Whenever Google updates its algorithms or, as in the case of the most recent Hummingbird algorithm, introduces a brand-new one, there is much concern over whether it has killed SEO.
Hummingbird has, at least according to Google, improved search results already and it looks likely that it will improve mobile search and voice search for users too. While it is a new algorithm and is being billed as the biggest algorithmic change in 12 years, it is really just an evolution. It takes Knowledge Graph and turns Google's results into a more conversational, more semantic, and even a more sentient search solution. Far from killing SEO, it has served to ensure that those willing to put the effort in will get their just rewards.
Knowledge Graph is a Google project that has been available for some time, but few casual searchers have really used it. It attempts to identify and highlight the connections between people, places, and things and then offer insight into these connections through its results. It essentially offers much more complex and more knowledgeable responses to users; responses that you would normally associate with having come from a human rather than a search algorithm.
While Knowledge Graph may not be the first choice of the majority of Google searchers, it is widely used by those that are doing more in-depth research. Writers, marketers, and researchers can use it to great advantage while power searchers will almost certainly find it has uses too.
The Hummingbird Update
The Hummingbird update can be seen as a natural progression from the Knowledge Graph. It combines Google's undoubted search capabilities with the interesting and invaluable information provide by Knowledge Graph.
Rather than attempting to identify the individual keywords or phrases that are found in a search query, the new Hummingbird update looks at the query as a whole. It considers the whole sentence and then looks for the most relevant results. More than this, though, it provides a more rounded list of results that give background information as well as supporting information too.
Long-Tail Keywords and Conversational Queries
Hummingbird concentrates on whole queries rather than individual words and this means that it will have obvious implications on pages that utilise and include long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords have always been considered beneficial because they typically have a high conversion rate from highly targeted visitors. However, it has proven difficult to benefit from much traffic as a result of their being found on a page. Hummingbird will be looking at search strings of three, four, five, or more words and rather than breaking these down it will provide results for the whole search string.
Long-tail keywords, which are normally added to pages during the natural process of writing high quality content, may generate more traffic for a website in the future.
It has long been known that Google considers the authority of a page, and even the authority of a page author, to be extremely important. With even greater emphasis to be placed on page content, authority will become even more relevant and pertinent.
Hummingbird will help ensure that Google delivers users to the most appropriate page of a website, rather than to a home page or top level page. As such, every single page should be closely targeted to potential visitors. Not only will this help improve conversion rates as part of a conversion rate optimisation campaign but it may also help to drive traffic to the pages of a website via Google results too.
Mobile Search and Voice Search
Analysts believe that these changes are heavily influenced by Google's desire to become more mobile. As well as their mobile search engine pages, Google also owns Android which even has its own voice search capabilities.
Voice search naturally tends to mean more conversational and more natural language. Rather than searching for a one or two word phrase, people will be more inclined to use whole sentences, questions, and more complex queries when they speak. Hummingbird will be well placed to determine the most relevant and highest quality pages that meet the needs of the searcher. Websites that place well under the new algorithm changes may also experience an increase in their mobile traffic as a result.
Concentrating on Quality
Google has long bemoaned poor quality sites and has advocated the introduction and use of high quality content on websites. Hummingbird can be seen as another step by the search giant to ensure that they offer the best pages in their search results.
Website owners need to ensure that their website is built on quality. This is not only beneficial to search optimization campaigns but to online business in general. Conversions will increase, bounce rates drop, and average sales value will also rise. For the business owner this represents an opportunity to ensure that they make the most of every single website visitor while the market will benefit from naturally generated links and a greater authority rating in the eyes of Google.
Your Content Marketing Campaign
Google is ensuring that the content of a website is placed front and centre. They are effectively promoting those sites that offer a general and well-rounded approach to a particular topic and providing this level of content will help ensure the best results for your site.
Content marketing means providing high quality content both on and off the pages of your website. It means producing content on a regular basis and then placing it so that others not only see it and enjoy it but link to it, like it, share it, and discuss it. All of these factors will help improve a search profile so that the pages they are related to will perform better in search.
Hummingbird Has Not Killed SEO
Every new upgrade brings with it new cries that SEO is dead. While search optimisation has certainly changed over the past few years, and again following the Hummingbird update, it is far from dead.
Website owners and marketers should concentrate their efforts on a well-rounded content marketing plan. Website owners need to find ways in which to cover the different aspects of the topic their site is related to. They need to find ways to regularly implement new content and they also need to be able to do so in such a way that will make them appear more authoritative with readers, users, and the search engines.
The Future of SEO
SEO evolves in line with new releases to algorithms and as Google is constantly looking for ways in which to provide its users with access to better quality pages, this means that the search optimisation techniques site owners need to use continue to change evolve.
Site owners that rely on the provision of high-quality content, that steer clear of black hat techniques, and that look to build multiple traffic streams using a universal marketing approach are those that will enjoy better long term results. Some flux is to be expected in search engine ranking positions but by sticking to the Webmaster Guidelines provided by each of the search engines it is possible to stay ahead and to enjoy continued, long term benefits.