The introduction of Hummingbird flew (pun intended) stealthily under most radars. Until Google made the official announcement in late September 2013, the majority of webmasters net-wide had no idea any change had been made. The massive algorithm overhaul affected 90% of searches performed by Google, which considering the covert implementation, makes going undetected that much more impressive.
Panda and Penguin were updates that became familiar speak for SEO’s. These adjustments to the existing algorithm brought changes that targeted low quality sites and spammy tactics, respectively. Hummingbird, however, was not just an update; it was an overhaul of the entire algorithm.
With this complete redo in place, the most noticeable change in the way that Google’s searches were performed rested on semantic search. Prior to Hummingbird, Google would base their results on keywords. In itself, this isn’t bad if searches were formulated appropriately. However, most people rely on using a conversational tone (“Where can I buy Lady Gaga’s perfume?”). The previous version of the algorithm would most likely have produced results that focused on “buy” and “perfume,” which isn’t exactly yielding conducive results. Hummingbird now has the capacity to consider the conversational aspect of the query, and would ideally collect results that would take the user to sites that feature Lady Gaga’s perfume.
A nice plus to the Hummingbird implementation is that when searches are performed on a mobile device, the results are based on the proximity of the user. This is especially handy when searching for restaurants, gas stations, etc.
What Did It Do?
Essentially, if your site was following white hat SEO practices, you were likely unaffected (and perhaps even benefited) from the algorithm overhaul. However, if your site contained unnatural links that didn’t feel organic, odds are Hummingbird potentially harmed your site. Sites with spammy content that were attempting to gain keyword recognition also likely suffered a loss in traffic.
What’s The Next Step?
At the core of every update that Google implements is an effort to better meet the needs of its users. Hummingbird is no exception, and is likely just the beginning of similar improvements to follow. In order to allow your site to not only survive, but thrive under the new search parameters, there are a couple steps to take.
1. Be Organic
Only use content that is true to your site—do not use “fluff” or “filler” content in order to get a bunch of keyword placement. Rather, fill your pages with informative, relevant content that enriches your site and supports your overall mission.
2. Keep the User in Mind
In order to stay on top of the search engine game, Google knows that it needs to keep the users close at heart. Subsequently, it would serve sites well to do the same. Anticipate the potential needs of users and use content to answer questions that visitors to your site may have. Focus on providing unique content that emphasizes your product/mission/purpose etc. The more organic the content is, the more the algorithm appreciates the site.
It’s safe to assume that Google will continue to provide updates that promote user experience and reprimand black hat SEO tactics. Subsequently, continuing to abide by the algorithms established guidelines and pursing original, organic content will serve everybody better in the long run.
Resource Box: Jameson Ballinger is a writer and web enthusiast. Jameson currently works with Z Networks Group based in Miami and has spent what feels like full decades of his life living and breathing web design, web marketing and analytics.