What was the greatest online shake-up of 2013?
If you define a shake-up as something that affected a whopping 90 percent of all Google searches, then Google Hummingbird is the answer.
Hummingbird, which debuted in September 2013, is named for its hummingbird-like search results – fast and precise – but if you ask me, the new algorithm deserves a more imposing moniker. Like Google Whale or Google Wooly Mammoth. Yes, it’s that big. Because Hummingbird is not just an update: it’s a whole new algorithm. And it changes a lot.
In a nutshell, Hummingbird is a newer, more intelligent response to human search (aka user queries). It responds better to the way we search – those rich questions and complicated sentences that people actually type (or say), not the keyword-stuffed, stilted phrases that used to get results.
And that means big things for your hotel or travel website. It means big things for your content strategy. (It also means big things for mobile design, but that’s a conversation you should have with your designer.) Because when you dig deep into Hummingbird, you see that it furthers the legacy of Google Panda: content – relevant, engaging content – is still the Internet kingdom’s beloved and reigning king.
What is Conversational Search and Why Should You Care?
Behind the Hummingbird algorithm lurks a scary-sounding (another change to keep up with?!) but very cool idea known as conversational search. Simply put, conversational search a more natural, human-powered way to search. It hones in on a user’s intent, not just the words she uses.
Let’s say your hotel guest is craving Italian food. In the past, if she were to search Google for What are the best Italian restaurants close to Your Hotel in D.C.?, she probably would have pulled up a generic list from Zagat Guide or Yelp. Helpful, yes, but if she’s unfamiliar with D.C., she won’t know which restaurants are close to your hotel. D.C. is a big place. Today, Hummingbird looks at her whole query, not just a few keywords, to produce relevant results. And Google may even include your guest’s past search history and location (yep, your hotel) to do it.
Hummingbird and Your Travel Business
There are many implications to Hummingbird, some of which you’ll need to discuss with you SEO strategist and your web designer. But when it comes to your travel website and blog, here’s the simple answer: Hummingbird has made your travel content more important than ever.
Because Hummingbird now focuses on the entire search query, long-tail keywords are important again. Really important. Let’s go back to the Italian restaurant example above: Google is now scouring the web for sites that will answer the question, what are the best Italian restaurants close to Your Hotel? If you have blogged about some of the best restaurants near your hotel (an Italian option included), you’ll likely be among the top results.
Which may not seem like a big deal, considering the guest is already at your hotel. But what if John in Australia is searching the web for a D.C. hotel centrally located to the National Zoo? (And you just happened to have blogged about tourist attractions within a 15-minute metro ride of your hotel…) Or Emma in Spain, who is planning a business trip, is googling for a D.C. hotel with in-room WiFi and a minibar stocked with healthy snacks? (And your Amenities page happens to mention your WiFi and healthy minibar…) You see where I’m going with this.
What’s Next for your eTourism Content Strategy
Your website and blog are now more crucial than ever. So if you’ve already built an awesome hotel content strategy, no problem. If your company travel blog kicks butt, great. But if they don’t, it’s time to get on that.
And first on the list: think about how travelers search – what they want to know. Right now, they may still be searching for downtown hotel D.C., but what do you think they’re really looking for? Complex, conversational search will catch on quickly, and soon everyone will be searching for What’s the best-priced D.C. hotel near the National Zoo? or What D.C. business hotels have the healthiest minibar selections? Look out: 2014 is the year of highly targeted, über specific, high quality and engaging content.
Now you tell me: How is your tourism or hospitality business adjusting to Google Hummingbird?