Hummingbird’s Impact On B2B Sites

The new Hummingbird algorithm will revolutionize the way B2B companies market their sites in search. Many larger B2B companies tend to invest marketing dollars in more traditional forms of marketing rather than SEM because the B2B space is usually not very competitive in an online atmosphere.

The old idea of paying a few grand to do a basic SEO setup will no longer be an effective tactic for these types of companies (although it never was very effective in the first place).

In my last column, I explained how to do SEM for B2B companies that see no value in it. I also recently wrote another column for conversion-driven clients about building an organic CRO machine. With Hummingbird, those strategies will now need to be aligned with content marketing to compete in the new Hummingbird-infused search world.

google hummingbird

What Hummingbird Means For B2B Sites

Before diving into any details, I’ll explain how Hummingbird will impact B2B sites. I’m going to use two companies as an example: a provider of industrial automation services, and a manufacturer of industrial automation equipment.

A pre-Hummingbird keyword strategy for both companies may have been to target the keyword [industrial automation]. The reason for this is because dozens of high-priority, long-tail keywords relevant to both companies contain the phrase [industrial automation].

Optimizing for [industrial automation] would help the site rank for keyword phrases like [industrial automation services], [industrial automation equipment], and [industrial automation consulting]. If the site ranks for [industrial automation], it will have no problem ranking for its long-tail variations.

With Hummingbird, the keyword [industrial automation] is no longer a good keyword to target for either company. Hummingbird’s algorithm values sites based on the user intent of the search, and ranks pages based on the context it would appear in a conversation.

When manufacturing professionals talk about industrial automation, they are usually referring to reducing labor costs, increasing uptime, operational management or improving reliability. They’re typically looking for editorial content about how to accomplish these objectives — not companies that provide equipment or services for industrial automation.

If you haven’t noticed it yet, this is also uncovering one of the big reasons why Google created this new algorithm — because equipment and services are two completely different offerings from two different companies, and they shouldn’t rank for the same terms. Short-tail search results were also too diverse, and did not direct users to enough relevant content.

On the other hand, if the same manufacturing professionals were discussing industrial automation equipment or services, they would likely be talking about either of the two example companies mentioned. This is where B2B sites will benefit from Hummingbird.

Because Google will be better able to distinguish intent, there will be less competition between sites talking about industrial automation and those ranking for service or equipment-related keywords. The new algorithm has created a more equitable search landscape for B2B companies to compete in. If you’ve been practicing White Hat SEO tactics, you may need to make slight adjustments to your strategies, but will probably benefit overall with the new algorithm.

Retaining Keyword Rankings

Let’s say you still want to rank for the keyword [industrial automation]. Even though a visitor for the short-tail keyword is now less relevant, writing content around the topic will still help you build the company as a thought-leader in the market space. However, with the new algorithm, it won’t be as easy as before.

This is where content marketing and analytics really come in handy. As mentioned earlier, real people having a conversation around industrial automation will be talking about the benefits and uses for it. Using the two example companies, previous content strategies would have been geared toward content that is service- or product- oriented with hopes of also ranking for [industrial automation].

You’ll need to create new (non service- or product-oriented) content around the topic of [industrial automation] that’s geared toward providing quality information for those searching and talking about the short-tail term. Start out by looking through Analytics at keywords used to find the site before Google stopped providing keyword data. Also take a look through site search usage.

Look for any keywords containing [industrial automation] to discover what the user interests are outside of products and services. Use these keywords to help build a list of topics for new content. These topics can be used for blog posts, thought leadership, social media posts and any other form of online content marketing.

Diversify Your Keyword Strategy

If targeting short-tail keywords was a big part of your keyword strategies in the past, now is the time to make a shift. You’ll need to make adjustments to title tags, headings and content to target long-tail keywords.

Re-allocate those short-tail terms to content that provides value to users, and use long-tail terms on product- or service-oriented pages. This will not only conform to Hummingbird, it will also create an overall better user experience and drive in more relevant searches. A good success metric of shifting around keywords would be bounce rate. If the bounce rate decreases, you’re on the right path.


The strategies and theories mentioned in this column are practices I have been using for a while now. As search trends have been shifted over the last year, I have shifted my strategies to align with what I believed would become the future of search — which came true with Hummingbird.

Although Hummingbird was just recently announced, Google actually rolled it out about a month ago. Since that time period, I have seen an average of 20% organic traffic increases across all sites upon which I’ve been practicing these strategies. I’ve also noticed an increase in rankings for short-tail keywords, but the pages ranked changed from product- and service-oriented pages to thought leadership and blog posts.

(Stock image via Used under license.)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: SEO | Google | Google: Hummingbird | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search


About The Author: is the SEO and Web Analyst at The Mx Group — a Chicago-based full service B2B integrated marketing and sales upport agency. He specializes in SEO, paid search, analytics, usability analysis, information architecture, conversion optimization, and content marketing.

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  • Chris Angus

    “Many larger B2B companies tend to invest marketing dollars in more traditional forms of marketing rather than SEM because the B2B space is usually not very competitive in an online atmosphere.”

    I don’t know what planet you’re living on, but here on planet Earth the B2B online markets are extremely competitive and large business to business customers invest millions upon millions to compete online, both through SEO and PPC.

    Perhaps do some research before throwing out unfounded comments like that.

  • Harrison Jones

    Hi Chris,

    A lot of it depends on the market space the company is in. Many companies I’ve worked with in recent years don’t have any online competition. Yes, they do have competitors, but the competitors don’t do any sort of SEM. A lot of these types of companies just don’t see a whole lot of value in search because they are already #1 in their market and everyone in the industry knows of them – which is where traditional marketing plays a bigger role.

  • Tad Miller

    I’m not arguing the practices at all. Those are good practices pre and post-Hummingbird. But I don’t see Hummingbird impacting B2B the same way it is consumer brands.

    Reasons why: Much lower mobile search volume in B2B and much fewer Voice Search kind of queries. B2B has a higher degree of transactional intent search queries than consumer searches proportionally (these are the ones that actually convert). Hummingbird seems to be hitting informational queries more (Question queries like “Why do” or “How to”). The search volume on that stuff is relatively low in B2B and those questions seem to be hitting the “learners” more than the “buyers” and B2B wants the buyers first and foremost.

    That doesn’t mean B2B shies away from answering questions with content though. If you have a White Paper that answers questions then crafting content around that appears to be a new opportunity with Hummingbird (at least on what it’s purported to be). I think you need to craft your content to answer the questions or problems that your product or service solves no matter what the Algorithm is, but the search volume in those kind of questions is tiny for B2B. I’m failing to see Hummingbird impact the rankings of 90% of searches for B2B – in fact things look pretty much the same from our B2B client roster’s rankings.

  • Harrison Jones

    I completely agree. The algorithm was definitely more b2c and information site-oriented. The only real impact it seems to have had on b2b is that it made the playing field more even by separating educational sites from businesses and creating a bigger need to target long tail keywords. The highest amount of mobile usage I’ve seen on a b2b site was still only about 15%, which is why I used an example of two professionals conversing rather than someone asking their phone a question. Creating thought leadership materials to answer peoples questions will now be more important than ever in the b2b world, which creates a great selling point to clients who are not already doing so.

  • Christopher Simmons

    Thanks Harrison for providing some additional insight on the big new bird in the room. Can I just say that redoing our website from the ground up this year for responsive, PageSpeed, CDN, and the various iterations of Google-mageddon 2013 has been a whirlwind adventure? Folks ask me if I’ve played any new games on the PS3, and I say, my life is an RPM, MMORG, and FPS in dealing with rebranding, repackaging, reengineering and re-architecting our B2B portal for the new world. Stating the obvious? Well, its an entirely new landscape at every level from code to content to evangelism of a brand in search. Anybody claiming to be an expert “right now” on any of this is hilariously un-educated on what changes have taken place, and what continues to evolve. 20th century thinking is 100% obsolete. Share and enjoy :-)

  • Chris B

    We are both a B2B and B2C site, should there be additional considerations for us since we are trying to attract both types of traffic with multiple intents? I would initially guess that Hummingbird would have even greater benefit to us assuming we are optimizing appropriately, but I’m not quite sure the best way to prepare.

  • Guest

    “The old idea of paying a few grand to do a basic SEO setup will no longer be an effective tactic for these types of companies (although it never was very effective in the first place).”

    Did I just read that? Really? I STRONGLY disagree based on my own ability to drive gains of 400% or more traffic to B2B companies and increase their conversions by 300% or more. Sure it might be slightly beyond basic, but I doubt any business would call that ineffective.

    What’s ineffective is spending thousands of dollars a month on “clicks” to try and play the same game. Especially knowing the whole time that any savvy competitor just has auto-scripts in place to destroy daily budgets for the most profitable keywords in the niche.

  • Harrison Jones

    Hi Chris,

    I would recommend going through your analytics to look at what kinds of keywords people were finding your site with before the (not provided) takeover, and compare it with the actual keywords you are targeting on your site. If you were receiving a lot of traffic for search terms that look conversational or that are in the form of a question, you will want to create new content to align with those types of inquiries to answer the users question. This is where thought leadership creation really plays a role in the new Hummingbird world.

  • Harrison Jones

    Hi Derek,

    I think you may have SEO confused with PPC. There is no spending of dollars on clicks, daily budgets or auto-scripts in SEO – those are all challenges of the PPC world. SEO is not a one-off activity. Google’s algorithm changes on a daily basis, and ongoing SEO management is needed to keep websites in line with algorithm changes. A one-off SEO project will have a positive impact on the site, but that growth will decrease over time as the optimization tactics previously used become outdated.

  • Guest

    I doubt I have what I do for a living mixed up.

    I am simply stating that an SEO setup is far from ineffective as you incorrectly stated it was.

    I’m then referencing what is ineffective which is blowing budgets on PPC. It’s even more of a waste of budget dollars if their site is not search engine optimized. In my experience, most businesses allocate a monthly budget, if they don’t use it for SEO they often just waste it on PPC which was what I was implying from my comment above.

  • One Web Company

    By aligning your optimization to focus on high quality content utilizing both common vernacular as well as industry specific verbiage, you can, theoretically, insulate yourself against the algorithm changes that Google makes on a regular basis. That is what Google has wanted all along. And that is what they are forcing people to do in order to maintain SERPs. While there are a lot of people that claim the only way that we can still use keyword monitoring is by PPC, we can still get some information about keyword searches through the Webmaster tools. By utilizing that information, in combination with the keyword research tools available in the PPC area, you can still tailor your content in such a way as to provide a higher relevancy score through page structure, word emphasis and general content intent.

    Our SEO strategy has always focused more on longtail searches than on industry targeted keywords, and it has been very successful for our clients. The biggest challenge is in making sure that SEO clients understand that SEO is a long term investment to work on both existing as well as new content.

    On another note, it will be very interesting to watch as Google struggles to implement an a system that guesses at user intent when humans have difficulty with that very feat.

  • Jayesh Prajapati

    such nice post! Thanks for update

  • Allen MacCannell

    We just posted Hummingbird hunting advice ourselves in our blog:!

    Now more than ever, you’ll want to make sure your website is associated with a clearly presented physical address if you want to do well locally.

  • Sathiya Kumar

    Once again a great article about Hummingbird Algorithm.. wonderful research as well.

  • markhoban

    I work with an SEO/Internet Marketing agency that deals primarily with industrial clients, and we have 2 or 3 who are in the industrial automation field…one a supplier of parts, one a manufacturer of equipment. That said, I have to disagree with you on one point.

    That is that “When manufacturing professionals talk about industrial automation, they are usually referring to reducing labor costs, increasing uptime, operational management or improving reliability. They’re typically looking for editorial content about how to accomplish these objectives — not companies that provide equipment or services for industrial automation.”

    I don’t think this is necessarily true. The demographic that we work with in this industry tends to use either very broad, short tail search terms or very specific (product name, product number, model number, etc) keywords.

    The engineers responsible for making the buying decision for these companies know exactly what they need. And as someone who has been fighting to find a way to help our clients become an authority in this industry, “conversation” and editorial content is few and far between. There aren’t really opportunities to guest post or engage in any sort of discussion, because it seems that the demographic just isn’t interested in that.

    However, if you’re suggesting that the focus should be adjusted to optimize for short tail (educational) and long tail (conversion oriented) content, then I think I might agree.

    A lot of people seem to be ragging on you for suggesting that the B2B world isn’t very competitive, and I might agree with them to an extent…but I think I know where you’re coming from. The b2b world (and the industrial sector in particular) is a unique animal in terms of SEO

    With that said, I REALLY appreciate you using an industrial company as an example. It’s almost something I never see, and a lot of the strategies of traditional SEO seem to go out the window when working with b2b clients.

    I’m very interested to see what hummingbird has in store for us….

  • markhoban

    What he said, was doing a “basic SEO setup” (the implication was that it’s a one time thing) isn’t exactly effective.

    I think most people would agree with that…..

  • CJ

    I never saw such misguided, wrongful information posted on searchengineland in thirteen years.

  • Tim Aldiss

    Fantastic grasp on how the new algorithm impacts on the era of the keyword Harrison – nice work :)

  • Derek Abbring

    I’m not sure what “most people” would consider a basic SEO setup, for some it could be just adding keywords for others a basic setup could be changing 20 things on every page. “Most people” don’t have a clue on how to do SEO properly so it really doesn’t matter what “most people” agree with or not.

    The fact of the matter is even a basic SEO job set’s the website in the right direction and has long term business value over ignoring it all together.

  • Larry Chrzan

    Completely agree with markhoban on his reply. My agency also works with industrial automation equipment manufacturers and I don’t think that searchers on the term [industrial automation] are looking for editorial content. This keyphrase converts well for an equipment provider.

    Having said that, the article raises some good points. I agree that providing good information about the B2B products and services we help market on our B2B customers and that relying completely on the use of keyphrases is over. But we haven’t ever really relied on that completely, and will continue to use keyword research to guide us.

  • igl00

    B2B is a huge niche and its in googles favor to make updates hurting people that are used to make lots from generic – to make them buy Adwords. Ive spoek about it in latest article at – its hidden though but mainly thats how it is.


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