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Who Defines Marketing? Google's Shift to Authority

For years I've been frustrated with Google results when it comes to the definition of marketing, the top site was always Wikipedia. My frustration arose from the fact that Wikipedia was taking content from the authors of the definition, sites like the American Marketing Association or the Chartered Institute for Marketing in the UK.

Google search is a key part of the eco-system of the web. People use search to find stuff, however, things change and now people use social to also find stuff.

Shareaholic's data might be a little self-serving, but it illustrates the point; there's been a shift towards social.

That shift to social influences everything, even search, when participating in social networks and communities we search for stuff. I believe Google recognizes its share of the larger web search pie could be bigger if Google can build its search services into social.

For the last 3 to 4 years Google has been responding to the changes in how the eco-system of the web works, getting rid of spam, and bad content from appearing in rankings by lowering the ranking of sites, or removing them from the Google search index with the updates to the algorithm; Penguin, Panda and Pigeon. As a result Google's results in recent years have become more relevant.

Now social was not the cause of all of these changes, but a factor, and also a factor in how Google has thought about major changes to its algorithm.

How Hummingbird Brings New Confidence to Google Search Results

Yet another update, Hummingbird, wasn't about removing spam, but an attempt at modeling a searcher's intentions.

Hummingbird is an attempt to rank sites because of associated topical content with a search term, hummingbird reviews the syntax or word order of a search request and from the resulting analysis attempts to understand the intent of the searcher.

For example the search request "orange vs. apple juice" indicates the searcher is looking for a comparison of the two types of juices, the vs. and the combination of the two fruits with the word juice means that the search is about comparison rather than an orange or apple juice.

Definition of Marketing

Today, if you search on the definition of marketing instead of Wikipedia you'll see the American Marketing Association's page on the definition of marketing. Hummingbird's update to Google's algorithm means you get the definition of marketing within the Google search results from a handy data box, and those results come from the American Marketing Association. To me it seems only fair to point to the authority that has defined marketing over the years, the AMA, for the definition of marketing, rather than a site like Wikipedia that might just cite the AMA's definition. Yet a few years ago you'd have seen Wikipedia at the top of Google for that search query.

Good. Hummingbird is helping to pinpoint the authority on topics, that's a step in the right direction, but I wonder when Wikipedia will stop popping up for the term marketing? I certainly don't see Wikipedia as an authority on the term. The AMA or MarketingProfs seem like sites to check in on for the pulse on what is marketing today.

Speculating on How Hummingbird Works

If Hummingbird is able to understand the whole meaning of a sentence and make the connection between concepts and ideas to an authority, then to become the authority on a topic on Google you need to invent an idea and become known that for idea by spreading it around to your community. I think social media can help with the spread of new ideas because people are talking with one another, and conversation has the ability to generate more content, and provide more quality content because you bring more minds to the problems.

Google's index will track the text references to the association, and give you credit, right? Well not so fast. If you conduct a search on who invented the theory of relativity, your expectation might be that the answer would be Albert Einstein, but Albert is dead, and he died long before the web appeared, in that case which site should gain a top ranking for his story?

Guess what, this is where Google's Hummingbird returns the answer, Albert Einstein, but the site that is referenced as the top authority on the answer is Cracked. The article referenced on Cracked.com was about top inventors who apparently stole their big idea, including Einstein. At first I thought this was a little off-putting, but if true, it makes sense we are looking for the answer, and if that answer is murky, surely its great Google references an article that casts doubt on the original source of the concept.


Yet, I cannot help think that Cracked's citations or links had a part to play in the discussion. Or maybe there's enough correlations between Einstein, the theory of relativity and Poincaré (the other claimant) and Cracked's article did a really good job of laying out the claims, and the site got the top position. I'm speculating that it was Cracked's well written article which was about that topic of who really invented the theory of relativity, and the number of overall citations that gained the site a top spot. Wikipedia's referenced article on the topci only referenced Poincaré once.

The issue might be my search, instead of who invented the theory of relativity, if you search on 'who invented the general theory of relativity' and 'the special theory of relativity', the resulting top sites are both Wikipedia.  Cracked didn't reference these terms.


So to gain the top spot on Google's Hummingbird you have to have a good grasp on your topic, include all of the keywords someone maybe searching on, and have enough links or citations to substantiate your credibility.

Back to Marketing

How did Google determine that the AMA was the source of the definition for marketing, was this all just a matter of links, or is there some reference checker on text citations, because if that's the case Hummingbird really is an improvement to the search results for Google, as Google isn’t relying as much on links. Here are some points to think about in the battle for ranking for Hummingbird:

  1. Your site has to be respected - You gain authority through links.
  2. You have to develop quality content - I've always found the idea of quality content to be slightly mythical, similar to the idea of the tooth fairy I like the idea of it, but I don't know exactly what it looks like. If Hummingbird does a better job of identifying quality content through its analysis of text, the definition of quality content for search marketing is that if you don't reference text on your page that should be associated with an idea or concept you'll be less likely to rank.
  3. Backlink references - Probably the references to your individual article on the topic must also include relevant text to make the appropriate association.

Nothing new here in that we all have heard for years that developing quality content is important. What's new is that Google is at last developing its algorithm beyond simple text analysis to meaning analysis by reviewing the word order and associated text. There should be less emphasis on links and more on text both on your own site, and on others. The issue here is to write an article that does a good job of covering all of the keywords in the right context. And then having enough links of authority that beat the competition.

If we wanted to encourage MarketingProf’s or the AMA to beat Wikipedia for the single search term ‘marketing,’ here are some ideas:

Your site needs to both define marketing, and provide content that includes all of the keywords and related context associated with marketing. SEO at its core is about two things.

  1. Include keywords on your site that people search on.
  2. Have links from other authority cites that hopefully include keywords your audience searches on.

The first tactic is the most basic Google cannot hope to find your site, if you don't include keywords on your site. With Hummingbird maybe I amend that to 1. Include Keywords and contextual meaning that your audience searches on.