How Hummingbird affects SEO writing

SEO copywriting continues to evolve. SEO copywriters have already had to adjust to Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. How will the most recent search algorithm update, Hummingbird, impact SEO copy?

Why the Hummingbird update?

Google anticipates that more people will use mobile devices for voice search and natural language queries. Why? Smartphone use is growing rapidly. In some countries mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop and other countries are expected to follow soon. So instead of just matching up individual keywords, Google wants to interpret and understand a user’s intentions (SEO, Hummingbird and more). The focus is shifting from individual keywords to content which addresses the meaning behind a question (What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means for AWAI Copywriters).

Tips on writing content after Hummingbirdmultiple clients

How do you write content which addresses the meaning behind a question? So what exactly are you supposed to do? Here is a brief summary of suggestions from various SEO content experts.

  • Know your audience. Anticipate a user’s questions and needs. Offer relevant content.
  • Be clear in the words you use and how you structure sentences. Don’t forget to use synonyms. Adopt a conversational tone of voice and approach to copy.
  • Keyword strategy has changed; less emphasis is on short tail keywords, more emphasis is on long tail (What are long tail and short tail keywords?).
  • Show you are an authority in your field by providing quality information and expert advice.


Know your audience

Eric Enge, President of Stone Temple, advises publishers to build “…pages for each of the different basic needs and intentions of the potential customers for your products and services. Start mapping those needs and use cases and design your site’s architecture, content, and use of language to address those” (see article on Hummingbird).

Relationship between words even more important than ever

Understanding customer needs is one of Paul Hill’s eight recommendations on Hummingbird and website content strategy. As is “Thinking about language”. Content Director of online marketing & SEO agency Further, Paul explains: “Hummingbird is geared, in part, to mobile and voice search. So be clear in the words you use and how you structure sentences. Consider synonyms – the alternative words or phrases that describe what you do and that people might use, rather than focusing your content around an exact-match keyword.” Copywriter Alan Eggleston gives concrete examples of how you can broaden your use of keywords (SEO Copywriting after Hummingbird). In terms of  automobiles, think of using cars, vehicles and sedans. Other words for Chevrolets, for example, are Chevys, Malibus, Impalas and Cavaliers. You can describe a dealership with words such as: dealer showroom, service centre and GM portal. Alan advises writers to find ways to redefine a keyword in a meaningful way.

Conversational tone of voiceConversational

Another copywriter and founder of Copify, Martin Harrison, suggests using a Q&A style of writing for long tail user queries such as “‘What is the best resort for family holidays in the South of France?’” Create questions which include where, what, why, how and when. Pretend as if you are having a conversation with a user. You’ll answer the questions the user has. In the long run, according to Eric, ”…the long tail will be defined by long tail human desires and needs, not keyword strings.”

Show you are an authority in your field

Establish a good author profile and provide in-depth content. Demonstrate your credibility, expertise and authority on your subject matter. CEO of Influence & Co., John Hall, quotes Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on the topic of Google authorship: “‘Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance (4 Changes Google Is Making And How They Affect Content Creation).

Writing for Hummingbird in a nutshell

Eric Enge pretty much sums it up: “The focus now is on understanding your target users, producing great content, establishing your authority and visibility, and providing a great experience for the users of your site (6 Major Google Changes Reveal the Future of SEO).’” And that is exactly what (SEO) copywriters do well.

Lesley Langelaar-Thomas profile picAbout the author: Lesley Langelaar-Thomas
English language SEO copywriter at Stars & Tulips
Lesley Langelaar-Thomas specializes in English language SEO copywriting. Owner of text agency Stars & Tulips in Hellevoetsluis, she writes for (international) clients in the Netherlands.
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2 replies
  1. Chella Ramanan
    Chella Ramanan says:

    Basically, write for people, instead of algorithms and machines. That’s what I’ve been doing all these years.

  2. Frank Schweppe
    Frank Schweppe says:

    I suppose that is what most copywriters with the Collective have always been doing. :-)

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