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