Monday, 21 October 2013

Google Hummingbird Update – Conversational Search vs The Short Tail

Google Hummingbird Update Google’s recent Hummingbird algorithm update is the biggest change to Google search and SEO since 2001 and affects 90% of all searches.  It is focused on helping users find exactly what they want by divining intent from the whole sentence or phrase, rather than just a few words.

Hummingbird separates the wheat from the chaff in SEO terms; those who just want results from simple ‘short tail’ keyword and optimisation vs those who are willing to go the extra mile and pay more attention to long tail keywords, conversational and social possibilities and device differentiation.


The main changes from the Hummingbird SEO Update:Google analyses the whole search query rather than main keywords, taking in overall intent and utilising words such as ‘how’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and taking search to a more conversational level across all channels.

Hummingbird paves the way for differentiating between devices – ie we tend to use shorter search phrases on a mobile device to a pc, and a clearer analysis of voice searches which tend to be more lengthy and complex.  This makes it even more important that you are optimised for mobile search and for long tail keywords.


Long tail keywords, of four, five or six words (or more), which are frequently added into page relevant content alongside their shorter more obvious brethren, will as a result of Hummingbird deliver visitors more closely to the exact pages and content they’re searching for, rather than keyword rich home pages and main landing pages.

What this means is that even more attention needs to be paid by content creators to ensure that each page is totally relevant as a potential individual result to a search query and that content is regularly updated.  This will not only improve conversion rates, but also help drive more traffic to each page.

In its less recent updates Google has emphasised the importance of content written for readers as opposed to simply gaining rankings.  Hummingbird is a natural continuation of this process across all levels.  It may not have actively affected you in the short term, but what will become apparent quite quickly, as devices change and social media channels become more relevant as part of the whole marketing process is that relevant, regularly updated and well written content on every single page of your site will become more and more beneficial to conversion, not to mention the fact that Google may downgrade you otherwise…...

Other Reading:
Joshua Steimle at Forbes on Hummingbird,
Don Dodds at Huff Post,
The Art of Writing for Readers not Rankings.
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