Lessons Learned from Google’s Hummingbird (So Far)

April 21, 2014

Keeping up with Google is challenging—especially when you’re talking about search engine optimization (SEO). Changes are constantly being made, and understanding what Google wants is crucial to controlling where your website is in search rankings. Of the algorithm incarnations over the years, Hummingbird made its debut in August 2013 and with it came massive changes. Today, businesses are still struggling with a sharp learning curve. And if you don’t have an SEO guru? You’re falling behind.


be-locally-seo-search-engine-optimization-300x97Hummingbird required big modifications to previously successful web marketing campaigns as well as SEO approaches. A good SEO strategy audits websites to glean current perspectives of what SEO efforts are working and which aren’t. Post-Hummingbird, business website rankings were all over the place—some instantly improved, others plateaued and yet others started slipping. What does Hummingbird want?

The Sweet Stuff

Just like the bird it was named after, Hummingbird wants the good stuff—but there’s a shift in methods necessary to get there. For example, you need a solid internal link structure as well as overall architecture designed to help consumers navigate your website easily. This means lightning fast page loading, clear sitemaps and high quality images. It’s the end-user experience that really (still matters). But at the end, it’s what’s on the page that gets them there.

For a while, there were rumors that the basic elements on pages no longer mattered much. That’s not true. Those ALT image tags, title tags, H1 tags and URLs still play a huge SEO role. In fact, they seem to be more important than ever. Solely focusing on these on-page elements have helped some businesses drastically improve their SEO. However, content is still key.

Beating a Dead Hummingbird

You’ve heard it time and time again, but it bears repeating—content is at the heart of SEO. Hummingbird agrees. Stay away from duplicate content, keep the quality premium, and remember that audience relevance is crucial. Hummingbird has responded favorably to sites that are accurate, consistent, and customer-focused. The bird wants sites to have one goal: Benefit the customer (and make it really obvious for Google).

To get on the fast track, make sure all content is natural—which will require a skilled SEO writer (not your college intern majoring in English). Make use of website signage and URLs, which should also read conversationally and point visitors where they want to go. Updated title tags lower bounce-back rates, while accurate meta descriptions and title tags should showcase what the page content has. Strong geo-targeting can garner great results for companies focused on local areas.

Bonus Round

To seal the deal, ensure your architecture is intuitive and reveres clear navigation. Your visitors aren’t Alice in Wonderland (and don’t want to be). Finally, make sure your site has responsive design and works in a mobile world. It’s slated that mobile users will outrank desktop users in 2014, and if you don’t keep up, you’ll lose visitors. Hummingbird isn’t a brand new species of algorithm, but it is quickly fluttering into the evolution of Google. It’s simply taking previous algorithm lessons and building on them.


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