As we all know, Google recently launched a new algorithm update named “Hummingbird.” The small bird is known for speed and accuracy, hence the name. Unlike the earlier updates, Penguin and Panda, the Hummingbird update was launched without any prior warning among the online community. To be clear, this new update is set on targeting search engine results pages rather than Web spam.

Google Panda

Hummingbird, Google’s new search algorithm update, is bringing a more interesting change than Penguin and Panda did. Panda was released in February of 2011. It brought down rankings for lower-quality sites and increased the rankings for news and social networking sites. Also, sites focused mainly on advertising received a huge drop. The rankings of almost 12 percent of search results were affected by Panda. Notably, the Panda algorithm was created to mimic how human users would rate the differences between high-quality and low-quality sites. One of the web’s most popular sites, Mahalo, was hit hard by Panda. In fact it caused its owner, Jason Calacanis, to cut 10 percent of his staff.

Google Penguin

Unlike Panda, Penguin was released in 2012, and came in to devaluate manipulative links. This was the use of what is now called Black-Hat SEO. What sites needed to do was spend more of their efforts on gearing their content towards Google’s organic search rankings. Since Penguin is a flexible algorithm, adapting to it is unique for every site. However, it is recommended that:

  • Only 2 percent of your inbound links contain the anchor text.
  • Fewer than 20 percent of your inbound link profile should contain exact-match keyword anchors.
  • Links should appear natural.
  • Use Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer to gauge your overall inbound link profile.

On the other hand, Hummingbird aims to assist people who prefer to use the conversational types of natural language search queries within the Google search engine. The algorithm update allows the search engine to focus at every word in a query rather than just key words. It also attempts to understand the meaning behind words. The context and the entire sentence is now taken into account by the search engine.

Hummingbird and SEO

Hummingbird, unlike Penguin and Panda, doesn’t have the scope to take down websites that use Web spam to achieve a high rank within the search engines. The new update has the end goal of using the Knowledge Graph in addition to offering a better understanding of natural language semantics. Hummingbird tries to understand the intentions behind people’s words the same ways as humans do.

Knowledge Who?

The Knowledge Graph was developed with the objective to provide a better understanding of search queries, and to implement enhanced data in a more efficient format. To illustrate, if you were searching “restaurants in Paris” before Hummingbird you would get a list or organic and paid listings. However, after the update, the same search returns 10 images listed on a horizontal bar, linking to the most popular or highest rated restaurants in Paris. These results are those which are the most frequently mentioned on the Web. Furthermore, the search results have a greater accuracy than what was previously listed. Knowledge Graph tries to deliver data in a more valuable and a faster way, and it has no effect on commercial searches.

The Conversational Search

Two years ago, Google’s Conversational Search went live on Google Chrome. This augments the human/computer interaction aspect of search. However, in May of 2013, you may have noticed a microphone icon on the Google Chrome home page. You can click it to speak your search query, and it will display your words. In addition, the query can now talk back to you, emulating human syntax. What makes this so unique is that you can move forward with the conversation. For instance, you may ask, “Who is the CEO of Oracle?”, this will then return “Larry Ellison.” After that, you may want to ask, “Where was he born?” and you’ll see, “New York, NY.” Notice though, that you didn’t have to specify his name for your second question. The Conversational Search function recognized that “he” meant Larry Ellison. In the past, you would have had to continue to type his full name in order to retrieve your desired results. Google’s Senior Vice President of Search, Amit Singhal, also gave credit to their inspiration by stating, “For those of you who have never watched an episode of ‘Star Trek,’ please go do that.” This type of search is a gargantuan move within the field of artificial intelligence. It may also meet the “Turing Test,” which enables the computer to act human in several forms.

How to Modify Your SEO Strategy for 2014

Since the Hummingbird update–long tail keywords have become more significant than ever, with regard to your SEO strategy. But other common elements of a good SEO strategy are unaffected, including:

  • Authority, engaging and unique content are still important.
  • Legitimate backlinks continue to improve SEO.
  • Keywords are still necessary, but they need to be targeted and balanced.

With Hummingbird, long tailed keywords and the content matter more. Take advantage of the new update by expanding your number of entrance pages with original content that answer specific questions in your niche. For example:

  • More original content pages create more opportunities to answer search engine queries.
  • You have now the opportunity to use more long tail keywords.
  • Videos are still of great importance for people choosing links that answer their questions.
  • Infographics still glean positive results.

An essential part of your SEO strategy should now be the ability to broaden your entrance pages, blog and website content in order to answer more questions. “How To” articles, the use of long tail keywords, good content and useful information, an increase of the entrance portals, and claiming authorship are all reliable means for improving your search engine rankings. Although, you shouldn’t go SEO crazy. If your entire site is built around Google’s latest algorithm, you will be at the mercy of their next one. Unfortunately, you cannot predict any future changes Google will make. What is crucial is ensuring  your content attracts viewers so much that, instead of searching, they go directly to your site. When that happens, you become a leader instead of a follower. Tell us, will you be or have you been augmenting your SEO plan this year? Not sure where to start? We’re here to help.