In the tech space, disruption is a good thing. In the marketing space, disruption is the enemy. Somewhere in the middle, in the marketing tech space, disruption is a necessary evil. While marketing technologists love trying the new SaaS product on the block, they hate it when a platform like Google or Facebook forces them to change their strategies that have been working for months or even years.
At the end of 2015, Google did what it does best and changed the game again. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is, to many outside observers, the biggest leap forward the search engine has ever made. This is the biggest shift in organic search since Google’s “Caffeine Update” in 2010, and it dwarfs the Panda and Penguin updates that scared SEOs a few years back.
A new Google algorithm is a huge deal. Hummingbird, however, is more over-reaching than a new algorithm. Hummingbird has potential ramifications that could stretch across the entire suite of Google products, resulting in a monumental shift in digital marketing for the better. Today, I want to outline how and why Google is changing the game and what you can do to get ahead of it.
Google’s New Rule Book
Hummingbird is, in a nutshell, machine learning applied to search. The idea is simple. What if, instead of crawling the web for sites that mention the words you’re searching for, Google could understand the intent of your search and deliver results based on what you actually want, not what you say?
Now they can.
Hummingbird is extremely complex, and if I could explain how it did this, I would be sitting on a beach somewhere with a billion dollars right now instead of blogging. Hummingbird is, by design, enigmatic. As opposed to Panda and Penguin, which consisted of broad principles that could be applied across all SERPs, Hummingbird has a different impact on every search term. To combat this, it’s important to take a step back and recognize the universal principles that tend to guide Google’s decisions. The biggest of these principles is that the user is the king.
User Behavior Data and You - A Beginner’s Guide
Google has been heading in this direction for five years. Slowly but surely, they’ve been incorporating user behavior data into their search algorithm. Things like bounce rate, pogo-sticking, and search refinement were top of mind for the world’s best SEOs. Today, those metrics are still vitally important.
While we can’t look behind the curtain with Hummingbird in quite the same way we could with Panda and Penguin, we do know that user behavior data is a vital component of how Hummingbird interprets SERPs. This is a vital realization for SEO success in 2016 and beyond.
So how do you use this to your advantage? Here are three simple steps to improving your user behavior data:
- Track your current bounce rate across all pages: Knowing you have a problem is the first step, right? Track your bounce rate and average time on page across all pages in Google Analytics. Pay attention to what kinds of pages have the best and worst numbers.
- Ensure every page has unique meta-information: Dig into each page’s meta description and title to ensure that they’re enticing people to click. Including target keywords is important to improving click-through rate.
- Check your on-page experience for your top 5 keywords: Go search for those target keywords you want to rank for. How does your site look compared to your competition? Is your user experience worse? If so, you’ll likely see a lot of people pogo-sticking.
- Always be testing: Never stop testing new meta descriptions, titles, and user experience options. I’ve seen tests that double our click-through rate, and I’ve seen tests that have no effect. The worst thing you can do is nothing!
Once you’ve mastered the basics of leveraging user behavior data, it’s time to start using these principles to improve your marketing results.
Using Google’s Rule Book to Your Advantage
So, now that we know the importance of user behavior data and we’re keeping an eye on our site’s user behavior data, how do we take advantage of Google’s rule book? Here is a brief rundown of things you should do to understand how Google views your site:
- Check your website’s speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. If your site is showing up in the red, you need to upgrade immediately.
- Get your site registered with Google Search Console. This allows you to optimize your site’s search performance.
- Register your business with Google My Business and optimize it for the Knowledge Graph. Don’t be afraid to use lots of pictures!
- Create a list of target keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner tool.
- Finally, search for keywords you want to rank well for and assess your competition. What sites look good? What sites look dated? This should help you assess your positioning within the competitive landscape.
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