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Cassie Allinger

Cassie Allinger Senior Advertising Performance Strategist

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How Will Google's Hummingbird Update Impact PPC?

The past few weeks on the web have been full of people humming (literally) about Google's latest algorithm update, Hummingbird. If you haven't yet heard about the change, you can read more about it here. A lot can be said about the meaning behind the name, but there's no doubt that this update is a far cry from the Penguins and Pandas of the past. Such a large change naturally begs a lot of questions and theories, many of which have focused on the impact it will have on SEO. Few, however, have considered the impact it will have on PPC. This is critical.

 

Why would a change to the organic result algorithm impact PPC?

Let’s start with the simple answer: paid and organic results aim to achieve the same goal, to deliver the most relevant results to a user. Regardless of the mechanism that controls delivery of the results, the strategy behind “search” has remained unified. As long as this is true, changes to paid and organic algorithms will continue to impact one another.

On top of that, Google already rolled out the PPC equivalent of Hummingbird earlier this year with the introduction of Enhanced Campaigns. This was the largest update to the AdWords platform in more than 5 years, and was essentially Google’s attempt at rewriting the platform without a complete overhaul. Sound familiar?

Both updates push advertisers and web masters to think about search results and digital efforts differently. Long gone is a simply keyword matching system that is easily gamed. The new system is much more advanced, featuring the capability to decipher context and intent. Ultimately, Google does not want to be a search engine, they want to be an answer engine. Context and intent are crucial to success in this endeavor.

 

How will this impact PPC?

  1. Although organic and paid search results are powered by different algorithms, they still appear beside each other in a shared sandbox. In fact, there has been a great deal of research conducted surrounding the correlation between organic and paid results. Although it's yet to be seen which direction the impact will lean, a change in the organic results will change the way that users interact with listings. 
  2. Conversational search is a key function of the new Hummingbird update, which is pushing knowledge graph results up front and center before the user, sometimes pushing PPC ads to the side, bottom, or completely off the page.
  3. Conversational search also brings an evolution to the concept of "previous query" or "adaptive search" in which it aims to understand the connection between consecutive queries. It introduces one more factor into the formula for determining user intent, making the results that much more relevant. You'll mainly find this evolution when searching via voice, but don't be surprised when it expands to cover all types of search. As this expands, expect that it will impact user search patterns and their interactions with results. 
  4. Perhaps the most exciting impact of Hummingbird is that it is going to force websites to focus on quality, interesting content even more than before. Better content > better user experience > better engagement > better results. Not only should this improve performance of PPC campaigns, but the better quality pages should have a positive impact on quality scores.  
  5. Restructure. While you don't need to start restructuring and reorganizing your PPC accounts tomorrow, you should start thinking about how you can adjust to the new system. With time, it's likely that conversational type queries will rise in volume, demanding that you incorporate these into your account. 

 

How do we need to prepare for this change?

In the short term, the most important thing you need to do is be aware. Be aware that search is changing, whether it’s organic or paid. This will allow you to identify specific performance and engagement changes, analyze, and then adjust. In the long term, you’ll want to adjust your campaign structures, keywords, and ad copy to better align with the new semantic search style. 

Big Tom LaPointe
great insight. thanks

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