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Google Hummingbird: A Reminder About User Intent

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The new Google Hummingbird algorithm learns more on user intent. (Photo Credit: David Martyn Hunt, Creative Commons)

Long before Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, we knew that creating original, high quality content was one of the most important pieces of good SEO. Now, with the recent Hummingbird update, understanding what it is that your customers are searching for, and creating content that meets that search criteria, will be the key to accurately positioning your pages within search engine results pages.

Determining User Intent

Around the same time as the Hummingbird update took place in late August, Google announced the encryption of organic keyword data in its Analytics program. So while the keyword-specific search data we had grown accustomed to is no longer available, we can still tap into other resources to discover what kind of information our customers really want.

  • Social media – Perhaps your richest information source, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are an ideal place to ask questions and get answers from your audience. You know they’re already interested in your products or services because they joined your networks; now, you can use those connections to gather valuable insight.
  • Again, social media – What kinds of information are people sharing that is most relevant to what you offer? You can get clues on user intent by tracking what is being “shared”, “retweeted” and “+1” across each network.
  • Groups – Do you belong to industry groups? Have you visited online forums where your customers gather? What topics are they discussing and which ones apply to your products or services? What questions are they asking and can you answer them? What is the need?
  • Survey – When in doubt, just ask questions. If you keep a list of your customers’ email addresses (and they’ve opted in to receive communications from you, of course), consider sending a survey to gather opinions on what’s most important.

All of these options are not only excellent grounds for gathering information about your customers’ needs and wants, but they are also the springboards for creating content that answers those needs and wants. It’s what will continue to drive qualified traffic to your website even as Google continuously updates the way it gathers, sorts and displays billions of web pages.


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