Google recently celebrated their 15th birthday by announcing a release of the latest search engine algorithm update, known as Hummingbird. Built to handle more complex search queries, this update focuses enhances Google's ability to understand the meaning between word combinations rather than just looking for keywords.

Keyword Optimization Takes a Back Seat

Reading between the lines on Google's most recent actions seems to point to the de-prioritization of keywords. This hunch is strengthened by another recent move by the search giant by encrypting all keyword search data. No longer will digital marketers be able to determine exactly which search queries sent traffic to their website. This classic SEO metric has been critical for optimizing a website for specific keyword phrases.

Google is being very transparent in the way they're nudging digital marketers to optimize for audiences rather than keywords.

Great SEO is Now Just Great Marketing

The first decade of SEO marketing was much like being a librarian: we categorized, optimized, organized and tagged our websites to give search engines the ability to understand the context and meaning of our content. Recent search engine algorithm updates have made this librarian-like process obsolete since the latest technological breakthroughs can understand context, meaning and quality without needing all of the tagging and categorization.

Today, great SEO looks much more like great marketing, as Matt Cutts of Google mentioned in May of this year. As marketers, we get to focus on delighting our audiences, creating engaging content that gets shared and promoting our brands in a genuine fashion all over the Web. Keyword optimization has given way to audience optimization, and link building has given way to digital public relations.

SEO isn't going anywhere, but it's evolving every day.

Focus on Longtail Keyword Search

Longtail keywords are typically longer search queries that are more specific in nature. For a long time, savvy digital marketers have targeted this lucrative traffic segment and boosted online sales and marketing objectives as a result. The increased specificity of longtail keywords makes this traffic segment the most lucrative in search, since someone with a very specific question about your products or services is typically more informed and further along the buying cycle.

Think of it this way: if you were selling shoes at the mall, would you rather sell to a customer asking for "men's shoes," or would you rather take the customer asking for "Red Nike Shox in a Size 10″? It's no wonder that longtail keyword phrases convert at more than 2.5 times the rate of head keyword phrases.

The Hummingbird update--and other updates to follow--will continue to serve better search results for more specific and complex search queries. Digital marketers need to pounce on this opportunity to be more relevant to their target audiences and dial down the keyword optimization approach. The result will be a stream of branded content that is more relevant to search engines and the target audience.