Google Hummingbird Update
An SEO Guide to the Google Hummingbird Update
Google Hummingbird Update
Google has made several major changes to its search engine over the past several months. Search geeks have been debating (and complaining about) Enhanced Campaigns, the new look for mobile search results, Penguin 2.1, and several other technical updates – but the average Google user probably hasn’t noticed much of a difference. And that’s exactly what Google wants.
The most recent update was announced just recently during Google’s 15th birthday celebration. Nicknamed “Hummingbird,” it represents the biggest change to Google search since 2001. It’s not just a tweak to the search functionality – Hummingbird is a completely new search algorithm that affects 90 percent of all searches. The most interesting part is that Hummingbird actually launched a month before the announcement… and no one noticed. Once again, that’s exactly what Google wants.
Google has updated its search algorithm many times over the past few years, but previous updates were focused on making Google better at gathering information – for example, indexing websites more often and identifying spammy content. Hummingbird is focused on the user. It’s about Google getting better at understanding what searchers really want and providing them with better answers.
The biggest improvements involve longer search queries. Rather than just examining each individual word in a search, Google is now examining the searcher’s query as a whole and processing the meaning behind it. Previously, Google (and most other search engines) used more of a “brute force” approach of looking at the individual words in a search and returning results that matched those words individually and as a whole. Now Google is focusing on context and trying to understand user’s intent in order to deliver more relevant results and better answers. Google has made search more “human friendly” by making Google better at understanding language and how people communicate.
Most people won’t notice a huge change in the search results, but for longer, more complex, conversational queries, Google now gives much better answers. For example, say a user searches for “Hair salons near my house.” Previously, Google would analyze each word individually and provide results based on that – so you might get a Wikipedia article about hair salons, some map results based on your current location, and home improvement websites with pages titled “my house.” With Hummingbird, Google better understands what you’re asking for, and displays a list of hair salons near your house (provided you’re signed in to Google and have provided them with a home address in Google Maps). The results match the meaning behind the search, rather than just individual words.
Mobile searches are a very significant driving force behind this change. When users search on their smartphones, queries tend to be shorter – users don’t type as many words as when they’re using a full-size keyboard. But that trend reverses when voice search is used. Voice search queries tend to be longer, more complex, and more conversational. As we edge into the era of wearable tech, Google is making sure they are ready to provide the best voice search experience around.
Hummingbird’s main intent is to deliver more accurate answers to conversational search queries. In short, the search engine’s results will better answer questions like the following: “What is the best hotel rooftop bar nearby?“ Using your current location, Google will deliver the most relevant results for the query in a more precise manner than it did pre-Hummingbird. These geo-targeted, conversational, query-specific results are meant to help users find the results most relevant to them.
In a more general sense, this algorithm change reinforces Google’s continuing shift toward rewarding quality content instead of keyword-centric content the content-focused age is upon us. Low-quality, keyword-stuffed content is prone to punishment at the hands of Google, while high-quality, helpful, engaging and relevant content is rewarded with high search engine results page placement.
What does this mean for hoteliers?
As a rule of thumb, hotel websites have always benefited from more focused, long-tail keyword terms such as “Chicago hotel with rooftop bar” as opposed to the broader keywords such as “Chicago hotels,” which are often dominated by the OTAs and big hotel brand websites.
The new “Hummingbird” algorithm has made a more measurable impact on these complex long-tail keywords – which are of greater importance to hotel websites – and a lesser impact on broad keyword terms. For example, a search for “Chicago hotels” might hardly be affected while a search for “Chicago hotel with free airport shuttle” will see significant changes in the search engine results. We will also see Hummingbird alter results for searches that use modifiers such as “best,” “cheapest,” and “closest.”
What do Digital’s marketing experts recommend?
Hoteliers should continue to produce high-quality content that engages users. With each update to its algorithm, Google further emphasizes the importance of deep, relevant, unique and engaging content. The Hummingbird change is the most robust update of the past decade, meaning hoteliers should be spurred out of complacency and into action.
- If your site currently has fewer than 35-50 pages of deep, editorial-level content, consider revamping your content strategy to make your site into a quality editorial replication of your hotel and its amenities.
- Cover relevant and timely topics that keep users engaged, interested and engaged with the site.
- If your site’s content and structure has not been refreshed in more than 18 months, consider re-designing the site to take advantage of the latest innovation in content management system (CMS) technologies, as well as enhancing the quality and depth of the current website content to catch up with Google’s updates.
- Start a blog to post local events, top ten lists, brand announcements, area news, and more.
- Generate an XML site map to guide Google in the correct direction when it indexes your site’s pages.
- Use a professional copywriting and SEO team to create content that targets traffic-driving long-tail keywords.
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