How to Optimize for Google’s Hummingbird Update Using Content Themes

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Google HummingbirdGoogle’s encrypting all of their keyword-level data from organic search, and a completely rebuilt algorithm called Hummingbird has been unleashed.  What’s a search marketer to do with all these changes at one time?

In my recent post on about 100% [not provided] keyword encryption from Google, I gave examples on how SEO strategies should begin to evolve in response.  One in particular was around shifting from keyword-centric strategies to that of a content theme-basis.

Why do I need a content theme-based strategy?

With Hummingbird, Google’s goal is to become a platform for answering as quickly as possible question-based searches and those that are more conversational in nature – “how do I ___”, “where can I ____”, “how old is ____”.  When I think of how to develop content strategies, I’m reminded of what I was taught early on in school when writing essays.  The foundation of writing strong content was one that answered core questions – who, what, where, when, why.  It’s content that serves a purpose and is directly beneficial, helpful and informative to the reader.  It’s the kind of content that should have been created all along, but many looked for shortcuts.  They created weak content that simply used high volume keywords to get the traffic.  They paid for links and used exact match anchor text to manipulate rankings.  And in came the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird to kill off those strategies.


How can I come up with new content without my keywords?

One of the examples I gave in the ClicZ post for coming up with new content ideas was to look in your analytics.  Instead of turning to the search phrase reports that we all previously went to first, we’ll instead need to analyze page-level reporting.  I start by identifying which pages on the site are the most popular in terms of visits and conversions.  Using one of my own sites, you can see in the example below, my top 10 most popular pages.  2 of these pages are about tips for copying songs from an iPod to a computer.


Google Analytics Page Level Data

OK, I have a Content Theme, Now What?

The screenshot above provides me with a direct insight that this type of content is popular with my visitors and I should look to develop more content focused on the topic.  This content could range from alternative software to use to accomplish the task, step by step guides on how to use the software,  or reasons of why you would need this software in the first place (showing its value to the reader).  It’s certainly not limited to just blog posts.  I could create a video tutorial and post it to YouTube.

The main thing is, I’ve identified a need that my readers have.  Now I need to figure out a way to provide them with value.  The logical next step is to begin the research process to identify exactly what and how people are searching for on the topic.  Taking the main theme of the content, ‘moving songs from an iPod to a computer’, I can start with the Google Keyword Planner to identify opportunities and start to plan my content development strategies out around them.

Google keyword planner

I can see that most people seem to be interested in the process.  So my initial guess at creating a walkthrough of the steps would be a good option – either through a blog post, a video, or ideally a blog post with the video embedded (from YouTube to maximize exposure).  I can also see that iPod rip has a high volume.  This happens to be the name of one of the pieces of software that you can use to back up your songs from your device to your computer.  Looking at the iPod Rip website, I notice that it not only works with iPods, but iPads and iPhones as well.  So I have a multitude of new content possibilities backed up by hard data.

This process was based purely off visits in my case.  But it works the same no matter what type of site you have.  eCommerce?  Identify which pages/products are driving the bulk of your revenue.  Build out content around those products on the value it offers to an end user and then link that content back to the product page to start them into the conversion funnel.  B2B site?  Look for which pages are resulting in the most leads.  Build out content around that service offering, such as an infographic displaying the benefits the user will receive by choosing your solution.  Write a blog post that explains and embeds the infographic and link back to the relevant page to begin the lead generation funnel.  If you don’t have a designer or can’t afford to pay one for an infographic – make a simple PowerPoint yourself and syndicate it out to sites like SlideShare with a link back into your site’s relevant page.


Just because the keywords are gone, doesn’t mean your analytics are useless.  There’s plenty of other data in there that you can leverage as part of your keyword research process and this is just one of them.  Use on site search to see what people are looking for on your site but can’t find.  Use Geographic data to see what interests people have by different city, state, region or country.  Examine which links people are clicking on to leave your site and determine if its content that you should create on your own site rather than linking out to someone else.  The keywords are gone, but the insights are certainly still there.





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Scott Kellam is an 8+ year search marketer, recently turned world traveler living in Singapore and interested in making both personal and professional connections. Contact me via: Email, Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn