Hummingbird and what it means to your knowledge base

Last week Google completed 15 years of changing the world, one search query at a time. And while most of us would just cut a cake and move on, they announced Hummingbird, their latest search algorithm. And, once again, changed the way your customers look at your business.

But before we go into the details, let me warm you to this little bird.

The Hummingbird makes use of the natural language in search queries instead of relying on old-school keywords. If your in-house SEO still tells you nothing should go out without a 3.5% keyword density, tell her it’s time she saved her stuffing talents for Thanksgiving.

Search Engine Land already has a pretty awesome roundup of the Hummingbird and what that means to SEO, so I’ll jump right over to what this means to you – the support guy, and your customers. The Hummingbird now lets your users “talk” their worries into the search box, and drives intelligent answers based on what they ask.

So what does this mean to you? And how does it change the way you look at the support experience you offer?

Quite a lot, actually. In fact, for your knowledge base and the self-service experience on your support website, this changes everything.  If you’ve ever considered investing in building and growing your knowledge base, now would be a good time Twitter Icon.

Why the Hummingbird is a big deal

The Hummingbird now focuses on “conversational search” instead of “keywords”.

When your customers need help with your products, they search for very specific queries, like “how do I get this Acme Rocket Set to work”, “where can I find an Acme Rocket workshop”, and “what does this button on my Acme Rocket do”. In the old days, the page with the richest juice for the phrase “Acme Rockets” would pop up on top. Not anymore. Now the Hummingbird understands that your customers are looking at three very different problems, and need three different solutions for them.

Your knowledge base is not a graveyard stuffed with keywords anymore. It’s your response to the questions that matter.

How does that change everything you knew about your knowledge base

The purpose of your knowledge base is to answer your user’s questions and solve their problems. That means, by definition, the Hummingbird could be your greatest friend. All you need to do is create solutions, FAQs and knowledge base articles, which address a real problem that your customers (could) face, and bang! Your Knowledge Base just became insanely more findable.

The key to understanding the Hummingbird is to write like your user would search. If you are writing for the user that searches “What does this button do”, focus your solution on answering exactly that.

How to position your Knowledge Base for the Hummingbird

1. Focus on “Questions” – What is your user looking for?

The first step to shooting the right answers is finding the right question. Google Webmaster Tools offer a great way to look into search queries and see what your users actually search for before they land on your page.

If you’ve already linked your Google Analytics profile with your Freshdesk self service portal, start by taking stock of the questions that bother your users the most.

2. Create “conversations”, not just solutions

The Hummingbird is all about conversational search. If someone asked you “What’s the best place for pizza?”, your answer would be way different from if someone asked “What’s that thing moving on my pizza?”. With the Hummingbird, articles that actually strike a conversation with the customer end up moving on top. So before you start typing out a solution, think of a customer asking you this question, and speak out your answer as you type it.

3. Structure now matters. A lot.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have been worrying about “” (a collaboration to improve the web by creating “structured data markup”) for a while now. Structured Data Markups let you “tell” search engines like Google interesting meta-information about the content on your page. And Google, in turn, showcases these things to customers in the search results when they come looking for you.

Wait a minute – your support solutions contain structured data like articles, screenshots, and specific troubleshooting steps. That means you can give Google intelligent snippets of what’s in your knowledge base. The data highlighter in Google Webmaster Tools gives you a neat way to tell the Hummingbird everything you want it to know about the structure of your knowledge base.

But, at the end of the day, if you want to really impress Google with your knowledge base, forget the Hummingbird. Understand your users first, and the bird is sure to follow .

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3 thoughts on “Hummingbird and what it means to your knowledge base

  1. Very helpful advice for person like me that finds it very difficult to cope with all of Google’s recent updates. But I see this new one as a stepping stone for success in providing what the users really want and not what I want to show them…