The new Hummingbird algorithm will revolutionize the way B2B companies market their sites in search. Many larger B2B companies tend to invest marketing dollars in more traditional forms of marketing rather than SEM because the B2B space is usually not very competitive in an online atmosphere.
The old idea of paying a few grand to do a basic SEO setup will no longer be an effective tactic for these types of companies (although it never was very effective in the first place).
In my last column, I explained how to do SEM for B2B companies that see no value in it. I also recently wrote another column for conversion-driven clients about building an organic CRO machine. With Hummingbird, those strategies will now need to be aligned with content marketing to compete in the new Hummingbird-infused search world.
Before diving into any details, I’ll explain how Hummingbird will impact B2B sites. I’m going to use two companies as an example: a provider of industrial automation services, and a manufacturer of industrial automation equipment.
A pre-Hummingbird keyword strategy for both companies may have been to target the keyword [industrial automation]. The reason for this is because dozens of high-priority, long-tail keywords relevant to both companies contain the phrase [industrial automation].
Optimizing for [industrial automation] would help the site rank for keyword phrases like [industrial automation services], [industrial automation equipment], and [industrial automation consulting]. If the site ranks for [industrial automation], it will have no problem ranking for its long-tail variations.
With Hummingbird, the keyword [industrial automation] is no longer a good keyword to target for either company. Hummingbird’s algorithm values sites based on the user intent of the search, and ranks pages based on the context it would appear in a conversation.
When manufacturing professionals talk about industrial automation, they are usually referring to reducing labor costs, increasing uptime, operational management or improving reliability. They’re typically looking for editorial content about how to accomplish these objectives — not companies that provide equipment or services for industrial automation.
If you haven’t noticed it yet, this is also uncovering one of the big reasons why Google created this new algorithm — because equipment and services are two completely different offerings from two different companies, and they shouldn’t rank for the same terms. Short-tail search results were also too diverse, and did not direct users to enough relevant content.
On the other hand, if the same manufacturing professionals were discussing industrial automation equipment or services, they would likely be talking about either of the two example companies mentioned. This is where B2B sites will benefit from Hummingbird.
Because Google will be better able to distinguish intent, there will be less competition between sites talking about industrial automation and those ranking for service or equipment-related keywords. The new algorithm has created a more equitable search landscape for B2B companies to compete in. If you’ve been practicing White Hat SEO tactics, you may need to make slight adjustments to your strategies, but will probably benefit overall with the new algorithm.
Let’s say you still want to rank for the keyword [industrial automation]. Even though a visitor for the short-tail keyword is now less relevant, writing content around the topic will still help you build the company as a thought-leader in the market space. However, with the new algorithm, it won’t be as easy as before.
This is where content marketing and analytics really come in handy. As mentioned earlier, real people having a conversation around industrial automation will be talking about the benefits and uses for it. Using the two example companies, previous content strategies would have been geared toward content that is service- or product- oriented with hopes of also ranking for [industrial automation].
You’ll need to create new (non service- or product-oriented) content around the topic of [industrial automation] that’s geared toward providing quality information for those searching and talking about the short-tail term. Start out by looking through Analytics at keywords used to find the site before Google stopped providing keyword data. Also take a look through site search usage.
Look for any keywords containing [industrial automation] to discover what the user interests are outside of products and services. Use these keywords to help build a list of topics for new content. These topics can be used for blog posts, thought leadership, social media posts and any other form of online content marketing.
If targeting short-tail keywords was a big part of your keyword strategies in the past, now is the time to make a shift. You’ll need to make adjustments to title tags, headings and content to target long-tail keywords.
Re-allocate those short-tail terms to content that provides value to users, and use long-tail terms on product- or service-oriented pages. This will not only conform to Hummingbird, it will also create an overall better user experience and drive in more relevant searches. A good success metric of shifting around keywords would be bounce rate. If the bounce rate decreases, you’re on the right path.
The strategies and theories mentioned in this column are practices I have been using for a while now. As search trends have been shifted over the last year, I have shifted my strategies to align with what I believed would become the future of search — which came true with Hummingbird.
Although Hummingbird was just recently announced, Google actually rolled it out about a month ago. Since that time period, I have seen an average of 20% organic traffic increases across all sites upon which I’ve been practicing these strategies. I’ve also noticed an increase in rankings for short-tail keywords, but the pages ranked changed from product- and service-oriented pages to thought leadership and blog posts.