Google Hummingbird and Long Tail SEO

The Google Hummingbird update (which launched August 20th, 2013) wasn’t a typical algorithm update; it was a fundamental change to how Google interprets search queries. Over the last several years, search marketers and search marketing products alike have developed a love affair for what we call “long tail” keyword targeting. This is the practice of targeting longer, more specific phrases that are generally easier to rank for in search.  While the practice of creating light (and often poor quality) content in order to attract search traffic from these long tail search phrases is still somewhat effective, the Google Hummingbird update provides us with insights into the direction Google is hoping to take its’ search results.

Behind the long-tail content boom was the idea was that Google cared, first and foremost, about providing search results that were an extremely close keyword match to what the user had typed. With the Hummingbird update, we now know that Google is trying to interpret search intent with more accuracy, displaying the most popular and reputable sites and pages instead of those that had hyper-targeted a long tail keyword phrase. (Rand Fishkin provides a great example of this in this Whiteboard Friday video from Moz.)

For example, a search for “best places to eat in Miami” yields, mainly, a list of highly reputable sites with very high link authority and domain authority (DA) over lower authority articles like this one that have page titles matching the exact search phrase. The bottom line: authority and popularity of sites and articles will continue to rule over long-tail targeted content.

how to create content assets

Moving forward, Google will be working to reward quality content (content that is referenced, linked to, shared, read, etc.) by ranking that content for a wide variety of long tail phrases that all have similar intent behind them. When someone goes to Google looking for answers, Google wants to display results that best answer your query rather than results comprised of SEO manipulated, hyper-targeted keyword optimized content.

Even with this information, many marketers and SEO’s continue to use the “long-tail” targeting model to pump out poor quality content pieces and blogs geared toward garnering easy-win search rankings. Not only will this continue to be less and less effective moving forward, it really doesn’t do much for your business or brand! Even if you are attracting search traffic via low-quality long tail content, it is unlike that you are seeing any of the benefits of content marketing beyond light web traffic.

If you want your content to attract the attention of your target market, help increase your search rankings, increase awareness of your brand and lead to conversions;  you need to STOP creating content with the goal of producing long-tail search rankings and START creating valuable content assets for your target audience. While long-tail targeting of your content can still be beneficial, it should be an afterthought to creating valuable content rather than an SEO strategy in and of itself!

How to Create Content Assets

I am of the opinion that it is better to produce one, truly valuable, content asset rather than 1,000 paragraph-long blog posts geared toward capturing long-tail search traffic. A content asset has the potential to attract the attention of your target market, earn valuable links that help your SEO efforts, drive relevant web traffic, increase awareness of your brand and lead to conversions and increased interested in your product/service. Although it isn’t easy, here is a quick blueprint to creating a content asset for your business:

  • Identify Your Target Audience

Each content asset you develop should be for a specific target persona. Identify a segment of your target market based on their needs, interests etc.

  • Craft Your Idea

Inform and/or help your audience! Come up with an idea for a guide, tutorial, resource, survey, etc. that will be uniquely valuable to your target audience. You can also provide a detailed and unique viewpoint on a topic! Make sure it is either (a) something that has not yet been done or (b) superior or unique to other content like it. Pro Tip: Use keyword research to get ideas for what type of information your target audience is currently looking for!

Make sure it meets the following requirements (courtesy

    • Is the content credible?
    • Is the content informative?
    • Is the content easy to understand?
    • Is the content useful?
    • Is the content exceptional?
  • Invest In a Visual

A great visual (chart, graph, photo, info graphic etc.) can encourage social media sharing, support your message, add vibrancy and convey trustworthiness. Check out more of the benefits of using images with your content here!

  • Promote Your Content!

I don’t but into the “if you build it, they will come” mindset. I believe that quality content (especially if you don’t already have an active audience for your blog) needs quality outreach and promotion to be successful.

-Through Key Influencers…

    • Identify a list of 15-20 influencers in your industry
    • Use social media, email and the phone to reach out!
    • Introduce your content and let them know that you thought it may interest them
    • Include an ask: Try something like “if you think your audience would find this compelling, we’d greatly appreciate you sharing this with them in whatever way you see fit!”

Through Social Media…

    • Promote your content through Social Media multiple times within the first week of publishing. Make sure your content is seen by as many of your fans/followers as possible by sharing during different time slots and on different days!
    • If you have the budget, try paying for increased promotion through Facebook ads or Twitter ads

Through Email

    • Use your email marketing campaigns to share your content!

Through Forums and Online Communities

    • Find online forums and communities that may be interested in your content and start a discussion there

Content Marketing can be difficult and requires a willingness to test and sometimes fail. Carefully track the success or failure of your content and continuously fine tune your strategies. If you stick to it and continue to test and invest in creating quality content assets, the benefits can be tremendous!

I’d love to hear your feedback/ comments/questions/input via the comments below…

By Ricky Shockley