How to Update Your SEO Strategy for Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm

| 2060 Digital

If there’s one thing that stays constant in the world of Search Engine Optimization, it’s change. You can talk to any SEOer who’s been in the business for more than five years, and they’ll more than likely be able to share a few stories with you, including having one (or more) of their sites de-indexed or completely battered in Google’s search rankings. Google has rolled out so many different updates and changes to its search algorithm in recent years (e.g., Panda, Penguin, etc.) that many SEOers have either thrown in the towel or live in a constant state of anxiety as to what Google may do next.

Ironically enough, one of the most significant changes that Google has made to its algorithm in years happened recently under the collective nose of the entire SEO community. In late August of 2013, Google implemented a new algorithm update–simply known as “Hummingbird”–a full month before letting anybody know about it. Upon making the official announcement in September of 2013, Google promoted Hummingbird as an extensive overhaul of the way in which their algorithm processes search queries and delivers results to users.

One of the primary objectives of the Hummingbird update was to give more weight to the meaning and context of search queries that are comprised of entire sentences, i.e., “Where’s the best place to buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in my city?”. Traditionally, the algorithm would focus on a few key words within the query, such as “buy” and “Samsung Galaxy Note 3”, and then serve up a page that contained those primary words. Hummingbird, on the other hand, has been designed to take the entire query into consideration, paying increased attention to the surrounding words as well. For instance, Hummingbird may interpret the words “place” and “city” to mean physical locations (which Google may be privy to based upon your personal settings). Giving weight to these more subtle query modifiers is a major driving force behind Hummingbird, as Google continues to strive towards giving their search results a more natural and responsive feel.

So how should you respond in light of the Hummingbird update? Below are three key strategies to pay attention to in order to stay on top of the SEO game:

Content is, and always has been, king.

Vow to completely divorce yourself from spun content, autogen content, duplicate content or any other type of content that is either low-value or complete rubbish. Be willing to do more research, dig deeper and provide more salient insights into your subject matter than any of the other people in your field. This will attract more readers and will also serve you well in terms of garnering natural links from other sites.

Focus on obtaining contextual links from related authority sites.

The operative word here is “related”. Under Hummingbird, Google is giving more weight to how the theme of your site is connected with the themes of the sites that link to you. If you can guest post on a related blog, definitely do it. Build relationships with the other heavy-hitters in your niche, reaching out to them via email if need be and ask them to reference and link to your content. Do it in a way that helps them to see that they will ultimately be helping their visitors by providing them with solid additional information about the given topic.

Usability, site architecture and performance is a critical but often overlooked aspect of your web presence.

Your site should be set up so that users can find any page within no more than four clicks of the mouse. In addition, avoid cryptic and complicated page URLs–keep them as readable as possible. Also avoid memory-hogging flash and/or rich media plugins–these items can slow down page load times, which can work against your Google rankings.

Ultimately, Hummingbird will require a higher amount of agility when implementing your SEO strategy. You will need to do quite a bit of testing so that you can eliminate as many assumptions as possible regarding what makes for good on-page and off-page SEO. A willingness to adapt to change and a commitment to eliminate your weaknesses will enable you to remain a contender in this ever-changing SEO environment.