Keywords, Semantic Search, and Hummingbird – AuthorityLive Recap, Video, Podcast

This episode of the #AuthorityHoA was originally streamed live on December 16 with featured guests Jeff Coyle Chief Revenue Officer at MarketMuse, Eric Van Buskirk Founder of Clickstream, and hosted by Melissa Fach, produced by Michelle Stinson Ross. Below we a have a quick written recap and the video from the hangout.

The Recap

Melissa Fach: Explain machine learning and why this is important for business owners.

Eric Van Buskirk weighs in first by explaining that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the business repercussions of Artificial Intelligence. As Google crawls the web and creates databases of information, they analyze that data.  From that analysis they are able to detect patterns and discern meaning and connections to other content. The programs written as search algorithms are now using the pattern recognition to sort data and results for users without direct input of human programmers.

Jeff jumps in to expand on Google’s use of data. He hints that using labels (we can assume here Schema markup) helps the machines to sort and rank your pages appropriately. Along with this, the machine learning systems are also using pattern recognition and user behavior to determine the quality and usefulness of site content. The importance is shifting from gaming a particular algorithm to creating pages and content with high user satisfaction. For business owners, the importance is now focused on the user experience. Did you provide the depth of information that the site visitor was looking for? Did you focus on just using search terms on the page, or did you create an experience that helps a potential customer make an informed decision about your product? Google’s machine learning system is going to be able to determine what is high quality, thorough information verses thin content created to bait traffic without any real goal beyond the visit.

Melissa Fach: How important is keyword query research?

For Eric the idea of keyword research has evolved beyond just what words people enter into a search bar to the semantics of language. It’s now more important than ever. Now it’s not just a particular term, but the relationships with other terms and long-tail complex phrases. Words will ALWAYS be important. We need to be more sophisticated about how we use them. The idea that keyword research is dead is ludicrous.

Jeff takes the research aspect of this even further by pointing out that for business owners, their writing resources are now even more critical. If the person available to write for a site is not a topic expert, then more time and effort will have to go into research and understanding of the business and the customer’s needs. Subject matter experts will be able to write far more fluently with all the necessary depth and semantic nuance that the more sophisticated algorithms are looking for. Keyword research becomes the foundation for demonstrating topic authority.

Melissa Fach: What impact has the hummingbird algorithm had and what recommendations do you have for site owners?

Jeff says that thanks to Hummingbird you can no longer create a stand alone page for a particular keyword without supporting related information about that topic sprinkled throughout the rest of the site. Hummingbird requires us to move beyond the obvious focus of the keyword itself to the topics, concepts, and entities related to that particular keyword. The value of a page will also degrade over time if you cannot demonstrate full comprehensive coverage of a topic. Hummingbird is also taking into account social signals, sharing behavior, and user behavior across several pages to determine how valuable any one particular page is on a topic.

Eric says that Google now has a greater degree of confidence in determining quality of content. Not just is that text a topic match, but does the text, images, video serve the user’s needs for information. That quality scoring has become a much more critical ranking factor. Once you write a high investment piece that really addresses the topic of long-tail phrases, that piece will tend to get long term traffic for the better longer terms. The other wonderful value gained from longer in-depth page content is the higher number of search terms that drive traffic to that page. Consider this, there are Wikipedia pages that rank for THOUSANDS of keywords. That means that there are thousands of possible terms that will lead a user back to that one page.

Eric and Jeff both had a great deal of information to share about tools they use and common mistakes to avoid. Be sure and check out the entire video or listen to the podcast, and share your thoughts in the comments.

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