Google’s new algorithm update came out in September 2013. The update, which has been dubbed “Hummingbird” and affects up to 90 percent of all its searches, is setting the inbound marketing world a-flutter (pun intended). But before you get stressed out about how it’s going to affect your traffic and searchability, take a close look at what it’s intended to do.
The Point of the Puzzle Bird
Hummingbird wasn’t created just to make things difficult. It was engineered to provide modern-day results for modern-day searches. If your content strategy—like ours—has always been about putting the reader first and keywords second, you shouldn’t need to worry. In fact, you could be about to benefit from the change, because Hummingbird is intended to reward sites that use sound SEO practices.
Make Real World Issues a Priority
Google’s first priority is to improve the quality of content found online, and Hummingbird aims to do this by gearing search engine results to “conversational” search. This refers to longer, more complex search queries such as the ones used for voice-activated search. Remember the long-tail keywords? Those are going to start paying off as the search engine tries to accommodate questions from people that resemble the ones users ask in real life.
How to do it: Implement real world priorities by collecting questions from your customers and using your content marketing to answer them. You can source the questions through online or telephone surveys, email marketing and by asking for information in exchange for downloadable content, contest entries, etc.
Create Quality Content
Quality content is a cornerstone of inbound marketing and it wins every time, so to keep the Hummingbird happy you need to generate information that:
- Answers real-world questions in the same language real people use
- Doesn’t duplicate anything else found on the web, including on your own site (beware those standard footers!)
- Includes a suitable image or two (not too many) that are recognizably relevant and optimized with alt tags.
How to do it: Identify content that needs to be reworked and have it recreated without using spinning software and other short cuts. Check everything written through Copyscape for duplication. Avoid using similar footers and calls to action—rather, publish them in the format of a design element that can’t be read by the search engines.
Forget the Keywords
First, Google is no longer supplying keyword data from the searches on your site, so you can’t optimize your inbound marketing according to the keywords that work versus those that don’t. Second, the acceptable number of keywords used in each piece of content (called ‘keyword density’) has been steadily dropping over the past couple of algorithm updates. Now, it’s non-existent, and anything more than one or two uses of your keywords could end up getting your site penalized.
How to do it: OK, we don’t actually mean you should forget the keywords. What we’re saying is to stop creating content based on them. Make your written materials well-structured, use appropriate spellings and grammar constructs. Insert your researched keywords very carefully afterward in not more than one or two places, so the information reads well.
Limit the Links
Link-building is one of Hummingbird’s major inbound marketing target areas. Websites with tons of links to spammy URLs or links that are purchased will be in trouble. It’s not just linking out that counts; inbound links are equally important. If you have one or two inbound links per page from reputable websites and blogs then you’ll be fine. Websites that have been buying inbound links or that get traffic from sites with low quality content, however, will need to take steps to comply with Hummingbird.
How to do it: Use a tool such as Open Site Explorer or MajesticSEO to help you identify dead links and low quality backlinks. These include links to pages that are over-optimized with keywords, don’t bear relevance to the topic or have no visible social media activity.
No, it’s not the end of the world as we know it. To the contrary, all Google is trying to do is to improve user experience when someone searches for your site. What more could you possibly ask for than that?