What’s The Word, Hummingbird? Another Google SEO Life Form Altogether

Reading “No, SEO isn’t dead,” or some form thereof, from the search pundits is almost as annoying as reading that it is dead from people who don’t know any better.  But over a month ago, Google released its latest algorithm, Hummingbird, and that’s stirred the SEO pot just a bit.

What makes the announcement of this change last month so important is that this isn’t just an update, like Panda or Penguin. This is an actual algorithm change, and we haven’t seen one of those since 2010 when Google launched Caffeine.  There haven’t been a lot of details released by Google, except to say that this latest change was designed to serve the way we search now, instead of the way we searched ten years ago.

So what does this mean for search? It means it’s evolving into another creature. 

This post serves as a comprehensive, one-stop-shop for the best Google Hummingbird information available on the web.  We’ve curated news, blog posts, opinion pieces and more from industry experts and trusted resources, and broken it down for you into an easily absorbable digest:

  • Google Hummingbird Essentials
  • How Hummingbird Impacts Mobile SEO
  • Social Media and Google Hummingbird
  • Hummingbird and the Impact on Small Business

Let’s start with the foundation of search, which means remembering that while marketers may feel Google is out to make it more difficult to rank well in SERPs, Google is actually trying to make search friendlier for users.  It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about algorithms and updates and penalties, but the reality is that it’s better to get caught up in expanding your views as to what makes amazing, relevant, unique, and highly valuable content.

There’s a reason that many of the resources listed in this article have titles like, “What does Google Hummingbird mean for users/businesses/SEO/marketers?”  It’s because searchers have moved beyond caveman SEO queries comprised of three words to asking Google questions or long-tail queries that have semantic relevance. This is especially crucial for mobile search, which we know is only growing.  Fewer people fumble through typing keywords on their mobile device when they can use voice search to get to the information they desire.

In other words, searchers no longer need just one angle of information, they crave five results that will provide a holistic view of the query as a whole, helping them make an informed decision without jumping through SERPs to get there. Hence, the invention of the Knowledge Graph.

We’ll borrow an example from Danny Sullivan, over at Search Engine Land.  It used to be that when a searcher wanted information on acid reflux, Google would serve up a list of results pertaining to medication for treating acid reflux. But the Knowledge Graph has changed that game.  Who’s to say that the searcher just wanted a list of meds?  In reality, Google knows that users wanted more than just a list of solutions. They wanted to understand the symptoms of acid reflux, the cause, the treatment, the ways to prevent it, and so on.

FAQ: All About The New Google Hummingbird Algorithm | Search Engine Land | Danny Sullivan | 9/26/13
Google Hummingbird, and What It Means For Online Marketers and SEO | Search Engine Journal | Marcella De Vivo | 10/03/13
The Google Hummingbird Patent? | SEO by the Sea | Bill Slawski | 9/27/13
Google Hummingbird Update, Explained | Information Week | Thomas Claburn | 9/27/13
INFOGRAPHIC: A Guide to Hummingbird | Business2Commuity | Chelsea Stenger | 10/09/13

How Hummingbird Impacts Mobile SEO
steel birdIn the days of yore, SEOs used to get by with writing content that walked a fine line between user readability and engine indexability.  Keywords were emphasized and the end result was a page that was useful enough, but not so useful that you could avoid clicking through to another page or site altogether. Panda and Penguin did a good job of weeding out a lot of the mess, but the importance of mobile has literally changed the way people search.

When users are on a mobile device, they’re more likely to search using voice queries that heavily rely on intent.  They use natural sounding question queries more often than grunting out keywords. Google knows that when a user searches for a restaurant on a mobile device, they likely want information like location, hours of availability, reviews on social sites, or a phone number, more than a heavily-worded website with rich descriptions and sound bites. It’s about ease of use for mobile searchers, and that’s lead to an evolution in ease of search.

Mobile users want information the easy way.  On the Official Google Search blog, they offer up an example of “compare butter and olive oil,” the perfect demonstration of how user queries have forced content marketers to evolve (i.e., it’s no longer “the difference between butter and olive oil”).  Savvy marketers understand that Google is doing more than ever before to make sure users get not only what they want, but also the information they are likely to want after having the needs of their initial query met.

Google Hummingbird: A Mobile Content Marketing Strategy Just Became Essential | Forbes | Jason DeMers | 10/01/13
Why is Google Sweating Siri? Because the Future is What You ‘Say’ It Is | Digital Trends | Kate Knibbs | 10/10/13
Things Not Strings: How Google’s New Hummingbird Algorithm Sets the Stage for the Future of Mobile Search | VentureBeat | Ricardo Bilton | 10/02/13
Google’s Knowledge Graph Gets Smarter With Comparisons and Filters | Search Engine Land | Matt McGee | 09/26/13

Social Media and Google Hummingbird
If there is anything that the SEO community can learn from the social media community, it’s that influence, authority, conversation, and relationship matter in content marketing.  Social signals are not yet so important to search rankings that Hummingbird will have a major impact on social media just yet, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.  After all, social media is RICH with inspiration for semantic content ideas.

Facebook recently announced that users can now search comments and status updates inside Graph Search, the social equivalent to the Knowledge Graph.  Social media marketers need to evolve beyond cutesy ploys for engagement and start implementing tried-and-true SEO tactics like using keywords and implementing more semantic relevancy in their social updates.  Not only does this help foster a better user experience, it sets the stage for success when social signals become even more integrated in the determination of SERPs (which they inevitably will).

Keywords and #Hashtags and Hummingbird, Oh My! | Search Engine Watch| Michelle Stinson-Ross | 10/08/13
10 Ways Google’s Hummingbird Will Shape Future SEO and Content Marketing | Social Media Today| Steve Rayson | 10/05/13

Hummingbird and the Impact on Small Business
Local businesses rejoice! If anything, smaller businesses with a niche market should see more traffic as a result of the Hummingbird update.  Again, the adoption of mobile devices means that Google has refined its algorithm to look for relevance.  As an example, someone with a desktop browser might search, “buy new headphones Duluth,” but that same person out running errands might query, “closest place to buy headphones,” so he/she can scan all the options nearby.

Similarly, local search queries might evolve contextually with the Hummingbird update.  Does someone inputting “best surround sound stereo systems” want to know which of these items “are the best” or are they more interested in which places have “the best” prices on these items?  The good news is that Hummingbird is aware that they could want both, and this is an opportunity for local businesses to update their older content accordingly to optimize for that experience.

What ‘(Not Provided)’ & Google Hummingbird Mean For Small Business SEO | Search Engine Watch| Adam Stetzer | 10/07/13
What Google’s Hummingbird Update Means For Small Business | Business News Daily| Sara Angeles | 10/08/13
SEO Changes Force Merchants to Diversify Traffic | Practical Ecommerce| Dale Traxler | 10/09/13

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