User intent is everything Google cares for! If you still think adding keyword laden text in your content body can enhance the ranking position of your website then you need to think again. With the launch of the Hummingbird update, Google has entirely shifted its focus on understanding the user intent behind the search queries. Ultimately what Google wants is to present the user with the closest matching answer based on what he/she wants to know and not on what he/she types into Google. There is a big difference between these two and most of the marketers still feel Google only counts those keywords present in the query which it does but with the least importance.
I know, it's hard to convince people when you tend to move in the opposite direction and also force people to believe your direction is the correct one. At first people won't believe but when you will deliver the results they will surely start believing you. So, let's take an example as to how user intent is playing a greater role in fetching documents as compared to the presence of keywords in the query.
Query - what places can i explore in london
In the normal scenario, main keywords for this query would have been "places, explore and London" (after eliminating the stop words) and a document having an exact match keyphrase would have easily ranked on the top position in Google. But, this is not what happens.
The first result returned does not have the words "places" and "explore" in the title tag or in the URL but still it's ranking high. Why? Clearly the answer lies in the user intent. As part of processing the query, Google first tries to gain insight into the entities mentioned in the query. Here "London" is an entity. Now, Google tries to find out meaning of "places" and "explore".
As a smart engine, powered by Hummingbird, it is able to process the query and finds out that the user is looking for places to visit in London (UK). With the help of the synonym engine, it is able to derive that the words "attractions" and "sites" convey the same meaning as the word "places". Hence, it treats the web documents in the same manner while ranking them.
Obviously, main ranking factors like Domain Authority, Page Rank, Social popularity and backlinks all play a major role in ranking any webpage on the top. But, the biggest On page ranking factor that Google relies upon is the user intent. If you create a page based on what the user is looking for and not on what he types then you are working towards gaining top positions on Google for all the variations of those query that matches the same user intent.
Taking the above example, visitlondon.com ranks on the below queries because it matches the user intent and not keywords:
what places can i visit in london
major attractions in london
what to see in london
best places to see in london
top places to see in london
major tourist attractions in london
what to visit in london etc. the list goes on and on.
If you note the other results on the page then they keep on fluctuating based on the user query but the top result stays the same because of the fact that it accurately predicts the user intent behind the query and presents the exact information which the user is looking for.
Great! but how come Google is able to determine that? Simply because the Google ranking algorithm predicts the user intent and does not matches the keyword present in the query. Does this means, you should stop using keywords in your webpages? No, not at all, you should use them as long as it matches the intent of the user but you should't overuse them simply to gain an advantage on Google or to manipulate the Google's ranking algorithm.
How to Create Hummingbird Friendly Content?
Now the main topic comes as to how one can make a little twist on their current SEO strategy and do something extra to win the heart of the Hummingbird. Here are some of the guidelines that you should follow:
1- Choose topics that exactly matches the user intent.
2- Include references to entities wherever possible.
3- Include rich snippets to make your content stand apart from your competitors
4- Make use of semantics while framing content.
5- Use synonyms in your content.
6- Make use of Tf-Idf score.
7- Add images, video and make the content look extraordinary.
8- Improve time on page.
9- Get comments and user likes.
If you go on and start following this strategy then I am sure you will be seeing some positive results very soon.