How Google’s Hummingbird algorithm could change marcomms hiring

Google HummingbirdHow a brand manages its digital output is rapidly becoming the single most important challenge for comms teams to deal with. The days of the old fashioned press release may not be completely over, but it is now just one of the ways businesses can reach their target audience, along with blogs, advertorials and of course social media, writes Julia Meighan.

And as technology has evolved, marcomms professionals have had to face a number of different challenges in order to move with the times.

Perhaps the greatest example in recent years has been the development of SEO strategies. In the past, the dominance of Google has led to a number of brands incorporating as many “keywords” as possible into their digital content, ensuring they are high enough on any search list.

This may have been a successful strategy in the past, but things have been changing in recent years thanks to the introduction of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms, designed to promote original content over duplicated sites. And with the development of their Hummingbird algorithm, this is due to change further.

What is Google Hummingbird?
Hummingbird is the name of Google’s new algorithm which answers longer and more complex search queries. The system takes into account spelling and synonyms and is designed to understand context and intent rather than simply relying on keywords.

For example, whereas previously a graduate looking online for employment may well have found the most success by searching for “Job + Marketing + London + Graduate”, now they are better off typing out the full query i.e. “Where can I find an entry level marketing role in the London area?”.
So how will this affect digital marketing strategies?

The change is believed to have affected nearly 90% of search queries since its introduction, and clearly this will have a huge impact on the success of digital comms strategies. It is no longer enough to delegate all online activity to those who are immersed in technology or to fill online material with buzzwords. Comms teams must now focus on creating engaging content, which is well written, relevant to their target audience and tailored appropriately for each delivery channel (of which there is now a vast array).

In order to do this, it’s vital to attract the right talent to manage the brand’s digital presence, and perhaps now more than ever, businesses need talented writers for this role. However, it’s not just a case of these employees understanding the correct use of apostrophes and semi-colons. Now that digital output is more content-based, those managing it need to have a genuine understanding of the message of your business.

In the past it may have been advisable to hire someone with social media experience above business acumen to look after the brand’s digital presence, so long as they used enough relevant keywords to keep them high on any search lists.

However now that the focus is on content, companies will need professionals who can mix business experience with writing skills for a marcomms position. Those who can create engaging content will find that the Hummingbird algorithm allows it to go further than ever before. Those that continue to focus on keywords may find that the changes leave them behind.

Julia Meighan is executive chairman at PR, communications and marcomms recruiter at VMA Group.