Google announced late last week that its search algorithm has undergone a complete overhaul. Not since 2001 has Google so dramatically changed the way it processes searches, and this latest iteration is an effort to make the search results more semantic.The new algorithm is aptly named Hummingbird, because according to Google, the new search engine is “precise and fast.”
However, even though the change was just announced last week, the new algorithm was actually put into place last month. Although it has been almost completely revamped, it still uses elements from the old algorithm, so Panda, Penguin, and PageRank are still in place. You can read more about the technical side of the algorithm change here.
In the end, what does this mean for SEO, web, and marketing professionals? This particular writer believes Hummingbird is actually an improvement, even with the decreased ability to track things like specific keyword searches and bounce rates.
First, it places more emphasis on the actual content of the site. Google has been moving in this direction with the last few updates, but now content is more important than ever. Web authors can’t stuff their content with keywords and expect Google to rank the site very high. Google will penalize a site for this, so writing for bots is an even bigger mistake than it has been in the past. Though it could be a little more difficult to track what customers are searching for via keyword, businesses that actually engage with their customers will emerge the clear winners. Knowing what your customers are looking for will pay off big time.
Second, focusing solely on bounce rate and hits from specific keywords doesn’t give you an accurate picture to begin with. Say a potential customer does bounce from your site. Do you know why? At that point, they may have arrived at your site because of a specific keyword, so now what? Obviously your site didn’t live up to their expectations in some way. Either your site architecture wasn’t pleasing, or the content wasn’t what they were looking for. No amount of keyword research is going to fix either of those two problems.
Third, since Google is trying to match the actual intent of the search more closely with the results, the visitors to your site will be more likely to be looking for what you have to offer. If you are an authority in your field, and have relevant content on your site, you will be more likely to be found by people truly searching for you.
Fourth, Google may penalize marketers who rely on links in press releases to drive traffic to a site, as it’s considered spam behavior. It recommends using the nofollow attribute in the press release links, which tells the bots not to follow the link. People reading the press release can still click on it, of course, which is why the press releases should be used in the traditional sense of conveying a message to journalists, and NOT to bring traffic to a site.
Finally, since more people are now searching for you via mobile device, the chances of them searching via voice search is increasing, and Hummingbird takes this into account. When people speak, they generally use more complex phrases, which Google has designed the new algorithm to accommodate.
So what’s the take away from these changes? Web content creators and marketing professionals will need to write compelling content people want to read, knowing people are using real, more complex phrases to search for content. Following the Rules of Google isn’t really that difficult, and will ensure people searching for what you have to offer will actually find you.