What is Hummingbird?
Mobile penetration is on its peak and people’s interests in wearable technologies such as Google Glass or Smart Watch are on the rise. Voice-centric searches are predicted to take center stage in future. All these are changing the fundamental tenets of how people search. Queries are getting increasingly complicated. In response Google has rolled out its Hummingbird update, which, according to industry watchers is totally different from its previous updates (read Panda and Penguin). It represents the search giant’s pursuit for artificial intelligence.
With Panda and Penguin, Google’s focus was on cracking down on the spammers and penalizing them and stopping them from taking advantage of the search engine through black hat SEO practices.
Now that Internet marketers and talent-less content creators have come to realize the risks of using the same phrases over and over again in their contents, Google seems to have returned to its core mission, that is, to accurately understand users’ search queries and quickly delineate more relevant and accurate information. As such, its Hummingbird algorithm is designed to understand semantics– the meaning behind words– and users’ intent when they search and deliver a personally tailored result. Taking inspiration from this tiny but highly agile creature called hummingbird, this time the search giant’s emphasis is clearly on speed and accuracy.
What to expect from post-Hummingbird Google?
In the pre-Hummingbird era, search engine spiders were designed to comb the worldwide web for the websites and articles that contain keywords from your search. With Hummingbird, Google emphasizes on the semantic search technology—a technology that uses artificial intelligence in order to understand the searcher’s intent and the meaning of the query.
While in its previous state, Google search engine used to scan the texts and matched them with the keywords in your search, in its post-Hummingbird version, Google will delve deeper into the keywords, trying to find out the relationship between the words/ phrases and attempt to understand what those words/phrases mean.
In a nutshell: Google will no longer look for the keywords in the query, instead it will look at the context of the query. Powered by its own database, Knowledge Graph, (a knowledge base containing information from a wide variety of sources) Google will strive to provide you with contextual information about your query, instead of just flushing a list of top ten websites that could best answer the question for you.
SEO after Hummingbird
In the post Hummingbird era, there will be less focus on the exact phrases used and more on the underlying meaning. Google is going to leverage many other technologies such as GPS technology to deliver more relevant information, a specific answer to a question As for example, if you search CCD from your mobile device, Google can detect your GPS location and based on its semantic technology, it knows that you are looking from an outlet nearest to you. Thus, with its Hummingbird update, what Google is trying to achieve is: going beyond keywords and deliver results on the basis of context and meaning.
This leads us to a pertinent question: does Hummingbird means good bye to keywords?
The answer is both yes and no.
Hummingbird does not seek to eliminate SEO from the system. The language of the search is still one of the key elements in semantic analysis of the content.
Again, in order to rank well in semantic search, putting keywords in your content won’t be enough–you will have to spin your contents specifically around it, so that your content reflects the actual meaning of those keywords.
Thus keyword research becomes even more important and keywords in semantic search have to focus on what that person actually means when searching for that keyword.
Let us take the example of smartphone. What are the things that a person could possibly mean when he/she search for “smartphoe”?
- Benefits of smartphones
- Different smartphone brands
- Prices of smartphones
- Latest smart phone platforms
- Smartphone apps
The possibilities are endless, literally.
Thus when you are creating content for the Hummingbird algorithm, it should be focused on answering a specific question relating to a specific keyword.
In a semantic search world, powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph, Google appears in the role of the information provider.
Thus in Semantic search, you are not only competing with your rival companies for ranking and clicks, but you’re competing against Google itself.
Content Strategy— after Hummingbird
For an experienced Internet marketer, it is not difficult to conclude on the basis of above discussion that post Hummingbird, content will continue to be the king.
In a post-Hummingbird world, Google analytics tool will not tell you what search phrases brought visitors to your site. (Previously the tool was used to find out keywords people were searching for when they went from the Google search engine to your website.)
Now the focus is on writing quality content that answers questions that your audience might have.
Apparently these two moves—Hummingbird roll out and the blocking access to keyword referral data— seem to be related and the part of a broader scheme. The search giant is seemingly on its way to move beyond typed keywords as the primary method of searching. This is a signal for the marketers that they should also reduce their reliance on the same.
And thus content creators are now required to be in sync with their audience. So forget about looking for the words that might bring people to your website, think about what types of questions your audience might want you to answer and what type of problem they want you to solve and what type of information you might help them with. In other words, create your content around your targeted audience’s wants and needs.
As such, your content should reflect your authority and grip over the specific topic area. When creating your content, you have to keep in mind that your contents should be better than anyone else to be rewarded by Google. This draws our attention to the importance of creating in-depth content. For the content creators, focus should be on showcasing your authority in your chosen space.
It is being speculated that with the Hummingbird update, Google has streamlined its algorithm to process social signals. The improved algorithm will enable Google to take into account the articles/ contents shared by your friends in your Google+ circles. Thus it opens the possibilities of Google+ impacting your SERP ranking in future.
With Google’s Hummingbird all set to take charge, should Internet marketers consider making changes in their existing content strategy? It is a million dollar question. And the answer depends on whether or not you have already aligned your content policy to the past updates, namely Panda and penguin updates and providing your audience with high quality content. If you consider your contents high quality in true sense of the term, it is unlikely that Hummingbird would affect your ranking to any considerable extent.
Those who have noticed a drop in traffic and haven’t refreshed their contents for long, should sit back and take notice—it is time for them to invest some time in creating useful content.
With conversational search predicted to be the norm of the future and Google’s efforts at keeping with the trend, it is evident that providing your audience with useful content that address their queries will be the key to your content strategy.
With a speculation of Google+ influencing future ranking, you will need to pay special attention to social media.
With mobile searches becoming increasingly popular, optimizing your content for mobile users becomes a absolute necessity.