Google Hummingbird and its Impact on SEO and Content Marketing Strategies

The new Hummingbird update from Google has hit the online marketing world by storm, much like every other update they’ve ever done! Site owners, marketers and search engine enthusiasts alike seem to go into frenzy-mode every time Google changes something. And rightly they should, every update makes a significant leap forward for the actual users.

google hummingbird algorithm update

While it usually sets most marketers back a few, or several steps – where they have to head back to the drawing board to figure out a game-plan to fight their way back to the top of the search engines for terms like “Test fit black elastic underpants sizes 1-20”, or “prefabbed concrete slabs in Glendale”.

All joking aside: The latest “Hummingbird” update from Google is a further attempt to bring you, and your customers exactly what they’re looking for when they plug keywords and phrases into the search bar. Instead of analyzing each individual word in a search request, like they did in the past, the newest update has begun to analyze even the smaller seemingly innocent “connecting words”, in an attempt to gain more of a useful context from your request, so you can be served with the actual information you want.

With Hummingbird, the SEO game has changed, some content marketing techniques will be eliminated, but not in the drastic way that one would think (keep reading and you’ll soon see how/why.) This is the reality of online-based marketing. Adapt or die!

SEO Changes After Hummingbird

Post Panda

Things changed a lot post-Panda. Searchers were sick of typing “how to groom my Pomeranian” into Google and then being taken to preposterous SEO-driven articles written in poor English which directed them to product sales pages like a heard of slaughterhouse pigs, with content like:

google panda algorithm update

“The question how to groom my Pomeranian is an interesting one. So many of us go around town asking people how to groom my Pomeranian and nobody seems to have any answers. Purchase ‘XYZ product’ and you won’t have anymore nightmares thinking about how to groom my Pomeranian anymore!”

Most of this kind of drivel was found on the likes of article directory sites (*names withheld for legal purposes). So Panda put the hurt on the article directories, making articles stuffed full of keywords irrelevant. How did they do this? By implementing on-page factors such as: how long visitors spent reading/watching/listening to specific content, bounce rates, and social media babbling about said content. This all really changed the direction of article marketing as a whole, but still left Google’s critics wanting even more hyper-focused-intuitive search results. Panda was just a band aid of sorts.

Now the focus with Hummingbird is to refine things even further. Most notably, they’re giving even more preference to social, relying much more on the on-page factors, while also downgrading the relevance of PR or “page rank”. The most exciting change is that local marketers will get a chance to throw their hat in the ring, without competing with companies who may have ranked better in the past, but who were effectively stealing business from them.

Let’s again use a Pomeranian search example to explain how even a buying-related search could lead people astray before Hummingbird:

A searcher typed “Where to buy a grooming kit for my Pomeranian in Foxboro” into the Google search engine. As we, and many frustrated searchers know, the results would have come back with pages full of sites that sell such kits, who weren’t anywhere near Foxboro, and many of which who charged way more than a local retail store would – with additional over-priced shipping tagged on to add insult to injury! That’s because the game was all about SEO’ing your site to the top via targeted keyword phrases, not about giving Google searchers the content/results they wanted. Worse (depending on your individual perspective), Panda would have focused only on certain frequently-searched words within that phrase – i.e., buy, grooming kit, Pomeranian.

This unrefined search algo made it so the mom-and-pop retail store in Foxboro had to compete with the likes of Ebay, Petsmart, Amazon and other big giants, along with the usual dominant “SEO-Kingpin-type” websites, when the searcher was actually looking for something close to their home where they could rush out and make a purchase. As if Walmart didn’t hurt these poor shop owners enough already!

I digress though, this isn’t about big retail taking over the smaller ones. Now with the Hummingbird update in effect, the algo looks more closely at all the words in longtail phrases, to determine exactly what’s best for the searcher. With the previous example (where to buy a grooming kit for my Pomeranian in Foxboro), Google now promises to analyze each word in the search phrase, instead of singling out the ones that have the most search volume. This means that localized searches will generate more business for the people who deserve it, and for content-based searches – well that opens up a whole new can-O-worms, but as I mentioned before, it’s not anything new or exciting!

Content Writing/Marketing Post-Hummingbird

If you’re looking for some mumbo-jumbo, megolithic, pre-2009 strategies that can be used to bilk the system and fool the new algo, I’m sorry to say that it’s just getting too hard to do. Blackhat SEO is really almost dead, and the greyhat stuff is losing steam too. This is because, much like computer hackers facing the likes and bankroll of the FBI, MI6, and RCMP – the law just keeps getting better and better! They hire people who know how to scam the system, and pay them lots of money to catch people just like them.

Google is the law online, and they pay some of the best minds in the world obscene amounts of money to figure out how to help their searchers – and prevent the blackhat, greyhat and whitehat folks from cheating. That’s right, I said whitehat, because whitehat still implies you’re putting on a hat to cover something up!

Since Hummingbird is focusing on real content: written, video, audio, social. Focus your content efforts on building real content. It’s a shame that this advice is already an overused cliché, because the best minds in Internet marketing have been telling everyone about this for years. And nobody’s listened (well, very few anyway.) You’ve heard it said before right?

Build real content that relates to what you’re selling, tweet cool information to people who might buy sometime, hit up Pinterest and Tumbler and show the peeps some cool pics. Keep it real, just like we’ve been told. The next algo update will be more refined and targeted – and on and on, getting better and better with each version. No more scamming folks! There’s no free lunch in this world and fooling people into looking at something they don’t want has been done to death!


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