Got a Long Question? Google Has a Better Answer.
On, Friday September 27, 2013, Google celebrated its 15th birthday and rolled out another search engine algorithm update, named “Hummingbird”. The new algorithm is meant to keep up with longer, more advanced search queries, while still carrying functional components of previous algorithms. The new algorithm affects 90% of all searches.
What does Hummingbird mean for Google Search users?
Google is making search more conversational. Google Search users will now be able to simply “ask” Google. Yes, you can verbally ask Google a question using advanced voice queries, in which your computer or tablet will answer back to you. “Where can I sell my old iPhone online?” and receive much more refined answers, regardless of how long and detailed your searches are.
While Google used to focus on finding matches for words like “sell” and “iPhone” – the new Hummingbird update understands your actual question and reveals search results that will be able to answer it more precisely. Google says that Hummingbird is “paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.”
How does Hummingbird impact SEO and your website?
Once upon a time, single or two-worded keywords were a critical part of the SEO process. But spammers quickly took advantage of this system and the importance of keywords was eventually lowered by all the major engines (hence, Google’s frequent algorithm updates and the release of Hummingbird).
Now, shorter, less relevant keywords, will not only penalize your website, but SEO strategists and website owners need to invest more energy in devising refined keyword phrases that a person may type into a search engine. Google has ultimately made it less likely for websites to rank higher if they integrate a one- or two-worded keyword into their website and easier for websites that focus on key phrases that effectively answer a user’s question within the content provided. Short tail keywords are out and long tail key phrases are IN.
Long Tail Key phrases vs. Short Tail Keywords
Short tail terms consist of one or two words while long tail phrases have at least three, and sometimes as many as five words in the phrase. Long tail phrases are used when the website wants to refine search terms to the web page, as well as when the searcher is looking for something rather specific. Like normal keywords, long tail phrases are used to define what is on the web page and what the publisher wants to be found on search engine results pages. These keyword phrases are highly specific but they tend to draw more quality traffic.
Usually, when people search for your products and services, they’re more likely to search an entire question or string of keywords as opposed to just typing in one or two words into a search engine. It’s likely that a larger part of your organic search traffic will be from these long tail keywords compared to the shorter ‘head’ terms. Longer tail visitors are more likely to convert as they know what they are looking for and are further down the buying cycle.
Using long tail keywords can also be less expensive when it comes to pay per click biding, and other paid inclusion methods, as there are fewer people attempting to place bids on those keywords for pay per click ads on search engine results pages.
How to find the right long-tail keywords?
Let’s say for example that a visitor is searching for a “paisley turquoise duvet cover” on Google. In this case, it would make more sense to use that entire phrase as the main long-tail key phrase rather than to use “duvet cover,” “turquoise duvet,” or even “paisley duvet”.
To be successful, a publisher needs to know which long tail key phrases actually get hits or are searched for on the major search engines. Research is the only way to know if long tail phrases are effective.
More reasons why long-tail keywords are better than short-tail keywords
In SEO terms, it is almost impossible to rank number 1 for a popular keyword. So your best bet is to rank number 1 for a maximum of 5 long-tail phrases. In most cases, you’ll have happier, higher-converting visitors, a lower bounce rate and higher time-on-page metrics.
With long-tail phrases, the results are highly relevant. This translates to a higher conversion rate for sites ranking at the top for long-tail searches.
The future of search lies in the palms of our hands. When was the last time you pulled out your smart phone and asked Siri or Android’s Google Now a question? As our methods of search are becoming more conversational, we should apply these concepts to our SEO as well.
Also, check out this list of 5 things to consider when optimizing for Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm, brought to you by Meteor site.
SEO is a complex undertaking and there are many other considerations for full optimization, but it is important to keep in mind that when optimizing your web pages, keyword relevance is more important than keyword density. By targeting long tail key phrases and their respective competitors, you’ll push yourself toward a better content and conversion strategy and be ready to take advantage of Hummingbird.