 years.

I feel like the sky is falling with all of the changes at Google in the past two months.

Google is 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 they create so people can find it 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 discover how people find you, your job just got a little more difficult.

The good news is Webmaster Tools still shows you what people are using.

If you click on your site in Webmaster Tools, then click on “search traffic” and then click on “search queries” in the left-hand column, you’ll see all is not lost.

The thing I love about this tool as opposed to Google Analytics is that 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 my blog, Spin Sucks, when they search “spin sucks.” But only six percent of people click on the 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.

All is not lost (yet) if you use Webmaster Tools, but keep an eye on it. It may soon change as part of its effort to keep information private.

Hummingbird update

Now let’s talk about the big one.

The Hummingbird update is the first major revision to the main Google algorithm in 10 years.

In its simplest form, it returns search results based on a Q&A format.

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. (By the way, it’s Fernando’s.)

I love how The Drum explains it. It’s the same thing I’ve been saying to Vistage members 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 also has to have audience engagement (comments) and feedback (social shares). And with Hummingbird you also have to think in a question-and-answer format.

What this means for you

Marcus Sheridan has been tooting this horn for years.

In a two-part webinar series, 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.)

Think about that for a second. What are the questions people ask your sales team? What do people ask customer service? These are the questions you should answer in blog posts, the frequently asked questions section of your website and 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 your traffic decrease (you will have already seen it).

If you don’t already practice this, get to it! Think about the tips below, as well.

Content tweaks

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. 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: transcribe the webinar’s content for your website or blog, and answer the questions people 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 already provide relevant content that sparks engagement and sharing. But it does give you a few additional ideas for content creation, which we can all use.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR


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