“Precise and fast” – the two words Google uses to describe Hummingbird. Hummingbird is Google’s new search ranking algorithm that reportedly impacts more than 90 percent of searches. Undoubtedly, you have been hearing A LOT about this Hummingbird update over the past couple of months. But, what does Hummingbird really mean for your company?

Below we describe a brief overview of Google Hummingbird, who is affected, and the top 4 things you can do (or keep doing) to stay atop search engine results pages (SERPs) after Hummingbird.

What is Google Hummingbird?

The latest and most significant search algorithm update by Google, experts believe Hummingbird was implemented in September of 2013.  Bottom line, Hummingbird is focused on semantic search, helping users find the right information at the right time.  But what is Semantic Search? Simply put, this means that increasingly complex questions will offer increasingly useful answers (conversational).

In combination with an increased focus on semantics, is a decreased focus on keywords in a query. Instead, Hummingbird is paying more attention to the combination of words and the meaning of the search query as a whole, essentially determining the intent behind the search.

Who is affected?

Well, many are claiming to be affected. 90 percent of searches are reportedly affected and some webmasters are complaining of severe drops in rankings. So far, there haven’t been any straight answers, and we are faced with the usual unpredictability of Google. However, there are some websites that have a higher chance of being affected negatively: websites that are keyword focused and websites utilizing blackhat SEO techniques. Also a new feature, Google’s Information Card will potentially steal traffic from website owners.

One Keyword Strategy – Keyword optimization should no longer be your sole focus (though it shouldn’t have been anyways). “The future is about things, not [keyword] strings” (Matt Cutts – Head of Web Spam at Google).

Blackhat – Google is always making updates in an effort to reduce webspam and, not surprisingly, Hummingbird is another step in that direction. Blackhat SEO is never recommended. Quality content is king.

Information Card – Google utilizes information from its Knowledge Graph to provide answers to user queries using an “Information Card”. Information Cards are displayed at the top of a SERP (top/right/both). For example, a search for Chicago compiles relevant information from around the web (Knowledge Graph) and provides the following:

Knowledge Graph

While Information Cards are a neat feature implemented by Google for users, it will undoubtedly affect traffic and CTRs of websites who are ranking for information available in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Top 4 Things to Do After Google Hummingbird

1. Answer Questions/Provide a Solution

With this search update, marketers will need to develop increasingly complex responses to searches.  The message can be developed as an answer rather than a keyword logged string of important words.

Stop looking to see what specific keywords on which to focus.  Understandably, you have been fighting to find ways around the ‘not provided’ problem that has been facing marketers; but really, you should have focused on finding ways to embrace how people would look for your company if asking a person.

Content Ideas:

  • FAQs (frequently asked questions) Page
  • Relevant Website Landing Pages with Page titles and content: how, where, why, what, etc.
  • How To or Tips blog posts/landing pages

2. Claim Google+ Authorship

Hopefully you already have, but if you haven’t claimed authorship, do it now! Google loves Google. Therefore, an increased priority on all Google products should be leverage. Here is a step-by-step guide to setting up authorship.

3. Schema.org

If it getting added to Webmaster tools wasn’t indication enough of the increased importance of structured data, many believe that Hummingbird will make it even more important. Schema markup makes it easier for Google to extract information and serve up information not necessarily based on keywords. Database-driven websites, in particular, should employ the additional step of on-page markup code. Visit http://schema.org for more information.

4. Use Conversational Language

Long tail keywords won’t necessarily be disappearing, instead they will be focused on intent rather than keyword strings. “There will definitely be shifts here, but the exact path this will take is hard to project. In the long term though, the long tail will be defined by long tail human desires and needs, not keyword strings” (Copyblogger).

Therefore, understanding user intent is of increased importance as you shape your content strategy.


In Deference to the Holiday Season—Tie It Up with a Bow

The Google search engine still commands about 70% of all search volume, with Micorsoft (Bing), Yahoo and hundreds of other search engines vying for the balance (Source comScore). So when Google changes, SEO practices must follow. Now as before, useful and educational content will be key. Formatting the content to answer popular semantic questions will be important, along with some additional steps for authorship, and Schema code. Social networks continue to drive and command more authority. There are many SEO consultants out there, so make sure yours understands Hummingbird with some tough questions. If not, fly away as fast as your little Hummingbird wings allow.

Additional Resources:

Did Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm Hurt Your Site’s Rankings? – Search Engine Roundtable

How to Set Up Google Authorship – Social Media Today

SEO Best Practices  – Modern Marketing Partners

Google Webmaster Tools

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