Hummingbird Search Engine Strategies for Education Companies

881402413 1fc549c1e7 z resized 600The Hummingbird has landed, and though the last few Google updates have spelled trouble for the way things were being done with SEO and Internet marketing, this one promises to make everybody’s life a little easier.  The main focuses of Hummingbird are more precise, conversational searching and increasing mobile web presence.  Along with Hummingbird came Secure Search, which may make a big impact on SEO keyword-based sites everywhere.

What Changes Came with Hummingbird and Secure Search?

Hummingbird has brought back the long search term as a viable option.  Google has known for some time that we tend to search in phrases or questions, not in keywords, so has been developing the technology to handle these searches accurately without relying on breaking them up into shorter keywords.  Hummingbird is their first full-scale stab at accurately answering queries for longer, conversational phrases; along with this change in algorithms (designed in part to assist mobile searchers who may be searching by voice), comes a ranking bonus to sites with well-planned mobile components.

Hummingbird is new in very subtle ways, but Secure Search is new in drastic ways that may change the way we market websites in the near future.  In the past, it was easy to pull popular search engine keywords from Google, pop them up on relevant sites and watch the hits roll in.  Secure Search aims to hide 100 percent of that data, restricting analytics to existing keywords and taking away the ability to harvest popular keywords from a list.  This may change your marketing drastically if you rely heavily on hot SEO keyword loading, but if your educational marketing plan is one built around content, you have nothing to fear. 

Marketing Education After Hummingbird and Secure Search

Ideally, with the addition of Hummingbird, searches will turn up more solid information and less trash -- that’s great, but you’re going to have to create more ways for people to find your school or education company by adding more useful content that answers questions or solves a problem.  To continue to be competitive, you’ll have to do what you already do best -- educate.  Since you’re not going to be able to harvest SEO keywords, your strategy must rely on giving more information along with your sales messages. 

Post-Hummingbird must-haves include: 

Frequently Asked Questions.  You know what kinds of questions your school or company is asked the most, make a list!  Add actionable, self-service answers to round out the page -- everybody knows they can call customer service, but time is valuable and sitting on hold isn’t always the best use of it.  Besides helping more customers help themselves, you’ll have lots of commonly Googled phrases for the search engines to fish out.

Research.  If you’re toting a product or your school is particularly good at a few things, do more than tell, show.  Post your research somewhere easy to find on your site, either in full or distilled into an infographic. 

Industry Trends.  Schools may benefit from regular industry analysis when it comes to popular programs.  A lot of students want to know more about how choosing one program over another will affect their long term employment outlook or what sort of emerging careers would be open to a person with their particular training.

Expert Bloggers.  Provide some valuable insider information on your blog from your experts.  A college might include regular posts from the Campus Life Coordinator, Department Heads and Coaches to announce upcoming events or discuss exactly what happens in their particular area of the college.  Make sure these posts answer important questions about how to do something, why something is useful, what is new or where to find valuable resources to increase long keyword usage.

Marketing your educational company, school or college post-Hummingbird doesn’t have to require a massive overhaul to your website if you are already providing readers with information.  Rethink how you’re delivering that information moving forward to create more opportunities for long keywords to naturally appear on more pages and you’ll stay at the top of the searches that matter.

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Greenroom Interactive is an inbound marketing provider for the hi-tech, software and educational technology industries. The team is dedicated to helping businesses grow their online presence by creating intuitive web experiences to engage their target markets.

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Patrick Hopkins