What is the Google Hummingbird Update?

What is the Google Hummingbird Update?No Google haven’t started to breed hummingbirds, we’re talking about the name given to their recent update to their search engine algorithm. And although the Hummingbird is among the smallest of birds it has most certainly created a huge amount of discussion and debate within SEO and tech communities. So much so, that since the update happened around the end of September it even got featured in a Telegraph newspaper article.

So what’s all the fuss about and how big an impact is Hummingbird likely to have on SEO strategy?

What exactly is Hummingbird?

Essentially, Hummingbird consists of a new technology called the Knowledge Graph. In a nutshell the Knowledge Graph is Google’s attempt at a creating a more intelligent search engine and one that tries to get inside the mind of someone carrying out a search to better understand what type of information they’re really after. Because of the huge volumes of digital content that now exist on the web, Google’s users are having to be more specific in the way they search and to do this they’re having to type longer phrases into Google and in some cases they’re often having to completely rephrase their query if Google was way off the mark first time round. And all this is frustrating and time consuming for Google’s users which isn’t great for the brand, which now has shareholders to keep happy!

So what Google is now capable of doing, similar to a human mind is make connections between items and answer complex questions. It does this through its semantic search capabilities, to the layman that means Google is analysing all words used in a search query to better understand the true meaning of the phrase we have typed in. This is a subtle move away from just simply providing a set of search results and web pages to delivering meaningful answers. For example Hummingbird will more greatly consider question words like “how” “why”, “where” and “when” in search phrases.

Another thing built into the Hummingbird update is conversational search or ‘hot wording’ as Google calls it.

I tried it out myself and asked Google “Where is my nearest GP” and to my amazement Google served the ‘Find Services’ page on the NHS website at the top of its search results. Exactly the type of page I’d need if I was indeed looking for my nearest doctors surgery. So it does look like Google is able to intelligently connect up the words and provide users with highly relevant content. Eventually, this technology might reach the point of understanding text on a more nuanced and human level, a scary and yet thrilling thought.

How does this impact SEO?

However, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Its best practice guidance remains the same: create original, high-quality content, but I do believe healthcare marketers now need to think beyond simple therapy/disease or product and service based keywords and think about the types of sentences they’ll be typing in. To do this well you really do need to understand your target audiences’ information needs and the different stages they go through as part of their decision making or purchasing process.

Marketers need to better understand the types of problems certain groups of patients and HCPs are looking to solve when they go online and the common types of questions they seek credible answers to. Once they’ve done this they then need to think about the actual content itself and make sure their digital content is relevant to those search queries being ‘Googled’. It’s also important to try and determine what format is most likely to appeal to and engage those audiences when they first come into contact with that content, i.e. static web pages, videos, infographics, images or a combination of them all, as this will help to reduce bounce rates which will also help secure high rankings.

One beneficial result of Hummingbird should be that it creates a more level playing field for smaller healthcare organisations that specialise in a particular aspect of healthcare or focus on a specific therapy/disease area.  The high volume, generic paid search keywords are often dominated by large multi-national organisations that have a diverse brand portfolio and deep pockets that enable them to win the Google Adwords bidding war. But because of the more generic nature of their web content, this means that they are at a disadvantage when it comes to the less predictable nature of semantic search results. The Hummingbird update should enable smaller niche companies that have the ability to produce unique, informative and fresh content specifically relating to that niche, gain a higher ranking in the search results when a precise and complex search phrase is used.

However, one negative linked to Hummingbird is that as Google accelerates its movement away from Google keyword search to Google semantic search, Google will encrypt all future search results, which means that they’ll no longer provide any data whatsoever within web analytics packages on organic keyword referrals. For us marketers this means that we are going to be completely in the dark when it comes to knowing which keywords are sending people to our website and more importantly driving and assisting conversions from the organic search results. There’s more on this topic in my other post titled: “Google Analytics no longer providing organic keyword data“.

Need help?

If your organisation has been hit by Hummingbird and need expert help to better understand what changes you should be making to your healthcare SEO strategy to get your site performing well in the organic search results then get in touch to request a Google Hummingbird Impact Assessment.

A Quick Guide To Healthcare Twitter Hashtags

Healthcare Twitter HashtagsWhether you’re a new or seasoned Twitter user, you’re likely to come across confusing hashtags but these short links preceded by the sign (#) are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them.

On Twitter, the hashtag turns any word or group of words into a searchable link. Any Twitter user can categorise or follow topics with hashtags. They make it easier to organise content and track discussion topics by grouping them into keyword categories. So, if you wanted to tweet about Breast Cancer, you could include #BreastCancer in your tweet to join that existing conversation. You can also click on a hashtag to see all the tweets that mention it in real time, even from people you don’t follow.

Hashtags make it easier for people to monitor what’s happening in the conversation rather than having to try and guess what topics you should search for. By having a conversation on Twitter using hashtags, you also make it easy for any other Twitter users to join in and contribute to the conversation.  This is how people from the healthcare industry are trying to share information and engage in conversations with as many people as possible. By being active on Twitter doctors, nurses and all other professionals working in the healthcare and pharma sectors can reach out directly to individuals from all over the world to spread knowledge and awareness on various health related topics.

How do I create a hashtag?

There is no preset list of hashtags. You can create a brand new hashtag simply by putting the hash before a series of words, and if it hasn’t been used before, then you’ve created a new hashtag.  Hashtags are not an official feature of Twitter. This makes it difficult to find the origin or reason for a hashtag (particularly if it’s a weird acronym) or stop other users adopting a hashtag that’s already in use.

If you want to find out which healthcare related hashtags are already in use and which ones are most popular and trending, you should check out Hashtags.org and the Healthcare Hashtag Project. These sites will help you to discover where healthcare conversations are taking place and discover who to follow within your speciality or therapy area.

Most of the time the keywords used in the hashtag itself will give you a clue as to the subject matter of conversations taking place, for instance the hashtag #pharmacist will mainly consist of conversations around pharmacy but others like #s4pm are less obvious.  Using Twitter search is often the best place to start, so in the case of #s4pm, you would do this search and Twitter will then reveal that #s4pm relates to the Society for Participatory Medicine, including the Journal of Participatory Medicine and e-Patients.net blog.  If Twitter reveals very little then <Hashtags.org is one of the other better websites to use also. Again the Healthcare Hashtag Project often provides some descriptive content for a particular

And what about the @ symbol?

The @ symbol does something completely different. Using @ before a person’s Twitter handle will tweet him directly, letting him know you have written to him via the @Connect tab. A hashtag will not. So if you are trying to reach someone directly, don’t use a hashtag.

25 Popular healthcare hashtags:

  1. #BCSM
  2. #biotech
  3. #digitalhealth
  4. #doctors20
  5. #ehr
  6. #eldercarechat
  7. #hcmmconf
  8. #hcr
  9. #hcsmca
  10. #hcsmeu
  11. #hcsmin
  12. #healthapps
  13. #healthinnovations
  14. #HITsm
  15. #Ideagoras
  16. #LupusChat
  17. #meddevice
  18. #meded
  19. #medtech
  20. #mhealth
  21. #mhsm
  22. #pharma
  23. #premeded
  24. #ptsafety
  25. #s4pm

Need help?

If you’re struggling to get to grips with social media and need expert help to better understand what changes you should be making to your digital strategy to help improve your online performance then why not request one of our Digital DNA Tests.

Google Analytics no longer providing organic keyword data

What does (not provided) mean in Google Analytics?

Many of you may have noticed that for some time now that Google Analytics has been showing the “(not provided)” message in the keyword data section. And while the (not provided) tag was annoying, we still had enough organic keyword data to help us assess the effectiveness of our SEO strategy and measure visits and conversions rates from organic search.

But on September 23rd this all changed quite significantly as Google moved to encrypted searches which meant that all Google organic keyword searches are now 100% secure. When a user goes to Google to search, they are automatically redirected to the https:// version of their Google domain of choice. This encryption means that Google no longer shares any keyword data with website owners, regardless of whether a user is logged into their Google account when conducting a search.

This is great from a privacy perspective and Google has been making major steps to help protect everyone’s privacy but I remain highly suspicious as to why Google has only done this for organic searches only. They are still happy to provide website owners with keyword data if they are using Google Adwords to attract visitors to their site. So Google the money making machine, with shareholders wanting to see increasing profits so they can get a quick return on their investment, fully understand the requirement for website owners and SEOs to be able to track the effectiveness and commercial value of various keywords. And now the only way we can do that is to test the value of key phrases using paid ads in the Google sponsored listings. Pure genius, another quick way Google can increase its revenues and profits. I can’t help but question if Google’s informal corporate motto: “Don’t be evil” still rings true amongst the Board, given these recent changes.

So what can we do to still try and understand the value that certain keywords have on driving good quality visitors and conversions? Here are our some of the tactics we’ve been adopting to get around the issue:

  • Looking at non-Google keywords. OK a fairly obvious one I know and although Bing and Yahoo collectively have less than a 7% share of the search market, you can make the assumption that visitors coming from Bing or Yahoo are on average using pretty similar search terms to that of Google users. The problem you may have is if your site does not get a great deal of traffic in the first place you might struggle to obtain enough good quality data to make an informed decision.
  • Analysing your Webmaster Tools data. At present Webmasters Tools does include search data from encrypted searches but only for the last 90 days so start exporting and saving that data for analysis.
  • Analysing on-site searches. If your site has its own search facility then you can use Google Analytics to capture and analyse data from your site search facility. You’ll then be able to see what key terms users are typing into your site search tool, this will give you an insight into how they search and the various words they use in phrases.
  • Setting up test campaigns on Google Adwords. Using Google Adwords to test the effectiveness of certain key phrases is actually something we recommend our clients do before they embark on an SEO campaign if they have no existing keyword data to analyse. We find that this approach can help to reduce the risk of targeting the wrong phases from day one and because SEO does not deliver quick and immediate results, you don’t want to be committing resource and budget into a keyword strategy only to find that several months later despite seeing increased rankings for those keywords you have focused on, you’re still no better off from a customer acquisition perspective. Using the Google Ad Planner you can easily determine search volume and estimated clicks (on ads) for particular keywords which will help you to formulate your initial test keyword list.
  • Looking at historical data. Our search behaviour has not changed that much so there’s still a lot value in pre-encrypted search data that still resides within Google Analytics. You can check the data to see if there were any seasonal differences worth noting and also to check bounce rates, conversions and assisted conversions too for various keywords.
  • Using Google Trends. Google Trends is a favourite tool of mine and one I like to use quite regularly as it gives me a better insight into for which keywords are trending right now. So if you do notice a huge spike in traffic and you suspect it could be something newsworthy or trendy, but the majority is “(not provided)”, head over to Google Trends and it might possibly give you an idea on what exactly it is that is trending that is bring you the extra traffic.
  • Setting up filters in Google Analytics. Most marketers are not aware of the full range of features available to them in Google Analytics and setting up custom filters is one way great way to really understand how your website and marketing campaigns are performing. You can set up filters for all your “(not provided)” traffic so that it shows you the landing page for each of those “(not provided)” referrals. So even though you might not know the exact keyword that’s bringing in the visits, you can instead filter it so that you can see what page they landed on. You can then look at the keywords that you’ve used in your title tag and in the on-page content and that should give you some idea as to what search phrase might have brought on to that page.

Need help?

If you’re struggling to get to grips with the encrypted search issues in Google Analytics and need expert help to better understand what changes you should be making to your web analytics strategy to help you measure your digital performance more effectively then get in touch to request a Google Analytics Assessment.