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Google Hummingbird: positive and negative factors for SEO

Google hummingbird seo

BREAKING NEWS: 10/5/2013 Google has just confirmed that they have released another update of the Penguin algorithm, sending many sites into a tailspin. It seems the focus was upon sites that had ‘thin content’ and were older than a few months. While ‘Hummingbird’ was a change to the engine itself, ‘Penguin 2.1’ was a change of the filter designed to keep the engine clean. Time will tell if it succeeded or not. You can watch our video below for some ramblings on Penguin 2.1 and its negative effects upon people’s SEO efforts.

Google, a company that is unwilling to sit still for a moment, recently launched another new update to its search algorithm. Known affectionately as “Hummingbird”, perhaps the one bird that best reflects the fast and nimble nature of Google itself, the update is getting a good deal of attention by nervous SEOs and website owners. The purpose of the Hummingbird algo, like those that preceded it, is to scan all the data Google has related to the terms people search for, then deliver what it thinks are the most relevant results.

Why does this matter to website owners? The answer is simple: Each update that Google unleashes upon the web determines where millions of websites will rank for hundreds of millions of lucrative search terms. Oh, you were #1 for several months for the phrase ‘plastic surgeon’? That’s nice…now, after the update, you’re suddenly #31 and your appointment book is no longer packed.

Site owners, even those who follow Google’s TOS to a T, often go from hero to zero after such updates. Gaining the coveted top spots in Google search often feels like being part of an online lotto where one hopes and prays that the algorithm-of-the-moment will shine upon one’s site. Making that happen, however, is like trying to hit a rapidly moving target, so it is crucial to know how to respond to each update.

Before the advent of this technology, the efficiency of search engines was much lower and allowed for SEO’s and website owners to rank by simply blasting keyword-targeted links at blogs and forums; the tools used to do these blasts, however, became a little less effective once the algos became more efficient.

In the next generation of algorithm updates in 2012-2013, SEO became more of a game about who could write relevant content on a regular basis…basically, providing value to the end-user. That meant the death of spun, spammy articles (thank goodness!), and private blog networks designed to manipulate search engine rankings. What mattered during this phase, and is still relevant today, is intelligently written articles that are released on a relatively common basis.

How does hummingbird affect search?

Hummingbird adds a new dimension to search. The algorithm, according to Google, can search based upon user intent, not just the search terms used. Let me restate that. Google Hummingbird aims to deliver what it believes you want when you type in your search terms. It aspires to read between the lines, so to speak! For those who might have missed it, that means your keywords, on their own, actually mean less than they used to.

So reaching the people you want with your website means that you must take this nuance into consideration. However, in the real world, it appears Hummingbird is anything but perfect. For instance, I was searching for a film the other night that had to do with moving abroad, and typed ‘movie about moving’…the first page of results was filled with things about a Richard Pryor movie called Moving from the late 80’s…not quite, Hummingbird.

But what is the method to the madness? The team at Negative SEO Guy thinks that part of the reason for this new approach to search is likely tied to the fact that consumers can now speak their search requests using their smartphones. Mobile devices have led the way in voice recognition technology and thus the popularity of voice search is quickly being adopted by more users every day. Voice is probably going to be the future of search. With that in mind, SEO providers must understand that the spoken word is more casual, colloquial, and rather different than the written word. Hummingbird and its successors will aim to incorporate this new frontier into the way search results are determined.

Birdwatching tips for the Hummingbird

“Know thine enemy” has always been worthy advice for soldiers and people in commerce. It is also especially true when immersed in the internet marketplace. You must always be looking for an edge to keep yourself sharp and quick, because your competition is hungry. Here are some tips to keep you in the hunt.

  • Do what I do not what I say. The Hummingbird algorithm is less concerned about what someone says compared to what it assumes he or she means or wants. This fact suggests that your SEO content has to be hyper-specific in order to make it clear that you are writing to answer a particular question or wish of the searcher (ex: there is a difference between a phrase like ‘How can I remove an online mugshot?’ and ‘remove mugshot’). Don’t just write content around a set of key terms.
  • Get the big picture. Search optimization for a specific word or two just will not cut it anymore. Google and others are looking at the big picture when it comes to fulfilling search requests. As you build your new and authoritative content, remember that your niche just got a whole lot bigger because you are now competing on several different levels. Think: What are the ten most common questions about my product or service…once you have this in mind, start writing and posting answers.
  • Theme yourself. Google has a distinct understanding of how it thinks people view the world, and it is trying to provide beneficial and relevant information to the searcher. It is aware, based upon the searcher’s past and recent search history, whether the user is likely to be a college student, senior citizen, a teenager. It is looking for a theme related to individual search. Think of your content as being part of an overall brand management strategy that seeks to answer questions that the world you know is asking.

Now that you have a bit more insight concerning the new model of internet search, courtesy of Hummingbird, you need a partner in the game. An important point to consider regarding the Google Hummingbird algorithm is that its aspiration to be a mind reader is adds a layer of complexity to search that can mean all the difference in your website’s visibility. Our little team at Negative SEO Guy is at the forefront of Search Engine Optimization and we already have Hummingbird-friendly strategies in place, ready for use.

Because Hummingbird is intent-focused, it is designed to remove “fluff” language, filler pieces, keyword-laden articles, and the like from its search results. What does that mean for you? If you have something to say, to advertise or otherwise promote, be swift, succinct, intelligible, and readable. The quality of your content has never been so important. As experts in this arena, we break down the content conundrum piece by piece and helps to produce and disseminate reliable content that serves your needs. Your content paints the portrait of who you are in every form of search ability. The team at Negative SEO Guy has the expertise to present a consistent, discoverable, singular voice for you that cuts the clutter and creates the sweet nectar that is sure to attract and satiate Hummingbird’s quest for the most relevant sites.


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