What Hummingbird Means for SEO Strategies

You might have heard that Google has updated 1 how they are returning search results. This revamp of Google’s algorithm, named Hummingbird, represents one of the biggest changes for the search giant in the past twelve years. The question of course is what impact will this update have on your firm’s SEO practices?  Before we answer that question we need to look at what Hummingbird actually does.

Originally, Google was designed around a Boolean 2 or keyword search. This type of search allowed people to use words like AND, OR or NOT to help the search engines know that it should be filtering results based on documents that have both or some of the  terms being searched for. This is basically how nearly every search engine has worked since the beginning of the internet.  Hummingbird is an acknowledgement of how web use has matured and grown in complexity over the years. More and more often users will type whole questions into a search bar. Typically, people are not looking for a page with their exact question on it, but rather an answer to their question. For those that remember, this is what ask.com was supposed to do but had wildly varying results.  Users often found it easier to just complete a keyword search rather than deal with whatever result their question had produced. Hummingbird is an attempt by Google to change their results over to ones that are the most relevant to the information the user is actually looking for.  In essence, they are trying to find an answer to your question.

So how does Hummingbird impact your company’s SEO strategy? 3. The short answer is it doesn’t. There is a rather large caveat to this answer though. There is no need to change your company’s SEO strategy if your company has been listening to Google’s advice up to this point.4  There is a lot of technical advice on Google’s site such as making sure your links work and optimizing loading times to name a few. Beyond these basics of site design,  Google is also looking for companies to produce high-quality original content that is of value to people.  This is a frequent topic on this blog, but there is simply no way around it; content is king and it is here to stay.   There is also a long list of what not to do, such as copying content or link farming, so you avoid being punished in the search results page.5

Google has been leaning in the direction of making it easier for people to get answers for some time.  A simple search for any historical figure6 will return a short biography with relevant information on the right hand side of the search.  This is all a part of Google’s drive to make search easier and more relevant to users.

Google’s update to it’s algorithm has repercussions far beyond the world of search.   Google is making an argument for how people should experience the web.  They are saying that the internet should be able to respond to people’s requests as they get them and offer answers that are custom designed, in an intuitive manner, and that provides the  information they are actually looking for.  This is a tall order, but it is one worth considering.  How easy is it for people to interact with your web presence?  Is it intuitive?  Does your web presence predict what people are going to be looking for prior to them realizing they need an answer to that question?  Google continues to set the bar high for companies that want their search results to be competitive, but there really is no secret to it.  Simply provide your visitors with high quality content that is relevant to what they are looking for and your reward will be consistently good search results.

1.  http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE98P11O20130926?irpc=932

2.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshsteimle/2013/09/27/what-does-googles-hummingbird-update-mean-for-your-seo-efforts-nothing/

3.  http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/B/Boolean_search.html

4. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769

5.  https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en

6.  https://www.google.com/#q=abraham+lincoln

Written By: Paul Scavitto (26 Posts)

Paul Scavitto holds a Masters Degree in Education and currently teaches English at a small private high school in Vermont. He has held positions in a number of industries including sales, state bureaucracy and corrections. His background includes training in business management and customer service best practices and he is an avid follower of trends in business technology. Currently, he is the lead writer for the Barcode Publicity Blog.


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