Hummingbird Update – Win-Win for original content
Hummingbird search algorithm is the new buzzword in the online world. Multiple explanations are floating around the web regarding Google’s Hummingbird. Every niche is using the ‘wait and watch’ policy on how they will be affected by this update. Let’s better understand what this buzz is all about.
What is a Search Algorithm?
Google uses a program/technology to sort through innumerable webpages and find information that it has stored in its data centers, to provide the best and most relevant results to a user. The search algorithm is updated regularly.
What does the Search algorithm do?
A search algorithm does three things:
1) Gets information from websites – Crawling
2) Gathers information – Indexing
3) Sorts information for relevance – Display Results
What happens when the algorithm is updated?
When the algorithm is updated, the display order, importance, and relevance of search results change and this is called a ‘search rank change’.
What is the frequency of updates of the Algorithm?
There is no set frequency for the updates. Google makes almost 2000 changes to algorithms and tests it with real-time data every month. Roughly 40% of the total updates make it to the algorithm change.
What makes Google change the algorithm at regular intervals?
Websites try to take advantage of Google by using black-hat techniques and try to cheat the search engine algorithm. Google releases algorithms to eradicate these black-hat techniques and also to update newer technologies.
What are black-hat techniques?
Black-hat techniques are aggressive techniques which are targeted towards search engines and not users. These techniques blatantly defy the search engine guidelines and influence them. E.g. -putting a keyword 15 times on a page, to influence the relevance of the page in search engines. This technique is called ‘keyword stuffing’.
What are the various updates?
For more than 3 years, Google has been naming and versioning its updates. The updates are:
Hummingbird Update – A deeper analysis
Hummingbird is an iconic update because Google changed its algorithmic core for the first time in 15 years. The update was released on September 26th, 2013, at the garage where Google first started its operation. Google believes the Hummingbird update is “precise and fast”.
What has changed in the core?
The old algorithm used to consider individual keywords or phrases to display relevant results. The Hummingbird update looks at the query as a whole, instead of attempting to identify the individual keywords or phrases in the search query. It considers the whole sentence and then looks for the most relevant results. In other words, the algorithm is paying more attention to each word in the query, ensuring that the whole query or the whole sentence/ conversation/ meaning — is taken into account, rather than just particular words.
Conversational search is what the new algorithm focuses on.
An example for Hummingbird:
Search Query – “What’s the closest place to my house, to buy the iPhone 5s?”
Traditional Search – Will display results on “buy” and “iPhone 5s”
Hummingbird – Will understand the location i.e. house, place = physical store, device = iPhone5s
Will Panda and Penguin be a part of the new algorithm?
Panda was an update against content spamming websites and the Penguin update was used to penalize sites with dubious backlinks. Both these updates were part of the old algorithm and will also continue to be a part of Hummingbird.
Google had started encrypting keywords for anyone who was logged into Google since October 2011. The reason stated by Google was privacy and that its aim was to block NSA spying activity. On September 21, 2013, Google started encrypting all the search activity and the timing was just right as it was just before the Hummingbird release.
Is SEO blind without the keywords?
Yes and No. Keywords will not be shown in Analytics, which is a big drawback for SEO and this is the reason SEO is blind. But the workaround is that the pages can be themed and the traffic to a page can be measured to understand the relevance. Also, the Google AdWords product can be used to generate a pattern and targeted keywords.
Long-Tail Keywords and Conversational Queries
Keywords with more than 2 words in the phrase are called Long-tail keywords. One of the main reasons is that the users utilize these keywords to refine their search. E.g. iPhone 5s sydney
Long-tail keywords have always been considered beneficial because they typically have a high conversion rate from highly-targeted visitors. Hummingbird will be looking at search strings of three, four, five, or more words, instead of breaking them down and providing results for the whole search string.
Long-tail keywords, which are normally added to pages during the natural process of writing high quality content, will generate more traffic for a website in the future.
Page Authority vs Homepage
Hummingbird will ensure Google displays the most appropriate page of a website to users, rather than a home page or a top-level page. Every single page will be targeted at potential visitors. This will not only help improve conversion rates, as part of a conversion rate optimization campaign, but also help drive traffic to the pages of a website via Google results.
Quality of Content
Hummingbird is a giant effort by Google to ensure good quality and relevant search results. Once a website is built on quality, Google will ensure that bounce rates drop and average sales value increases.
Is SEO dead?
An emphatic NO! High quality of content and a well-rounded content marketing plan are the winners. Websites need to find ways to cover the different aspects of the topic their site is related to. They need to find ways to regularly implement new content and to do so, in a way that will make them appear more authoritative to readers, users and the search engines.
I have lost traffic what do I do?
Hummingbird might be one reason but we have to look at other possibilities too. When an algorithm is released, there are certain aspects of the algorithm which will be tweaked or improved. The tweaking and updating of small parts of the algorithm will be done as a data-refresh update.
Future of SEO
Technical elements of SEO will still matter, but the focus will shift from being business-centric to customer-centric. The major focus will shift from “keywords” and “link-building” to “Themed content” and “earned links”. Following all the Webmaster guidelines provided by Google, will help plan long term strategies. The future will be a place where EVERYTHING will be “easier to find online.”