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Google’s Hummingbird: how it will affect internet marketing

Posted on October 3, 2013

Earlier this week, we discussed Hummingbird – Google’s latest major overhaul of its search facility – and the changes it has brought with it.

In this article, we’ll look at what Hummingbird means for websites, and how – if at all – their internet marketing strategies will have to evolve if they are to remain successful.

With Hummingbird, it is important first to understand that while Google has altered the way it sorts through pages on the internet, the search giant hasn’t in any way altered its preference for sites fulfilling certain criteria.

A more organic approach

Hummingbird means that Google is now better equipped to understand links between words and the meaning behind full phrases.

Writing in iMedia Connection, one analyst used the word ‘place’ as a good example. Previously, the word will have been examined in its own right, however it appeared in a sentence. With Hummingbird, if a user was to write ‘Where is the best place to get a kebab?’ Google will now understand the correct contextual meaning of ‘place’ – it knows the user means location. This ensures users can be presented with details of the nearest takeaways, rather than simply information about kebabs, such as recipes or a history of Britain’s staple end-of-a-night-out dish.

This boosts the importance of making references to relevant geographical areas when trying to target users located in a certain city or town or suburb. If you’re gearing content towards those living in a specific area, site owners must make sure it’s clear they’re doing so; Google should pick up on this.

Similarly, a more organic, conversational approach will, from an SEO perspective, mean key phrases could have more of an impact than single key words – something that written content should reflect going forward.

Hummingbird – it’s no Panda or Penguin

While Hummingbird is undoubtedly a big change to the way Google Search works, it is arguably the web giant’s Panda and Penguin updates that will have more radically affected websites’ standings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It is believed that the Hummingbird update, though only announced last week, has been in effect since mid-late August – which subsequently means that, unless it’s in some way starting out slow, site owners and marketers will have already seen the biggest fluctuations in results positions.

As has been the case since the Panda and Penguin updates came about (and arguably, even before then) a website should focus on quality, offering engaging – and in the case of business websites, industry relevant – content for visitors to absorb at their leisure.

Effects on links and authorship

Historically, the quality of the links pointing to a website has been a strong deciding factor in its SERPs position. While this will no doubt continue to be the case, the overall importance of links will likely dilute somewhat as Google continues to introduce updates and diversify its algorithm, focusing more on search intent than individual words. So what does that mean for marketers? Keep the link repertoire in mind, but don’t fret over it – it’s the quality of the site’s content and its relevance to a user’s search query that matter most.

Additionally, a focus on content could mean an even greater need for authorship. The Hummingbird update comes in the wake of changes to Google+ that make it easier for content to be linked back to its author. Site owners should assign the relevant authors to all written content, keeping profiles up to date.

With Google’s search homepage being the most visited address on the net, attracting more than a trillion searches every year, its importance for a website and its visitor traffic is undeniable. Remaining engaging and relevant is a sure-fire way of simultaneously pleasing both the individual and the search engines – and remaining high in the rankings.

Richard is a Web Content Editor at Engage Web. He has had work published in a number of independent magazines and spends much of his spare time writing short stories.

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Posted by Richard Bell

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