Part II: All About the Hummingbird Update - GO.CO Blog

Howdy, .COers! Today we are bringing you another SEO-related blog post for your reading pleasure. At .CO, we believe knowledge is power, and we like to provide you with the industry information you need in order to succeed. Last year, we posted an in-depth series of posts that provide you with step-by-step info about how to ensure your site is adhering to SEO best practices. Now, we’ve moved onto a topic equally important to SEO—search engine algorithm changes.

In the first blog post of our series, we explained all about algorithm changes: what they are, why they are launched, and how they impact you. In the remaining blog posts, we’re going to break down each of the major algorithm changes that have been launched over the last years, and what they mean for you.

Today’s topic is all about the Hummingbird update.

What is the Hummingbird update?

Technically speaking, the Hummingbird update was not just an algorithm change, but rather an algorithm replacement. Previous changes, such as Panda and Penguin, addressed parts of the search engine algorithm; however, Hummingbird is an entire replacement.

What does it address?

The Hummingbird update is focused on conversational search, which is in fact becoming a very popular way people search. “What does ironic mean?” “How much should a newborn eat?” “Where is the closest Apple store?” These are all examples of conversational searches. Google uses information you’ve provided to further tailor the results it delivers. For example, if you’ve specified your home location as downtown Seattle, it will deliver results closest to you. It also addresses semantic search—which looks at relationships of queries within a search and the overall context.

Why did they call it Hummingbird?

Google has announced that it is called Hummingbird because, like a Hummingbird, it is “fast and precise”.

When did it come out?

Although Hummingbird was announced on September 26th, it had been in effect for months.

Why was it launched?

Like most updates Google launches, the aim of Hummingbird is to address the wants and needs of its searchers, and deliver the best search results. Its focus is on semantic search and better understanding the query…part of this means that Google will attempt to extract synonyms and return results that could apply to the entire search, not just an exact match. Google is trying to understand the overall intent and meaning of the query.

But, what does it mean for me?

Hummingbird focuses on the entire query and its meaning, not just the individual components. This means that SEO is less about keywords now, and more about the intent of the entire search. What this translates to is that when approaching the SEO aspect to your website, you’ll need to address searcher intent, and not solely think about keywords. Attempting to rank highly for keywords should be replaced with the goal of delivering the content most relevant to the entire query.

What should I do?

One of the best things you can do to ensure your SEO strategy is Hummingbird-compatible is to create quality content that addresses your all of your customers’ needs. For example, instead of targeting just the word “stroller”, consider targeting content for all of the stroller-related queries that your customers may be searching for, such as “newborn strollers”, “twin strollers”, “how to choose a stroller”, “stroller travel systems”, etc.

It is important to think about the following concepts:

  • Synonyms: Think about other ways to convey a keyword’s meaning. Integrate the synonyms in your content.
  • Related searches: Look at related searches for a keyword. What auto-suggest searches appear when a searcher types in their search? Use a tool like Ubersuggest to discover what related searches appear for a particular query. Keep those in mind when you are optimizing your site.
  • Searcher intent: Move away from a keyword-specific focus and think about a searcher’s overall intent, and how you can tailor your site accordingly.
  • Personas: Who are your customers? Who are your potential customers? User experience and marketing professionals have long been creating strategies around the different personas that they target. Keep the core principals in mind when it comes to integrating persona-based strategies into your SEO strategy. Use this as a starting point for your keyword research, then build content and SEO strategies out accordingly. A simple way to do this is to list all of the different types of customers or potential customers you have. Separate them and give each one a title. Then, list terms and qualities of each one. It helps to enlist the help of other team members. From there, conduct keyword research to get a list of target terms. You’ll be using those in your content creation. The goal is to keep in mind all of the different personas, not just one.

Don’t stress!

Although it was announced that Hummingbird affects 90% of searches worldwide, it is important to keep in mind that it had been in effect for months, without webmasters even noticing. Why is this? Well, partly because since it wasn’t announced yet, if websites were affected, webmasters had no way to know that Hummingbird could have been responsible. However, more than likely, Hummingbird was not to blame. This is because Hummingbird was not a change to the ranking factors of the current algorithm, but a new algorithm all together. It was not a penalty-centered update, but a new way of understanding a query.

The biggest takeaway is to build and maintain a website that is of great value to potential site visitors. Take a step back and make sure you continue to deliver great content tailored to users’ searches—the entire search, not just individual keywords within the search. Continue following SEO best practices, creating great content, building and maintaining a strong web presence, and striving to be the best destination for your potential customers.

We hope you’ve found this blog post helpful! In the weeks to come, we’ll be posting more blog posts explaining all of the other recent Google algorithm changes, and what they mean for you. Keep on keeping on, .CO friends!