August 2013 was the month in which a new algorithm was launched by Google, albeit without the hype and expectation which surrounded recent updates such as the now-infamous Penguin and Panda. Hummingbird aimed to better match a user’s search intention to content in an efficient and effective manner.
For nearly a month the vast majority of the SEO world continued on without realising that the new algorithm was in place. Cue a frantic revision of data and heavy analysis on the part of many an SEO agent across the western world come the end of September 2013, when Hummingbird was officially ‘announced’.
Now we are past the initial hype, we ask precisely what effect has Hummingbird had on SEO, and what are the implications for SEO strategy going forwards into 2014?
The first point to note is that Hummingbird means that Google considers the whole sentence which is entered into the search. In doing so, it is hoped by Google that conversational search queries will be better catered to, as we move towards an age where more and more people will speak questions into their laptop, phone or iPad rather than type.
As such, content on websites must include a greater quantity and variety of full sentence which might be entered by a searcher. For instance, let’s say we are aiming to sell cars to a female demographic aged 25-40. Both the SEO executive and content writer for this particular website will need to carefully consider the types of phrases which may be entered by this group of people when looking for a new car:
- How can I find a cheap, decent car?
- What car is the most reliable?
- Which car is best for a baby?
- How do I know which car has the highest safety rating?
To name but a few examples. These questions and related phrases need to be included, as naturally as possible, both in the onsite content and related blog posts or pointing articles for the website.
According to recent research carried out by The Guardian, Hummingbird will also mean that the search results may favour higher calibre websites, even for very specific searches. So, whereas once ‘migraine prescription’ would have pointed primarily to sites listing different types of migraine relief options, the same search query would now point towards websites providing more general information on the origin, management and cure of migraines. Higher authority sites thus appear higher up the listings, and ‘spammy’ sites are pushed down. SEO agents may wish to consider improving and adding to the quality of information published on their websites, to give the user the all-round enhanced experience Google wants them to have.
Keywords are still relevant as they enhance the search results. However, repeated or awkward use of a few phrases should be avoided. In addition, Google will now be looking at authorship as a measure of a site’s trustworthiness in terms of content, so writers would be best placed creating Google Plus profiles and signing up to the Google Authorship mark up.
In conclusion, Hummingbird appears to have manageable and reasonable implications for SEO strategies, much to the relief of SEO specialists everywhere! By ensuring your content answers the questions your potential users are going to enter, you should improve the website’s ranking. Having high quality content relating to the whole spectrum of a subject will enhance your chances of being viewed as an ‘authority’ on a subject. It also seems that authorship will become increasingly important, so content writers in particular may wish to research this area thoroughly in the near future.