How Hummingbird Should and Shouldn’t Influence SEO

December 16, 2013

As Google recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, the world-famous company also implemented a new change to its search engine algorithm. Called Hummingbird, the search engine update was not widely publicized by Google, but it certainly has wide-reaching effects on how people receive information and how marketing companies need to present their content. Anyone involved in the world of SEO, Internet marketing or website management should fully understand Hummingbird, how it will change the Google search function, and what should and shouldn’t change when it comes to content.

How Will Hummingbird Affect SEO?

There are several major ways that the Hummingbird algorithm update from Google will affect how the world’s most popular search engine is used. First, the search engine is now poised to respond to full sentences rather than keyword fragments. In addition, it skips over or negatively penalizes content full of unnecessary and duplicate backlinks. The search engine is also taking into account bounce rates, which refers to the length of time that users spend on a certain page before closing it or moving on. Pages that keep users for longer periods of time are deemed to be more useful and are thus moved to the top of the rankings for related search terms.

What SHOULD Internet Marketers Change?

There are some individuals who believe that quality content is quality content no matter the algorithm, but the reality is that this update will affect how often users find particular pages. In order to be readily accessible to people searching for information in your field, you need to be aware of the changes in major search engines. Here are some of the key things that every Internet marketer should be doing as a result of September’s Hummingbird update:

Remove Unnecessary or Duplicate Backlinks

Up until quite recently, one of the ways that Internet marketers and website managers would drive traffic around their website was to include multiple backlinks on every page. While some internal links can be very helpful, especially if they are referring users to a specific and related piece of information, they are often just going in circles and trying to keep users on the site for as long as possible. Hummingbird is now aware of unnecessary backlinks, and webpages may be penalized in rankings due to having duplicates of the same link when not required. As a marketer, learn to be careful about how many links you use. Links are important, but the same link should rarely, if at all, be used twice on a single page.

Add in Hashtags Where Relevant

Hashtags may have originated as a minor function on Twitter, but they are now commonly used in almost every form of social media. You can search via hashtag on Google+, Twitter and Facebook, and now the search engine itself is recognizing these hashtags as separate search terms altogether. Many Internet marketing companies have been wary of including hashtags in actual content, but there is reason to believe that this could be beneficial. When people search specifically for hashtag phrases, such as #NYpizza rather than simply “NY pizza,” it is the results that include hashtags that will come up first thanks to Hummingbird. While this is not something you want to overdo, adding hashtags in when appropriate, especially in content geared towards younger audiences, is a smart move.

Include Infographics or Related Pictures

good-infographicOne of the ways that Hummingbird rates and ranks pages is by seeing how long users stay on a particular webpage before leaving. Therefore, one of the best ways to enjoy better rankings on Google search is to create content that keeps people interested for longer. While interesting written content is certainly key, there is no question that pictures, videos and infographics are also helpful. Infographics, in particular, work well because they require the user to slowly read the information as well as mentally process the visual image. This provides the user with interesting content, and it keeps them on your page for longer than text would alone.

Encourage Organic Referrals

Another key factor that Hummingbird acknowledges when presenting search engine results to users is the number of referrals for a particular page on the Internet as a whole. However, the links have to be organic. Simply leaving a link to a website on a popular forum or pasting it into the comments section of a larger blog will not help with that page’s rankings, and it could actually count against the page over time. Organic links will improve your ranking in Google’s search engine, however. These are links that are on related pages and are deemed to be natural ways of sharing information with people who might benefit from it.

Focus on Answering Common Questions

Perhaps the most talked-about change to Google search, thanks to the algorithm update of Hummingbird, is how longer-tail keywords are poised to surpass shorter phrases. Thanks in large part to the popularity of voice searches on smartphones, people are searching for entire sentences or even full questions more than ever before. Internet marketers and SEO specialists can capitalize on this by including question and answer type posts on their pages. It is certain that you can expect to see more query-based content online in the near future as well as longer keywords that are more specific than ever before.

Regularly Add Interesting Content

Hummingbird will also take into consideration how often websites add new content and grow in size. While some websites have been able to enjoy success without adding new pages or changing their content for months or even years at a time, that is not the case today. In order to maintain or improve your current ranking on Google search, you should aim to add content on a regular basis. While you don’t need to necessarily churn out content at a rapid pace, making a goal of weekly additions is reasonable for even small businesses or pages with a niche market.

Stop Keyword Stuffing

Keyword-stuffingSuccessful Internet marketers have been against keyword stuffing for years, but the practice remains popular among many websites. By seeing which keywords attract customers to a certain page, website developers and content creators sometimes focus exclusively on adding these words to their content. Unfortunately, sometimes the abundance of keywords can actually distract from the meaning or relevance of the text. Hummingbird recognizes this fact, and the newest algorithm will penalize those pages that have keywords stuffed into content unnecessarily.

It may be clear to you that Hummingbird, the newest algorithm update from Google search, will affect SEO in some major ways. While Internet marketers should continue to focus on relevant, interesting content that can be shared through social media, there are some additional ways to help improve the rank of particular pages. Key ways include no longer stuffing keywords into content, continually adding to your website, creating query-based content, encouraging organic referrals, getting rid of duplicate backlinks, and including relevant hashtags and infographics.