Hummingbird’s Semantic Search—We’re All Trekkies Now

Last week, Google unveiled their brand new algorithm called Hummingbird. Hummingbird’s most distinct feature is the inclusion of a natural language search query.

trekkie hand hummingbird semantics

The shift towards natural language queries shouldn’t come as such a shock to us. We have been moving towards a semantic web since the idea of smart robots and the Star Trek computer (Disney’s SmartHouse, anyone?). Think about it. Siri and Google Glass aren’t that far away from sounding and working like the computer from Star Trek. Minus the pointy ears and bad polyester-spandex-blend catsuits, we’re interacting with our computers more and more like our fellow Trekkies.

To some digital marketers, Hummingbird may not appear to be anymore different than Google’s previous algorithms (Penguin and Panda). But it is. Google hasn’t launched a completely new algorithm since 2001, so you know this is something special.

So what does a “natural language” search query mean?

It means that the algorithm recognizes more human, fluid language. When we use voice-based search, we don’t spit out two or three keywords, instead we are more likely ask our phones a question or say a complete statement, a lot like how we talk to friends. For example, we are more likely to ask a technology like Siri, “What are some restaurants in Ann Arbor?” instead of “restaurants in Ann Arbor.” So, as you can see, the searches become more contextual than keyword based.

So what does this mean for digital marketing?

For one, our SEO team is going to have their work cut out for them. Keyword search could be a thing of the past. Experts in SEO will have to start looking at search engine optimization in a more linguistic approach. For example, they will have to consider linguistic question markers (who, what, where, when, why) and prepositional phrases. Distinguishing whether your audience is looking for a “restaurant near Ann Arbor” or “in Ann Arbor” will differentiate your search results.

Now, I’m not saying you need to trash your current strategy. If your strategy is still focused around your audience’s expectations and creating great content for your audience (if you need a refresher on digital marketing basics, check out the last post), then you’re in good shape. However, for digital marketers looking into future trends, learning more about Hummingbird’s semantic search is a good place to start.

The shift to voice search queries is proof that once again, the web is increasingly becoming more of a human experience than a technological experience. And as one mother brilliantly put it, “We’re all just a bunch of Trekkies, now!” Right on.

A Refresher Course: Digital Marketing Basics

strategyAfter reading an article by Mashable “Does Your Business Need a Full-Time Social Media Team?”, I was once again reminded how complex and time consuming creating a digital marketing strategy can be. After all, there is an entire industry dedicated to the social media marketing of businesses and corporations. And as part of a digital marketing team, I thought it would be a good idea to reiterate the basics of developing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Digital marketing strategies rely on incorporating traditional public relations principles with current social media trends. But to be successful, it’s important to find the right strategy. Specifically, this means researching your audience, choosing the appropriate social media, and creating measurable goals all in an effort to engage and build with your audience.

So when developing a digital marketing strategy for a class project, internship, or at a job, here are some key things to keep in mind:

Know your audience.

It’s simple, the more you know about your target audience, the better your strategy will be. However, knowing your audience means you must do a significant amount of research to fully understand your audience and their expectations.

Identify where your audience goes on the web for information, paying special attention to “pain points.” Pain points are problems or weaknesses apparent in the current marketing strategy. These pain points aren’t currently adequately (or perhaps not even at all) the audience’s needs and expectations. Think like your audience. Pain points can help you identify opportunities that allow you to better connect with the audience. Understanding how your audience currently interacts with the product or company will help you market to them more effectively.

Choose social media platforms based on audience and audience research.

It’s easy to become over zealous when adding social media into your strategy. At first, you might feel pressured to incorporate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Vine, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and every other social media platforms into your strategy, but take a step back and really look at your research and audience. Ask yourself, “Is my audience active on Twitter?” “Do they really use Instagram?” Questions like these will help you focus on where your audience is actively participating on the web. From there, you can peruse and take notes on the types of content your audience most frequently interacts with.

The key to successfully using social media as part of your strategy is not to stretch your brand. It is always better to be sincerely engaged with your audience on one or two platforms than just to have a presence on seven or eight platforms. Successful social media management requires a fresh supply of relevant content and daily maintenance. Actively participate in your chosen social media outlets and don’t worry about the rest.

Set realistic, measurable goals.

It’s easy to become overly ambitious when setting your marketing strategy goals. It is extremely important to set goals that are attainable and measurable. So, how do you do that?

Firstly, understand that marketing strategies take time. Strategies do not work overnight, and receiving substantial feedback on your strategy often takes weeks and months. Develop an overarching goal to your strategy, but make sure to create smaller goals throughout your timeline in order to track your progress. Smaller, more refined goals will allow you to make adjustments to your strategy along the way.

Secondly, a marketing goal should be measurable. Measuring your strategy means being able to compare metrics according to a set timeframe.

Not an analyst? Don’t worry. There are hundreds of free online analytics tools available on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Facebook even has their own analytics tool, called Facebook Insights, and they’re getting better all the time. Facebook’s Insight tool now helps you benchmark your marketing strategy, see when your audience is online, and better visualize Page Likes growth through new graphs.

Like every company, every strategy is different. At the most basic level, digital marketing strategies strive for research-rich audience data, relevant and appropriate use of social media, and measurable and attainable goals to be successful.

Hope this is a helpful resource for your digital marketing endeavors!