Google’s shift in focus
For the past few years, Google has been updating its search algorithm and introducing new products in support of its aim to provide relevant, quality, ‘rich’ content in search results. We have seen the buy-out of YouTube; the launch of its own social network Google +; the growth of its Knowledge Graph database, along with numerous algorithm updates. These factors, amongst others, are evidence of Google’s shift in focus away from keywords, towards a deeper understanding of search intent and the context in which those searches are made. This understanding is gained in part from Google’s knowledge of a user’s personal search history and preferences, click behaviour, social connections, content shared, and so on. The latest update, Hummingbird, is Google’s attempt to educate the search algorithm so that the same typed search query and mobile voice activated search (the latter often location specific and in question form in contrast to a typed phrase) both receive the same relevant search results. The proliferation of secure search and subsequent disappearance of natural search keyword data in analytics, and the emphasis on content sharing in Google Plus are also evidence that Google is turning its back on keywords, and focusing on the importance of fresh content.
What does this mean for digital marketing?
Set against the above background, it is clear that there is a requirement for rich content developed with an end market in mind, and a greater requirement for businesses to monitor and collect marketing data in order to better understand search context, and to inform future strategy.
A direct consequence of the increase in secure searches is a lack of corresponding keyword data from natural search queries. With the removal of this data from analytics, it is becoming more difficult to measure the effectiveness of keyword optimisation in online content, and in particular to attribute website goal conversions to specific keywords. Without this data, it makes it vitally important that brands and businesses know their market and its information needs, and develop content which meets those requirements. That content also needs to be able to answer a prospect’s search query whether typed into a browser, or spoken into a mobile device.
“Sites that are currently developing rich content that seek to answer more comprehensive questions, rather than keywords or phrases, will increase their chances of ranking well with the new update.” 
Developing rich content which matches user queries will arguably achieve greater reward when attributed to a brand or business via the Authorship tag, which is a signal to Google of credibility and uniqueness. Google sees social interaction as an endorsement that content is valuable and relevant, so compelling content which users interact with and share will also be rewarded with rankings.
As Google moves away from keyword focused website marketing, brands wishing to succeed on the internet will require a deep understanding of their target market – the type of devices used to perform searches; preferred channels of communication and forms of content, the kind of solution based marketing approaches which drive conversions, and so on. Armed with this knowledge, marketers will need to provide compelling content that best answers a user’s query in order for it to rank. In the absence of organic search keyword data, and the prevalence of secure search and personalisation, it is a challenge. But the answer lies in one of the deepest rooted concepts of pure marketing – knowing your customers and their information requirements, and providing plenty of fresh content which is of interest and therefore likely to be shared.
Account Director at Web Results Direct, AD Communications’ web marketing and SEO partner agency.
 In this context, ‘rich content’ implies the use of multimedia
 searching whilst signed in to a Google account and/or using the latest version of Firefox and iOS to browse
 http://www.searchenginejournal.com/3-ways-content-will-affected-googles-latest-hummingbird-update/ Rick Egan, Search Engine Journal, 27th September 2013