Google’s latest algorithm Hummingbird has had a substantial impact on websites and SEO. It means that adapting to the new way of doing things online is vital if you want your commercial website to rate well with Google and other search engines.
What is Hummingbird again?
Hummingbird was launched by Google in September 2013, and is a search algorithm that is geared more towards determining the actual intent and meaning behind search terms entered by users than about mere keyword matching. In that sense you can refer to it as being about ‘smart search’.
How Hummingbird has changed SEO
Unlike Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithms, which hone in on poor quality sites and spam, Hummingbird is broader and more expansive in its focus. It revolves around semantic search – the meaning behind the use of language. As such it aims to deliver results to users that provide them with a broader range of answers and solutions to their questions and problems than before, including providing answers to questions they may not have yet thought of asking. This means the use of specific keywords has become less effective, and the focus has moved to long-tail keyword phrases.
Life after Hummingbird
As a website owner, if you have always been very user-focused and keen on providing high-quality information and solutions to your customers, then you may not have noticed much, if any, difference to your rankings. However, any site owner whose content and information was lacking might be noticing a need to lift their game a bit in the post-Hummingbird SEO landscape. The good news is that this really isn’t hard to do.
What can be done
Really, when you break it down, it’s basically about creating a site that is user-centric and provides useful information and answers to the questions people have. While there are no special magic tricks to this, there are many actions you can take (including some techie-sounding ones) to increase your site’s chances of ranking better.
Provide great content:
Producing compelling, useful and original content on a regular basis remains a top priority in the post-Hummingbird SEO era. This can be done through weekly blog posts for instance on relevant topics, or through infographics and videos. It’s important to ensure your content is as natural as possible and not full of meaningless or out-of-place keywords, but instead aims to address problems or issues your customers may have. We have written more about producing great content here.
Create user-friendly pages:
Page layouts and design factors can and do make a difference in improving your users’ experiences. A good way of discovering what works for your website is to use A/B testing tools or Google Experiments to test out the response to different versions of a landing page.
It’s also important to have a site that is easy to navigate through from one page to another and back again. This minimises the chance of potential customers getting frustrated and going elsewhere.
Having meaningful page elements is also important. For instance, page URLs should reflect the title and focus of the page rather than be full of meaningless characters and symbols. Other elements such as title tags and meta tags should be rich in information and meaningful to users and to Google.
Optimise for mobile devices:
With a vast proportion of the population using smart phones and other devices for internet shopping and searching, optimising for mobile has become essential to small businesses that wish to remain competitive.
Engage more with your audience:
This one is a biggie in the modern internet-marketing world! Customers can get pretty frustrated with companies that do not communicate well or interact with them. This means you may need to be more open to communication through such means as social media sites, or perhaps regular informative e-newsletters.
What it all boils down to
Basically, it means being on the same page as Google – that is, being focused on determining what your users want and need and delivering the best. Having this understanding forms the basis of all good SEO – just as it does for any form of marketing, whether it is online or not.