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How Hummingbird Has Changed SEO

Google recently announced the arrival of Hummingbird, the new search algorithm it had been using in a sort of stealth mode for at least a month prior to its official unveiling. While Google has been pretty quiet when it comes to divulging specific details about Hummingbird, most experts agree that this new algorithm will have a major effect on SEO.

However, it may take quite some time for the full impact of Hummingbird to become obvious, as David Towers at Econsultancy notes in his post, “Has Hummingbird changed SEO forever?

Towers notes that this is the first introduction of a completely new algorithm in more than a decade, yet the obvious repercussions haven’t seemed as major as anticipated—at least not, yet, which leads some to believe that the true impact will come gradually and take some time.

Some of the long-term effects of Hummingbird that Towers envisions include:

1. Natural language queries

  • Conversational search: With Google providing users with better search results to long tail ‘conversational search’ queries, this will likely encourage users to make longer search queries and use voice activated search more frequently.
  • Decline of the short tail: As users make more conversational search queries, the volume in the short tail will fall and SEO will become more about providing users with the right meaningful content as opposed to optimizing existing content for high volume driving keywords.
  • Content rather than keywords: In late 2012, Google stopped SEO tool providers, like SEMrush and RavenTools, from using organic ranking metrics alongside data pulled from the AdWords API. Further to this, Google began redirecting all users to SSL encrypted pages in September 2012, preventing Analytics from tracking keyword data.

2. Improved search functionality

  • Websites must compete with the SERPs themselves: Google’s increased functionality means users will be less likely to click through to third-party pages unless it offers new information.
  • Popular searches will become even more popular: Google also displays results for searches with no definitive answers. For example, ‘surrealist authors’ or ‘best presidents,’ based on who is ‘frequently mentioned on the web.’ Once users are accustomed to clicking on these images rather than reviewing an external website and searching on their own, the most frequently high listing terms are the ones that will receive the most clicks, exponentially.
  • Users will still search for opinions and other details: Even if Google’s Knowledge Graph framework is more widely adopted, people will always want more information and supporting opinions.

3. Socializing of search

  • Google answers the questions you’d have asked on Facebook: The Hummingbird algorithm update is another step in ‘socializing search’ by attempting to answer the questions users may have otherwise simply asked their friends and peers on social networks. Competitors have offered similar functionality, most notable in Facebook’s Graph Search and Apple’s Siri, so Google is aware it needs a robust platform in place to meet this demand.
  • Importance of social content and conversations continues to grow: Generating relevant conversations will become more significant, with a brand’s networks, audiences and influencers playing a major factor in its website’s ranking in the SERPs (especially with the predicted up-weighting of Author Rank). With this in mind, combining SEO and Social efforts will be critical in the planning and delivery of effective online strategies.

Need help in adjusting your search strategies to accommodate Google’s latest changes? Check out the wide variety of search-related services we offer.

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    About Sheila Kloefkorn
With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.

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