Yesterday, Google issued a major overhaul of its search algorithm. Termed “Hummingbird,” Google released little about the details of the overhaul, except that the heart of the overhaul is a change in search structure. Search will now focus on semantics, not keywords. Basically, Google will now focus on the relation of words on a website page, not necessarily keywords. Initial reports indicate that Hummingbird affects 90% of online searches.
This is something that’s been on Google’s to-do list for some time. Two years ago, I sat in on a presentation by Jack Menzel, Google’s Director of Product Management. He said that Google was highly interested in semantics – the relation between words and how people actually use language. In other words, keywords are limited and do not necessarily reflect how people actually speak and use language.
So the question is, “is keyword analysis dead?” The answer is no. Keywords do not necessarily reflect how we speak. However, they certainly give us an idea of how we think when we are looking for information. In terms of marketing, we simply have to adjust how we think about keywords. One very important trend is the increasing use of longer and longer search phrases, or long-tail keywords.
We’ve seen this over the past several years. Increasingly, people are typing full questions into Google’s search bar, such as:
- In [X state], how do I…
- What is the best way…
- What does…
How does Hummingbird apply to lawyer websites and law firm internet marketing?
Keep calm and carry on, at least if your website contains quality content. Hummingbird is a reminder that website content or copy must be written well, understandable, and must also answer a question. For us lawyers, that means writing content which conveys information without using legal terms. I like to say, it’s like talking to a client who is sitting in your office. Explain what the law is, in laymen’s terms. Break it down like you would explain it to your average client. That is the best website content. It is essentially Hummingbird-proof and will withstand any future Google updates.
Lawyers must still also pay attention to SEO factors, like Title Tag, Headers, etc. These are critical on-page factors which tell the search engines what your page is about. Use them like you would in a legal brief with sections – inform the audience what you are talking about.