Every time Google makes an update to its algorithm, any website, blog or forum dedicated to webmaster issues or online marketing lights up with talk about the topic. We’ve seen it happen when the last two major updates, Panda and Penguin, have been rolled out. Of course, every time Google changes something, there will be a lot of people who will claim that “SEO is dead.” As we all know, this just isn’t true. SEO won’t die. It will only adapt itself to the changes that Google makes. But what about Hummingbird? Will it dramatically change the way we do SEO? To answer the question, we need to know what this most recent update is about.
What is Hummingbird and How Will it Affect Search Results?
If you’ve been following SEO news lately, you will have probably noticed that Google updates had one main objective in mind: improving the user experience by returning high-quality and relevant search results.
The last two updates, Penguin and Panda, were made with the goal of penalizing sites with over optimized anchor text links and low-quality content, thus increasing the chance that the user will be satisfied with what they see when they run a query on Google. Hummingbird also aims to improve the user experience, but the approach is slightly different. Rather than focusing on bringing the best results for the words entered, Google will now respond to the entire query and its context.
What Are Conversational Searches And How Are They Related To Hummingbird?
Simply put, search queries are becoming longer and are starting to look more as if the user was asking a question, as opposed to just typing in a few words that describe what they are looking for. One of the main reasons behind this is the rise of voice searches done on smartphones. People naturally use longer queries when speaking, as opposed to typing. But this is starting to appear increasingly in typed queries as well. As such, a growing number of users are running queries like “What is the closest gas station to my home?” or “How much does the new iPhone cost?”
What Hummingbird does is that it ensures Google is taking into account the actual meaning of the typed phrase, as opposed to just trying to match the words on the content of a web page. This helps the search engine deliver information that is a lot more relevant to what the user wanted.
This is done partly through natural language processing. When a user asks a question, Google will actually try to understand what they meant by looking at how the query is structured, what the words mean in context, as well as by considering the main elements of the query.
So SEO Isn’t Really Dead, Right?
Not at all. Whenever a major Google update is announced, there are many people who start to panic, thinking that everything that they have worked hard for will now go to waste and that they would have to redo their whole SEO strategy. But more often than not, this doesn’t turn out to be the case. After all, when the Penguin and Panda updates were implemented, we didn’t see popular websites that offered useful and informative content sink in search results and get relegated to the 20th page.
Many of the SEO techniques and methods that you have been using will still continue to work, even now that Hummingbird has arrived. The only differences are that you may need to do a few additional things to optimize your pages even more. But you will soon realize that you may have already been taking these steps long before Hummingbird came out.
Will My SERPs Suffer?
While Hummingbird was just recently announced, Google had already made the update for well over a month now. If you didn’t notice any significant changes to your SERPs or the amount of visitors coming from Google search results, it probably means that you haven’t really been affected by this most recent update.
If your site offers useful, original and high-quality content to visitors, and if you have incoming links from reputed and highly relevant websites, you can continue to enjoy a great ranking on Google just like you did before.
What Is The Knowledge Graph?
The knowledge graph is simply part of Google’s efforts to answer a question that users may have. Many search results will now feature a knowledge graph, which is a type of blurb that appears to the right of search results and gives users an “at a glance” look at the information they are interested in, without even leaving the search results page. In many cases, it will also suggest other related searches.
You can try it by entering the name of a famous artist, or a city. In some cases, Google will try its best to guess the intent of the user. For example, searching for “Apple” if you are in a city that has an Apple Store will return information about that store (address and opening hours) in the knowledge graph. But if you search for “Apple Inc.” you will get more general information about the company itself.
What changes should you implement in a post-Hummingbird world? Here are a couple of ideas:
Keep Your Focus On Original High-Quality Content
With the last updates, Google has done quite a good job cleaning up search results of “garbage” pages that contain content which was not only poorly written, but also had little relevance to what the user was searching for. Google is continuing to refine its algorithm to reward sites that offer great content to visitors.
Thus, you should do everything you can so that Google sees the content on your pages as relevant. Don’t focus exclusively on specific keywords, but rather use synonyms and words that are closely related to the main topic of your page.
Increase Your Site’s Authority
The concept of “authority” is something that comes up a lot more frequently in SEO circles. With Penguin and Panda, Google has shown that more authoritative domains will get more presence in search results. The two ways that Google judges authority is the quality of the content on a site, plus the quality and number of links pointing to it.
Having quality links pointing to your site is nothing new, but it has now become much more important. Do your very best to acquire natural links by encouraging people to share your content and link to it on their blogs, websites or social media posts.
Consider Adding Some Q&A Content
When people run a query, they often want an answer to a question they have. While you don’t have to rewrite all of the content of your site in an “FAQ” format, you should consider adding some “How to” articles to it, as well as adding a “Questions and Answers” section where it is relevant.
Don’t Forget Mobile SEO
Mobile searches are growing and Hummingbird addresses this in many ways. This is why you should think about how your site looks like when accessed on a mobile device. Implement a mobile responsive design, which will help ensure that the mobile version of your site loads properly for your users, quickly and is easy to navigate.
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