The power of the question

A long time ago I wrote about the question being the way forward. How little did I know then that the concept of the question was going to be taken forward to newer and better heights!

Questions created through Search

When the algorithm Hummingbird hit the digital world it was in reaction to the question. People are searching more now using questions, so the mathematics behind Search had to adapt to this to become more helpful to the searcher.

I recently gave some advice to a PR lady who wanted to know more about how Hummingbird works. She wanted to know how to adapt her content marketing strategy to incorporate the latest algorithms to achieve the best results. So I explained about the concept of search questions and how Hummingbird has been formulated to ‘understand’ all the keywords and their relation to each other within the question.

Words interpreted in context

Let’s give an example. Someone may type or speak into their smart phone “Where can I get some crusty bread?”. Now the most likely keyword here would be “crusty bread”, but there’s also the words “where” and “get” that form an integral part of the question. On their own they are meaningless to the old style of search, but with Hummingbird they are used in the complete context of the question.

In the old algorithms the Search would have brought up sites about bread or crusty, which is not what they searcher wants. But by understanding the words “where” and “get” in relation to “crusty bread”, Hummingbird gleans that a purchase needs to be made.

The word “get” is interpreted as “buy” in this instance, “where” would suggest a location and “crusty bread” would signify a baker or similar purveyor of bread products. Hummingbird is particularly tuned in to location Search, so it would use the mobile phone’s GPS to work out where the nearest baker would be.

This facility has been adapted from SIRI in smart phones, which would have needed to react to quite intricate questions to help respond to Search. Hummingbird has made this process far more accurate and meaningful, and has been formulated to understand many kinds of speech patterns and grammar syntax that would have been confusing to the old style algorithm before.

Long-tail keyword usage

So how would this work within blogs? Questions are now quite long and complex structures, so content writers need to be aware of the potential long-tail keywords that can come out of this. Long-tail keywords are phrases or questions containing a good keyword that people would use, especially within Search. “Where can I get some crusty bread?” is a long-tail keyword, whereas “crusty bread” would have been the usual short-tailed keyword used in the past.

The use of good long-tail keywords is determined by how relevant it is to the reader’s or customer’s problem. Most questions are asked to find out the solution to a problem, so if the blog’s writer is able to work out the most likely question the Searcher would ask, a suitable long-tail keyword that matches it would have a higher reaction to the Search criteria.

Now using long-tail keywords in a post’s headline is not an easy task, unless they form part of a question. Further impact is achieved by incorporating that long-tail keyword into the post’s body, especially in the first paragraph and at the end. This requires skilful writing tactics without it seeming obvious this long-tail keyword is being used for SEO purposes, but it can be done if the post is lengthened to allow more scope for inclusion.

And if the solution to the problem posed by the long-tail keyword’s question is provided as the result of the post, then that’s a good job done.

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.
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  • Sylvia says:

    Thanks Alice. Always enjoy reading your posts. You state things in a very clear way for a newbie like me to understand.

    I had heard of Hummingbird, but never really understood what it was all about. Thank you for clarifying.

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