We’re back for day two of SES London 2014, today I’ll be covering “Google Changes A lot! Hummingbird, Not Provided, Enhanced Campaigns: The Update” by Tim Grice, Head of Search at Branded3, Crispin Sheridan, Senior Director at Global Search, SAP, Ralph Tegtmeier, aka, Fantomaster and moderated by Thom Craver, Vice President, Development and IT, Internet Marketing Ninjas.
This session is dedicated to the recent Google Hummingbird update and how this affects content strategy.
What is Hummingbird?
Thom starts by asking the speakers ‘what this Hummingbird thing is?’. For anyone who does not fully know, it is Google’s new search algorithm, which is supposed to sort through all the information when users search and come back with the best answers. In Tim’s view it is a way of improving understand of the meaning behind searches. It is not perfect yet and the difference hasn’t been too obvious except from very specific local queries but it is the first attempt and a move in the right direction.
Do you need to do anything differently?
Ralph certainly does not feel search marketers need to do anything differently. The change was announced a few months ago and presented as a ‘big algorithm change’ but nothing in Ralph’s view has really changed. There has been hundreds more other tiny updates but Google does not talk much about them at all. Ralph’s advice to webmasters and SEOs it to stop getting too worked up about big updates. It is easily done when millions of bloggers write about any announced updates trying to link bait from them, but most of this is noise.
Tim added that the Hummingbird algorithm was not as noticeable because the Panda updates have already taken care of a lot of poor content issues. Poor sites were severely hit by Panda, so when Hummingbird came out there wasn’t much left to really affect.
In general, the hummingbird algorithm was designed to surface good results rather than penalising the bad ones. So if websites owners were checking their web analytics expecting to see noticeably drops in traffic, they were never going to see them. But websites that offer better user experience overall would be pleasantly surprised with the improved visibility.
‘Not provided’ – are keywords dead?
Living in a ‘not provided’ word certainly presents a problem for marketers and SEOs according to Tim. A very small share of keywords data is still available in Google Analytics. There is also good keyword data available in Google Webmaster Tools. But nobody knows how long this data will remain available.
Data may not be provided, but the volume of searches, amount of traffic and demand is still the same out there. It means that the need in SEOs is the same. But the inability to see the data on what keywords drive the best quality traffic to the site, or what terms drive the most converting traffic makes the job of marketeers more difficult. We must adapt and work working in a slightly different way.
Keywords are still important. Google is just trying to force us move away from thinking about the keywords as much and encourage us thinking about the user experience more.
Website owners from travel industry for example still want to know what destinations are the most popular in their traffic, they also want to know which locations drive better conversions or bookings. It makes it very difficult to give answers to client’s basic questions.
What about Enhanced Campaigns?
Does Google simply want to make us spend more on ads?
What is the deal with the enhanced campaigns. For those who do not know what enhanced campaigns are, they are designed to help advertisers reach their audience no matter where they are and what device they’re using .
Tim feel that the fundamentals of this approach is good and another step towards encouraging site owners pay more attention at the user experience they deliver across multiple devices. The major downside of the enhanced campaigns is that advertisers now lack ability to control which devices they want to spend their money on. For example if a website offers good user experience on both desktop and table but conversion from desktop is still twice as high no matter what you try, it is now not possible to advertise and drive more profitable customers to your site by advertising on desktops only. It may not necessarily be purely a user driven change, but possibly a way for Google to make more money.
What about link building?
Historically website owners could simply build a lot of links and it worked. It went on for years and nothing was happening about. The odd site would be hit and taken down but the same activity continued.
They way Google is treating links has changed now. Google take spammy links building be it advertorial or guest blogging very seriously. They now have large spam teams who look through everything manually. So Tim’s advice for those who want to build future proof strategy is to probably stop thinking about spammy link building and focus on growing authority.
Is link building a tactic for negative SEO?
Ralph’s view on use of links building for negative SEO is that it is possible. It has been done and is being done now. But small to medium size businesses needn’t worry because negative SEO campaigns are time consuming and costly; it is unlikely that your competitors would view it as a worthy investment. But if you are in a very expensive industry this activity is possible. On the other hand if a company has 15 competitors it would have to run 15 campaigns to push them all down in the search results, which becomes unaffordable and probably easy to detect.
Crispin’s advice for SEOs and digital marketers who want to protect themselves from becoming a target of negative campaigns is to simply monitor your links on a daily basis manually. Keep a close watch on what is out there pointing to your website and react if you find something suspicious.
Tim admitted that he has never actually seen one concrete example of a negative SEO campaigns, even in such competitive industry as gambling. Pick unwanted links and putting them in Google’s disavow tool is all you need to avert any damage.
In summary, the main take-aways from this session from all three speakers are:
- Focus your efforts on the user; develop user personas and create the right content for them. Do not get distracted by various algorithm changes./li>
- Understand your users you know how to reach out to them outreach to them. Create content your users want to see.