On October 3 last year, Google announced the release of a brand new algorithm.
They named it “Hummingbird” and it’s set to revolutionise the way we search.
I know there are lots of you reading this now – throwing your arms up in dismay – as you wonder just what impact this latest change will have on your business. After all, you’ve seen it before with Penguin, Panda and the countless other algorithm updates. It’s hard to keep up to speed – especially when it seems that all the good work you’ve implemented to boost your organic rankings, quickly gets taken away.
But fear not! All is NOT as it seems.
That’s because, regardless of this latest algorithm change, Google’s objectives are still the same as they’ve always been.
In short, Google wants you to give the end-user the best possible search experience. Which means the sites that provide useful, relevant and interesting content will continue to be rewarded.
So what does Hummingbird mean for you?
Let’s take a closer look…
To start with, let’s explore the rationale behind Google’s latest innovation.
Interestingly, it starts with the growth of mobile search…
“Conversational” searches are leading the way
I love my smartphone. In fact, I can’t imagine not being connected on the go. But the thing with those tiny smartphone keypads is it’s not that easy to type. As a result, more and more people are using voice search when out and about.
As you’d expect, the phrases and search requests that emerge when you speak a query are very different from the keyword-focused enquiries you’ve learnt to type into Google.
Google has identified this change, and has responded.
In the past, websites ranked for keywords.
But with Hummingbird, Google has just got a whole lot smarter. Instead of matching individual words, Google is now able to decipher the meaning of phrases with concepts. In short, we’re seeing a shift away from matching clunky keywords to a match for natural language.
Matt Cutt’s summarised this as: “The future is about things, not keyword strings.” And as a quick recap, what this means is:
- The importance of keyword-centric content is diminishing
- The importance of content written in natural language is increasing
But don’t worry! This shift is actually good news for sites who have been doing their SEO right…
That’s because Google has said all along that you need to write for the end-user. Don’t try to play the game or find the SEO loopholes because they WILL be closed. It’s why shortsighted, spammy tactics such as unnatural links and keyword stuffing no longer work. Instead, you need to:
- Ensure you have high-quality, original, relevant content on your site
- Ensure you have high-quality, relevant websites linking to your site
This advice is nothing new.
In fact, this advice repeats what Google has said in the past. Follow these two rules and you’ll be rewarded. In comparison, try anything that offers a quick win or is spammy, and you’ll be punished. Simple.
What content works NOW?
If you’ve been writing for your end-user, using their language and writing content that matches the things they search for, the likelihood is you will automatically rank well under Hummingbird.
In addition, you now have a new opportunity to rank even higher (and drive even more FREE traffic to your website) for much less work.
Let me tell you why.
Let’s say you run a web design business.
In the past, you may have produced numerous pages of content to rank for common keywords such as “web design”, “web design ideas”, “web design basics” etc.
But since Hummingbird, Google is intelligent enough to know that all of these themes mean pretty much the same thing.
“Remember – Google is now starting to rank websites for themes NOT keywords.”
Therefore, instead of writing lots of disjointed articles, you can focus on creating that lovely evergreen “topic-related” content that uses the natural language your customers are using. You don’t need to create lots of repetitive content because Google can recognise your theme and rank you for your theme.
As a result, you may find that a really good piece of content will rank for a much wider range of search terms than before.
FAQ pages could also prove valuable – especially if you answer the questions people are asking (remembering to use natural language of course).
Another interesting avenue that’s worth exploring is “Google Suggest”. You may have noticed that when you start entering a search request, Google automatically “suggests” some search queries that you might be interested in (a bit like predictive text on your mobile). These suggestions are based on the volume of searches and provide an insight into what people are searching for. In turn, Google Suggest can help you isolate groups of keywords that are relevant to your site AND reveal what people want to know about. It’s a new way to identify natural language patterns and pick content themes to write about.
It’s true. The Google landscape is changing again. And I predict that the arrival of Hummingbird is just the start.
But in my opinion, this latest change is a good thing because finally, you’ll be able to create (and be rewarded) for content that contains natural language patterns.
So put your end-user firmly in your mind and write for them.
- Write content that speaks their language
- Answer the pressing questions that are on their lips
- Make your content interesting and relevant
And you will be rewarded…
What do you think?
Have you noticed a change in your rankings since Hummingbird? Have you made any changes to your content strategy and seen a payback? Please let me know in the comments below.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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