You may have heard about Hummingbird, Google’s latest release of its search algorithm announced on September 27. Hummingbird, which was announced on Google’s 15th birthday, represents the biggest change to the way the Silicon Valley giant handles its users’ searches since its 2010 “Caffeine” update. Since Google actually rolled out the update in August, you can already see what effects it’s had on your traffic. In this article, we discuss four SEO behaviors that will ensure your site continues to rank highly and attract more customers for your e-commerce endeavors.
- Change the way you think about keywords: If your SEO approach has been highly keyword-centered, Hummingbird is going to require some changes. In the new algorithm, Google calculates ranking based on the complete question rather than just a few relevant keywords. This means you should be trying to answer a question with every page (but don’t change pages to a question-and-answer format unless the content lends itself to doing so). Address concepts (or, if you prefer, “long-tailed keywords”) instead of trying to make sure each page is appropriately categorized.
- Beef up your content: Since Hummingbird’s approach to a page’s weight in the rankings has changed so much in favor of giving results that pertain to a user’s entire query, SEO professionals should be thinking less like librarians and more like marketing professionals. Google has always advocated an approach to high ranking that focuses on genuine, relevant content; your site should both show and tell exactly what problem your business solves for your customers.
- Think about unlinked content: One big change with Hummingbird is that Google is now crawling unlinked content (that is, files that do not contain an HREF= attribute anywhere in the site). You may have even begun to see an uptick in traffic to such pages in your analytics data. It would be wise to spend time making sure your robots.txt file is up to date if you haven’t done so since Hummingbird went live in August.
- Get (More) Mobile-Friendly: A large part of the Hummingbird update is focused around the growth in the percentage of queries that comes in from mobile devices each year. The priority on the entire query (as opposed to previous iterations of Google’s algorithm, which would automatically disregard common keywords such as “the”) is just one example of a new frequent user behavior driven by mobile devices; often it is easier to speak a query aloud than it is to use a cumbersome smart phone keyboard to input a few keywords. Especially for businesses that are highly location-dependent, a mobile-friendly site is going to be a critical asset in the SEO toolbox.
Countless blogs have reported that most SEO professionals will not see much, if any, change to their page rankings after the Hummingbird update, other than a slight uptick in the traffic on certain files. At its core, great SEO has always been more about great marketing than anything else, and as long as you keep that in mind when developing your SEO strategies, Hummingbird can only help increase your web presence.