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June 2, 2014

The evolution to Hummingbird and its impact on travel content

The evolution to Hummingbird

Before we delve into what Hummingbird is and its impact on content and SEO in the travel industry, it is first useful to understand how it has come to be.

Since its early days, Google has steadily tweaked its algorithm to improve search performance and importantly, user search experience. The majority of these tweaks have been regular, minor changes whilst dropping in some pretty huge updates along the way. Latterly, Google has been experimenting with understanding searcher intent by trying to establish the motivation behind search queries. This has been achieved with the development of ‘Knowledge Graph’ over the last 18-24 months or so. Knowledge Graph has attempted to identify and connect elements of background information and supporting content with an initial search query, to produce a much more informed set of results in the SERPs.

For example, a search for ‘Taj Mahal’ shouldn’t just be interpreted by the search engines based on solely the keywords used. Away from the world of search, to most, ‘Taj Mahal’ immediately returns the thought of India’s most iconic building. Pre Knowledge Graph, Google’s search engine would have also likely delivered a page of results along the same lines…a page of results related to the famous white mosque in the city of Agra. However, how does Google cater for the hungry curry fan who’s searching ‘Taj Mahal’ on a Saturday night, wanting to find their local Indian takeaway? A page of facts about the sightseeing hotspot isn’t particularly useful. Knowledge Graph arrived to change that.

Until the arrival of Hummingbird, Knowledge Graph could be said to have been more relevant for those carrying out more research-y type searches, however, the learnings from this innovation has been very useful.

Equipped for Hummingbirds flight

Armed with both a highly efficient search algorithm and new insights from Knowledge Graph, Google has completely refreshed its algorithm to employ the best elements of both to produce Google Hummingbird. This connects the best of Google’s search capabilities with the insight gained from the Knowledge Graph. The result is a search engine that performs much better with conversational search phrases, but also produces maintains performance for targeted keyword searches.

Where it becomes interesting for search marketers is the long tail search element, which until now hasn’t been too fruitful in volume yet valuable for conversion. Hummingbird looks at searcher intent rather than just the query. Previously, a long tail search term would have been broken down in to keyword strings of two or three words, to roughly identify the search intention. Hummingbird attempts to understand the reason behind the conversational nature of the search. This means your site now has a much better chance of appearing as a top result for a range of drawn out search terms around your primary keyword(s), as long as you’ve built a knowledge base to support these kinds of search queries.

What does this all mean for travel content?

A well optimised landing page is a great start, but it’s only going to take you so far. You’ve got to think about how you can best supplement your key landing pages with relevant, useful and engaging content. This will serve several purposes;

1. It will tell Google that your website as an entity;

2.  It will demonstrate that your site knows about the subject you’re trying to rank it for;

3. It will enable you to build authority, thus improve rank for your target keyword.

Taking a further conversational search term example such as   “where’s the best hotel in the centre of Barcelona with a pool”, a landing page just detailing hotel’s in Barcelona isn’t likely to be returned as a result. It needs support. Surrounding that landing page with content that clearly aligns to that search term has a far better chance.


This new emphasis on useful content also means searchers who may not have considered your brand before, now stumble across your site because you’ve provided an informed answer to their search query. Your site could become more visible during the research phase of your customers search journeys. Finding your brand because they want to know where the best centrally located hotels in Barcelona are, means you’re picking up traffic and profile earlier in the booking journey, and this could clearly influence traffic closer to the booking stage.

Google wants to deliver a more informed set of search results. Your site can be part of this by building knowledge around your subject or niche. This then builds authority required to rank.

Take Aways

1.    Research those closely relevant searches/questions/queries your customers are searching.

2.    Examine why they are searching these queries.

3.    Build content that not only answers those queries but builds into ‘why’ they’re searching.

4.    Scale this content as necessary.

5.    Optimise and internally link this content.

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