Attack Of The Hummingbird – The Death of SEO?

Posted by Shirin

So Google celebrated its 15th birthday with a big bang introducing their biggest algorithm change since 2001 (causing mayhem like any teenager stuck in puberty!).

Supporting photo
By Renata Miyagusku via Flickr

However, differently to the big Ps “penguin and panda” this isn’t simply an update but a whole new algorithm all together. Yes Ladies and Gentlemen brace yourselves the Hummingbird has officially landed. And we did not even hear or notice a single flutter of its wings.

But is this the end to SEO? Will it impact rankings? Kill off websites? Will it be like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Birds”? Or is it simply another step for Google towards becoming a fully functioning artificial intelligence – enhancing its sematic search capabilities?

If you want to find out how this bird’s gonna impact your search results, if at all, then join me and delve into the hummingbird story…

The Bird Has Finally Landed….

Supporting photo
By _leilund via Flickr

Humming bird, humming bird fly right on by Some folks like to gamble but, darling, not I Some folks like to gamble but, darling not I Humming bird, humming bird fly right on by

I’d rather be lonely, I’d rather be blue Yes I’d rather spend my whole life without you Than feather a nest to be shattered apart By the hum, hum of your humming bird heart.
(By Don Robertson)

Although we all got told about it in September and panic started slowly to kick in – the Hummingbird has actually been humming for quite a while now – at least for a few weeks or so. Is it a killer update trying to eliminate Google’s biggest enemy “SEO” once and for all? Well I would argue that the answer is “not really”. Keeping in mind that it was silently implemented without anyone noticing, impacting over 90% of searches already – the big bang on results did not really happen. Until now there are no apparent big winners or, the ‘oh so dreaded big losers’. Could it be all an evil game playing with the feelings of SEOs, making us believe it is all good, and then striking a few months down the line – very possible!

However, I am optimistic and believe it will not kill search optimisation but will change it, to the better. Why you are asking? It will make search fairer, because the Hummingbird will be …

  • Focussing on what people intent when searching for something, rather than trying to puzzle together some random keywords. This means stuffing websites with keywords and not real relevance is a dying tactic
  • Creating a more even online playing field, giving longer tail websites a real chance to compete with some of the bigger fishes
  • Moving away from simply presenting people with search results, but trying to present them with actual answers to their questions! Google has been working towards that for quite a while now – with introducing their Knowledge Graph last year, which was giving searchers special results when searching for i.e. “things to do in London”. A step from Google to tell people “Hey we actually understanding what you looking for”.
  • Putting more focus on page optimisation that actually makes sense – instead of simply listing a string of keywords. Yes peeps, this Meta will have to read well!
  • Trying to get a share in voice-based search!

It’s All About Mobile…

Yes people, I actually think this is Google trying to compete in the mobile world rather than taking down SEO once and for all. A hint for that was the unveiling of Hummingbird by using illustrations of their mobile application rather than a desktop. So Google has totally realised that the world has moved on, and that people spend more time roaming the net on their smartphones than desktops.

Supporting photo
By Ralphhogaboom via Flickr

So my feeling is that Hummingbird is here to tackle Siri. They are shifting from keywords to actual phrases, taking finally “How, When, What, Where, Why” into account due to the fact that people talk to their mobiles. Yes, we do not just talk into them, we have conversations with them. Believe me; my other half has deeper conversations with Siri than he has with me nowadays! People just tend to fire questions such as “What will the weather be like today?” at their phones – with Siri being the one replying to them currently. Google wants a share of the ever growing voice-based search and Hummingbird is their weapon to get that share!

Ok it might not all be about killing off Siri, Google just could not resist in taking the opportunity and making every SEO’s live that little bit harder. They did mention that they will be moving away from Google Keyword Search to Sematic Search. This means that Google will start encrypting all future search results. So reporting on keywords will soon be over – due to the (not provided) data growing ever more. We will at some point not be able to tell from where search traffic to a site really comes from. Maybe just another clever move to promote their Google Analytics Premium product – which is a paid for product? Why give stuff out for free, if you can charge for it huh?

All this makes me doubt Google’s noble motivation in giving people a better “user experience”, if you ask me – this update is driven by competitive motives!

Dead But Not Forgotten…

Although Hummingbird has been labelled as the “biggest change” by Google, it has not caused (yet) big pain for anyone. So I would definitely not write Panda and Penguin off as dead and forgotten. My gut-feeling says that the big Ps are here to stay, and that their implications on results and SEO will continue to be the main factors. Hummingbird is just an extension, a helping hand for Panda and Penguin to succeed in their quest against “low quality sites with low quality content” and “bad spammy links”.

Supporting graphic
The left half of the graphic by faster panda kill kill via Flickr The right half of the graphic by nathanmac87 via Flickr

So if you thought you are off the hook – think again- the big Ps are and will be kicking it even larger!

5 Facts About Hummingbirds That You Probably Didn't Know

  1. They are the tiniest birds in the world
  2. They can flash their bright colors, as well as hide them when needed. (so that's where the 'not provided comes in)
  3. They are very smart and they can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill (just up Google's street then)
  4. Hummingbirds can hear better than humans (no wonder they have been chosen for semantic search)
  5. Most hummingbirds die in the first year of life (not a good stat for Google then?)

Source: World of Hummingbirds

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