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Being relevant with the new Google Hummingbird


By Barry Lee Cummings, owner of Maximum Net Gain.

October 21, 2013 5:34 by

This month has seen a large focus on relevancy. When we talk about digital strategy, relevancy is the underlying infrastructure that should support everything you do online – website, articles, press releases, social media posts, tweets, blog posts and so on. It’s also the main focus for the latest iteration of Google’s algorithm change.

They’ve moved away from black and white animals (Panda and Penguin) into the realm of the bird – the Hummingbird, to be precise.

Earlier this year, I spoke at the DIGICONF alongside Dubizzle, Edelman, Hill & Knowlton and Hilton Worldwide. The focus of my talk was on how much the Middle East region was far behind when it comes to digital, when compared with the rest of the developed online markets. And the truth is – we are lagging behind, probably by at least ten years.

I introduced the subject of the next generation of the internet, semantic web, which puts as much importance on the relationship between the pieces of information being searched (intent) as much as the actual pieces of information themselves.

Hummingbird has been designed to be more precise in returning results specifically, because it’s based on semantic search, rather than individual search terms. So, semantic web is actually not some far-off future version of our online world, it’s happening right now.

On-page search engine optimisation (SEO)

What does this actually denote? Well, it means that we have to really think about what information we are presenting to people on the digital real estate. Google is trying to find the intent behind search queries and offer a solution; a definitive result of this is the weeding out of the irrelevant pages.

Some people say that this means there is no need to worry about your keywords and on-page SEO anymore, but I disagree. It’s good practise to get your on-page SEO right, as this helps search engines to index your pages against specific subject matter (ie it knows when to show your pages).

I’ve been advising clients to take the time to check:

– Page title


– Meta keywords

– Meta description

First of all, they need to make sure that these are actually present on the back end of each website and, secondly, include some of the language used on the page to deliver a particular message.

This effectively ticks some of the right boxes. Once this is in place, clients can then focus the bulk of their time on creating the content to go on these specific pages, knowing that even if it’s a machine indexing or a human reading the page, they are going to get what they want from it.

Creating an image of the ideal customer

We do, of course, need to adapt and embrace the newest version of the algorithm. Hummingbird is looking for those companies that are providing answers to the questions being asked. In line with Google’s ambitious goal of making the search engine more ‘human’, we need to stop spending so much time trying to manipulate it and actually go back to the original marketing approach, which is: Create your content for the people.

For this, we need to create an avatar of the ideal customer. Who is that mystical creature that always buys from you over and over again? I’m not talking about generic demographic data, such as male, 34 to 45 years, lives within ten miles of DIFC, etc.

I want to really identify the ideal customer, for instance:

– John Smith, married to Sue, with two children, Tom and Sarah

– Lives in Al Reem 3, Arabian Ranches, both kids study in the JESS school

– Smith drives a Ford Explorer and Sue a Mercedes SLK350

– Annual income is AED600,000, they take two holidays every year, usually one in Europe, the other in Asia. They always fly with Emirates and the dog goes to the neighbour’s house when they are away.

Now you might think this is quite ridiculous, because how on earth can you find all these details. Well it’s actually really simple. Ask them.

The simplest form of marketing is to ask the market about its needs and then give what it wants. With social media channels, opt-in forms, tools such as SurveyMonkey, or even the telephone, you can easily extract all of the above information from your customer base – just by asking them.

Once we have this information, every time we create content from a brand’s point of view, regardless of the chosen channel (website, email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn), we can target our message to John and Sue – knowing that with all of the aforementioned information, we can probably create a more personalised and relevant message.


Barry Lee Cummings is digital strategist and owner of Maximum Net Gain. He helps companies understand and implement digital strategy to get the most out of their web presence. 


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