How Hummingbird Affects Your Content Strategy

by Anne Songy - 10/30/13

Marketers everywhere are scrambling to understand Google’s new algorithm and align their online content with the changes. Gone are the days of keyword saturation. Now more than ever, quality content is key.

During its 15th birthday celebration last month, Google announced the most comprehensive overhaul to its search algorithm in over a decade. Hummingbird, named for its speed and precision, reportedly affects more than 90% of all searches and significantly enhances the criteria it uses to rank search results.

Here's what you need to know about Hummingbird to be successful with your content strategy.

Context is King (Too)

Over the years, Google has implemented several changes — making it increasingly more difficult to trick the search engine into giving high ranking to websites with weak content. Methods such as keyword dumping (using the same words and phrases multiple times in multiple locations) became obsolete and good marketers quickly recognized useful, engaging content trumps gimmicks every time.

For the record, content is still king; however, Hummingbird applies an additional layer of sophistication. While older algorithms tried to sync individual words with millions of pages of online information, Google’s latest version actually considers the context of the query and the meaning of the words.

Writing Effectively for Hummingbird

Google’s ranking protocol still requires that you provide your visitors with relevant, accurate, and well-written information. The challenge lies in communicating with your audience in a way that is enhanced and enriched by this new reliance on semantics. Remember, Hummingbird better deciphers natural language and takes into consideration the sum of all words; keywords are considered more in relation to each other than individually.

To get the most out of your relationship with online readers, follows these four principles:

  • Broaden your vocabulary. Hummingbird recognizes the meanings of words and can infer that the searcher also (or instead) means another word. Give Google more opportunity to deduce the meaning of the query by using synonyms and varying your vocabulary.
  • Answer the question. Many individuals search for information in the form of a question (think of user interactions with iPhone’s Siri), so consider what those questions might be and write copy in a way that provides an answer.
  • Be comprehensive. Since natural language tends to be more specific, create focused, in-depth content as opposed to general entries on broad topics.
  • Write conversationally. Maintain a natural, unforced writing style and always keep the end user in your mind’s eye when developing content.


Anne Songy brings 20 years experience in content marketing, custom writing and public relations including 15 years spent in the healthcare field. As Content Director for True North Custom, she provides leadership and training for a suite of full-time custom writers and collaborates with healthcare and financial marketers on content strategy.

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