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With the introduction of Google’s new algorithm, Hummingbird, people are now able to have a conversation with their search engine. So what does this mean for SEO? Basically, that a greater focus needs to be placed on content, rather than keyword placement and matching. Google is trying to humanise itself, and become like the ‘all-knowing best friend’, rather than a piece of technology. Just imagine, a friend you can go to for advice, who understands what you are asking and presents you with the most relevant and important information within mere seconds. So how does it all work?

A good example of the conversational style of search that is now available is someone who is looking for a cheap coffee place within their current location. They may ask: “where can I find a cheap coffee place now that is nearby?” Rather than focusing on separate words, such as: “coffee” and “cheap”, Google will try to understand the entire meaning, or the context of the question. The fact that the user has mentioned “coffee place” implies that they are most likely looking for a café that has coffee, rather than just a store where they can buy it in packs.

Additionally, if you have previously shared your location with Google, it will find results that are close to you, rather than finding you cheap coffee in India if you are in Australia. Someone who is on the search for coffee is also probably looking at finding it immediately, so, based on the understanding of the word “now” within the context of your question, Google will present results for places that are open at the time of the search. You wouldn’t want to be searching for a great coffee place only to be presented with one that closed two hours ago.

Another function of the conversational search option is its ability to carry on a conversation with you, based on what you have previously searched for. If you have the latest version of Google Chrome, you will be presented with an option to ‘search by voice’. In doing so, if you were to ask: “how old is Beyonce Knowles?” Google would answer: “32.” If you were then to follow up with: “who is her husband?” Google would answer with: “Jay Z.” The trick to this is that Google recognises that the “her” in your second search is Beyonce, based on your previous search.


This function is very similar to Google’s Search App that was released back in October 2012, which allowed mobile phone users to ask questions on Google and have a voice respond back to them with the answer, kind of like the Siri function on the iPhone, but with better voice recognition and understandability.

Overall, Google’s new conversational search system is a great way of better understanding public enquiries, however, it does mean that SEO needs to cater to this change, creating fresh and relevant content which focuses on the context of searches, rather than particular words. If you are not sure how to go about doing this yourself, hiring an SEO agency might be one way of going about this.

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About The Author
Brett Hardiman is MD at SEO Melbourne Experts and a Search Engine Optimisation expert with over 15 years experience working with and advising businesses of all sizes on their internet marketing strategy.

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