Is it Possible to Optimize for Google Hummingbird?

With the latest changes to the Google search engine, many marketing execs and business owners are wondering: how can I optimize my website for Google Hummingbird? While the change itself has been gradually taking place for some time now, it was officially launched at Google’s recent 15th anniversary party.

Hummingbird is not about ranking penalties like Google Panda and Penguin Updates were. It’s goal is not to reduce spam. Instead, Hummingbird focuses on shifting search results to favour contextually driven results instead of merely keyphrases. Google has not merely adjusted their existing algorithm, they have completely replaced it with a brand new one.

Essentially, Google is striving to make their search pages more comprehensive and relevant to long-tail and voice queries. Since the English language is complex, the relevance of search results does not stem from words alone, as words can have several meanings. The shift is moving from evaluating words and phrases to semantics for finding the right content to display in searches. It seems Google’s looking for more meaning, and they’re digging deep.

Studies have shown that people search differently when using text as opposed to voice search. As Google strives to make their search engine as intuitive as possible, Hummingbird demonstrates a move towards artificial intelligence as it’s been described in many popular sci-fi movies, where people speak to computers as if they were human beings.

With the number of searches being conducted on mobile phones growing exponentially, Hummingbird will be the answer to an increasing number of colourful questions rolling off the lips of curious commuters in “hands free mode”, busy workers, and eventually, Google Glass supporters into the vast resources of Google Search.

Hummingbird is designed to evaluate based on context, but in addition, to evolve, like we have seen with other elements of algorithms-past. It is common knowledge that Google considers “user experience” when evaluating the quality of a website as it decides which one to position first. In order to determine “user experience” the search engine must monitor the actions visitors take on websites and judge them based on a pre-determined set of criteria in order to give the site a digital score. That’s nothing new. What is new is that now Google has added another layer of learning, or artificial intelligence, to the search engine. Google is now evaluating which subjects or concepts get searched together most often to verify the context of their results. 

For Example: If I searched “show me more about the latest violin case” looking for a story I’d heard in the news, Google would need to evaluate if I meant to search for the news, or a case for my violin.  The more data the search engine collects about queries, click through and bounce rates (among other criteria), the more frequently the correct contextual answer will begin to appear to searchers.

So, back to our original question:

What is the best way to optimize a website for Google Hummingbird?

1. Include synonyms within your content. Using synonyms will help identify the context of your pages and serve to give Google a reference guide.

2. Write in terms of FAQ’s. People searching using voice ask normal questions. Think about what questions people might ask if they needed to find your products and services. Think of as many of those questions as possible and start writing.

3. Stop crying over the death of keyword tool. Use query refinement suggestions from Google to shape your conversations. Type in the first few words of what you think you want to talk about and let Google fill in the rest to offer you phrasing suggestions. *Use with caution. Don’t change your topic so much that your content is no longer relevant to your purpose.

4. Consider existing search results. Scan the top 20 results to get a feel for what types of pages are ranking for your query and adjust accordingly until you find the sweet spot.

5. Brainstorm relevant affiliations. What things go well with your product or service? If you’re a restaurant selling wings and beer, don’t just write about wings, write about both to reach people who are searching for those two things together. ie. “find places for wings and beer near me”

6. Don’t forget the rest of the rules. High quality content is still king. Elements of the algorithm have not been taken away, only added  to. Each are still important, in different ways.

Wisdek reviews Google Hummingbird:

As long as there is an algorithm, there will be SEO.

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