Google's Hummingbird Update: How Does it Affect the Future of Your Business?
For the first time since 2001, Google has completely rewritten its search algorithm. Unlike Panda and Penguin, which were updates to the existing algorithm, Hummingbird is a complete replacement designed to be more precise and provide faster results.
It’s big news, and it has many businesses with an internet presence worrying about how it will affect them.
First, here’s the good news: the change has already been implemented – a month before the announcement was even made. That means if you didn’t notice a change in your site’s traffic already, you weren’t affected.
However, that doesn’t mean you should overlook the change. Understanding how Google ranks pages can help you to better position your business to be found. Let’s look at the main improvements in Hummingbird.
Looking at User’s Intent, Not Just Keywords
Over the past few years, Google has been working to move away from using a purely keyword-based interpretation and towards making a “best guess” at what users are actually looking for. This goal is at the heart of the new algorithm, which in particular is designed to better handle complex queries. So it had more of an effect on more specific queries like “pizza places with outdoor seating in NJ” versus just “pizza”, which is part of the reason why most websites didn’t notice an effect.
In order to produce better results, Hummingbird takes into account the context of the search, such as the location, timeliness, platform, device, conversation cues, and hyper-local factors.
What that means for your business: If people are searching for your type of business in your area or looking for a solution to a problem that your company helps to solve, Hummingbird is doing its best to make sure they end up on your website. This can mean more qualified leads on your site, rather than traffic that quickly bounces away.
But this is only true if your website delivers what people want. While keyword placement is still important, it’s increasingly important that the content is relevant. Metrics like “high bounce rates” and “time spent on page” are likely more important than the number of time a term appears on your site. Provide informative, engaging content that matches users’ expectations when arriving on the page.
Placing More Importance of Authorship and Authority
Since content is the focus of Hummingbird, it follows that authorship is also given more weight, particularly because this change came right after the new Google+ authorship attributions. The new system makes it easier for Google to connect content to who wrote it. And the authority you build along the way matters in terms of search rank.
What that means for your business: Who you are matters. Your Google+ profile should be up-to-date and include attributions for any content you’ve created. It’s also increasingly important to identify the unique selling point (USP) of your business and take advantage of it to set yourself apart. You want to become an authority in your area, not just another player. You want to provide the answers to the questions that people are asking. You want your content to be shared on social networks and noticed by other influencers.
This also means that short-term SEO strategies don’t cut it. You need a long-term strategy that’s focused on building your authority through quality content, relationships, and social interactions.
Focusing on the Mobile Experience
When Google announced the new algorithm, they showcased the change with screen caps of the mobile app – not the desktop site. Why? Because mobile users need results faster, and they also need those results to be relevant immediately. They tend to search for more complex things, often using questions like, “Where can I find a pizza place with outdoor seating?” through Siri or other voice searches.
What that means for your business: Mobile is the future. Google knows it, and so should you. Many brick and mortar businesses assume that the web isn’t something they need to focus on if they don’t sell products or services there. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s more important than ever to have a strong, relevant presence that makes it easy for people to locate you, particularly when they are on the go via a mobile phone.
In short, Hummingbird continues to emphasize Google’s focus on search where “Content is King.” The best way to improve your search rank is to identify your target audience and keep their needs in mind when developing your on-going web strategy.
Shepard Morrow is the head of Location Traffic, an internet marketingand business consultingcompany in Pennington, New Jersey. He helps owner-operators to grow their businesses using a unique approach developed over 15 years in the internet marketing industry and from his experience running retail, wholesale, and internet businesses. Learn more at LocationTraffic.com or call 609-737-8667.
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